January 20, 2019

How We Killed Love

““Where is the love?” Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack sang in an unforgettable hit from 1972. Their breakup ballad could now double as an odd anthem for American culture. Its people, art, and entertainment have rejected romance and sexual intimacy as subjects worthy of celebration and investment. In a sad commentary on an increasingly dysfunctional society, love has all but vanished from pop culture.

In 2014, the Journal of Advertising Research published a study documenting an odd decline in references to love throughout popular music. The word had fallen below phrases such as “good time” and epithets such as the N-word on the list of most commonly sung terms in the chart topping hits of the 2000s.

Music critic John Blake took notice seven years ago of how R&B—a genre that once gave the world Al Green and Aretha Franklin—no longer produced or broadcasted songs of romantic passion. The only four letter word impermissible in hip-hop is “love.” Sexuality is primarily a means of misogynistic conquest; committed bonds of affection are not worthy of pursuit.

Film is equally sterile and chaste. Leading men are more likely to wear face paint and capes than tuxedos or cowboy hats, and starlets jockey for “transgressive” roles as tattooed, gun wielding action heroes, rather than brides-to-be or even femme fatales.”

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