November 13, 2012

Last week, our nation re-elected Barack Obama for a second term. As I joyously watched the election results roll in, I remembered another reason to celebrate: at Barack’s headquarters in Chicago, the house was ROCKING with exclusively Motown hits. What a guy! As a life-long lover of Motown, I’m delighted that the leader of the free world is on board, and I’m hoping that his re-election will usher in a new era in which sweet soul music is played everywhere.

I decided to start the revolution in my bedroom by re-listening to a bunch of my favorites, and I soon realized that, even beyond its pure beat-driven awesomeness, Motown also has some important messages for the lovers out there — and the people waiting for love, and the people pissed off about love. You should listen to these songs absolutely no matter what, but you should especially listen to them if you’re looking for some old school, no-nonsense relationship advice and/or camaraderie. I’ve broken it down for you here.


“Shop Around” – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles


Just because you’ve become a young man now, there’s still some things that you don’t understand now. Before you ask some girl for her hand now, keep your freedom for as long as you can now. My momma told me: You better shop around.

This is such, such, solid advice. As I get further into my twenties and the engagement announcements pile up, the message of this song starts to really hit home. Listen, engaged people: I’m very happy for you, so long as you’re SURE. Did you shop around? As this song reminds us, we shouldn’t be sold on the very first one. Pretty girls come by the dozen (ok, this part is not ALWAYS true. Pretty boys: reveal yourselves), and you want to be sure you find one who’s gonna give you true loving. Seriously. There’s time! This is a big decision, so let’s not rush it. Shop around, like you would for a really warm and also fashionable new winter coat; you want to be with this thing for YEARS. Be sensible. Wo-oh-oh-oh.

“You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes


“I need love love, to ease my mind. I need to find find, someone to call mine. But momma said you can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait. She said, love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take… you gotta trust, give it time, no matter how long it takes.”

This song continues the theme of brilliant mothers. This mother is so right! You simply CANNOT hurry love. You just have to wait! It’s not fun, but it’s the truth, and the sooner you accept it the happier you will be. There are two ways to go through life as a single person: you can either be Single, or you can just be you. With this song in mind, try to just be you, and let your single-ness be only one of many things about you. There’s nothing you can DO aside from live your life. But how many heartaches must you stand? I know, I know. It’s frustrating and hard and lonely; how much more can you take before loneliness will cause your heart to break? You can take a lot more. You can’t hurry love. Let it be, and it will come in time.


“(Love)” Is Like A Heatwave” – Martha and the Vandellas


Whenever I’m with him, something inside starts to burning, and I’m filled with desire. Could it be a devil in me or is this the way love’s supposed to be?”

Oh, you kids. I don’t mean to relegate new love to younger people, but I really believe “you kids” is a phrase that can be used to describe any two people newly in love, because love makes you excited as if you were a kid again. So things are burning inside you, you say? Don’t question it, at least not now: I think this IS the way love’s supposed to be. If anything, question it if you AREN’T sometimes staring into space, tears all over your face (well ok, you don’t have to be crying. That lyric was maybe just thrown in for the rhyme). But seriously: new love should be exciting, and I don’t think any of us should settle for less than a heat wave.

“You Really Got A Hold On Me” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles


I don’t like you, but I love you. Seems that I’m always thinkin of you. Ohhhh, you treat me badly, I love you madly. You really got a hold on me.”

Hmm. The message of this song is a little bit less clear. I’m concerned, slightly, that the protagonist is involved in an abusive relationship, so I want to be cautious about my advice here. This person REALLY has a hold on you? You don’t want to kiss them, but you HAVE to? I say this: go for it, but be careful. And also, don’t go for it if you’ve already been through a bullshit relationship like this and it’s a pattern that you keep repeating. But if you’re young, and you feel compelled to keep hooking up with someone who isn’t that nice to you, it really doesn’t matter what I say here; you’re gonna do it anyway. And it will suck, but it will also make you feel a lot of things and then maybe you’ll write some good poetry and then eventually you’ll know that you have to end it, and you will. And you’ll be stronger and more aware of what you deserve. And hopefully you’ll at least have some good sex under your belt!

“The Way You Do The Things You Do” – The Temptations


You got a smile so bright, you know you could have been a candle. I’m holding you so tight, you know you could have been a handle. The way you swept me off my feet, you know you could have been a broom… the way you do the things you do.

