Love in a time of turmoil: Laini & the Wildfire’s “Say It With Love” & Murderous Chanteuse’s “We Didn’t Start This Fire”

“It’s been a long year,” Laini Marenick of Laini and the Wildfire sings at the beginning of “Say It With Love.” [Spotify] It’s one sentiment most of us can get behind.

With the pandemic anniversary upon us, there’s been a surge of discussion and documentation of a year of mass death, political unrest, and vast societal trauma. It’s a topic too big for any single statement—other than maybe “why am I always exhausted?”

“Say It With Love” is an unironically uplifting power ballad, in the tradition of Smokey Robinson, that focuses on shared humanity: patience, kindness, building up rather than burning down. It’s a lovely song, soaring with warmth and hope.

It also left me grappling for days with the question of what love means in the 2020s, when structural inequalities seem, to me, to justify rage, yet at the same time I’ve muted terms like despair and irretrievably broken on Twitter because I’m tired of people making DOOM & GLOOM their personality.

Triggering discussion questions isn’t a bad thing: it may be inevitable when we’re talking about how to be human in times too turbulent to tackle in a coherent chorus. After a few dozen listens, I wandered back toward another song that didn’t get enough attention when it came out: Murderous Chanteuse’s “We Didn’t Start This Fire,” a piano-ballad update of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” addressing the rage and division of the past five years. [SoundCloud]

While the themes of the two songs seem superficially at odds, I see them as complementary. “We Didn’t Start This Fire” lays down both the reasons for justified rage and the divisions that fracture our country—all in the gentle, passionate tones of someone who loves the prospect of a better world. Where “We Didn’t Start This Fire” says we didn’t start this fire… but we’re gonna fight it, “Say It With Love” tells us how to fight it.

Listen to both. Come up with a plausible mash-up and I’ll buy you cupcakes from Edible Couture.

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