This Modern Love: “Sparks”

Dating and relationships have never been as simple as people like to believe. Doesn’t matter if people called it wooing, courting, making love or any other of the endless names for the process – it’s always been a shit show. With all the modern apps and technology at our disposal, it’s become somehow easier and worse, with more opportunities for connection and increased superficiality. Twas ever thus.

That’s one of the reasons love songs have been the beating heart (pardon the pun) of music since, fuck, musicians started playing songs in front of other people. It’s right up there with songs about religion, which makes sense – they’re both about things bigger than ourselves.

It’s easy for love songs to be the written off as just over-wrought, bombastic nonsense because, let’s be real, many of the ones we hear on the radio fit the bill pretty damn well. In this new bi-monthly column, I’ll be writing about some of my favorite love songs from the year 2000 to now – songs that aspire to something better and truer.

There’s practically no way to say any of this without sounding like the corniest person in the world, but I don’t know any other way to go about it. I suppose this column is a my version of Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything…” shouting, “I want to get hurt!”

The movies of Cameron Crowe and black-and-white classics like “The Apartment,” “Roman Holiday” and “Casablanca” hit me at the right (or wrong) time as I was growing up, because I’ve been a total sucker for a well-done love story (whether it’s in a song, a film, a book or any other medium) for more than two decades. In other words, I’ve listened to a lot of love songs. A fuck-ton of them, in fact. This column features some I think are worth falling for:

Coldplay – “Sparks”

From: Parachutes (2000)

Before Coldplay became the world-swallowing pop mercenaries we know today, they introduced themselves to listeners with a hook-filled, relatively paired-down affair that worked with classic rock basics – piano, guitar, bass and drums. And these basic elements, sans piano, combine to loveliest effect on “Sparks.”

Propelled by Guy Berryman’s descending bass line, and featuring Chris Martin catching vocal air over some particularly pretty acoustic guitar, “Sparks” is the kind of ephemeral tune that floats along without getting into the real challenges of love. Martin certainly wasn’t going to win any kind of writerly awards for this one, but it’s not all romantic platitudes: in the second verse, after assuring the object of his affection he won’t let them down, he acknowledges he probably will do so again. The best laid plans of mice and men, no?

As far as songs that coast along on being pretty go, it’d be easy to do worse. Simplicity works in the song’s favor – particularly with lines like, “My heart is yours/It’s you that I hold on to” – and though Martin and Co. would certainly go on to use a much larger sonic palette, they never wrote anything as graceful again.

You may remember me from such films as:Insomnia (2002) and Wedding Crashers (2005), the romantic comedy featuring a still likeable Vince Vaughn and heart-melting Rachel McAdams. Here’s that scene:

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