Recently, when I discovered an unusual-looking spot on my hand, I was mildly concerned. Enough to teleconference with my snowed-in doctor to rule out the likelihood of it being cancerous. There are several other things I’ve recently found myself a tad concerned about. The sun perpetually increasing in luminescence. The possibility of bad men sneaking into my car and making me drive to a remote location at gunpoint. The possibility that the sparkly mind health I’m experiencing at the moment won’t last. These things and more concern me.
But I worry that the world will never fully appreciate “Lonely Is the Night.”
Billy Squier is pretty shrine-worthy overall, from that hunky exposed right foot to the way he hits his “ay”s in his “babays” harder than Justin Timberlake trying to pronounce the word “me.” He is beachy chill and soups dramatic-romantic at once. If you’ve never danced with a rose in your teeth or made love in the sand to Don’t Say No, have you experienced the album?
“My Kinda Lover” is giant, celebratory, and slightly sexy but slips in thinky lines that hint at actual intimacy (i.e., “I can never doubt you for too long”). “You Know What I Like” isn’t half as raunch as that title might indicate. In fact, this is his real intimacy song. His lady knows what he likes because, as he sings over and over, she’s “no stranger.” It’s why “the path of least resistance is all I can endure.” He exalts their “miles of conversation” and sings that “in all of my confusion” (confusion/sadness/demons being a surprisingly recurrent theme for such a chill romantic), “I know just who you are.”
But on top of it all, this whoppin’ cherry.
I should clarify that my worries about it being underappreciated are probably unfounded; “Lonely Is the Night” did very well for Billy Squier. The whole album did. It went triple-platinum, and “Lonely” has always been regarded as one of Squier’s biggest hits. Also, bitchily, as one of Led Zeppelin’s, for the tune’s similarity to “Nobody’s Fault but Mine.” But if I only allowed myself to horn out over artists who hadn’t ripped off Zeppelin, I’d never get anything written. And to diminish it to matchy tuneage is to dismiss the herculean romanticism you get here thanks to Squier’s lyrics and swollen vocals.
It’s a simple enough song, its protagonist a tortured, lonely stranger who sleeps too much and lazes ’round the tv. And its message to redeem him is simpler than that premise. Here it is: “Get off your ass.” At the end of the day, the song’s voice of reason is instructing the protag to realize he cannot be the only tortured, lonely stranger in town and to fucking get out there. Do something about it. Find a girl and feel excited about her, rather than sitting at home feeling like a sad shitsack.
Inasmuch as it came to us in 1981, you could just look at it as yet another theatrical ballad trying to squeeze its bombastic ass into the leather pants of rock ’n’ roll. And that would probably be fair. If there’s anything in this world that’s subjective by nature, it’s the merit of ’80s love jams.
The details are where you get the special with this one. Take the fact that his “No more lazin’ ’round the tv!” line sounds exactly like “No more minions of Satan jacking off on my brainstem every night!” “No more isolation that just gives me the chance to pulverize myself and make trouble.” “I am saved!”
Similarly, he makes the lines
One glimpse’ll show you now baby
What the music can do
One kiss’ll show you now baby
It can happen to you
sound like the moral of a Disney princess movie about overcoming sexism/evil stepmothers/evil godmothers/evil adoptive mothers/etc. Billy Squire’s voice conveys stakes.
He sings “Lonely Is the Night” the way you’re supposed to sing about love, because it’s the way we feel about love: as though he’s desperate to notice and adequately praise every piece of his newly elevated existence. When we’re in love—with a dude, with a song, with the fact that we’re alive and healthy when we felt demon-infested and depressed not two weeks ago—the feeling casts a heady importance on everything.
Be it ever such a seventh-grade poet thing to write, the feeling of being in love is the feeling of awesomeness lurking everywhere. Especially if you’ve been in a suck-ass brain basement—where “Your demons come to light / And your mind is not your own”—when you suddenly latch onto something good, which makes you feel good, it’s capable of persuading you that it’s probably not an abnormal growth. There are probably other good things. If it’s possible for you to feel “in love” levels of emotion toward anyone or anything, it means you don’t live in a cursed world where worse things follow bad things, the end. And if you’re convinced you live in a benevolent universe, you’re apt to turn into a more engaged, less destructive human.
To own what I’m saying here: love saves. Which is an even more horrible thing to say than “love thaws” as you and your sister stand there hardcore caring about each other in order to defrost a kingdom. But it’s also true. You get smacked with it, the objective world glows, your personality goes through a pessimism-scrubbing, everyone who interacts with you suffers less, the happy you’re vibing out gets vibed back to you, you feel better about yourself because you feel better about the species of which you are part, your confidence stirs from hibernation, you’re better at everything you attempt, you feel worthier as an object of love your damn self, in your security you have more love to give, and maybe it isn’t literally all good but it’s for fucking sure all better.
And kinda that whole hyper-romantic cycle is represented in the sheer musical bigness and exuberant vocals and climactic lyrics of “Lonely Is the Night.” If you’re not already there, it’ll make you want to find somebody or something to fall cray-like-Bey in love with. Something that’ll make you feel paranoid that good shit is hiding in plain sight all around you.
And, hey, if you’re one of us weirdos capable of getting stoopid-lovey over a song, may I highly recommend you fall into it with “Lonely Is the Night,” the cream of the very creamy ’80s crop.
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