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Love Songs Get No Love in New Book

UCSB Scientist Says Romantic Tunes May Be Bad for Your Health


For those who prescribe to the notion that greeting card and candy companies invented Valentine’s Day, here’s a book for you. UC Santa Barbara professor of sociology Thomas Scheff’s new book, What’s Love Got to Do With It? Emotions and Relationships in Pop Songs, reveals why love songs may actually be negative representations of love and relationships for romantics both hopeless and otherwise.

“Music informs our ideas about emotions, and love in particular, but most love songs are terrible models. Lyrics maintain the mystery of love, but they reveal next to nothing about the look and feel of actual love,” asserts Scheff in his book.

Scheff, who studied 80 year’s worth of American song lyrics, reprimands the machine of pop love songs for setting unrealistic expectations about love for listeners. He questions the disconnect between real world expectations and actual outcomes in relationships that listeners formulate from growing up with their favorite love songs, from George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” to N’Sync and Backstreet Boy ballads. Scheff also discusses the pitfalls of pop culture influences.

“This book will compare the imagined emotional/world of pop songs with a more realistic world of emotions and relationships that I have glimpsed as a social scientist, and offer suggestions toward improving both worlds,” writes Scheff.

His research, which includes interviewing students, also takes a technical look at the language behind the lyrics as well as their underlying meanings.

Scheff’s previous books include the study of emotionalism as it relates to war and nationalism and other studies of general human sociological interactions.

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