Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jealous Again: Music's Greatest Love Triangles

I've never been given to public or private displays of insane jealousy. I've always been more the type to observe silently and simmer on the inside. "Don't Mess with My Man" (to quote the title of the No. 8 hit from 2002 by Nivea and Brian and Brandon Casey from Jagged Edge)? I'd so never go there.

Well, except for that one time. It was years ago in New York City, early one Saturday morning when I was at the after-hours East Village club Save the Robots with my then-boyfriend. There was another guy getting way too cozy with him, so when training my death glare in his direction didn't work, I plopped into the small space between them and literally shoved the other guy aside. Off the couch he went!

"That's my boyfriend, by the way." I was hoping he wouldn't retaliate with physical force.

"Don't worry, I'm straight."

"Then act like it!"

I felt like the catty heroine of a daytime serial, ready to brawl. How could I let myself go like that? Thankfully, my boyfriend seemed completely oblivious both to the other guy's flirtation and to my reaction to it. If only I'd thought to myself, What would Stevie Nicks do? Years earlier, I'd read an interview with Nicks in which she said that she would never fight over a guy. If it turned out that one of her girlfriends wanted her man, she'd say, "Then take him. He's yours."

In her eyes, no guy was worth the hassle, and no friendship deserved to be busted up over a man. I still appreciate her attitude, though I'm glad it doesn't always triumph in music. Jealousy has long been a hallmark of great country, pop and R&B, and as lyrical material for songs, it's most potent when it's played out by singers in groups of two or more.

I certainly wasn't expecting Glee to go there in the episode (from February 7) that aired last night in Australia in which Santana (Naya Rivera) and Sam (Chord Overstreet) were fighting for the affection of Brittany (Heather Morris). But rather than trading slaps/punches as two dueling divas/hunks on daytime TV might have done -- Sam insisted that he would never hit a girl anyway -- they stated their cases through song, namely a cover of "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" a Kim Carnes composition that appeared as a duet with Barbra Streisand on Streisand's 1984 album Emotion. In a neat gender twist, three years later, it was remade by Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap, retitled "Make No Mistake, She's Mine," and promptly sent to No. 1 on the country singles chart.

I haven't watched Glee regularly in some time, so I can't comment on the show's recent music choices, but I was impressed that instead of going for the obvious -- say, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson's "The Girl Is Mine" -- they dug deeper and found a little-known song that was never a pop hit. (The Streisand/Carnes version peaked at No. 51 in 1985.) Rivera and Overstreet's rendition was good enough to get me interested in the Santana/Sam/Britanny love triangle and keep me tuned in for the rest of the episode. (Please don't tell me how the story ends, to quote another No. 1 country hit by Milsap.) My only gripe is that Overstreet should have sung his part in a lower more masculine register to underscore the girl vs. boy for a girl twist, but that's a minor complaint.

In showcasing a forgotten song that deserved to so much more love than it got in its time, Glee created a true win-win-win-win-win situation -- for the song, for the show, for the characters, for the actors, and most of all, for love triangles. May they be the shape of more great things to come -- in music and on TV, if not in real life.

"Make No Mistake, He's Mine" Barbra Streisand and Kim Carnes

"Make No Mistake, She's Mine" Kenny Rogers and Ronnie Milsap

"What About Me?" Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes and James Ingram

"Same Script, Different Cast" Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox

"The Boy Is Mine" Brandy and Monica

"Does He Love You?" Reba McEntire and Linda Davis

"The Girl Is Mine" Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney

"Jealous Again" The Black Crowes

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