In Search of Secure Attachment in Rock Music Lyrics

Posted on June 3, 2012


All of my life, I have been a big fan of rock and pop music. I think my fate was sealed when I saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show at age 3 (you can do the math and figure out how old I am) and subsequently spent my preschool years pretending to be the Beatles. I have always really appreciated good lyrics and a catchy melody. It is a risky endeavor putting too much stock in the lyrics of popular music though.

Looking at the lyrics with a therapist’s eye, it has occurred to me how rarely the words appear to reflect secure attachment. As I described in earlier posts, secure attachment is that quality of love relationship wherein you are able to turn to each other for comfort and support each knowing that your partner will be there to provide it. Essentially, it is knowing there is someone to whom you matter, someone who has your back, someone who will be there through the inevitable trials of life. It is the true longing of the human heart. These qualities can be difficult to find in the relationships described in rock music. More often, songs can be categorizes as 1) the thrill of new love, 2) the rush of sexual desire, 3) break up songs, 4) unrequited love (I think you’re all that, and you don’t notice me). Even those songs proposing a more permanent relationship seem to smack of a love that is still heavily in the infatuation stage. Again, it is difficult to find secure attachment in rock lyrics.

I have a few theories as to why that is. Theory A: There is a story telling quality to a rock song. A good story requires some amount of conflict. “Isn’t it wonderful to have a happy marriage?” does not make for a great lyric. Theory B: Writing love songs is an emotional process. When emotions are running hot during the early days of a relationship and love is new, causes songs to leap forth. A more mature relationship may not call forth the same muse as new love. On the flip side, writing a poison pen letter in the form of a song after a break-up could be very cathartic. Theory C: Most rock songs are written by artists in their comparative youth and directed at a younger audience. The artists and their audiences may not have experienced secure attachment with a love interest and perhaps it even sounds boring at that point in one’s life. Theory D: perhaps there exists a conflux of factors such as the life of a rock/pop star does not lend itself to developing and maintaining secure relationships, or the drive and uniqueness of personality that pushes one to the top of the music business may not be conducive to such relationships. Maybe that last one is just a cliché. I don’t know; I am making this up as I go.

The thought occurred to me to start a list of the examples I could find (and I welcome suggestions from my readers to add to the list). So here goes.
The Woman I Love – Jason Mraz (2012)
Fade into Me – David Cook (2011)
True Companion – Marc Cohn (1991)
Power of Two – Indigo Girls (1994)
Wondering Aloud – Jethro Tull (1971)
Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney (1971)
Fly – Sara Groves (2002)
I Will Be Here – Stephen Curtis Chapman (1990)

The Woman I Love is the song that made me think of the list (since it is brand new it also might make people think I am current on what is happening in music). Essentially, the message is that sometimes we get on each other’s nerves, but nevertheless, I love you, I am committed to you, and “you can relax because, Babe, I’ve got your back.” Fade into Me describes being able to turn to your partner to provide a safe haven from the pressures of life. True Companion is about a vision of spending a life time together. “When the years have done irreparable harm, I can see us walking slowly arm in arm. ‘Cause, Girl, I will always be in love with you.” Power of Two – “I took us for better and I took us for worse, and don’t you ever forget it.” Wondering Aloud – A beautiful description of a couple in love and comfortable together ending with the summation “and it’s only the giving that makes you what you are.” Maybe I’m Amazed – You could pick a number of Paul McCartney songs for the list. Sir Paul certainly got the idea of being securely attached. He and Linda were married almost 30 years at the time of her death. Fly – Sara Groves suggesting that her husband’s attention and support might even enable her to fly. I Will Be Here – “When the mirror tells us we’re older, I will hold you. I will be here to watch you grow in beauty and tell you all the things you are to me. We’ll be together.”

Wishing you the joy of secure attachment.

“I work with individuals, couples, and families to help develop secure connections
and craft manageable solutions.”
More information is available on my website I am also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats
Scott Wood is a registered marriage and family therapist intern (IMF67385) and is supervised by Dr. Melinda Reinicke, Psychologist (Psy11011).