I love pop music because every few months, you get a song like “Beneath Your Beautiful” by Labrinth featuring Emili Sandé. It’s a perfect mixture of lyrics, vocals, production, and romance.
So here’s the deal: A man and woman are desperate to love each other, but they’re both afraid. Each asks the other to see “beneath the beautiful” and “beneath the perfect.” In other words, “Can you please let me see the most vulnerable parts of yourself? Because I want to love you.” And in the chorus, they eventually say “take it off now,” which in this context means “take off your armor” but still has echoes of “take off your clothes.” That’s both emotional and sexy. It’s sexy because it’s not really about sex, you know? It’s the kind of plea for intimacy that can lead to sex, since you feel so close to someone if they respond, but this moment is bigger than that.
Let’s take a pause to appreciate the writing in Sande’s verse, just to give you a sense of how elegant this song is:
You let all the girls go.
Makes you feel good, don’t it?
Behind your Broadway show,
I heard a boy say, “Please don’t hurt me.”
What a wonderful image. You learn so much about this man who clowns around and acts the fool, but really just wants to be loved.
Labrinth—whom I mostly know as a rapper—is right there with my beloved Emeli in terms of aching vocals. And the haunting drum-n-piano track, which builds to a perfect, exploding crescendo, intensifies the emotional experience.
And don’t forget the music video, which is so simple but so mesmerizing. I love that when you see one person singing, you see the other person’s giant image projected behind them. It suggests how large a person can loom in your thoughts when you’re falling in love with them.
Sigh. Swoon. This is the most romantic song of 2012, and easily one of the best songs of the year.
Mark Blankenship has been trying all year to make you love Emeli Sandé’s music. Will you go ahead and capitulate, please? He tweets as @IAmBlankenship