This is great. If you’re in a relationship that’s causing you to desperately search for analogies that accurately describe the depth of your appreciation for your partner, stick with it. Don’t even worry if all you can come up with is “broom” to describe the way he or she swept you off your feet. He or she will probably think it’s adorable that you said that, and then you’ll both remember how much you love Beauty and the Beast and you’ll watch it while cuddling and laughing along with the sentient household items. The way you guys do the things you do is awesome. Congrats.


“Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me For A Little While)” – Kim Weston


Hey baby, I know you’re leaving me behind. I’m seeing you darling for the very last time… Please let me feel your embrace once more. Take me in your arms, and rock me and rock me a little while.”

Aw man. This is hard; it just is. But listen, you’re not alone. We’ve all been through this, and the pure, piercing pain is always shocking. At this moment, all you can want is to be held again. You’re terrified of what you know is coming, and you need, NEED, to just close your eyes and feel arms around you. Even though you know it’s ending, even though you know this is it.

Listen to this song and know that it’s ok. You’re trying to be strong but you can’t be strong right now. That’s fine. But here is a promise: you will feel better eventually. The pain is going to lessen with each passing day. Hold each other one more time, cry for a week, rebuild. You’ll get through it.

“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” – The Temptations


I know you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go. If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy, I don’t mind cause you mean that much to me.”

You know what, man? Power to ya. If you think you have a shot, it’s worth a little begging. I would caution you to REALLY consider whether or not you have a shot, though; but if you’ve considered, and you’ve determined that, say, she’s just scared, or something went wrong and you know you can fix it, then beg away. I’m sure lots of couples have stayed together for years after one of them begged the other not to give up. And if it doesn’t work out, at the very least you’ll know you went out swingin.

“Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes


Wait Mr. Postman look and see, is there a letter in your bag for me? … There must be some word today, from my boyfriend so far away. Please Mr. Postman, look and see, is there a letter, a letter for me?”

I think we can all agree that long distance relationships are very, very difficult. If this is a song that you could be singing an updated, twenty-first century version of (please, iPhone, let a text appear with a picture of something he saw that made him think of me), then I think the Marvelettes would agree that you should probably get out. Listen, life is too short. An LDR is worth it if you’re both one hundred percent committed; if there is a plan to reunite, if the future is definitely you and your person together in the same place making it work. But if you’re waiting around for a sign that your person is still interested, then say goodbye to your far-away love and be here now. There are lots of people to meet right where you are, no postman necessary. Go find them.

“Jimmy Mack” – Martha Reeves


Jimmy Mack, Jimmy, oh Jimmy Mack, when are you coming back? … My arms are missing you. My lips feel the same way too… but this boy keeps coming around, he’s trying to wear my resistance down.”

To take the Marvelette’s message one step further: If you’re in an LDR and your metaphorical Jimmy Mack isn’t texting too much and someone who lives RIGHT HERE is after you, and you’re TEMPTED… well, you should probably go for it. Again, depending on your commitment to Jimmy Mack; but it’s gotta be very serious for you to turn down Mr. Guy Who Lives Here. If you’re not seriously planning your future with Jimmy Mack, then be where you are and make out with the other guy. As previously mentioned, life is short, and you deserve to live it.

“You Beat Me To The Punch” – Mary Wells


So I ain’t gonna wait around for you to put me down, this time I’m gonna play my hunch. And walk away this very day, and beat you to the punch this time.”

This is such a great story song. Here we have the situation entirely spelled out: she was into him, but she was nervous, so she waited for him to make all of the first moves. But he treated her badly, and so, in the end, she beat HIS ass to the punch: she dropped him before he could drop her. Lesson learned.

Mary Wells is telling us to follow our hearts and act on our instincts, to assert some power over our own situations and not to let ourselves be treated badly. She’s right, and so are the rest of these geniuses. Love will come when the time is right, and we shouldn’t settle for less than someone we’re crazy about who is also crazy about us, and we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves when we’re heartbroken. The love stuff is never easy.

We should, however, listen to more Motown in our kitchens and on our ipods and at our bars and our house parties. Let’s dance. No matter what your situation, I promise it will help.

Get groovy and feel safe at the same time with this article on Portable.

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