VERY BEAUTIFUL… AND DEFINITELY STRANGE
My favorite song right now — and the way my mind works, this is a designation that changes almost hourly — is called “Strange & Beautiful” by Aqualung. It’s an insanely pretty ballad that’s far more complicated than it seems at first. There are multiple levels of deception at work, starting with the fact that Aqualung, according to reports I’ve read, isn’t a band but rather just one multi-talented guy who tries to pass himself off as a band, much like the Eels or Prince & the Revolution. And although “they” are named after a Jethro Tull album, the name Aqualung doesn’t quite fit the group’s sound. If Aqualung Guy wanted to pay tribute to a band that influenced him, he would’ve been better off naming himself Parachutes.
What’s so intriguing about “Strange & Beautiful” is that it belongs to that creepy subgenre of romantic ballads which were clearly intended by the songwriter to be heartbreaking tales of unrequited love, but which come across to the listener more like the desperate ravings of a stalker. The all-time classic of this genre, of course, is “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, which is sung by Sting with so much heartache and despondency that you can’t help but feel sorry for the song’s narrator (kids, this was ages before “Brand New Day”, and yes, as your grandparents will tell you, at one time, the guy was cool). But just when you start to hope he’ll someday get the girl, young Gordon Sumner caps it off with “… I’ll be watching you”, and you instantly want to both take a shower and call 911.
The Aqualung song also starts off innocently enough:
I’ve been watching your world from afar/
I’ve been trying to be where you are/
And I’ve been secretly falling apart…/
Aw, what a poor, sweet loser, right? Your heart breaks for the guy. Then he gets to the chorus:
I’ll put a spell on you…/
You’ll fall asleep/
I’ll put a spell on you/
And when I wake you/
I’ll be the first thing you’ll see/
And you’ll realize that you love me.
He’s so proud of his spellcasting ability that he makes “I’ll Put a Spell on You” the subtitle to the song. Okay, so maybe the whole spell thing is merely intended as some sort of lovelorn daydream, but it’s the kind of daydream that’s predicated on breaking and entering into some girl’s home, not to mention the possible use of rohypnol. The only thing that would complete the image for me is if the video featured that absolutely adorable young man on the album cover standing over the woman’s bed with a bloody knife in his hand and a tear running down his cheek.
This guy wouldn’t hurt anyone… would he???
Still, in spite of the weirdness of it all, the song has been in my head all week. Then again, maybe it’s because of the weirdness. I kind of enjoy putting together a backstory around it. Poor guy from Aqualung got shot down a few times and figured maybe he could win the girl over with a song. “Oh, shit,” the girl said the first time she heard it. “It’s that guy from the bloody pub.” And then she double-bolted her door and called to have her phone number changed.
I’m mean, we’ve all been down the unrequited love road a few times, haven’t we? There are healthy ways to deal with it, and unhealthy ways. Isn’t it comforting to know that the most you ever did was write a blubberingly confessional email that you never actually sent, or make a life-sized cardboard cutout of your crush and share a romantic dinner with it, then snuggle up on the couch afterward to watch “Say Anything” together? Then again, maybe there are no healthy ways to deal. And if you’re going to be weird about it, why not go all out?
Sorry, girl from the pub. It may not have worked on you, but cute Aqualung Guy has definitely put a spell on me. Now, why won’t he return my emails?