Today’s Song: Colleen Green Dissects Modern Relationships on Punky “How Much Should You Love a Husband?”

Colleen Green © Jenna Lemieux
Colleen Green © Jenna Lemieux
“What is love and what is it worth?” asks Colleen Green on the cynical and catchy “How Much Should You Love A Husband?”
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Stream: “How Much Should You Love A Husband” – Colleen Green

The most important transition many of us make in our lives is crossing through that invisible threshold into “real” adulthood. This occurs naturally for many twenty-somethings as they get their first salaried jobs, move out on their own, and possibly settle down with a long-term significant other. As a large cohort of millennials are taking this dive, an overwhelming number are questioning these norms and the one-size-fits-all guarantee of lifelong happiness and fulfillment that comes with them.  Enter Colleen Green, voice of the disaffected, with her latest standout track, “How Much Should You Love A Husband?”, a semi-serious look at long-term relationships and their occasional absurdity in a life that can feel far too short.

Colleen Green - Cool Artwork
Colleen Green – Cool Artwork

Green, the 36-year old ultra-cool lite-punk virtuoso, has generated the bulk of her material over a ten year career from a looming sense of existential dread.  Her latest record, Cool, released September 10th on Highly Art, a Sub Pop subsidiary, is essentially an artful purging of the pressures polite society can put on one’s shoulders, especially as one moves towards middle age and must reach certain “milestones”.  Produced by Gordon Raphael, best known for his work with The Strokes, the collection is bouncy, ear-friendly garage pop with frayed edges and an unfailing sense of humor.  “How Much Should You Love A Husband?” is the most overt ponderance on the album, but the song is also the best example of Green’s biting humor and courage to air her deepest insecurities. 

How much fun is it to be dating a comedian?
And what if the punchline didn’t always happen at the end?
And are they worldly wise
Or masters of disguise?
Making light of dark experience

The song begins in Strokes-ian fashion, with a four-on-the-floor beat and layers of raggedy guitars that are as simplistic as they are sonically brilliant, a trademark move from producer Gordon Raphael.  The opening guitars chords and melody tell the full story before the lyrics even come in, with their balance of punk world-weariness and poppy irony, a familiar formula where music and lyrics are diametrically opposed and as such, the song’s subliminal angst bubbles over and the lyrics begin to work on multiple levels.

The first verse clearly comes from Green’s personal experience of dating someone who most likely deflects from their inner demons using humor, as she does herself in the song while pondering weighty topics.  Green does an outstanding job of introducing the overarching theme of the song and the album as a whole in the first verse, that no one really has any idea what they’re doing and we’re all just faking it as we go along, and those who appear to have it all figured out might just be the most adept at playing the game.  Additionally, Green suggests that those who project an unnaturally vibrant exterior may be hiding a terrible darkness behind it. 

How does it feel to be going out with a lawyer?
Is he the one who negotiates the power?
And when you argue, does he let you win?
Or does he talk you out of it?
It’s your time on this Earth
How much do you think it’s worth?
Five hundred dollars an hour
Colleen Green © Jenna Lemieux
Colleen Green © Jenna Lemieux

The second verse keeps up the same energy musically as the previous verse, with Green now becoming more serious in tone.  The word “power” makes its first appearance, a word that dictates the dynamic of many modern romantic relationships for better or worse.  Green’s cynicism can’t help but overtake this verse as she suggests that dating lawyers and the like is less emotional than it is transactional, a veritable duel between two parties ending with one having the upper hand on the other; not exactly a recipe for romantic bliss. 

What Green is really saying in these two verses is that basic human nature can be the antithesis of any healthy relationship;  people are not naturally equipped to separate their personal and professional lives, and their worst tendencies can appear when their individual autonomy feels threatened by a partner.  Through no fault of their own people are fallible, which comes back to Green’s cynicism.  She’s been through this countless times before and her only conclusion, rather nihilistically, is that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to these relationships, so they may not be worth the trouble at all. 

How much love should you give a husband?
How much should you love a wife?
Love considered a career
More than what you make a year
And don’t mistake that it is work
But if you want it, put it first, yeah
Oh, yeah
And if you wanna be together
All the way until forever then I say
You gotta love ‘em all the way

Colleen Green © Jenna Lemieux
Colleen Green © Jenna Lemieux

The chorus goes for the jugular in terms of the song’s message.  Green’s belief in the futility of relationships, or rather the inability to make sense of them, comes through in the chorus.  In a way, it sounds as if she wishes she could quantify the amount of love it takes to make a relationship successful, once again calling back to this idea of relationships as a transaction.  The song as a whole comments on the impersonal nature of modern relationships, even if it isn’t explicitly communicated so much as hinted at.  Again, the song is fairly static musically, even into the heart of the song.  While the music is compelling and quite catchy, it’s evidently meant to be a springboard for the lyrical content that verges on philosophical.

The bridge is the final original statement the song makes, actually ending the piece on a positive note.  The bridge comes across as a bit of prudent advice, that the only surefire way to make sure your relationship lasts forever is to go for broke, to “love them all the way”, so to speak.  Green still doesn’t sound rather confident in this advice, having pinpointed the inherent flaws that make relationships futile in previous verses, so she’s putting a lot of emphasis on pure will and concerted effort as the only way to go.  The couplet that may very well sum up her entire point is “love considered a career/more than what you make in a year”, which feels very true in that we’re all looking for a fairytale romance but fail to realize that with that desire comes a lifetime of work.  Everything worth having comes with a price.

On “How Much Should You Love a Husband?”, Colleen Green takes her fears and personal experiences and blows them up, turning them into a large scale philosophical question about long term relationships and their place in a meaningful life.

With her straightforward, tightly produced lite-punk sound and her well-observed sense of humor, Green provides a refuge for those of us who are still figuring out their place in the world.  Assuredly, though, she reminds us that we’ll never have meaningful connections if we don’t understand ourselves in the first place.

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:: stream/purchase How Much Should You Love A Husband? here ::
Stream: “How Much Should You Love A Husband” – Colleen Green

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Colleen Green - Cool Artwork

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? © Jenna Lemieux

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