From making love to f**king

Back in 1994, the iconic ’90s R&B group Boyz II Men released a song titled  “I’ll Make Love to You,” in which they promised they’d “make love to you/like you want me to” and “hold you tight/all though the night.” They even said that they’d “give you the love of your life.” This was a song about sex, but it was emotional and earnest and, yes, incredibly cheesy, but it presented an image of sex as being significant and respectful. The closest song on the radio airwaves today is a little ditty by Enrique Iglesias called “Tonight (I’m Loving You).” Despite the appearance of that title, however, this track is no Boyz II Men-style love ballad. In fact, the real, uncensored version actually uses quite a different word than “loving” — I’m guessing you all know what it is — and projects a different message than those ’90s crooners were putting out. Lyrics to Iglesias’ song include “You know my motivation/given my reputation/please excuse me I don’t mean to be rude/but tonight I’m f**king you.” Granted, Ludacris, who makes an appearance in the song, does promise to do “everything that you need, everything that you want,” but the message still has quite a different tone from the aforementioned Boyz II Men track. Am I saying that there weren’t crude sex songs back in the time of my ’90s youth? No. Go look up just about anything by Salt-n-Pepa and you’ll know that’s not true. But the ’90s were chock-full of slow jams, love ballads and boy bands pouring their hearts out for their ladies. These days, there are a few throwbacks to that mentality — see any recent single by Bruno Mars or Michael Bublé — but they’re the exception rather than the rule. No one in 2020 is going to look back and remember this as a time of beautiful musical declarations of love dominating the airwaves. I’d like to say that I’m appalled because popular music is putting out such outlandish songs, but I’m actually appalled because they’re not really that outlandish. It seems like it’s much more common these days to find a gentleman caller along the lines of Enrique a la “Tonight” and Jason Derülo à la “In My Head,” than any Michael Bublé types. Perhaps this is a reflection of my questionable taste in men and the sketchy social circles I run in, but maybe it’s an indication of a bigger social shift. We all know about the college hookup culture that has replaced courting these days, but I think it›s especially telling that we not only listen to these songs at clubs and basement parties, but sometimes notice they relate to our lives a little too much. The thing is, I can’t decide if this is a bad thing. Have we lost all class? Did the sexual revolution of the ’60s and ’70s lead us to nothing but a culture of one-night stands and “fun” buddies, where some people settle down, but others find themselves in a world where “relationship” is the most taboo word of all? Or is this liberation? A few weeks ago Bruno Mars’s “Just the Way You Are” and “Tonight (I’m Loving You)” were neck and neck on the iTunes chart. At first I imagined them in an epic, symbolic battle for a higher spot, but then I thought, maybe the fact that they can coexist on the music charts is an indication of the choice available to today’s young people. Though I still find myself nostalgically playing a little Boyz II Men and maybe a little Savage Garden, as Valentine’s Day nears, I have to admit that if the message sent out by popular music today is that you have options, that’s pretty liberating indeed.