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Ode To “Hold My Hand” By Hootie And The Blowfish: My First Favorite Love Song

When we’re kids, we rarely listen closely to the songs we love. It starts almost immediately after we graduate from singing along to nursery rhymes to singing along to whatever song is on the radio. We rarely understand the meaning of the song, the lyrical structure, or any subtext or innuendo. We just like how it sounds.

As a result, some of the songs we love as kids age better than others. Kids who sung the lyrics of Prince probably didn’t pick up on the incredibly sensual undertones to his lyrics. As adults, it can be somewhat jarring to learn just what those lyrics meant.

On the other end of the spectrum are the songs that only seem to get better with age. They’re not nearly as common or appreciated, but they hold a special place in our hearts, none-the-less. For me, one song in particular stands out. It’s a song that I think everyone who was alive and had a radio in 1994 probably heard at least once. It’s “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish.

I know they’re not the coolest band from that era. In fact, they’re one of those bands who people love to hate for shallow reasons. They’re an easy band to be cynical about. They had one massively successful album, but they never duplicated it. Their songs are cheerful, upbeat, and fun. That kind of thing just doesn’t work in a world steeped in cynicism, pessimism, and internet trolls.

However people might feel about them, they’ll always have a special place in my heart for one simple reason. That song, “Hold My Hand,” was the first love song I ever genuinely liked as a love song.

That matters a lot to me because, at the time, I was still a young kid. I was just starting to develop a taste for romance. I started noticing the romantic subplots of my favorite cartoons. I began appreciating romance in a way that set me apart from others. Then, this song came out.

It was a simple, genuine love song. The lyrics were easy to understand and follow. The tune and rhythm was catchy. Everything about it just clicked with me. While it’s not my favorite love song right now, it’s always been in my top ten. Even if you’re not a fan of the music of that era, I encourage you to appreciate the sentiment of the song.

What makes it stand out even more is just how well this song has aged. Whereas some love songs have gained a more creepy, if not stalker-like subtext, the sentiment in “Hold My Hand” actually works better today than it did in the mid-90s.

The song doesn’t involve someone professing complete and utter captivation.

It doesn’t rely on the kind of fairy tale love that exists only in Disney movies and bad romantic comedies.

It relies on love that feels real. Just read the lyrics.

With a little love and some tenderness
We’ll walk upon the water
We’ll rise above the mess
With a little peace and some harmony
We’ll take the world together
We’ll take them by the hand
‘Cause I’ve got a hand for you, oh
‘Cause I wanna run with you
Yesterday, I saw you standing there
Your head was down, your eyes were red
No comb had touched your hair
I said, get up, and let me see you smile
We’ll take a walk together
Walk the road awhile, ’cause
‘Cause I’ve got a hand for you
I’ve got a hand for you
‘Cause I wanna run with you
Won’t you let me run with you, yeah
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to a place
Where you can be
(Hold my hand)
Anything you wanna be because
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can
See I was wasted, and I was wasting time
‘Til I thought about your problems
I thought about your crimes
Then I stood up, and then I screamed aloud
I don’t wanna be part of your problems
Don’t wanna be part of your crowd, no
‘Cause I’ve got a hand for you
I’ve got a hand for you
‘Cause I wanna run with you
Won’t you let me run with you
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to the promised land
(Hold my hand)
Maybe we can’t change the world but
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can, yeah
Let me walk, oh won’t you let me, let me
(Hold my hand)
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to a place where you can be
(Hold my hand)
Anything you wanna be because
I oh no, no, no, no, no
(Hold my hand)
Want you to hold my hand
(Hold my hand)
I’ll take you to the promised land
(Hold my hand)
Maybe we can’t change the world but
I wanna love you the best that
The best that I can
Oh, best that I can

It feels like an honest, sincere love letter. It says I’m not going to try and love you like a queen, goddess, angel, or something other than human. I’m just going to try and love you the best that I can. I don’t want to take you far away and do all these strange, lurid things. I just want to hold your hand.

As a romantic sentiment, it’s hard to have something as simple and sweet.

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How The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” Became Less Romantic Over Time

Some love songs are just assumed to be romantic, regardless of what the lyrics say or how the song was inspired. You hear it on the radio. You see the music video. Like a reflex, you think love. It might be the cheesiest kind of romance there is, but it’s still romance none-the-less.

It has its place in pop music. I certainly appreciate music like that to some degree, but it only works if you don’t think too hard about it. To really enjoy it, you just have to turn off your brain and let it feel like it’s in a bad romantic comedy. This was, to a large degree, a part of what made boy bands so popular in the late 90s and early 2000s.

