Monday, June 24, 2019

Musical Monday - Jessie's Girl by Rick Springfield

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: August 1, 1981 through August 8, 1981.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The week of July 25, 1981.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

One of the recurring themes in 1980s music is extremely bad takes on how relationships work. Jessie's Girl is a prime example of this, with not only an extraordinarily terrible take on how romantic relationships work, but a bonus package consisting of a complete misunderstanding of what friendships are and how they work. At the outset, I will note the biggest issue, which is that Jessie's girl is only referred to as "Jessie's girl", and lacks any identity other than as an object for Jessie to possess and for Rick to covet.

The song starts off with Rick singing that "Jessie is a friend", and not only that he's a "real good friend", but nothing in the song would suggest that this is actually the case. He immediately launches into how Jessie having a girlfriend is a problem for their friendship, because Jessie's girlfriend is too desirable. This is problematic on two levels: First, your friend having a girlfriend really shouldn't be something that threatens your friendship, and second, the fact that your friend's girlfriend is attractive should be something that you are celebrating for them, not being upset by. The implication here is that Rick would be happy for Jessie if only Jessie had a suitably awful girlfriend. In other words, the only way that Rick would be happy is if Jessie was with a woman he considered undesirable. This really seems to call into question just how much of a friend Rick really is.

Rick then moves on to describing what it is about Jessie's relationship that bothers him. Jessie's s girlfriend is watching Jessie, loving him with "that body" (I won't even go into the kind of problematic phrasing in that statements), and Jessie is holding her late at night. In other words, Jessie's and Jessie's girlfriend are doing normal things that couples do. One wonders what they could be doing that would not bother Rick.

Later in the song, Rick explains how he thinks relationships work, and it is amazingly awful. Talking about Jessie's girl, he sings "Wondering what she don't see in me/I've been funny/I've been cool with the lines/'Aint that the way love's supposed to be?" My answer to Rick is, no, that's not what love is supposed to be. This plaintive cry by Springfield almost reads like a whine issued by a failed pick-up artist who thinks that relationships are transactional: You say the right lines, push the right buttons, and then the girl has no choice but to fall into your arms. That's not how relationships actually work, and it definitely isn't how relationships are supposed to work. Women aren't vending machines that you deposit clever lines and jokes into and receive love and sex in return.

Of course, there is also the fact that if Rick's "cool lines" did work, then presumably he would expect Jessie's girlfriend to ditch Jessie for him. One would presume that this would make Jessie quite unhappy and would show Jessie's girl to be a kind of cold-hearted woman, which seems to be something that Rick has never considered. The cavalier disregard shown by Rick for Jessie's happiness paints Rick as not merely a really terrible friend, but also a really terrible person.

If Jessie's girl was smart, she'd get herself as far away from Rick as possible, and probably try to get her boyfriend to drop his "friend" as well.

Previous Musical Monday: The One That You Love by Air Supply
Subsequent Musical Monday: Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys

Previous #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: The One That You Love by Air Supply
Subsequent #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: The One That You Love by Air Supply
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Elvira by the Oak Ridge Boys

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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