Relationships are complex beasts that cannot be tamed, however many years you try. Yet sometimes, when all the elements align, love can be divine. It is no surprise that love, passion, and relationships are topics of many, many songs throughout history. It is an object with countless angles that can and will be explored until the end of times. Every now and then, however, a dialogue materialises where you might not expect it.
Remember Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You”? Mostly known for the insane use of the whistle register many attempt but most fail to imitate, this song is actually a beautiful ode to love at its best. Riperton sings “lovin’ you is easy ‘cause your beautiful / making love with you is all I wanna do”. The song was for her husband Richard, who she was with until her death of cancer aged 31. The melody of the song was originally sung to Richard and Minnie’s oldest child, Maya (Rudolph, the actress) to calm her down. It paints an idyllic family picture. She sings:
No one else can make me feel
The colours that you bring
Stay with me while we grow old
And we will live each day in springtime
The idea of love as spring implies purity, each day feeling like a flower in bloom, immortal and unfazed by reality. However glorious and sweet, unfortunately it was not to be. Minnie did not grow old and winter hit the Rudolph household. It is a bitter end to what was perfect, and a sad reminder that though love can raise us up we are not immortal. Springtime always comes to an end.
The birds from Riperton’s timeless love song appear also on Frank Ocean’s “Pink + White”. Accompanied by violins they introduce a similarly dreamy melody. Yet Ocean’s message is one closer to earth. With the lyrics “That’s the way every day goes / Every time we’ve no control / If the sky is pink and white” he appears to directly address Riperton. With her head in the clouds, Minnie claims that her lover brings her colours. Frank states that the sky cannot be controlled by us, and so where one moment it can be pink and white, the next it can turn grey. To expand on this he sings “If you could fly then you’d feel south / Up north’s getting cold soon / The way it is, we’re on land” which can be read as if to say that yes, if we could, we’d all live in this idyllic paradise where it’s always warm, migrating like birds before it gets too cold, but this is not what real life is like.
You showed me love
Glory from above
Regard my dear
It’s all downhill from here
The chorus of “Pink + White” underlines Ocean’s message. It is almost a cautionary tale, and we are asked to pay attention. Frank Ocean heard and felt what Riperton felt, but then also saw what happened to her. So it is true. Love can feel heavenly. Having reached the highest of highs, though, the way down is long and inevitable.
Frank does not want to leave us feeling down, though. He might have his feet firmly planted, he is not callous or unfeeling. Does it really matter that good things end? Can life not be lived hard and fast? Does Minnie Riperton’s untimely death change the sweetness of her time with Richard? When joy is real, dwelling on its imminent demise is utterly useless. It’s like watching a candle waiting for it to go out rather than enjoying the light it produces while it burns. So in the final three lines, Frank Ocean decides he might actually want to be on Minnie’s team anyway.
Gimme something sweet
Bitch I might like immortality
This is life, life immortality