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Why “I Will Always Love You” by THE CURE is the perfect modern hymn

July 27, 2009
Are You There, God? It's Me, Robert.

Are You There, God? It's Me, Robert.

Driving home from the Weight Watchers (down 1.4, thank you very much) a couple weeks ago, I popped on the disc changer in the Subaru (I know, cds, how VINTAGE) and started cycling through. Iron and Wine…lovely, but no. Franz Ferdinand, first record? I don’t feel like celebrating. I feel good, but not that good. And then? Oh my, that’s the first chiming bells of the Disintegration album! Right on! It’s just perfect sometimes, and unlike almost anything else in my collection, at least in terms of production. Wall of Sound is not my favorite approach usually, but this record is about my favorite in that vein.

The disc tools along, pounding waves of remorse against the bleached sand of regret, and finally comes to the “uptempo” (context, people) I Will Always Love You. I could go into a big discourse, but why not let the words speak for themselves?

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am whole again

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am young again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am fun again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am free again
Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am clean again

However far away
I will always love you
However long I stay
I will always love you
Whatever words I say
I will always love you
I will always love you

Some of it would be painfully obvious to anyone steeped in theological reflection; being made clean, feeling whole, feeling freed in the safety of God’s care. But more than any of that, I was struck by the line: “whatever words I say,” implying that there will be times when the love is NOT obvious, like a pre-apology. Between lovers (which I assume is the sense Smith had when writing the lyric) this is expected. But often, in a walk of faith, people assume that any fall or flaw in the relationship with God is a tragic one, with little hope for the “unfaithful” person.

I beg to differ. The people I know (self included) who have wrestled with their faith often have a very deep and grateful love for God now.  I’m not saying you should manufacture drama in your relationship with God, but I also don’t think people should assume it’s for the worse. The embrace of relationship, even with God, has at least a PART human component. And we are still messy, unsorted-out, finding our way. Songs like this give me hope, keep me on the track I have chosen, and make my life richer.

Of course, the singing of it might be problematic. I’m calling it a hymn, but it’s got a delivery that is sort of rolling, meandering, typical Robert Smith that is hard to imagine hundreds of voices singing together. But it’s probably been done. And should be! I love finding anchors of faith in firmly secular music.  I hope you listen to this one a little differently next time.

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One Comment
  1. great observations. let me know if you try it as a hymn.

    God is good
    jpu

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