Today we hide in the bushes and peek through windows to witness a handful of songs about the age-old pasttime of stalking. Is it objectively a bad thing, or is creepiness in the eye of the beholder?
We can all probably agree that stalking is, well, pretty creepy. However as we delve into funk & soul music, we find that it is a common motif in love songs. Is this because the norms of the time regarding relationships have changed, or was pining after your love by following them always considered weird? Stalking has moved from the physical realm to the digital as sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to ‘follow’ people. In this episode, we bring on guest hosts Matt Overstreet and Moo Schroeder (regulars of The Super Circuitcast) to debate the prevalence of stalking and try to pin down exactly why it is such a common topic in music.
1. The Delfonics’ Ready or Not (1968)
Originally from their album The Sound of Sexy Soul, this song was covered one year later by an 11-year-old Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. There are few things on this planet creepier than a small child singing about stalking a girl, especially when the lyrics include such crooning lines as “You can’t hide, gonna love you and make you love me” and “anywhere you go, my poor heart got to know…you can’t hide from my love, oh no.”
2. The Temptations’ Just My Imagination (1971)
This song comes towards the end of the Temptations illustrious career, and their album, Sky’s the Limit. Due to creative differences, singers Eddie Kendricks and Otis Williams were not on speaking terms, and the writing was on the wall for the band’s demise. However in this last song Kendricks would perform before he went on to a successful solo career, he would sing what Williams went on to note as “Eddie’s finest moment.” Sadly, this was also the last song to feature Paul Williams, who was plagued by financial and health problems, and took his own life 2 years later. To reflect the lyrics of the song, the backing arrangement has a drifting, ethereal melody and rhythm, as though drifting through the singers’ hopes and desires to be with a woman he sees out the window.
3. Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me (1984)
Rockwell is actually Kennedy Gordy, son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy from a relationship he had with Margaret Norton. Kennedy put a demo together with the help of Motown producer Curtis Nolen, but Berry Gordy didn’t have much faith in his son’s recording abilities. His mind was changed, however, when he heard this song, and knowing it would be a hit, agreed to release it. Consequently, Michael Jackson sings backup for the chorus of this song – Rockwell’s sister Hazel was married to Michael’s brother Jermaine, and hoping to have the King of Pop give some star power to his song, Rockwell convinced Michael to sing backup on it.
4. The Supremes/Temptations’ I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (1968)
Motown’s two biggest acts, Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations, combined their already ridiculous forces to create two duet albums in 1968 and 1969. This song comes from the former, being their very first shared single. To no one’s surprise, the song gained instant success (although it was previously performed by a number of artists including Dee Dee Warwick in 1966 and Madeline Bell in ’68).
Other Honorable Mentions
If you listen to the episode, we actually ended up talking about much more than just the four songs listed above (thanks mostly to our guest hosts). You can argue with us on some of these, but we consider these equally liable to be called “stalker songs.”
- Taylor Swift’s We Belong Together (2008)
- Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe (2012)
- Blondie’s One Way or Another (1979)
- Kanye West’s Never Letting Go (The Stalker Song) (2008)
- Eminem’s Stan (1999)
- Death Cab for Cutie’s I Will Follow You Into the Dark (2005)