IMHO Installment #59: Who's the Dog? (#3)

15 Jun 2007


I was born in the 1960s. (Okay, sure, it was 1969, but it was still the 60s.) One of the number-one tunes in America that year was "Sugar, Sugar" by a fictional cartoon bubblegum-pop band called The Archies. The main part, as I'm certain you know, goes:

Sugar, ah honey honey
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.
Honey, ah sugar sugar
You are my candy girl
And you've got me wanting you.

It always struck me as very 60s to refer to someone, usually lovingly, as "sugar" or "honey." Rarely, as I grew up, would I hear that from anyone but someone from at least one generation older than my own. But, I think it's gone full circle now; it's skipped my generation (Generation X) and landed in the care of the current one ( Generation Y or some subset such as the Millennials, the Echo Boomers, or the Internet Generation -- I've lost track of them all).


But, I'm hearing 20-somethings use these terms of endearment more than ever. Observe Fall Out Boy's big hit of a year or so ago:

We're going down, down in an earlier round,
And Sugar, we're going down swinging,
I'll be your number one with a bullet,
A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it.

I kind of like Fall Out Boy, in exactly the same way that you can sometimes like a band full of emo, Hot Topic dudes who are babbling on about god-knows-what using largely idiomatic, colloquial language that, while trite, is ironically vaguely interesting when set to upbeat pop-punk riffage. (Or maybe they simply belong in a broader category of bands that do not, under any circumstances, ever enunciate. Like Bjork or the Cocteau Twins.)

Anyhoo, I'll get back to the sweety-sweet; today I wanted to continue my analytical "Who's the Dog?" series with a closer look at Hinder's smash hit, "Lips of an Angel." I believe it's a cover tune, but am not sure. At least, that's what the web site seems to think. For a site so named, I found little original thought about the song. Unless you count Sam from Portsmouth who opined:

This song reminds me of those gay power ballads of the 80's. It probably would be a little bit better if the lead singer didn't try to use his voice as if he was doing a more harder song. Also they critizived as being boring. They're one to talk.

Indeed, they critizived. In fact, I'd like to critizive the song a little more harder, if Sam doesn't mind my taking the ball from him. Here's Hinder:


The song lyrics depict one side of a fictitious phone call, which we'll explore in detail below. Considering the sheer number of pop tunes out there to date, it simply can't be the only tune to use this format. I think there's something slightly compelling about it, though, as it places the listener immediately in the role of eavesdropper. But, it's an interesting trivia question: What other songs depict telephone calls?

I'll leave that up to others to answer. I briefly entertained a few ... At first, all I could come up with was Bad Connection by Yaz. But, that's really not a very good fit; it just talks about a woman's desire to make a telephone call. (I could probably write a whole blog entry on Upstairs at Eric's, btw. Perhaps another time.) Then I thought of Operator by Jim Croce. That's the only other true example I could recall (as the guy is talking to an operator).

Enough of that ... Let's look at the song. Going back to my opening point, note how it begins with the very trend I'd been describing:

Honey why you calling me so late?
It's kinda hard to talk right now.
Honey why are you crying? Is everything okay?
I gotta whisper 'cause I can't be too loud

I won't harp on the honey/sweetie thing too much going forward; I really just wanted to point it out and see if anyone thinks I'm onto something. My main purpose here, as you may have noted from installments numbers 1 and 2, is to provide you with some sort of a determination as to which member of a given love relationship is "the dog."

So, here we have a girl who has called her ex boyfriend late at night, most likely drunk (okay, that's an assumption), crying about the past. But, his first word to her is the sweet-nothing, "Honey." That's 180 degrees from what most guys would say if their ex called, right? So, there's a history there somewhere. He takes the call, though, even though it's "hard to talk right now" -- meaning, no doubt, his current lover is nearby. (Although he singles out the time of the call as his primary concern -- it being "so late" -- one wonders when a better time might be.)

Also, getting back to that opening line, I can't help remark about that "Honey, why you ... ?" construction, its ebonic cadence somehow out of place in a tune penned by white 20-somethings. If it were a young Gary Coleman, I'd buy that one, you know? -- ( e.g., "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?"). (I'll forgive "kinda," btw.)

At this stage, we can ascribe little, if any, dogness to the woman. She may not be involved in another relationship, and may not know about her former lover's current one. So, for the time being, her "dog score" remains a respectable 0. He, on the other hand, has (1) addressed her as "Honey," (2) volunteered that he will talk with her, though quietly/secretly, and (3) even inquired about her apparent despondency. That puts his dog-status at an alarming 3! And we're only one verse into this thing. He continues:

Well, my girl's in the next room,
Sometimes I wish she was you,
I guess we never really moved on ...

