Sunday, 9 December 2007

Was 'Never Be The Same Again' a Lesbian Anthem?

This is another pop music question from my dusty bag of old tracks. The song 'Never Be The Same Again' was released in March 2000 and was the third track off former-Spice Girl, Melanie C(hisolm)'s solo album 'Northern Lights', one of the most successful of the albums released by The Spice Girls members after they broke up and this single reached number 1 in the UK charts.

It was co-written and co-performed by Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes one third of US female r&b trio TLC probably most famed for their 'Waterfalls' (1995). Lopes died in a car accident in 2002 aged only 30. She was a feisty character often in dispute with her fellow TLC members and had served 5 years on probation for burning down the house of her fiance after arguing with him.


Mel C, as she is commonly known, holds the record for reaching number one in the UK as part of a quintet and quartet (The Spice Girls before and after the departure of Geri Halliwell) as a duet and as a solo artist. She has sold 4 million albums on her own and was part of the sales of 55 million albums by The Spice Girls. Mel C was known as 'Sporty' Spice as she tended to adopt tomboyish sports kit dress and was heavily tattooed. There has not been much active speculation about her sexuality, but she certainly has appeared to be less girly than the others in The Spice Girls and if you have ever encountered female football teams you will find that the bulk of them are lesbians. There was speculation over her sexuality in 2000 when she shared a room with a female assistant. Revelations of this were reported to have led her into depression, something which it is good to see she has more than bounced back from.

Some of all of this, I suspect, was intentional packaging of Chisholm by their record company when they manufactured The Spice Girls so that everyone in the audience would have a particular woman in the line-up that they felt they could associate with. Mel C has stated very categorically that she is straight and I think that is more than enough assurance for anyone, and anyway it is her own business. I like her because, as early as 1997, she told 'Melody Maker' - 'New Labour is just Old Conservatives isn't it?' and coming from Liverpool has a clear old Socialist perspective on things, despite her respect for Margaret Thatcher's strength.

Now you might ask, why should I, who sees almost everyone as sitting on continuum of sexuality rather than being wholly in one camp or the other, be wittering on about this song and what relevance it has to lesbians. Well, it is, basically, that when it came out I said 'oh it's good to hear a lesbian song once in a while'. These days, in the wake of the axis of Marc Almond, Erasure, Bronski Beat, The Communards and Jimmy Sommerville, you can release songs in the UK with lyrics about gay men and no-one will raise an eyebrow, they will judge the song on its quality. However, I cannot remember one song in the UK which featured lesbian lyrics. Given that lesbians make up 5% of the UK population, so, around 3+ million women, it seems surprising.

Then I heard 'Never Be The Same Again' and thought, 'ah, there, that balances things up a little'. It is a rather wordy song but it is not bad, straddling the rock of Mel C and the r&b/rapping of Lisa Lopes. I even heard it in a Belgian lesbian club I was in; it was the only song played twice in the course of the evening.  You may wonder what I was doing in a Belgian lesbian club in a medium-sized town, well it had been hired out by two straight people, one a woman, one a man for a private party I was attending there and as part of the package they had employed the club's usual DJ. However, aside from this DJ, no-one I know seemed to accept that this song was a lesbian anthem, even one friend of mine who is very keen on media analysis. So, this posting is just trying to put the case for this song being properly considered.

I am not arguing at all that either Mel C or Lisa Lopes are/were lesbians; I think there is no evidence for this. People can often sing songs from a focus which is not their own gender or sexuality. However, it is interesting that two women were selected to sing this song and these two women were picked. Again, though, I suspect it was the record companies seeking to push their products into every corner. They knew that whatever Mel C's own sexuality, she had a strong lesbian following so it was like throwing those fans a little something. I imagine TLC might have had a lesbian following too as some of their songs do have a strong feminist take on things, as some areas of r&b do. Given the success of this record it had to sell to a lot of heterosexuals too and its quality probably shone through even if people paid little attention to the lyrics, as is often the case. By the way the lyrics are:


Sung:
"Come on. Ooh, yeah./ Never be the same again./ I call you up whenever things go wrong./ You're always there./ You are my shoulder to cry on./ I can't believe it took me quite so long./To take the forbidden step./ Is this something that I might regret?/
(Come on, come on)/ Nothing ventured nothing gained./ (You are the one)/ A lonely heart that can't be tamed./ (Come on, come on)/ I'm hoping that you feel the same./

