Over ten years ago, I posted about the sudden shift in pop culture in my early teen years, and it is a subject that has pursued me ever since. The music of my preteen years was vapid pop, which was shattered by grunge music, which swiftly turned back into pop music. However, much of the pop music that came about after the grunge explosion carried some element of the "alternative" attitude in it. There had been alternative music before grunge, of course, from alt-country to trip-hop, but when the paradigm of pop music shifted, it was with plaid shirts and angry guitars.
Which brings us to "Lovefool" by The Cardigans, a Swedish band that apparently had started out from heavy metal roots but had obviously come far by the time this song was released. Sung by female vocalist Nina Persson, the song is an uptempo but soft pop song with romantic lyrics. Specifically, the lyrics are a plea from the singer to an absent lover to "love me" and "fool me". The singer knows that her lover "loves her no longer", but wishes to continue their affair, saying that the illusion of love is enough.
Nina Persson sings with a kittenish, sexy murmur that could only be eclipsed by the sight of Miss Persson herself, who fulfills every stereotype about blue-eyed, high-cheekboned Swedish beauty to perfection.
The concept of the song is not new: it is similar to Dusty Springfield's 1965 song You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, where a female singer pleads for a lover to stay even if her feelings are not returned. But whereas Springfield's song is soulful and honest, "Lovefool" is admittedly dishonest. The dishonesty is out in the open. Springfield gives her lover permission to tell the truth, Persson gives her lover permission to lie.
Which is why this song, seemingly a pop song, is an offshoot of the great explosion of alternative music in the 1990s. Once we discovered irony in 1991, we couldn't as David Foster Wallace has observed, put it back in its bottle. The previous years had altered how pop music treated romance, gender, and the tropes of fulfillment. So even a song that seems to be a simple love song is dripping with irony. There are few acts more ironic than asking someone to lie to you.
I don't actually know if that is the intent of the song, although it could be that the Cardigans were reacting to the Zeitgeist without realizing it. It would probably not be clear to a listener from a different era just how ironic the song is, though: it is something that is very contextual to remembering how quickly and how throughly the 1990s changed people's perceptions of pop culture.