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Mixtape Mondays: Songs To Stalk To

by Sarah Curristan

[Editor's note: Cover images of albums previously reviewed on the DV have been linked to the review.]

The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” is a shining example of the art of the stalker song with its ambiguous lyrics that make you think twice about whether you’re listening to something sweet or sinister. The late ‘70s saw Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me” and Blondie’s “One Way Or Another” prove that anything catchy and up-tempo could be instantly forgiven for having a bedrock of macabre. 

The stalker track aims to leave its listener somewhere in the region of sympathy, but somehow there are those who, like that drunken girl who has just been dumped at a party, manage to take things too far and teeter into the realms of sociopathy. 

The way for stalker pop was paved by ‘80s contributions from bands like The Smiths and The Cure, who saw the relentless pursuit of unrequited love as something of a geyser of source material. More recently, it seems that stalker music has become the adopted lyrical genre of choice for the self-denying emo bands of today – Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional, Brand New – a transition that seems inevitable given that these bands often cite The Smiths and The Cure as direct influences. And maybe it’s not the eminent standard of stalker pop that we’re used to, but that’s not to say it’s all bad and besides, there’s always the classics.

So grab some binoculars, a warm jacket, a flask and your new mix tape and have fun – but try not to get too caught up; remember that these kinds of activities are usually frowned upon.


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“I Will Possess Your Heart” – Death Cab For Cutie

Usually I find songs that hit in and around the eight minute mark are little less than self-indulgent, but with this track it serves a purpose. A four and a half minute intro is driven by a determined, unfaltering bass line that perseveres throughout the song, instilling a sense of some all-consuming pursuit. “I Will Possess Your Heart” also sees Death Cab For Cutie venture far from their usual formula of warm and sentimental lyrics. A culminating verse of “You reject my advances and desperate pleas / I won’t let you let me down so easily” is both dark and restless. Self-assured of a positive outcome and confidently unrelenting, it makes for a great introduction to a stalker mi-tape.
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“Well I Wonder” – The Smiths

The combined archive of Morrissey and The Smiths is home to a plethora of songs like “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” and “Never Had No One Ever” all pining over the pursuit of unrequited love. When it comes to the music of The Smiths, they have the potential to more than adequately fill their own stalker-themed mixtape. A brief melancholic saturated verse of “WI wonder do you see me when we pass? / I half die…Please keep me in mind” plays out like a confession; no one likes to be forgotten, but no one likes to admit it either. “Well I Wonder” is quintessential Smiths, lyrically arid but with the capacity to convey complex feelings in the simplest way possible.

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“Night Vision Binoculars” – Passenger

Taken from their album Wicked Man’s Rest, Passenger’s “Night Vision Binoculars,” as the title suggests, makes no attempt to disguise its intentions. However, somehow Mike Rosenberg’s timid and kittenish vocals delivering lines like “I’m the boy that’s calling your house / I’m the boy that’s freaking you out / With my thermoflask of tea / Up there in your neighbour’s tree” makes them seem strangely quaint. The track itself may be a stalker’s guilty admission, but its childish vocals and unwavering animation allow you to overlook these otherwise unsettling voyeuristic aspects.
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“We Get On” – Kate Nash
Making an attempt to address the stalker gender imbalance that seems to have snuck aboard my mixtape is Kate Nash’s “We Get On,” a nervous and uncertain track that is both revealing and loveable in its whimsical take on how someone you don’t even know can leave you heartbroken. “We Get On” strays far from the usual melodramatic dirge of an overlooked potential epic romance, instead sheepishly confessing to some light stalking and the stereotypical rejection based behaviour: “So I proceeded to get drunk and to cry / And lock myself in the toilets for the entire night.”
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“I Only Have Eyes For You” – The Flamingos

Originally written in the 1930’s, long before The Flamingos came along to champion the song with their 1959 cover, “I Only Have Eyes For You” embodies the middle of the road stalker song. Examine the opening lyrics “My love must be a kind of blind love / I can’t see anyone but you” alone and the song comes across like a harmless serenade, but paired with alluring melodic doo-wop vocals and echoing harmonies creates an ambience of purely trancelike affection. Healthy? Perhaps not.
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“I Want You” – Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple’s cover of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” starts off like a typical saccharine love song, similar in style to early Sarah McLachlan, all before diving off in a completely polar direction. From the second verse onwards, the style shifts as Apple begins to sound like she’s singing between gritted teeth, her raw and abrasive vocals managing to transform the song into something far darker than the original. Lust, hate and envy are all delivered in equal measure, creating the ultimate picture of toxic dependence.

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“Run For Your Life” – The Beatles

With a chorus comprised of the lines “You better run for your life if you can, little girl / Hide your head in the sand, little girl / Catch you with another man, little girl / That’s the end,”  “Run For Your Life” is a far cry from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Love Me Do.”  With this song, the misogynistic lyrics are directed to terrorize, a feeling further amplified by the quick pacing of the track that assists in creating an overall vibe that’s somewhat sadistically sinister.
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“Intruder” – Peter Gabriel

John Cusack proved that playing Peter Gabriel outside a girl’s house can win her over, and for this purpose, “In Your Eyes” is a safe choice. “Intruder,” however, is a sure-fire way to land yourself in jail. If you find yourself at this stage, you’ve gone too far.

 

 



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