Break ‘Yo TV: Sophie B. Hawkins – “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”

TV Breakin'

I would be a tad worried if this were the person who – DAMN! – wished she were my lover, especially when she promises to “[walk] for days with no one near and … return as chained and bound to you.”

Still, in her 1992 top-five hit, “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”, Sophie B. Hawkins managed to make obsessive longing sound sexy. With its haunting melody and impassioned refrain – really, the title should have been written as “DAMN! I Wish I Was Your Lover” – the song probably made an appearance on many a make-out mix tape in the early ’90s. And whether you love it or hate it – most people seem to fall squarely on one side of that spectrum – it evokes early-’90s nostalgia, given that it’s one of those songs that seems like it was everywhere around that time.

What also dates this song is the fact that its accompanying video was banned by MTV. Today it likely would slip through without a second glance, but nearly 20 years ago, the world just wasn’t ready to handle its depictions of homosexuality, however mild they truly were.

But I can’t see why anyone would object to anything along those lines. Really, the video is just plain weird. Nearly half the video features Hawkins writhing on the floor in what appears to be a giant diaper. Yes, a diaper. Okay, it’s probably a bed sheet, but semantics aside, it’s the complete opposite of sexy. Around the 2:10 mark, she amps up the writhing routine by cupping her fists in front of her body and affecting a churning-butter motion, naturally while gyrating her pelvis.

But there’s plenty more to make fun of here. For example, when Hawkins sings the mysterious line, “This monkey can’t stand to see you black and blue/I give you something sweet each time you come inside my jungle book/what is it just too good,” what is the appropriate thing to do? Creep alongside the wall like a jungle cat, of course. No room for subtle nuances here. (And yes, she does this while wearing the diaper.)

I haven’t even mentioned that the diaper-wearing shots feature Hawkins in black-and-white film against a color background, a bizarre effect in itself. The video alternates between this scene and some ethereal shots of Hawkins lying on the floor swathed in a white gauzy material. They should have stuck with the latter.

As for what was actually responsible for the video’s ban, the homosexual imagery largely consists of two shirtless men dancing together erotically but never doing much beyond that. Later, Hawkins is pressed cheek to cheek with an androgynous Mick Jagger look-alike – presumably another woman, seeing that one of the last lines of the song reveals that she’s been singing to a woman all along: “I sat on the mountainside with peace of mind/and I lay by the ocean making love to her.” Was this the same MTV that would one day champion same-sex kisses, what with the slot regularly reserved for girl-on-girl kissing in its Movie Award Best Kiss category? I guess we should thank you, Sophie B. Hawkins, for helping to pave the way. Sorry your video was banned for it.

In order for the song to maintain circulation on music television, Hawkins released an alternate video, which is the tamest thing you’ll ever see and probably required exactly five minutes of planning. The black-and-white video features Hawkins singing on a stage with her band.

It’s not nearly as epic as the original, which, just for good measure, throws in a scene featuring glowing-blue shadow-puppets as it’s drawing to a close. Yes. Electric-blue shadow-puppets.

I challenge you to find another video out there that features both diaper-writhing and blue shadow-puppets. Damn.


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