I remember that era. I was still young at the time. I heard all those cheesy love songs and the fanatical girls who squealed with incoherent joy whenever they heard them. I wasn’t a big fan, but I didn’t hate boy bands. I see their music like overly processed cheese. It’s good, but you can taste how bland and superficial it is.

To me, the absolute apex of the boy band era came with the Backstreet Boys and their sappy super-hit, “I want it that way.” It’s hard to overstate how big this song was in 1999. You could turn on any radio, find a random station, and hear it at some point. It was played on a loop at proms and middle school dances. I imagine more than one teenager lost their virginity because of this song.

It is, by far, the quintessential boy band song. It’s cute hot guys singing about love. You can’t get much more basic than that. Just listen to the music video that MTV played at least once an hour from that era. Even if you weren’t alive during that era, the romantic undertones are overt.

All that said, I doubt anyone who was alive in the late 90s or ever really scrutinized the lyrics. Even though the pace of the song is slow and every word is understandable, I don’t think anyone takes the time to read them in their entirety. The tune and the backdrop is just so romantic that the ambiance overshadows the actual words, but when taken as a whole, those words undermine that romantic intent.

I started noticing this years after the boy band crazed die down. Being a romance lover, I have a tendency to scrutinize all things romantic more than most. I’ve already shared some of my favorite love songs and at one point, this song was on that list. However, over the years, as I’ve listened closer to the lyrics, the song just got less and less romantic.

For reference, here are the lyrics without the backdrop of an attractive boy band and a soothing overtone. Read it closely. Really think about what they’re saying.

Yeah
You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way
But we are two worlds apart
Can’t reach to your heart
When you say
That I want it that way
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why
I never want to hear you say
I want it that way
Am I, your fire?
Your one, desire
Yes I know, it’s too late
But I want it that way
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why,
I never want to hear you say
I want it that way
Now I can see that we’ve fallen apart
From the way that it used to be, yeah
No matter the distance
I want you to know
That deep down inside of me
You are my fire
The one desire
You are (you are, you are, you are)
Don’t want to hear you say
Ain’t nothin’…

Parts of it are romantic. I don’t doubt that. When taken in their totality, though, it walks a fine line between love and obsession. I won’t say that it echoes with the sentiments of a stalker or someone with a creepy obsession, but it does walk the line. I would argue it’s way too close to the line.

Those first few lines about someone being their one singular desire are sweet, but more than a little obsessive. Making someone your deep, loving desire is one thing. Making them your only desire is a little unhealthy.

Then, there are the parts about heartache, being apart, and drifting away. Those are concepts inherent in many great love songs, but it doesn’t quite work here. Again, look at that first line. It’s telling someone they don’t want to hear them say they want something a certain way. It sends the message that what someone else wants is wrong. That’s not really romantic. That’s an accusation of a thought crime.

Wanting someone to love you is one thing.

Wanting them to not want something is very different. It also has some disturbing implications.

The lyrics alone tell a story of two people drifting apart and separated by distance. One person wants it that way. The other person doesn’t. On top of that, the other person has a singular focus on the other and doesn’t want them to feel that way. Is that sentiment love? Is it even romantic?

You can twist the meaning through music and context. You can make the song about longing for someone over a distance, but it requires a hell of a stretch with the words. Anything that requires that much of a stretch shows just how lacking the romance is.

I’m not saying this song isn’t a great song. I think it is. It’s popularity and staying power is proof of that. As a love song, though, it’s one of those songs that gets less and less romantic the more you scrutinize it. For any song that’s supposed to convey a romantic sentiment, why would you ever want it that way?

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My Workout Playlist (For Those Still Committed To Get In Shape This Year)

The first few days of 2020 have gone by quickly. We’ve still got plenty more to go and for those still serious about their New Years Resolution, I applaud and encourage you. Anyone who has given up on theirs by now was probably not serious about them in the first place.

Since one of the most common resolutions is to get in shape, I thought I’d touch on that again. A few days ago, I wrote about how certain people at the gym I go to didn’t seem to be taking that effort very seriously. I tried to be fair and offer advice for those who genuinely want to improve their health, fitness, and overall well-being. In hindsight, I think I might have been a bit harsh.

To make up for it, I thought I’d share one aspect of working out that I genuinely enjoy. It involves listening to music during a workout. I know that’s not a novel concept. Chances are that when you go to a gym, most of the people working out will have headphones on. I know because I’m one of them. In fact, listening to music while working out is something that makes my workout genuinely enjoyable.

