I frequently wake up with some random 80s pop song going through my head, which means I get to spend the rest of the day wondering what it all means. Occasionally it leads somewhere very dark.
Today’s song is “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield. Ostensibly it’s a song about a young man — Mr. Springfield himself, since he wrote the song — infatuated with a woman he can’t have. “Unrequited love,” according to the Wikipedias.
But I can’t help but notice that he seems a lot more preoccupied with Jessie himself than with his girl. We don’t know anything about her, like a name for instance, other than “property of Jessie.” (I’m assuming some kind of mail-order bride type of arrangement). All we know is that she has eyes, and she also has a body (he just knows it). In fact, Mr. Springfield keeps vacillating between wanting her, and being willing to settle with a woman like her.
We know a good bit about Jessie, though. Jessie was a friend — no, a good friend. So good a friend that Mr. Springfield is driving himself crazy thinking about him having sex. As guys tend to do, think about their friends having sex enough to write songs about it. He can’t even fantasize about her, he keeps thinking about her and Jesse doin’ it. It’s like if you couldn’t have a sex fantasy about Catherine Zeta-Jones without including Michael Douglas. The subtext is pretty clear: instead of holding her, why can’t Jessie be holding him in his arms late, late at night? He “feels so dirty” when they start talking cute, which is how they described it back in the 80s before they came up with the term “self-loathing.”
I started to wonder if maybe the whole song is supposed to be creepy-ironic. Like it’s really about jealousy instead of unrequited love. But you don’t usually see that kind of sophistication in a song that rhymes “cute” with “moot.”