First of all, this is the kickoff of this series of posts! The plan is to cover my (ever-growing) music library, once a week, talking about each song I have, why I have it, and my thoughts on the work and the artist (first time they’re featured) until I (probably never) cover them all.
We’re starting today with “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations.
Let me begin by saying that I love Motown. I will more than likely repeat that statement many times in the months to come. My love for Motown is complete and beyond rationalization. I have literally never EVER heard a Motown song I didn’t like, and I have rarely heard one that I didn’t love. All commentary on Motown songs should be taken with that in mind.
I could wax poetic about the history of Motown and various artists, but that would make this article about six times as long, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll just say that probably my favorite thing about Motown (and The Temptations were experts at this) is the way that content and form blend and sometimes even clash emotively.
This song is actually a brilliant example of this. I mean, one of the main lines of the chorus is “Please don’t leave me girl,” so this guy is in a really bad place. He’s desperate. He’s literally begging.
And yet the music is chirpy, danceable, gives me those happy feels that make me dance around in a sort of squirmy joyous motion that is irrelevant to the beat of the music. The song makes me immeasurably happy because of how it sounds, and then mix that in with this utterly depressed man begging his lover to stay with him because he can’t imagine life without her.
Seriously, who even does that?
There’s a reason Motown was the sound of two decades strong with very little in the way of musical change. There’s a reason they’ve got some of the most soundtrack-repped music of the modern era. This is music that ticks all the emotional boxes without being too heavy, has clear and appropriate lyrics, and is delivered by some of the best voices of the day. Nothing to argue with there.
This song also has the wonderful distinction of being well-associated with Remember the Titans. It was well-used in the film, and thus every time I hear it (frequently), I think instantly of that movie. I can think of worse things to be reminded of when hearing a song.