Per a recent Harvard Study, 65% of over 3,000 young adults or high school student ages 18 to 25 years old desire information about LOVE (Weissbourd et al. 2017). Despite many learning about LOVE from parents, or a caregiver, educators and other adults the knowledge provided “tends not to engage young people in any depth about what mature love is” (p. 2). Additionally, the study adds that young people receive little or no guidance “about what it actually takes to
develop a healthy, mature romantic relationship” (p. 2). Today, not having the knowledge and skills needed to LOVE well and develop mature romantic relationships can create much pain. The initial heartache or “first cut” can be self-inflicted or from others and it shows up later in adulthood. To learn about healthy relationships one may seek information from our culture through social media, a peer group, music, apps, movies, television, and [insert your go-to here]. Unfortunately, the Harvard study that suggests that culture contains a lot of myths about LOVE (Weissbourd et al. 2017). If that is the case then how do we know if the information from culture is helpful? This Blog will explore this using music videos from the 1980s.
Flashback: The 1980s seem like an excellent place for the exercise. In the 80s, if seeking information on LOVE, there are the usual suspects such as parents, peer groups, or television as examples. New to the 80s cable television arrived, and by the end of the decade, 50 percent of the households in the U.S. subscribed to cable (Baldwin, Barrett, & Bates, 1992). Additionally, the channel MTV took America by a storm with music videos. Now, not only was listening to
music an option but you could watch a music video and see the song’s love story play out. The result was a two sensory experience with the nonverbal sense of sight enhancing the ability to learn (Fishbane, 2017).
Assuming we are trying to learn about LOVE utilizing MTV music videos from the 80s, we select the first three number one hits of 1985 using the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 song listing. On January 1, 1985, Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ was at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Then on February 2, 1985, the British-American rock band Foreigner took the number one spot with ‘I Want To Know What Love Is.’ Next up, ‘Careless Whisper,’ ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling,’
and then ‘One More Night.’
Next, we will watch the original videos on YouTube for a more “authentic MTV-like approach.” We will rate them using a 5-star rating system. The rating will highlight the impact on relational skills and wisdom (IRSW). While not an empirically based Harvard study, the approach is similar to today’s learning options. Using the year 1985 seems relevant for Chicagoland as that year even the Chicago Bears released the song ‘The Super Bowl Shuffle’ including lyrics about
love. Who knows maybe if nothing else the words of these 1985 songs start “Blowin’ your mind like [the Bears] knew [they] would.”
Review and Rating
Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ is a perfect Hollywood LOVE is a lost and found scenario. A person enters your life, and you fall in love. You have a happy ending, are now complete, and have nothing to hide. Meanwhile, the band Foreigner notes that LOVE includes sharing the unresolved heartache and pain of another’s life. They start the song with advice to be patient, “read between the lines, in case [you] need it when [you’re] older.” Then they remind you that LOVE is worth signing up for, although it will feel like climbing a mountain with the weight of the world on your shoulders.
- IRSW: Three-Star Out of Five. If combining the two songs, the information is realistic and gets the rating to 3 Stars. Viewing the compilation, Madonna’s part reminds us that initially when “falling in love” we can get caught in the idealization of a perfect relationship that we cannot avoid. This song keeps the stereotypical Hollywood love story intact until Foreigner’s song is added. The lyrics from ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ serve as a reminder that the stereotype will not last in our relationships. Unfortunately, at some point “heartache and pain” as well as conflict will come with the relationship.
Hopefully, the relational fall from grace does not feel like Foreigner’s description of the “weight of the world on your shoulders.” Finally, their advice suggests to be patient and “read between the lines” perhaps highlighting the importance of an advanced listening skill such as reading body cues.
‘Careless Whisper’ focuses on the partner in a relationship that has covered-up cheating. The song highlights the feelings of shame, guilt, ambivalence, and grief this situation brings for them.
