Cynicism is a growing phenomenon in music. True love songs are hard to come by these days. Deriving its name from Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Yellow Diamonds is a series of lyric breakdowns in which VIBE Senior Music Editor Austin Williams celebrates songs that sound like love found in a hopeless mainstream.
Although I’m primarily a rap fan, I prefer R&B songs about love over just about any other type of music. Love in general is something I spend a lot of time thinking about, especially as I approach 30. So, naturally, I gravitate toward music written about the act and experience of the feeling itself. Through this very specific interest, I’ve found that sometimes other people, including songwriters, confuse love songs with something else entirely: bedroom music.
At R&B’s peak, the line between love songs and bedroom music was pretty distinct. There was “Forever My Lady,” and there was “Freek’n You;” songs about living life with a person you love, and songs about a form of intimacy that love can lead to. With the genre now ruled by sad girls and toxic kings, the emotional curve has been flattened, and lyrics that are meant to read as sincere expressions of love instead list all the ways the artist wants to f**k someone. A refreshing exception to this new normal is Muni Long’s unexpected hit, “Hrs and Hrs.”
When I first understood the title of Long’s 2021 track to mean “hours and hours,” I must admit, I felt a little exhausted. In my mind, I wrote it off as a song about marathon sex that young couples on TikTok were misrepresenting as a love song. I was wrong. “Hrs and Hrs” is a deceptively sensual ballad about the intimacy of quality time.
I don’t have anything against songs about sex. I have an entire playlist titled “Dark Liquor” dedicated to the occasion. But as a romantic person, love and sex are two different things to me. The former is something I’ve shared with only a handful of partners, and the latter is something I’ve shared with people I barely even know. Whereas love songs are about that one special person, when I hear bedroom music, I think, “This could be about anybody.”
Yet, most of the activities listed on “Hrs and Hrs” are the sorts of non-sexual mundanities reserved for two people who are truly in love. And it begins with a flattering and only slightly flirtatious first verse:
Yours, mine, ours
I could do this for hours
Sit and talk to you for hours
I wanna give you your flowers
And some champagne chalice
Order shrimp and lobster towers
But it’s me that gets devoured
Ooh, when you do what you do, I’m empowered
You give me a superpower
What’s notable about this verse is the very first thing Long suggests she and her partner could do for hours is talk. Less articulate songs that conflate love and sex typically underestimate just how much talking there is in a relationship. It’s by far the thing you’ll do the most with your partner once you start a life with them.
After a few bars of wining and dining, the verse gets to what I believe are its most potent lyrics: “When you do what you do, I’m empowered/ You give me a superpower.” A love that lifts you up and gives you strength is typically what folks mean when they say a partner should add to your life. That addition doesn’t have to be financial or rooted in some other act of service. You should just be able to stand a little straighter when life beats you down knowing the best part of your day is waiting for you at home.
The verse ends with Long singing about raining “thundershowers” upon being sat up on the kitchen counter. Despite my using this song to distinguish the difference between love and sex, “Hrs and Hrs” isn’t prudish by any means. But like the little bit of nastiness that sometimes found its way into love songs of the ’90s, the sex at the end of this verse feels well-earned following the emotional foreplay of romance and sincerity.
When I met you, I knew this was it
I’ve never been in love like this
A love like ours
I pray for it on my knees
Every night for some hours
And hours and hours
And hours and hours and hours
After a brief digression detailing the sort of “ni**as ain’t sh*t” narrative you’d also hear from singers like SZA, Summer Walker, or Jazmine Sullivan, Long clarifies how different her man is from the rest. What follows is my favorite use of the “hours and hours” refrain, in which the singer-songwriter confesses to praying for a certain type of love all through the night.
Praying for love is a practice in R&B songs that dates as far back as K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” (“All my life, I pray for someone like you”). There’s a reason for this. Even if you aren’t religious, and instead prefer to think of praying in this context as wishing and hoping, few sensations are more euphoric than the feeling you get when you’ve found the sort of love you’ve always pictured for yourself. I’d say a climax couldn’t compare, but that’d be a bit hyperbolic. Let’s just say this feeling lasts a hell of a lot longer.
I could sit and talk to you for hours
Sit and look at you for hours
Makin’ love to you for hours
Layin’ on your chest for hours
Tellin’ you jokes for hours
Holdin’ you close for hours
And hours and hours
The song’s bridge contextualizes what sex actually means to a relationship. It’s not the supernatural force binding people together that most of today’s so-called love songs would have you believe it is. Realistically, throughout the week, it fits somewhere between the talking, the laughing, the cuddling, and even the silent staring you tend to do with a partner.
Albeit over baby-making production, and with a soft, alluring tone to her voice, Muni Long ascribes equal importance to acts of love both inside and outside of the bedroom. For that reason, “Hrs and Hrs” is a rarity amid what’s currently trending in R&B, and one of the most thoughtful love songs I’ve heard in some time.