Wednesday, October 26, 2016
I humbly submit that there is no sadder song than “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star. Many people would disagree with this proclamation. My girlfriend would disagree with this proclamation. She has disagreed with this proclamation. This past March by girlfriend became consumed by a blogging alternative to March Madness basketball called March Sadness, a 64 song tournament created in order to determine the saddest song of The College Rock Years (1980-2001). And when she found out that I voted for “Fade Into You” over Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” in a 2nd round tilt, well, her disgust with me was palpable. Even so, I stand by my choice. Hope Sandoval’s voice is infused, as it always is, with that beautifully byzantine dreamy detachment and the guitar, as has been noted many times over, quotes Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, which immediately gives away the game. You can’t homage “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” and sing praises to the wonder of love.
I thought about this when “Fade Into You” popped up in Andrea Arnold’s soundtrack heavy “American Honey.” Sure enough, it was used to compliment a love scene between the characters of Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf. And even if their romance is not exactly your typical rom com du jour, there were other melancholic points in the movie where Mazzy Star would have made a better sonic ally than the one Arnold chose. That’s usually the way of it. Go down the list, from “The To Do List” to “End of the Watch” and it’s underscoring love. That’s why when Vulture a couple years ago labeled “Fade Into You” as the most overused song in movies, I was confused. I don’t think it’s overused; I think it’s misused.
You know who understood “Fade Into You?” Paul Verhoeven understood “Fade Into You.” His “Starship Troopers” (1997), the adaptation of Robert Heinlen’s novel, was a raging war satire, but it was also, at points, a soap opera played so straight it burned like comic acid. Main character Johnny Rico has eyes for Carmen Ibanez. But Carmen Ibanez seems to have eyes for Zander Barcalow while Dizzy Flores seems to have eyes for Johnny Rico. Everyone’s in love with the wrong person. So, when this whole gang all meets up aboard some colossal spaceship somewhere deep in the cosmos and Johnny spies Carmen and everyone is making eyes at the one they love who does not love them back, feathers are bound to get ruffled.
This scene, with Mazzy Star quietly encroaching on the soundtrack, is just wonderful, something like a 1950s hop sock crossed with a Hallmark Channel romance but all slathered up with Paul Verhoeven’s patented vehement mania. You can watch it below.
And as the fists fly and the song is raised a few decibels on the soundtrack, it is hard not to think of Verhoeven once saying “I like putting certain aspects of American society under the magnifying glass and showing them for what they are.” Indeed. Here he takes “Fade Into You” and puts it under the magnifying class so that all the movie soundtrack artists can see the song for the infinite sorrow it contains, so that they can look at these people and see nothing, so that they can look at these people and see the truth, so that they can see this song for the sandcastles washing away into the sand by darkening sky of Hope Sandoval’s voice it is.
“Fade Into You” is not a song for loving; “Fade Into You” is a song for fighting.