- (IRSW): Four-Star out of Five. This song underscores the felt sense that a boundary has been crossed when someone in a committed relationship “cheats” emotionally or physically. ‘Careless Whisper,’ focuses on the cheating partner describing symptoms of not only guilt and sadness but also being left with the rest of one’s “life without rhythm.” The lyrics highlight that it is not just the betrayed partner who is hurt in these situations. There is a lot of pain for the participating partner as well, and this can be magnified amid the anxiety that a cover-up may be discovered. While cheating is owned by choice of the
person who acted, the song is a good reminder that the betrayer is also under duress and in need of support, which is often lacking. Perhaps we can still love the person and hold our convictions? They will need to get back to one’s self, and one’s moral home to recover as well (Gottman & Gottman, 2017).
Phil Collins lands himself into a difficult situation in ‘One More Night’ promising to wait patiently for LOVE. He seems reasonable at first especially when asking for just, “one more night.” Well, that is until the doubt comes and the request amounts to fourteen throughout the song’s four minutes. The internal struggle is real as there is a part of him that “can’t wait forever.” Meanwhile, another part is saying, if by chance there is a change of mind he will be there and “maybe [they] both can learn.”
- (IRSW): One-Star out of Five. First, it should be noted that on April 4, 2019, the official video was viewed on YouTube approximately 260K times. The number of views suggests something is sticking here and this blogger never know what. Although a stretch, maybe the song illustrates that LOVE brings the risk of being caught too long in the “chemical confusion and oxytocin overdose cocktail of infatuation resulting in not eating, sleeping, obsessively thinking about [your partner] and maybe [even] finding [yourself ] doing crazy things” (Gottman et al. 2016). In this case, singing “One More Night” over fourteen times shows perhaps we can “do crazy things.” We can also lose sight of things we value like getting to know about the character, inner beauty, building trust, knowing if we will both be there for each other, loyalty and commitment (Gottman et al. 2016). This interpretation is a stretch and hence the low rating.
There is some learning from these LOVE songs although it requires some tweaking. Agreeing with the research, consuming these videos does not provide the knowledge and skills needed to love well and develop mature romantic relationships. The exercise also highlights the Harvard Study’s finding of needing to be a critical consumer of media and culture (Weissbourd et al., 2017). Finally, as I look at the 1985 U.S. Billboard song list one last time, I see the next number
one song is ‘We Are the World!’ Wait, what? Did I hear “Love is all we need?” Huey Lewis and Michael Jackson are in the video too? Tina Turner? Ray Charles? Stevie Wonder? Cindy Lauper? Lionel Richie? Should the quest for meaningful answers about LOVE begin there? Perhaps?
Maybe the rest of the suggestions from the Harvard study will provide the answers? Tune in, I mean “log in,” to my next blog to find out.
Baldwin, T. F., Barrett, M., & Bates, B. (1992). Influence of Cable on Television News Audiences. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 69(3), 651.
Fishbane, M. D. (2007). Wired to connect: Neuroscience, relationships, and therapy. Family Process, 46(3), 395-412.
Gottman, J. Gottman, J., Abrams, D and Abrams, R.C. (2016). A men’s guide to women: Scientifically proven secrets from the “love lab” about what women really want. Seattle,WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.
Gottman, J. & Gottman. J. (2017). Treating Affairs and Trauma: A Gottman approach for therapists on the treatment of affairs and posttraumatic stress. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute, Inc.
Pinsof, W. M., Breunlin, D. C., Russell, W. P., Lebow, J., & Chambers, A. L. (2018). Integrative systemic therapy: Metaframeworks for problem-solving with individuals, couples and families. Washington D.C.: APA Books, American Psychological Association.
Weissbourd, R., Anderson, T. R., Cashin, A., & McIntyre, J. (2017). The talk: How adults can promote young people’s healthy relationships and prevent misogyny and sexual harassment. Harvard Graduate School of Education, 16, 8.