There's some interesting dactyllic meter in the first two lines: " ... MY girl's in THE next room SOME-times I ... " I've often read that The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds is pop's most famous example of the dactyl ("PIC-ture your-SELF in a BOAT on a RIV-er ... "). Whether Hinder is building some inexplicable homage to The Beatles or an unconscious hidden reference to the surreal, almost LSD-trip-like nature of this particular phone call from a past lover is best left to conjecture. (I could be giving them too much credit. Or perhaps Hinder intends to keep us in the dark on such matters; their name, after all, means "to obstruct or to interfere.") Back to the verse ...

I'll reluctantly forgive the speaker's error in that second line (the subjunctive mood, of course, requiring "I wish she were you" instead of "I wish she was you"). But, at this stage, I cannot forgive him any dog points, as he has confirmed our suspicions that, indeed, his "girl's in the next room." He then admits his mutual longing (though, oddly, just "sometimes") for the former lover (raising his dog points to 4). Actually, let's go ahead and raise it to 5 since this statement, while possibly honest, also serves to raise, within the other woman, false hopes of a possible reunion. Or, are they false hopes? As we'll see, the man further gives in to his former flame during the chorus:

It's really good to hear your voice say my name
It sounds so sweet
Coming from the lips of an angel
Hearing those words it makes me weak
And I never wanna say goodbye
But girl you make it hard to be faithful
With the lips of an angel

Wow, and she called him. I guess he'd been pining away for her the whole time, which brings his dog score up to 6. It also seems to me there's something to be said about the whole concept of people desiring to hear their lovers speak their names. It's not simply the woman's voice that weakens the man; he clarifies that "hearing those words " makes him weak (those words being his own name). I'm all for self-confidence and strong egos, but when hearing your own name weakens you, I think it's arguably time to visit a psychologist.

Also interesting is his comparing her to an angel, which suggests a christian morality that would likely frown upon such temptation and/or infidelity. Plus, it would be somewhat of a turn-off to make out with an actual angel, no? According to several Hollywood films I've seen, they may not possess genitalia. But, I'm straying from my analysis -- sorry.

The "I never wanna say goodbye" is a nice example of hyper-obvious subtext. We say "goodbye" to close a phone call. Thus, on the surface, he simply never wants to "hang up"; on a deeper level, he never wants to be apart from her. Awwww ...

I've probably glossed over the whole central "lips" metaphor (get it ... "lip gloss"?), but I shouldn't have. A quick detour to the wonder wiki enumerates the multi-functional nature of the human lips. Primary labial functions include food intake, tactile senses, articulation/speech, facial expressions, and serving as an erogenous zone. Quoth the Wiki:

Lips are a visible expression of fertility. It has been shown that the more estrogen a women has the fuller her lips and that full lips are considered attractive.

Again, how ironic that angels should have presumably the fullest lips of all female forms, yet they're continually depicted as sexless, infertile beings. Back to the verse ...

It's funny that you're calling me tonight,
And, yes, I've dreamt of you too,
And does he know you're talking to me?
Will it start a fight?
No I don't think she has a clue.

I think I've worn out my welcome on the amount of bandwidth devoted to this tune, so I'll cut to the chase: That "does he know" line is critical. It more than evens the playing field in terms of dogness in my book. She's been seeing someone; so has he. This isn't their first late-night secret call together and likely won't be their last.

VERDICT: Though the man is likely even-up on the dog scale, I have to rule against the woman; she is the clear dog here . He's definitely no role model, but he as at least indicated that it's "hard to be faithful." Again, that's not saying much, but we can infer that he's at least making some kind of half-ass effort to separate from his former lover. If she would simply stop calling him, he may be able to get through the break-up -- perhaps not with a crystal clear conscience, but without having crossed the line of physical contact. Thus, one may interpret the closing line, which mimics the opening one ("Honey why you calling me so late?") not as some secret, whispered, concerned inquiry, but rather as a desperate plea for the woman to allow him to resist something against which she knows damn well that he is utterly powerless.

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On June 15, 2007, Reg wrote:

Hello. How are you? We should discuss this post at length Patrick, telephone number is 867-5309. Call me on the line, call me, call me any anytime.

On June 17, 2007, Beenzzz wrote:

Poor millenials ... .why must they be echo boomers? I am Gen X as well. Did we have any catch phrases that were nice?

On June 18, 2007, Love Monkey wrote:

what you talkin bout patrick?

they are both dirty dogs, and really should just get off the phone, meet somewhere and do it. If only to spare us from those mindless lyrics.

It would probably be a blessing to the other guy and that other girl in the "other room," as well.

I mean, no one wants to be the consolation prize.

On June 18, 2007, Jon wrote:

Hinder = Nickelback + tattoos.

Good post though. For the sake of full disclosure, I love me some 80s hair ballads. So my musical taste is not to be trusted.

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