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A fanmix of songs about worship, by or featuring persons of color, and a bonus essay wherein I deconstruct love songs waaay too much.

I originally had a mix on 8tracks, but I found that the sound quality of several of the tracks was not up to par. So I decided to resort to Youtube instead...and found a bunch more songs in the process, so...serendipity? Hopefully the videos will stay up for a good long while (even if they don't have much to do with my interpretations of the songs).

"I can easily feel myself slipping more and more away," Barry White says, in the beginning of You're The First, The Last, My Everything, "in less of a world of my own...until there's nobody but you and me." The very title of the first song seems to sum up the theme of worship that, I began to notice, runs through a lot of love songs.

The artist that performs a love song tends to find that they have, either gradually or suddenly, become completely immersed in the person for whom the song is intended, to the point where their love interest has become more than a person -- they've become an all-enveloping universe, and/or all the objects within it: the sun, the moon, the guiding star. In biblical terms, they have become the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end...the first, the last, everything.

Such an all-encompassing scope includes time. Endless Love and Always describe love that will last for all time, transcending all weakness and petty disagreement and any other vestiges of mortality. "I promise to love you more each day," Freddy Jackson says, in You Are My Lady, implying that the already intangible element of love, impossible to measure, will simply multiply over and over exponentially "until the end of time".

The lover is always a unique being, capable of doing for the artist what no one else could possibly do (Ain't Nobody, One In A Million), thereby making the lover both a singular entity and everything which sustains the artist -- one thing, and everything, all at once.

Lady by The Commodores touches joyfully upon another theme, that of salvation. Not only does she bring Lionel Ritchie up when he's down, she saved him from loneliness and feeling like no one cared for him. It is as if nothing worthwhile existed before the relationship began, and that, now, the artist's existence has been exalted beyond anything he could have ever imagined. Such a sublime state is something that the artist has been seeking ever since they began existence; or, as K-Ci and Jo Jo sing, "All my life, I've prayed for someone like you." In that sense, if the lover is not the actual divinity answering that prayer (or an angel, as Monica considers her lover to be), they are at least a gift from some deity; either way, there is a sense of sacredness.

It's probably no surprise, then, that an artist would want to meditate on their love, their lover, and to pray that this wonderful, transformative relationship truly can continue on forever, as Stevie Wonder does in All I Do. If everything had been darkness and void before they met their love, then to be without that relationship would basically return them to nothingness. "I'd rather be lonely than alone," he says, making the song as poignant as it is fervent.

The artist may also, therefore, assign power to go with the honorifics bestowed on their lover. Sade proclaims, "Your love is king; I crown you in my heart." Boyz II Men tell their lovers, "I submit to your command," and while the tone of the song is urgent and a bit over-eager in places, the implication is that their lovers' needs and pleasure come first, in a session of sensual body-worship. Bill Withers goes even further, stating "If it feels this good getting used, just keep on using me 'til you use me up." At that point, the artist's sense of self-preservation as well as any selfish sense of pleasure goes out the window, showing his willingness to sacrifice anything on the altar for his lover.

By and large, love songs seem to be a sort of hymn from the artist to the lover; they may make statements of giving unending love and devotion, but as we see in the examples above, the ability to do so is a result of the union between artist and lover. One notable exception is I'm Your Angel, featuring R. Kelly. In this song, he takes on the role of the divine being, exhorting his lover to "Seek me and you shall find...Let me show you a better day...all of your fears, cast them on me," in another echo of Biblical language.

Perhaps no song better exemplifies the soul-changing power of a lover than Roberta Flack's rendition of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. Slowly, deliberately, she sings, the pace and pitch of her voice lending a reverence to the song against a backdrop of warm, delicate strings, and when her voice does rise, it is in an outpouring of ecstasy.

"The first time ever I saw your face,
I thought the sun rose in your eyes;
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies."

The first time she saw her lover, a literal act of creation began, a new universe for her.

"The first time ever I kissed your mouth,
I felt the earth move in my hands,
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command."

When she first touches her lover intimately, their power transfers to her, exalting her to a level of divinity where the very earth is as small, delicate, and precious in her palm as one of its smallest creatures.

"The first time ever I lay with you,
I felt your heart so close to mine;
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last til the end of time."

Both lover and artist are on the same plane now, each divinely able to create new, endless worlds of love and joy in their union.

In these respects, therefore, many love songs could be considered hymns, their own forms of worship.
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