I listened to a This American Life this weekend that was a double-miler. That is, I set out to run a certain amount, and got so into the podcast I doubled the amount just so I could keep listening–and it’s still on my mind. It was an episode called “Break-Up,” and it dates back to 2007. In it, the always fabulous Starlee Kine is trying to deal with a break up, and wallowing rather pleasantly in the fact that she’s feeling like a cliche.
In her now broken relationship, music had been really important. The two lovebirds would listen to a little bit of everything, including emotional Phil Collins’ sessions. The Phil Collins stuff started out ironically, but it didn’t take long before the two were truly enjoying his music (Confession: I can totally relate to this Phil Collins change of heart). So much so that when he broke up with her, she blurted out the lyrics from “Against All Odds,” “How can you just let me walk away? I’m the only one who really knew you at all.”
She goes on to say, “And I meant it. In that moment, no one could convey what I was feeling better than Phil Collins.”
It was like foreshadowing of the pained love-song binge she was about to fall into. Dusty Springfield, Phil Collins, Bonnie Raitt. So much so that over time, she decided she was tired of hearing other people’s lament. She was ready to own her own. She wanted to be the source of her own poetry brought on by her own pain.
So she wrote a love song (and it was pretty good, reminiscent of a much, much gentler Martha Wainwright). But before she did so, she scored an interview with Phil Collins. And what an interview. Turns out that Collins, himself, fell into heart-wrought-sap through the demise of his own marriage. He thought, really believed, that when his ex heard his songs she would come back to him. He even said that he would have gone into more of a jazzy rock career had it not been for that break-up phase. Think about it. Without his heart break, we may have never had debates over the meaning of “Air of the Night.”
He comforts Kine as they discuss their broken hearts. He also manages to get a Michael Bolton dig in, saying a love song that’s pure sap ventures into Michael Bolton territory. Tough words from a guy who sang, “When I’m feeling blue, all I have to do, is take a look at you, then I’m not so blue.”
It’s this kind of radio gold that makes me love This American Life. Every turn of this show was so satisfying, from the direct access to Kine’s raw, break-up emotions to her painfully wrangling some kind of control over those emotions, to the fantastic carrot of her actual conversation with Phil Collins.
Plus, as mocker-turned-devotee of Adult Contemporary Favorites, like Phil Collins, it’s nice to hear that others listen to sappy songs so much that they start to really love them, too–while still being rational enough to know that anything by Michael Bolton is crossing the line. I’m just glad he left Rod Stewart out of the equation.