Every week, Hollywood Prospectus editor and masochistically devoted mainstream-radio listener Emily Yoshida will pick an aging Top 40 hit she has heard enough times to render the song meaningless and thus likely to inspire otherwise inaccessible epiphanies.
“It goes beyond the realm of just a relationship between man and woman this is understanding what it is to allow another person to get close enough to you to teach you how to love yourself. This song, if taken care of the right way, could help the world!” — Shaffer Chimere Smith, via a press release for his fifth studio album, R.E.D.
“Is Ne-Yo implying that once I learn to love myself he’ll stop loving me? Kinda messed up :/” — Emily Yoshida, via Twitter.com
Lyrical notes: “Let Me Love You” has a message that is almost identical to a previous Overplayed Song, Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break,” but for some reason one comes off as sweet (Demi) and the other comes off as ridiculous at best, patronizing at worst (‘-Yo.) Hey, let’s try to figure out why that is! While the lyrics to Lovato’s song offer respite from the addressee’s romantic and/or emotional troubles, the operative phrase in Ne-Yo’s song is “Let me help.” Both may seem equally selfless sentiments, but by suggesting positive action, “Let Me” implies that there is something wrong with how the woman in question is handling her situation.
Girl, let me love you,
And I will love you,
Until you learn to love yourself
Girl, let me love you,
I know your trouble
Don’t be afraid,
Girl, let me help
Ne-Yo encourages her not to “be afraid,” as if she were a skittish calf, her fear a direct product of her unenlightened state. Ne-Yo is saying that he is in a position to “help” her “learn” and “understand” — these are, significantly, among the most repeated words in the song. Lovato’s song is a statement of equality and friendship; Ne-Yo’s is an act of charity.
(Also, even if you suspect a girl doesn’t love herself, never be like, “You know that problem you have where you don’t love yourself?” Kind of sad for everyone.)
The nicer moments of this song are easily overlooked — I’m a big fan of the little afterthought of a “yeah” that drips off “I just want to be the one to remind you what it is to smile” in the second verse — you can almost hear Ne-Yo pleasantly remembering what that smile looks like before straightening his jacket and launching into the rest of the verse. It’s a nice touch. I also like the repeated sentence fragment “For every heart that beats ” that shows up about two-thirds of the way through the song. I don’t know what the rest of that thought is, but it’s probably something like ” there is a half-assed extended club remix,” so maybe it’s for the best that it goes unfinished.
Production notes: I mean, it’s another R&B song with an obligatory EDM breakdown — what is there to say? I will say that I usually have no patience with the electro device of running back a phrase and cutting it down a little bit each time (e.g., “For every heart that beats, heart that beats, heart that beats, heart that heart that heart that heart that har-har-har-har-har-har-har-har “), but I kind of like it here.
I feel like this song could have easily been reconfigured so that the chorus actually sounded like the chorus instead of buildup to a #sickdrop. It’s pretty catchy and climactic, and I like how Ne-Yo’s village people dance to it in the music video. But just as we’re getting into that beat, that anonymous hoodie-clad DJ from Central Casting steps up to the decks.
“Oh, we have to we’re gonna do that now?”
“We have to do that thing? How about something else?”
“Drum solo? Sax breakdown? 2 Chainz verse? No?”