Considering Songs with “You” in the Title, and What They Mean

Here ‘s a theory for you to disregard … completely. Music, you know — true music — not just rock ’n’ roll — it chooses You.(emphasis added) ~ Lester Bangs in Almost Famous

Over the weekend, I tuned in during the tail end of an “A to Z” music promotion on the local variety channel, Bob FM. Catching up on some dirty dishes, I flipped on the radio and heard Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.” In the tune, Petty states:

Good love is hard to find
Good love is hard to find
You got lucky, babe
You got lucky, babe
When I found You.

Thus began a solid hour’s worth of songs with titles starting with “You.” I think there are some interesting observations to be made about songs about “You.” Some reflect very well on You, others (e.g., Morissette’s “You oughta know”) not so well. But, I think it goes beyond that, too. Stick around as I try to pin it down a bit more …

In Petty’s case, we should keep in mind that the song could easily have been entitled, “Good Love Is Hard to Find.” Why wasn’t it? The answer, IMHO, lies in the focus on the “You.” Or is that the real focus? … The assertion that “You got lucky” is interesting because the reason the You got lucky has more to do with the persona (the song’s “I”) than the You. After all, only “when I found you” did this luck transpire.

I imagine there may be numerous applicable interpretations of Petty’s tune, not the least of which are reactions from either a pointedly male or female standpoint. From the speaker’s Y-chromosome POV, one envisions somewhat of a bitter man’s lashing out. He’s feeling unappreciated by a partner who seems to believe that good lovin’ is, in fact, easy to find. So he says, “Girl, if You can do better than me, Go … yeah, go.” We shall perhaps never know the woman’s arguments in this case, although interpretive comments are welcome.

But let’s move on and get to my crackpot theory on these things … Soon after, Bob cued up Debbie Boone’s mega hit, “You Light Up My Life.” The set-up paints a picture of female (or possibly homosexual male) desperation:

So many nights I sit by my window 
Waiting for someone to sing me his song 
So many dreams I kept deep inside me 
Alone in the dark but now 
You’ve come along …

We all know the chorus. Sing along in your head:

You light up my life 
You give me hope 
To carry on 
You light up my days 
and fill my nights with song …

How wonderful. I’m sure we’re all happy for this optimistic view on love. The world’s a dark and dismal place in so many songs until the much-anticipated You appears. Similar sentiment came through, directly or indirectly, in tunes that followed such as Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman,” Leo Sayer’s “You Make Me Feel Like Dancin’,” and even Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams Come True.”

But, could one also make the argument that these tunes represent a bit of a pessimistic worldview as well? What I’m suggesting here, I suppose, is that some of these songs transcend simple reflections of the “You”; they almost become a kind of anti-commentary on everyone who is not You. One could even justifiably go so far as to be insulted by a song like Ms. Boone’s, interpreting the lyrics thus:

Everyone else except You darkens my life 
Everyone else but You fills me with despair 
(And I might commit suicide).

Okay, that last line might’ve been reaching a bit. But you see what I’m getting at… Thank you very much, Ms. Boone, for that glowing opinion of everyone else in the whole world!

Oh, it’s just a thought. Don’t worry, I know what you’re thinking. As Mr. Joel says, “You may be right — I may be crazy.”


About the Author: Jim Dee maintains his personal blog, “Hawthorne Crow,” and a web design blog called “Web Designer | Web Developer Magazine.” He’s also contributes to various Medium.com publications. You can reach him at: Jim [at] ArrayWebDevelopment.com.