Most people notice the theme of love in music. This trend crosses into all genres of music and covers all aspects of love, ranging from expressing a desire to make love to falling in love to feeling heartbroken when a love ends. An act that can fall into all three of those general areas is cheating. Numerous songs explore infidelity. In just the songs “I Like It” by Enrique Iglesias, “Screaming Infidelities” by Dashboard Confessional, and “Unfaithful” by Rihanna, listeners can get a feel of a casual worldview of sex and infidelity and the lasting effects this betrayal act has on both the person partaking in it and the one to whom they are unfaithful.
Enrique Iglesias – “I Like It”
Enrique Iglesias’s recent pop hit, “I Like It” sounds like other popular, upbeat melody currently gracing the radio waves and dance clubs. While it does provide a fun song overall, especially with its catchy melody, the lyrics hint at casual sex and infidelity. This coincides with some worldviews, particularly those who might listen to this song in a bar setting hoping to find a connection for the night.
The lyrics of the song follow a narrative style; it might even be similar to the story of a person in the bar who sees an attractive person and decides to pursue her. At the very beginning of the song, Iglesias sings to “go set the club on fire,” and immediately, a woman catches his eye. Confidently, he approaches her. After declaring that they “can really let go,” he informs her, “My girlfriend is out of town, and I’m all alone. Your boyfriend is on vacation, and he doesn’t have to know.” It would appear that Iglesias has no regard for remaining faithful to the girlfriend he mentions; he also expects this woman to follow the same thinking pattern.
It would appear, though, that they do contemplate the issue rather than simply jumping into an act of infidelity. Iglesias even shares his struggle in singing, “I’m trying to keep my hands off, but you’re begging me for more.” It doesn’t seem like he fights it very long or very hard however. His indication that he reads this woman as begging him for more attempts to shift his guilt; she now has a role in participating in this act.
While they contemplate their actions, both the lyrics and the music reflect their thought processes. When Iglesias sings, “round, round, round/give a low, low, low/let the time pass/’cause we’re never getting old,” the words and melody mirror an image of two people circling each other, anticipating the next move. They are figuring each other out.
For the most part, it would seem as though the male role is encouraging this action. He continuously comments on how he likes her and “the way [she] move[s]” and encourages her to do more. He specifically sings, “Baby I like it, the way you move on the floor. Baby I like it. Come on and give me some more. Oh yes I like it.” This would coincide with the stereotypical views of cheating. As it hints here through the song itself and in that a male sings it, it is more “acceptable” or “appealing” when a man partakes in the act of cheating. They also traditionally take the role of the pursuer.
Then in general the song hints at people’s overall take on the casualness of sex and the interest in chasing such carnal treasures. As this is a popular top forty song that gets a lot of airplay and gets played at clubs, it has widespread appeal. It must have been written to appeal to these general listeners. At clubs and parties, a stereotypical view is that those attending are on the prowl, looking for some escape from the busyness or mundaneness of everyday life through alcohol and sex. While that may not be true for everyone, that idea is reflected here. The singer clearly expresses his interest in the woman he sees, explicitly declares that he has a girlfriend and that he recognizes that the woman has a boyfriend, and obviously pursues her anyway.
Dashboard Confessional – “Screaming Infidelities”
The scenario in this song plays out differently than that in Iglesias’s catchy pop hit. This piece, done by a more indie-like alternative band, illustrates a deeper significance to cheating. In this case, the singer experiences his significant other cheating on him and shares his pain.
Listeners are led to believe that the two lovers involved in this story have a serious relationship. In the first verse, the singer reflects on this singing, “I’m reading your note over again. There’s not a word that I comprehend, except when you signed it ‘I will love you always and forever.’” The relationship obviously means a lot to him, and knowing his girlfriend is cheating hurts deeply. It does not explicitly state when he got this specific letter, but it seems as though it might be a breakup letter. That could explain why “there’s not a word that I comprehend,” because he cannot fathom the relationship ending. The closing remark would also imply that a close relationship previously existed, even though it no longer does exist.
While in Iglesias’s song, the lyrics hint that people can casually hook up with people outside their relationships and not inform their partners, the man in this song knows his woman cheats on him. He shares his knowledge singing, “But you’re not alone, and you’re not discreet. Make sure I know who’s taking you home,” and he reflects back on the relationship in efforts to figure out when the infidelity began. He reflects and questions in singing, “I’m missing your laugh. How did it break? And when did your eyes begin to look fake? I hope you’re as happy as you’re pretending.” This shows how much the infidelity stuns and hurts him, leading him now to question everything about this relationship.
