Day one hundred and fifty: "If That Isn't Love" from Alpocalypse

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I must admit that I was a little surprised that “If That Isn’t Love” was one of the new songs Al played the most during the seven shows I caught in his 2018 Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. By new songs I mean studio albums from this decade: Alpocalypse and Mandatory Fun. I don’t have anything against “If That Isn’t Love” but it’s certainly not my favorite song from those albums. Or my second favorite. Or third. Or fourth. Or fifth. Heck, it probably would not even make my top ten. 

“If That Isn’t Love” is Al’s tribute to Hanson, who he counts as friends as well as collaborators. Most people know Hanson mainly, if not exclusively, as the adorable trio of Godly young brothers who exploded onto our consciousness with their maddeningly infectious, Dust Brothers-produced bubblegum smash “MMMBop.” 

To the vast majority of the American public that was the beginning and also pretty much the end of Hanson. They had their giant smash, and then a few lesser hits, and then they quietly went away forever. Except that Hanson did not go anywhere. They continued to make music and tour and release albums for a devoted, loyal fanbase even if the mainstream stopped caring about them when they were still beautiful, ridiculously talented kids. 

Is “If That Isn't Love” a faithful and accurate pastiche of Hanson’s music? Not having listened to any of their songs beyond the hits I am going to say yes because I have absolute faith in Al so even if “If That Isn’t Love” doesn’t sound much like “MMMBop” I am going to assume that it sounds uncannily like all of their other songs, even the Dubstep, Reggaeton and Death Metal ones. Also, because I don’t know anything about Hanson and am stubbornly unwilling to do research, I’m going to assume that they worked extensively in those fields after their massive initial success. 

“If That Isn’t Love” sounds nice. If it were a person it’d be clean and presentable, nicely dressed with a winning smile. It’s upbeat, feel-good, squeaky-clean pop rock about a boyfriend who is anything but nice or considerate.

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Like many of Al’s originals, “If That Isn’t Love” starts off on a straightforward note, with Al singing, “He left the splendor of heaven/Knowing His destiny.” No, wait, that’s Elvis Presley’s “If That Isn’t Love.” Al starts off, “I'm your shelter from the storm/you know I'll always have your back” but it doesn’t take long for the sentiments to get gross and creepy, as those words of cliched devotion are followed by the considerably less cliched but also egregiously non-romantic, “I'll even let you warm your freezing hands inside my butt crack.”

Yes, the singer of “If That Isn’t Love” has a unique, deluded conception of what romance entails. In the song’s chorus, the boyfriend from hell sings of the many terrible things he does that he conceives of as the essence of romance and devotion, “If that isn't love/i don't know what love is” when he could remove the “If” from that sentiment and it would instantly become several thousand times more accurate. 

This creep’s conception of l’amour fou involves being moderately less terrible than he could be. The singer’s vows of devotion look suspiciously like insults, like when he promises his ostensibly beloved, “I totally support every idiotic thing you do” and “When you're telling me about your feelings I try not to yawn.”

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When the would-be romantic genuinely does manage to compliment the woman unfortunate enough to share his life it quickly takes an unfortunate turn, like when he vows, “You're so beautiful you make a glorious sunset look like a big fat turd.”

Everyone wants to be told they’re beautiful but not many folks want their looks compared to a massive pile of excrement.

My favorite moment in “If That Isn’t Love” is also its most exquisitely random. It’s the part where Al humble-brags of his devotion, “I'll kiss you even if you have omelettes for breakfast/and i can't stand omelettes!” 

The misplaced passion and intensity Al brings to the words, “I can’t stand omelettes!” cracks me up, as does the singer’s apparent belief that kissing someone with omelette breath represents the highest form of love and selflessness. 

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“If That Isn’t Love” is fascinating to me in no small part because it is so modest in scope, a little song from a major artist. Then again, Hanson is a humble band whereas Al is the kind of wildly ambitious dreamer who will be performing with symphonies on his next tour, 2019’s big Strings Attached extravaganza. 

Hanson, on the other hand, is planning to, um, do their own symphonic tour this year to coincide with their big double album, String Theory. That is clearly a case of parallel thinking and great minds thinking alike but I would love it if a proper symphonic version of “If This Isn’t Love” makes it into both Al and Hanson’s set-list. 

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I look forward to hopefully getting to hear this ingratiatingly minor little ditty performed in the biggest, most epic manner imaginable in the not too distant future. 

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