If you want to do something that’ll make exercise feel less tedious, a good playlist is a great way to achieve that. What constitutes a “good playlist” varies from person to person. Not everyone has the same tastes. I know people who can work out listening to classical, jazz, country, and rap music. There’s nothing wrong with any genre. As long as it helps get you in the right mindset, then it can only help.

I have a lot of music on my phone, but I have a special playlist that I call my “Workout Mix” that I listen to whenever I’m at the gym. Whether I’m lifting weights or running on a treadmill, I just put the list on shuffle and have at it. Before long, I’m rocking out and working out. It’s win-win.

If you intend to get into shape in 2020, I highly recommend putting together a workout mix. If it helps, I’ll share mine. Please note that mine is tailored to my tastes. Yours are likely different. Pick the music that works best for you. This just happens to work best for me.

Metallica – Enter Sandman

Metallica – Hardwired To Self-Destruct

Quiet Riot – Come On Feel The Noise

DMX – X Goin’ Give It To Ya

Lady Gaga – Applause

Flo Rida – Right Round

AC/DC – Thunderstruck

Motley Crue – Kickstart My Heart

Collective Soul – Shine

Collective Soul – December

Soundgarden – Spoonman

Robin Schultz – Sugar

Rick James – Superfreak

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Nelly – Hot In Here

James Labrie – Pretender

Guns N’ Roses – Welcome To The Jungle

Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child Of Mine

Eve 6 – Inside Out

Drowning Pool – Step Up

The Beastie Boys – Fight For Your Right (To Party)

Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

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Love Or Obsession: Pop Music First Edition

Any form of media can seem innocent if presented in a cheery, upbeat form. You could probably present tax law and traffic tickets in a positive light if you just used a combination of boy bands, catchy tunes, and bland lyrics ripped from a Hallmark greeting card.

It’s an odd quirk of human psychology. If music is upbeat and catchy enough, we tend not to care what the lyrics say or what the song implies. Musicians like Van Morrison and Bob Dylan built entire careers on this quirk. Nobody can say it’s wrong because it really works. You can’t complain too much about the flaws in our brain wiring when it works so damn well.

If, however, you can dig beyond to upbeat tone and catchy lyrics, which is a pretty big if in many cases, you may find the contents of these songs can be a bit off. There are near infinite amounts of songs flowing through the various channels of media. A good chunk of those songs involve love, sex, and the pursuit of both, sometimes to distressing degrees.

Now I admit I’ve patronized many of these songs. My smartphone is full of sappy love songs, sexy dance songs, and gangsta rap that glorifies the female ass as if it were a holy relic. I love music and I’ll even dance to it, although it usually takes a certain amount of alcohol consumption. I think many of us are guilty of that in some form, sober or otherwise, at some point in our lives.

However you feel about the kind of bubblegum pop music that has been making teenage girls scream and teenage boys horny for decades, there’s no denying its impact on pop culture. It’s a part of our society. It’s a part of our lives. Hell, some of us may have even been conceived with help from these songs so we shouldn’t take them lightly.

With that in mind, I’d like to conduct another one of my “Love or Obsession” exercising on a few pop songs. I’ve already done it with TV shows and literature. Music is the just the next logical progression. Given the sheer volumes of bland, bubblegum pop music in the world, this will only cover a few songs. I intend to do others down the line. This is just the first and if someone wants to suggest a song to assess, I’ll gladly listen.

For this post, consider this the first edition of this analysis. I’ll stick to pop songs for now, but I’ll definitely consider genres for future assessments.


Britney Spears: Hit Me Baby One More Time

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

Let’s face it. Catholic school girls in mini-skirts are sexy as hell. Britney Spears found this out the easy way around the turn of the millennium. Being young, beautiful, and willing to dress like a sexy Catholic school girl, which is very much a fantasy of a good chunk of the male population, was a good way to achieve success.

Perhaps it’s because of that sex appeal that nobody looked closely at the lyrics to the song she sang in her first hit, “Baby One More Time.” The song talks about loneliness, being blindsided by a breakup, and wanting to stay in a relationship that clearly has some issues.

Now sometimes you do stay in a relationship out of love, hoping to make it work. However, when wanting to requires that someone “hit you one more time,” it’s getting dangerously close to abuse. You don’t endure abuse unless you’re trapped or obsessed. Given the context of this song, I go with the latter.


Backstreet Boys: I Want It That Way

Love or Obsession?
Love

Alongside the rise of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys proved that basic sex appeal and catchy lyrics can sell a fuckton of records. These kids were on the top of the world in the late 90s. They sung cute, sappy love songs to get the hormones of teenage girls going and it worked. It worked very well.