This questioning leads to him thinking back upon the details of their relationship, particularly the way that she interacted with him. Upon reflection, he sees signs of the infidelity. This brings him to the title of the track. Repeatedly, he sings, “Your hair, it’s everywhere screaming infidelities and taking its wear.” Looking back, he can see the clear physical signs of this betrayal; it screams at him. Most importantly, he notes how it takes its wear. Now, he might appropriately question their entire relationship, wondering if anything ever was true. This, of course, can lead to him having a more difficult time trusting another woman in a future relationship.
He does maintain humanity throughout the song though. Despite knowing that his girlfriend cheated on him, he does not seek revenge. He obviously suffers great pain, but he still expresses well wishes for her. The excerpt, “I’m cuddling close to blankets and sheets, and I am alone. In my defeat I wish I knew you were safely at home,” illustrates all these aspects. The singer sharing his action of lying in bed hugging his sheets shows his vulnerability, the authenticity of his pain. Yet he ends that part with expressing care for her. Him wanting to know she is safe at home could also be interpreted as him wishing he knew she was alone rather than with her other man, but either way he still wishes she “were safely at home.”
This case of cheating chooses to illustrate the aftermath of the events, especially when they are continuous. In a sense, it still illustrates the more casual worldview idealized in Enrique Iglesias’s song. The woman in “Screaming Infidelities” chose to partake in another relationship, not honoring the one in which she was involved. Furthermore, it highlights how much the cheating person’s act affects the other person.
Rihanna – “Unfaithful”
Rihanna’s song “Unfaithful” captures the aspects of the person partaking in infidelity and the effects it has on both the cheater and the cheated, particularly the cheater. In this case, the lyrics indicate a strong relationship. However, the woman singing shares that she is “unfaithful,” and she knows how much it hurts her boyfriend.
Once again, both people in this relationship know about the one partner’s infidelity. They have not ended their relationship though, despite that it obviously hurts both of them. In the chorus Rihanna notes that “I know that he knows I’m unfaithful, and it kills him inside to know that I am happy with some other guy. I can see him dying.” The word choices of “kills” and “dying” imply the severity of the pain inflicted. Perhaps in a sense the situation truly causes some dying, though maybe not quite physical death. It obviously puts a strain on the relationship. The liveliness that could have previously existed might have dulled. Their trust in each other has to have waned. These terms are also used specifically with trust and love when she sings, “Our love, his trust, I might as well take a gun and put it to his head. Get it over with.” Once again the listeners can witness the connection of the betrayal to life. The knowledge that this man possesses about his significant other’s infidelity causes him deep pain. Since Rihanna compares her action to her putting a gun to his head, she recognizes how disruptive this experience can be on this man’s life and his general well-being. The hurt will affect him no matter what. His trust in her will never exist exactly as it did; if he gets involved in another relationship in the future, he will be more protective of his heart in trusting someone else.
In a sense, this song can offer hope for couples to get through a cheating situation. The two people in this song have not split up despite the woman having an affair. He obviously means a lot to her, as is indicated when she sings, “He’s more than a man, and this is more than love. The reason that the sky is blue. But clouds are rolling in because I’m gone again, and to him I just can’t be true.” For her man to be more than a man, she thinks highly of him. Maybe to be more than a “man” he could be the always sought after “one.” Explaining that he is “the reason that the sky is blue” illustrates a deep connection to her, a correlation between her everyday life and her relationship with him. However, she also introduces this cloud overhead, foreshadowing the pain she inflicts upon him and their relationship. The cloud floating in as a result of her departure indicates that she means the world to him as well. Unfortunately though she must follow this with the knowledge that “to him [she] just can’t be true.”
Coinciding with the hope for overcoming infidelity, she expresses a desire to end the pain. From the beginning, her word choice indicates that she feels remorse for her actions. She still uses words that imply love. She has “sorrow in [her] soul,” describes him as “more than a man” and their relationship as “more than love,” and begins the song with expressing her desire for “searching for the right.” She no longer wants to cause him pain. In one section, she begins most of her phrases with “I don’t,” beginning with “I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be the reason why. Every time I walk out the door, I see him die a little more inside. I don’t want to hurt him anymore. I don’t want to take away his life. I don’t want to be a murderer.” The melody of this, as it and the music is throughout the song, also reflects this pain in her. She recognizes the impact of her actions and does not want to cause this man so much distress. She can make this happen by either ending her affair or by ending her relationship.
Whether this relationship ends or continues despite the infidelity, it successfully illustrates how such an act inevitably negatively affects both the cheating and cheated party. It shows the listeners that cheating has lasting effects and greatly injures both people in the relationship.
All three of these songs show aspects of the act of cheating and the effects of infidelity. Though there seems to be an existing worldview that casual sex and affairs can happen, they still significantly affect everyone involved, including people not involved in the actual act. These effects last into future relationships as well. Someone who gets cheated on will carry that betrayal with them, potentially struggling with trust in the future. The people who have cheated will in turn carry the guilt of their actions. All those involved, whether directly or indirectly, will suffer some lasting effects.