“Baby let’s cruise, away from here….”
Six months ago I discovered that a song I loved more than life itself is a cover. I was heartbroken. And when I listened to the original, I was completely and utterly crushed. What little hope there was that my undying love for the (formerly) brilliant artist I had been obsessed with could survive the shocking revelations was blasted away by the reality of a far more superior original. Alas, it appeared my love had not only stolen his genius, but he had done a horrible job at it. All of a sudden, he had gone from sexy god of all things music (and one of only two candidates for father of my unborn children), to petty thief with substance abuse problems. I fear the love was gone!
What am I on about? Flashback to 2008, I’d just met a hot man called… let’s call him Paco (long story, don’t ask), and I was in the midst of an intense crush that involved long meaningless conversations and a shared fondness for all things music. Now Paco quickly realised that the easiest way to get to me was to present me with a select choice of hot R&B tracks in the form of the ubiquitous ‘mix tape’, MP3’s in this case, and on one of these mixes was the song ‘Cruisin’ by
D’Angelo. My oh my, didn’t that song, and man, drive me mad! Its not that I’d never heard D'Angelo before, we all remember the video for ‘Untitled’ and his glorious almost very naked self… sorry, I drifted off in a fog of delirious lust… I was saying, I’d listened to the man before so it wasn’t that he was new to me that got me hooked. What did it was the combination of a nasty break up (that Paco was talking me through), unrequited lust (for the very same Paco) and an addictive drum and bass beat (with violins dammit, violins!), that was the match to the fireworks that was to become my love for D’Angelo, oh how I loved him.
I’d listen to the song over and over again, morning, noon and night, and when Paco presented me with the best of album, I listened to that over and over again, obsessed with damn near every track on the album. It probably goes without saying that my obsession with
D’Angelo was fuelled by my obsession for Paco, and vice versa. When one sang ‘…and if you want it I got it…’ the other was whispering it in my ear, at least in my fantasy he was. And fantasy it was, glorious passionate fantasy, but fantasy nonetheless. You see, Paco was married, still is best I can tell, happily it seemed, at least to my unmarried and (then) recently scarred eyes, but that’s what made him the best fantasy I could ever have. Because he was unattainable and therefore could never disappoint me, the fictional man I created in my head would forever remain unspoiled. And so it was with D’Angelo, until that fateful night, six months ago.
Now, courtesy of Paco, I’d started drifting towards more authentic soul music (not the pop they play in the clubs, I’m talking about the Rhythm and Blues of the 70’s and 80’s, and the original soul music from whence it all came). At one point I began to get a bit obsessed with one particular Smokey Robinson track (‘Just to see her’) and began to hunt for it in earnest. Seeing as how he’d got me hooked in the first place, of course I tried to get it from Paco, but at that point he and I were no longer the ‘almost affair’, we were drifting ever so slowly into ‘woulda shoulda coulda’ land, so when I placed my request for the Smokey song, I was politely, but firmly, ignored. I was on my own. But being the stubborn idiot I am (with the mild case of OCD that wont let me ignore a song… it’s a bit frustrating!), I kept looking, eventually finding a greatest hits album with said song, and all the while mourning the loss of my fantasy man. Little did I know how much worse it was about to get...
I put the CD on the following night and began to skip through the tracks looking for the particular song, but as I was sampling I heard the beginning of what sounded familiar, a guitar riff that’s unmistakable, ‘Could it be? Surely not…’ she muttered, before skipping forward to the next track. Once I found what I was looking for, I happily set the player on loop and proceeded to revel in the splendour that is Smokey
, congratulating myself for my own resourcefulness, ‘Who needs Paco?’ she chuckled to herself. Problem was, that bloody riff was also playing on loop at the back of my mind, and if you’ve heard the song you know what I’m talking about. Finally ten minutes later I gave in and went back to confirm my gnawing suspicions, and immediately the song began to play I knew I was right. Worse still, the more I listened the more depressed I got. You see the brilliance of Robinson D’Angelo is in fact the brilliance of Smokey, right down to the damn violins.
‘Why D, whhhhyyyyyy?’ I wailed into the night, grief-stricken (I’m not exaggerating here, I really was very distraught). ‘He’s a fake! I’ll never listen to him again,’ I swore angrily, as I contemplated calling Paco to call him very bad names for giving me that fake shit, ‘no wonder he wouldn’t get me Smokey, he knew the awful truth!’ The only thing that stopped me from making that demented call (yes, I do know how strange this all sounds) was the thought of having to explain to his Mrs why I’m calling Mr Man at 11.30 pm, I assumed her reaction would be ‘Ati to bitch about who? You whore!’ or something like that. So I didn’t call. But I fumed, for days. And that was the beginning of the end for Paco and I, the trust was gone, I could no longer treat his mix tapes with any seriousness.
I know it sounds extremely fickle to you, to dismiss someone on account of a song, but for me,
D’Angelo and Paco were inextricably linked, and when the fantasy of one fell apart, so did the other. After that revelation, listening to D’Angelo only served to remind me that that which I loved most about him, was not his, it belonged to a yellow yellow mzee with the silkiest voice I have ever heard. I couldn’t get past it. And it was worse with Paco, he went from sexy fantasy dude to ‘What the hell… could those shoes be any more pointy?’ dude (don’t laugh, those shoes looked like a weapon, I feared for my life). This is the thing with putting someone up on a pedestal, you get to see their clay feet, and I don’t care what you say, not too many fantasies can survive clay feet (unless of course you have a clay feet fetish), but then again they’re not meant to, hence the fantasy i.e. removed from reality.
In retrospect, the end had probably began much earlier (with Paco that is), the song was just the straw that broke this camel’s back. The fog of heartbreak had already began to clear and I was slowly getting back to my old self, and with it I started to see him, and myself, more clearly, but what I saw was troubling. My obsession with the man was shallow, selfish and hedonistic, and unreal. And ultimately unsustainable, because who can be satisfied with the idea of a man? Turns out that although I really liked that man (really…), I wanted more than a hot fantasy on a cold night, I want the original, not the cover version.
But there’s a happy ending to this tale,
D’Angelo and I have repaired our broken relationship, our love is back on track, hell I think it’s stronger than ever. See, after not listening for many months, it finally hit me that I missed him, so I put the best of CD on one night and sat back to appreciate, no bullshit fantasy this time, just honesty… and a bit of red wine to numb the residual twinges of pain. And it was good! His cover, which I had so heartlessly dismissed as a cheap fake, is absolutely mind fuck brilliant. He took a beautiful borderline risqué track and made it so bloody sexy it’s a miracle the CD player doesn’t just get up and shag itself. It’s that good. He’s that good.
Paco and I? Shoulda coulda woulda….