Dreamer or doormat? And does it matter?

We continue our roll call of songs that could bring a tear to the eye — or at least a deep sigh as you recognize a character or situation.

Beautiful link for the e-mail people. Indeed, in “Beautiful Loser,” Bob Seger creates a real character, and somebody we’ve probably all met: The guy with big dreams who’s drifting and docile and decent and who is never, ever going to do anything to make his dreams come true. That guy who’s going to wake up and be a rock star — as soon as he takes those guitar lessons and finishes a couple of those songs, right? But the title’s not ironic at all. Whoever Bob had in mind is actually a pretty good guy, if something of a doormat.

He’s your oldest and your best friend
If you need him, he’ll be there again
He’s always willing to be second-best
A perfect lodger, a perfect guest

Which is why he’s so insanely frustrating to know and care about:

He’ll never make any enemies, enemies, no
He won’t complain if he’s caught in a freeze
He’ll always ask, he’ll always say please

Beautiful loser
Never take it all
‘Cause it’s easier
And faster when you fall

And Bob, as always, sings the words. By which I mean he sings with a man-to-man expressiveness that is his alone; though he’s a great technician (who has better dynamics than Seger?), this is not the kind of artist who ever vanishes into technique and forgets what he’s singing about or what he’s trying to say. (In some cases — “Her Strut” let’s say — this is not entirely a good thing.)

Yeah, I know I’m shoehorning this into a category where it doesn’t really fit, but I like this song so much, and it’s such an offbeat topic that it doesn’t really slide naturally into any broad category. So here’s a more conventional tearjerker from Mr. Seger:

We’ve Got Tonight.

Well, not all that conventional, perhaps. I’d never put Seger in the top rank as a lyricist, but he does have a way of getting something very particular into a song. “Tonight” is about romantic disappointment, but it also comes across as talking about a specific couple, breaking up — after, he hopes, one last night together — just because they’re not headed in the same direction. It’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t be surprised to hear in country music, but not so usual in rock, where big dramatic betrayals are always more in demand.

“Tonight” isn’t a favorite of mine, but I can’t say it doesn’t work. Seger delivers the lyrics like an actor, and it’s never hard to believe what he’s telling you — since he always seems to believe it himself.

About Bridey

Bridey has been a music nut since falling in love with Elton John's "Caribou" album in grade school (why that one? I was nine). She's a magazine editor by trade who writes regularly about radio, music, and related industries.
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