“Be Mine” by David Gray (2002)/”Be Mine!” by Robyn (2005)

Two songs, same title, very different sentiments.

David Gray’s “Be Mine” finds the Welsh troubadour falling rapturously in love (or at least becoming seriously infatuated). The soundscape is dreamy, with twinkling keyboards that call to mind shooting stars. Gray’s soul-influenced croon is particularly impassioned, and it’s clear that he’s either high off of longing or NRE (new relationship energy–it’s a term I learned recently. Pretty cool, eh? There is an acronym for everything!)

Although Gray’s A New Day At Midnight album made its way into my collection on its 2002 release date, I didn’t fall in love with “Be Mine” until at least half a decade later. David was touring with Ray LaMontagne (another of my favorites), and I jumped at the chance to see them both perform. “Be Mine” was a highlight of David’s set, and I’m pretty sure I went home after the show and dug into my library to find the studio recording of the song.

There are two lines in particular that stand out for me.

“You reached right into my head/and turned on the light inside” reminds me of a passage in an Augusten Burroughs book I read (can’t remember which one), in which he talks about going on a first date with the guy who soon became his (as of the time the book was published) partner. He mentioned something about driving home after that first date and having all of the lights he saw turn green. I think there’s a moment when you feel like there’s a future with someone when the world suddenly seems a lot clearer than it was just hours before. David captures that feeling perfectly.

Then there’s “if I had some influence girl/with the powers that be/I’d have them fire that arrow at you/like they fired it right at me,” which makes me think that the object of David’s infatuation has not yet reciprocated his interest. If the lyrics were based on true events, I sure hope things worked out for Mr. Gray.

Things clearly did not work out for Swedish R&B/dance siren Robyn. Her “Be Mine!” finds the singer pining after a romantic interest who does not return Robyn’s eye. And she’s pretty busted up about it, as evidenced by the song’s opening line: “it’s a good thing tears never show in the pouring rain.” “You never were/and you never will/be mine” is a total gut punch of a lyric. ALL OF THE FEELS. For an artist most folks put in the bucket of “dance music”, Robyn’s lyrics are often pretty sad. Her best songs capture that weird dichotomy between romantic frustration/melancholy and dance-friendliness, and the live performance I’ve embedded below does away with tempo entirely, pushing the heartbroken lyrics to the forefront.

NOT QUITE FIVE STARS…

“Battlestations” by Wham! (1986): “Battlestations” is undoubtedly Prince-inspired, down to the Linn drum pattern. There’s a faint horn sound running throughout which separates the song from being a straight Prince rip–the Purple One hadn’t done much with horns yet when “Battlestations” was recorded, but the song nevertheless retains a purple hue.

It’s George Michael at his funkiest, and is a bit of an anomaly on the patchwork quilt that was Wham!’s final effort, Music From The Edge of Heaven. It’s barely an EP’s worth of work if you don’t include the live track, the remix of their 1982 debut single, and the first American issue of “Last Christmas”, which had been released in their native UK two years prior. It’s certainly the song that most clearly points the way towards the sound that George would hit paydirt a year later with on Faith. “Hard Day”, “Monkey” and “I Want Your Sex” are all refinements of a sound that began on “Battlestations”. Well, it began on Prince’s Controversy. But, you know what I mean.

“Be Alright” by Zapp (1980): Best known now as the sample that 2Pac rode to glory on “Keep Ya Head Up”, I originally discovered this song via a hip-hop radio show maybe two years before ‘Pac’s hit came out (and right before Big Daddy Kane used it for “Prince Of Darkness”. A buddy of mine was looking for beats at the time and I threw that baby on a cassette for him. It’s so funky. I didn’t actually hear the full song (with, like, vocals and stuff) until purchasing Zapp’s Greatest Hits later in ’93. It’s a nice mid tempo bounce with no vocoder-quite unusual and refreshing for that band.

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