Pop Song Review: Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”

Hey, here we go: the first soundtrack hit of the year and, this time around, it’s Ellie Goulding pulling the (guns and) horses with her new single, “Love Me Like You Do,” from the upcoming Fifty Scenes of Shame soundtrack. Oh, of course I’m kidding – I bet there’s way more than fifty.

First impressions: Hm. Well, that was certainly a song. Congratulations, I guess.

The music: “Love Me Like You Do” is one of those modern pop songs where the songwriters and producers don’t seem to have a firm grasp of dynamics: a huge, Billy Squier beat stomps and reverberates about in the background, but in the foreground we have these minimalist keyboard notes cooing politely in a bizarre clash of heavy and soft sounds. I don’t know what to make of it – is it supposed to be sensual or triumphant? Are we making love or storming the gates of Troy (not a metaphor, you dirty beggars)? It’s like the song wants to be intimate and grandiose at the same time without realising that those are two very different sensations to aim for that hardly, if ever, complement each other within the confines of a four-minute pop song; so in reaching for both it never quite achieves either – it’s too loud to be intimate and too tender to be grandiose.

At least the production is somewhat sparser in the verse and fuller in the chorus, so you get a sense of the euphoric build the song is going for. In among all this Goulding’s spindly warble delivers a fairly forgettable melody which, despite its highs, tends to remain fairly low-key (possibly because Goulding is not a very powerful singer). For the most part it’s all very subdued and romantic for a song written to promote a film about sex dungeons and kinky bondage play. Couldn’t they clear the rights for Guns N’ Roses’s “Pretty Tied Up“? And if that was never up for consideration in the first place, why? It’s right there in the song: “she’s pretty tied up, hanging upside down…”

Hm, sorry? Oh right, the review. Anyway, the bottom completely falls out of the first chorus as the beat disappears, but in the repeated chorus the song explodes into a firework display of fizzing synths and strings. I’m not really sold on it, though: Goulding’s voice is too frail to pull off something as effusive as this and the chorus melody is just annoying, that “love, love, love” hook stabbing into your ear like a child prodding you in the leg until you get him the toy he wants. Plus, we’ve already had that “I Love It Loud“-style drum beat doing its business throughout the first act of the song, so it doesn’t have the same whoomph it would have had had it been left till the end. You might say that the beat came too soon. Tee-hee.

But yeah, the whole song, musically, is underwritten, relying on atmosphere and production tricks to pull off the euphoria it wants to evoke in the listener. I mean, yeah, technically it works, but there’s nothing particularly satisfying or worthwhile about any of it. Sure, it’s quite a rush while it lasts, but then it ends and you’re left thinking, “wait, what was I happy about?” Allegorical? P’haps.

The lyrics: As you might have guessed, as the lead single for the Fifty Shades of Reddened Buttock soundtrack “Love Me Like You Do” is about a rougher loving than the usual pop smash. Then again, if this song wasn’t released in the context of this film, how likely is it that you’d tie the two together yourself? Speaking of tying things together…

“You’re the light, you’re the night, you’re the colour of my blood / You’re the cure, you’re the pain, you’re the only thing I wanna touch.” So you’re light and night – you’re contrasting states of day, though technically you could have light at night if you leave the bedside lamp on. In other words, you’re a mix of black and white. Geddit? But you’re also red, apparently, “the colour of [her] blood,” which is a bit of a mixed message but never mind. Blood, obviously, has certain sexual connotations, as does “pain”, which you can also cure (which reminds me, I need to listen to Morphine’s Cure for Pain again sometime soon. Man, that’s a good album), but you’re also causing the pain, or rather you are it. Are you as confused as I am? To put it simply, you’re a bunch of stuff she likes. Well, you’re winning so far, son.

“You’re the fear, I don’t care, ‘cos I’ve never been so high / Follow me to the dark, let me take you past our satellites.” She’s frightened of your sweet, nasty loving, but she doesn’t care because it makes her feel so good and high. Well, she’s not actually frightened of you, see, because you are the fear, whatever that means. She also wants to return the favour, apparently, by taking you into space (where you can’t breathe, because again, sexual connotations) “past our satellites.” So, just beyond our atmosphere? If you’re going into space you might as well head a bit further than that. Heck, Wallace and Gromit went to the moon and that was just to go find some space-cheese. Sounds like she could put a bit more effort into this trip of hers.

“Fading in, fading out, on the edge of paradise / Every inch of your skin is a holy grail I’ve got to find.” You’re pushing it with the half-rhymes here, songwriters. “Edge of paradise”, though – interesting image, because isn’t it usually paradise itself where the loving takes you? What’s with this modern pop music habit of skirting around an image instead of going straight for it, the same way Katy Perry said she’d make it like your birthday everyday instead of just making it your birthday? And just to be pragmatic, there’s at least a few inches of skin I’m sure you wouldn’t realistically want to stumble across in a lovemaking session. Yes, this is supposed to be a song for a film about some filthy kinda lovin’, but really there’s filthy and then there’s… you know what, let’s move on.

(By the way, at least one website I used to confirm these lyrics stated that the actual line was “a holy gray”. Yeah, nice try.)

“I’ll let you set the pace, ‘cos I’m not thinking straight / My head spinning around, I can’t see clear no more / What are you waiting for?” Are we sure she haven’t just been drugged? Remember, ladies: watch your drinks.

As you may have noticed in my review, I haven’t really picked at the lyrics as much as I usually do. Does that mean they hold up? Well, they’re pretty clichéd – the last thing pop music needs right now is another “heart on fire” metaphor, for example – but they’re not that bad, either. I do appreciate that they at least attempt to tie into the film’s subject matter, albeit as non-threateningly as possible – nothing Capital FM would turn their nose up at, y’know?

As for the title/chorus line, that’s got to be the most passive cry of lust I’ve encountered in a pop song for quite some time. “How do you want me to love you?” “Eh, like you do.”

Verdict: “Love Me Like You Do” is a serviceable, if unmemorable synthpop song. I would give it a 3, but personally I think it’s too underwritten and generic to achieve what it’s trying to achieve, while its elements go together about as well as a touching love story and BDSM; therefore a 2 out of 5 it is. I’m sure Miss Goulding and her team are devastated by my conclusion.

Today’s double-up, for all you kinky beasts out there, is “S&M” by Thin Lizzy. Yeah, Thin Lizzy wrote a bondage song – and be honest, wouldn’t you much rather hear that groove kicking in as Christian Grey brought out the sex-ribbons?

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