In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, in advance of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking about songs we’ve used (or would like to use) to win a crush over.
Long, long ago, when people were still making actual mixtapes, I discovered Darondo’s “Didn’t I.” A plaintive ballad from a San Francisco singer who released three 45s in the early ’70s before basically disappearing from public life, “Didn’t I” isn’t exactly a romantic track so much as it is a needy one. Not needy in the drive-someone-away sense, but needy in that it finds Darondo plaintively asking whoever dumped him if there’s anything more he could have done. He asks his woman to “bring me all your troubles, dear,” says she looks bad, but “should be glad,” and says she should let him “kiss [her] lovely lips.” More than anything, he “tried [his] best just to be a man,” so much so that he can’t understand what went wrong.
While that kind of groveling could ring a little sad, Darondo makes it work. Instead of making him sound pathetic, the track (and Darondo’s delivery) makes the singer sound loving and unjustly wronged, the male equivalent to all those jilted women belting out those classic ’60s soul cuts. He did everything he could and still—still!—she walked away.
While a song about a breakup doesn’t necessarily scream “romance,” “Didn’t I” absolutely is to me. It not only speaks to the intensity that can accompany a good crush, but also acknowledges the truth that sometimes, no matter what you do, love doesn’t work out. As an adult in love and who understands love now, the idea that two people can be great to each other, be great for each other, and just not make it work isn’t all that depressing. Rather, it reminds me that when love works, it’s for a reason, and that’s kind of magical.