Image: El Caganer 1982/Flickr

Why the Talking Heads wrote the best love song of all time

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’ is barely a love song. Its unmistakable flute-like synths and keyboard propelling chords back and forth, “naive” in the sense that the band swapped instruments to write the song, generate a melodic simplicity and innocence that, at a glance, seem to be reflected in the lyrics. But a closer look reveals a devastatingly realistic flip flop between sentiments; a far cry from the Talking Heads’ usual emotional detachment.

While it carries none of the hope or ecstasy or tragedy of other love songs, Byrne’s wailing voice and accompanying chorus of wistful harmonies convey a bittersweet picture of the anxieties borne by even the sincerest, most wholesome love. Against the backdrop of an obstinate bassline that never stops for a breather, he expresses a jumble of powerful emotions and ideas about love in simply worded non-sequiturs. At times, love is “home”, and he is “just an animal” looking for love; he sings about being picked up and spun around, which, with the lines “cover up and say goodnight” and “I come home, she lifted up her wings”, sees love take on a comforting and perhaps even maternal quality. Then, love is what makes life more than just bearable, but actually enjoyable (“I love the passing of time”); it becomes a sort of mutual saviour, as he asks “did I find you or you find me?”. The hint of incredulity and awe at having met the subject of the song is echoed later in the fascination that he expresses with her (“out of all those kinds of people / you’ve got a face with a view”). 

The intrusive interjection of his worries amid pleasant thoughts throughout the song is painfully relatable

But Byrne interrupts his own bliss with concerns about overthinking his situation (“the less we say about it the better”) and seems unsure that this is what he wants (“I feel numb, born with a weak heart / I guess I must be having fun”); after all, “I guess that this must be the place” is a statement riddled with uncertainty. The intrusive interjection of his worries amid pleasant thoughts throughout the song is painfully relatable. Byrne sings “we drift in and out”, refusing to pretend that love is stable. But, ultimately, these acknowledgements of the anxieties of love invigorate the song emotionally, making it all the more poignant.

‘This Must Be The Place’ is far more than just a softboy favourite. We should fight through the gender and class connotations borne by popular culture: the Talking Heads don’t deserve to be reduced to being labelled the David Foster Wallace of music because of that particular breed of young man who is expected to idolise them. Rather, the anxiety pervading ‘This Must Be The Place’ makes it one of the most devastating and, more importantly, universal love songs of all time.

Happy Valentine’s Day from The Boar Music <3 

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