This is something that I can't forget./ I thought that we would just be friends./ Things will never be the same again./ It's just the beginning it's not the end./ Things will never be the same again./ It's not a secret anymore./ Now we've opened up the door./ Starting tonight and from now on./ We'll never, never be the same again./ Never be the same again./


Now I know that we were close before./ I'm glad I realised I need you so much more./ And I don't care what everyone will say./ It's about you and me./ And we'll never be the same again.I thought that we would just be friends (oh yeah)./ Things will never be the same again./ (Never be the same again)/ It's just the beginning it's not the end./ (We've only just begun)/ Things will never be the same again./ It's not a secret anymore./ Now we've opened up the door./ (Opened up the door)/ Starting tonight and from now on./ We'll never, never be the same again./ Never be the same again.


Rap:
Night and day./ Black beach sand to red clay./ The US to UK, NYC to LA./ From sidewalks to highways./ See it'll never be the same again./ What I'm sayin'/ My mind frame never changed 'til you came rearranged./ But sometimes it seems completely forbidden./ To discover those feelings that we kept so well hidden.Where there's no competition.And you render my condition./ Though improbable it's not impossible./ For a love that could be unstoppable./ But wait./ A fine line's between fate and destiny./ Do you believe in the things that were just meant to be?/ When you tell me the stories of your quest for me./ Picturesque is the picture you paint effortlessly./ And as our energies mix and begin to multiply./ Everyday situations, they start to simplify./ So things will never be the same between you and I./ We intertwined our life forces and now we're unified./


Sung:
I thought that we would just be friends./ Things will never be the same again./ It's just the beginning it's not the end./ Things will never be the same again./ It's not a secret anymore./ Now we've opened up the door./ Starting tonight and from now on./We'll never, never be the same again./ (Come on, come on)/ Things will never be the same again./ (You are the one)Never be the same again./ It's not a secret anymore./ We'll never be the same again./ It's not a secret anymore./ We'll never be the same again./ Never be the same again./ Never be the same again./ Never be the same again./ Never be the same again."

As I said, rather wordy for a pop song, but, now, tell me that is not a song about two female friends discovering they want a sexual relationship with each other. I acknowledge it could be about a man and a woman being friends and then finding a love, but then they should have got a man to sing one part. In addition, the reference to being a confidante and a shoulder to cry on is more characteristic of female friends than a man and a woman as friends. In addition the reference to a 'secret' and 'opening the door' e.g. of a closet, seem only necessary for a relationship which still might provoke comment as same-sex ones do even in the liberal UK, let alone the USA, where outside a few cities, such things are still viewed with askance.

So, chalk this up as the first, probably most successful, pop lesbian love song and let us hope that for the balance of the world we get to hear a few more. Do not let us straights and all the gay men steal all the fun and cultural references. Everyone needs something suitable to play when they propose and with civil partnerships becoming more common that means for lesbians too. Good on you Mel and Lisa for having the courage to produce this record.

3 comments:

Dutty said...

I agree. When I heard this song after a while that it had come out - somewhere around 2007 - I had no doubts that that was its "theme". I didn't even google it! But today I found this blog and I'm surprised to know that this is not a "given" fact! I really thought it was, because the song obviously talks about two female friends finding out they want more than that... Anyway, I like what you wrote. It doesn't matter what Mel C actually likes, but that the lyrics point in that direction, which is admirable. Cheers!

Dutty said...

I agree. When I heard this song after a while that it had come out - somewhere around 2007 - I had no doubts that that was its "theme". I didn't even google it. But today I found this blog and I'm surprised to know that this is not a "given" fact! I really thought it was, because the song obviously talks about two female friends finding out they want more than that... Anyway, I like what you wrote. Cheers!

asha said...

This song came out when I would've been 8 or so, and I remember watching the music video on TV while it was still in the charts. Even then, I distinctly recall feeling like they were 'together'. Sexuality has little meaning to an 8 year old, but everything about this track, the dramatic, conspiratorial tone, the way it hints at the unknown; it just seems to perfectly capture the feeling of having a forbidden crush (on a close, same-sex friend).