Ain’t No Way: One of our most misunderstood love songs?

The status of Ain’t No Way as a queer love song has been the subject of debate lately. In 2018, writer Andrew Martone described it as “an undercover LGBT anthem”, highlighting the lyrics “stop trying to be someone you’re not” as a coded message to a secret lesbian lover. , asking them to accept their sexuality. The story the song tells is deeply haunting and could be interpreted as representing the realities of millions of queer women around the world who feel they cannot love freely. Other lyrics include the lines “I know a woman’s duty is to help and love a man, and that’s how it was intended / Oh but how can I how can I how can I / Give you all the things I have / If you tie both hands to me “.

It was perhaps also particularly personal for Carolyn: she told Aretha biographer David Ritz that Erma and Aretha “were running after boys when I found out that my romantic preference was going in a totally different direction … he m ‘took a long time to find my own identity and voice. “In Ritz’s biography, Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin, Erma is quoted as saying of Carolyn,” I consider her a great woman … She followed his own path, lived his own life and found freedom in his individuality.

Still, Detroit bassist Ralphe Armstrong disagreed with Martone’s reading of Ain’t No Way when interviewed for Carolyn Franklin’s recent profile by The Guardian, claiming “It’s just a love song about being heartbroken “. Martone tells BBC Culture he still maintains his position. “The beautiful thing is that the music is open to interpretation. Ain’t No Way certainly works at a level where it applies to the deterioration of Aretha’s marriage to Ted White when Aretha sings it. But it also works on another level, and I believe it was by design. I don’t have to be right or wrong, but there is room to see the song through multiple lenses and explore them. “

According to Dr Uju Anya, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University with an emphasis on critical applied linguistics through feminist and queer perspectives, it is possible to overlook the queer elements in Ain’t No Way because it belongs to a genre with a predominantly “troubled woman in love with a man” trope. But, she argues, there is a “trickery” in the song. Dr Anya claims the singer pleads her case with her lover (another woman) throughout the song, with the chorus running in two ways: the protagonist says to her lover “I want to love you but you won’t let me. not “and, at the same time,” describing himself: there’s no way I’m going to like the way people expect me to be. ” Ain’t No Way, says Dr Anya, can be “just a heartbroken love song” – and still be a queer love song.

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Grace D. Erickson

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