2.15.2011

Emphatic Ambivalence: Velvet Underground's Greatest Love Song



So I was lying in the bath just now listening to Velvet Underground's eponymous second album when "Some Kind of Love" comes on. And I am struck, not for the first time, by the fantastic, playful, hilarious, and generous lyrics.

The title alone is telling and, again, generous: some kinds of love. Not this kind of love. Not love as pain, love as longing, love as union — just different kinds of love and each has its place:

Some kinda love
Margarita told Tom

between thought and expression lies a lifetime

situations arise because of the weather

and no kinds of love

are better than others


Love emerges from the weather, in the faltering between feeling and word. And this love can take any number of forms, from the silly to the profound:

Some kinds of love
Margarita told Tom

like a dirty French novel

combines the absurd with the vulgar

and some kinds of love

the possibilities are endless

and for me to miss one

would seem to be groundless

...and some kinds of love
are mistaken for visionary

This ambivalence does not heed indecision or reflection without action. On the contrary, for Lou Reed it inspires play and frolic:

Put jelly on your shoulder

let us do what you fear most

that from which you recoil

but which still makes your eyes moist


And it ends with an embrace of the ambivalence, the multivalence of love — and this, I would say, is joy, an affirmation of it all, a diving in even though he knows — knows — there will be pain and tears but also pleasure and delight: there will be life:

I don't know just what it's all about
but put on your red pajamas and find out


This is the greatest love song I know precisely because it embraces all the different modes of love, the different kinds of love. Because it loves without demanding univocality, loves without cliche, loves without bathos but with pathos, loves nonetheless, loves with feeling, loves with humor, loves with passion.

And isn't that what love is all about?

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