One of their biggest hits, “I Want It That Way,” epitomized their appeal and was, by far, one of their biggest hits. Given the tone and structure of the song, it’s kind of hard to hide the lyrics. They’re a bit messy. If they were on a greeting card, it would be a very confusing greeting card.

However, at the core of the song, there’s the sentiment that someone doesn’t care about the flaws or shortcomings of a relationship. They don’t want to change it into something it’s not. They, aptly put, want it this way.

As sappy as it is, it’s actually pretty damn healthy in terms of love. Real love involves accepting both strengths and flaws in someone. This song nicely embodies that and is probably one of the healthiest love songs a teenage girl can listen to.


Aerosmith: I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

This song was another big 90s hit that made Aerosmith relevant again. That alone is a hell of an accomplishment. It also accompanied a big Michael Bay movie of the time called, “Armageddon.” So between Aerosmith and Michael Bay, this song had a lot going for it.

Unfortunately, the sentiment in the song, despite Steven Tyler’s screaming, isn’t exactly very loving. It talks about just watching someone sleep and never seeing anything else when you close your eyes. The love he’s describing is literally something you can never not think about and not missing it seems like a live-or-death imperative.

This is the kind of song that Edward Cullen lives his life by. This is the kind of song that hopelessly-obsessed stalkers turn to when they want their obsession to seem like love. The implications are as distressing as they sound.


Rick Astley: Never Gonna Give You Up

Love or Obsession?
Obsession

Before it became an overplayed internet meme, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” was a big freakin’ deal in the 80s. It was very much a product of the polished, prepackaged pop music of the time. Take a handsome guy with a handsome face, make him sing lovey dovey lyrics, and set it to weird techno-enhanced beats and you got yourself a hit.

With this song, however, there isn’t much need for analysis. It’s in the very title of the song. Never giving someone up, never letting them down, and always being around describes a very unhealthy mindset for someone to have with a partner. It basically champions making someone else the entire center of your world. That’s sweet, but wholly unrealistic.

It’s still a catchy song and the fact it became an internet meme reveals its staying power. That said, it has the same problem as “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. Break down the lyrics and it’s not a love song. It’s more a stalker/obsession anthem and there’s nothing romantic about that.


Hootie And The Blowfish: Hold My Hand

Love or Obsession?
Love

Here’s a band people love to hate for lousy reasons. Hootie and the Blowfish were a simple, but effective band at a time when music was emerging from the grim and gritty grunge era. Their music was upbeat. Their lyrics were simple. They didn’t try to look too fancy or gritty. They dressed like regular guys and made music.

Naturally, it became cool to hate them. It also ignored the fact that they were one of the most successful bands of the mid-90s. Their first big hit, “Hold My Hand,” got things going. It was not a dark and gritty grunge song. It was a simple, upbeat love song. Break the lyrics down and that sentiment just become stronger.

It’s another one of those songs that presents an oddly healthy attitude towards love. It doesn’t send the impression that you have to make someone else the center of your world. It says in the chorus, “I want to love you the best that (the best that) I can.” Trying to achieve an ideal is unrealistic and foolish. Trying the best you can is the most anyone can ask for, even in love.


Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Love or Obsession?
Love (Mostly)

Here’s a classic from the late 60s and early 70s, a time when soul music and R&B began growing in popularity. It was also the pre-disco era so there weren’t any bell-bottoms or aphros. It was a better time is what I’m saying.

This song, which has been remixed and remade multiple times, has an upbeat tone and many unique rhythmic mantras. It’s pretty complex piece of music. As such, the lyrics are hard to judge. On one hand, they talk about there being no force on this world to keep someone from getting to you. That does sound a bit obsessive.

However, the context of this song, as well as the sentiment of the other lyrics, keep it from getting into that dark territory that “Every Breath You Take” fell into. As a whole, the song speaks more about keeping promises and being there for someone you love. That’s a good kind of love, even if the verbiage can be misconstrued.


The Beatles: I Want To Hold Your Hand

Love or Obsession?
Love

This is as simple and innocent a song from one of the biggest bands in the history of pop culture. Love songs and the Beatles are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together so perfectly that it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Can anyone honestly imagine the Beatles doing a Taylor Swift style breakup song?

With one of their earliest hits, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” the sentiment is simple. They don’t talk about wanting to watch you sleep, focusing every waking thought on you, or never being able to escape your love. They just talk about holding hands and sharing a simple kind of intimacy.

Being a hugger myself, it’s a sentiment I can appreciate. Holding hands is as innocent a gesture as it comes when showing love. It’s a far cry from never wanting to give someone up or watching them with every breath they take. For that, the Beatles deserve props for championing healthy love.

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