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.
The things we choose to do and not do largely define the lives we live. On “Sweet,” a track from Syd’s recently released Broken Hearts Club, the 29-year-old abides by this principle of prioritization by forgoing nights on the town in pursuit of love. Having been in love myself for the past few years, I’ve also had to sacrifice small pleasures for the sake of something more fulfilling. This militant mindset has served me so well in my relationship that it’s bled into almost everything else I dedicate myself to.
The most rewarding parts of my life are the results of the way I prioritize my time. Like most fit people, I don’t have to chase a summer body in the spring because I don’t mind waking up at 5 a.m. to work out in the winter. Like most productive people, I think meetings are often wastes of time that slow the progress of the work employees are actually hired to do. And, having once again weighed the benefits of choice, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left my girl at home while I partied with my friends.
So, while Syd’s Broken Hearts Club contains catchier tunes, what stood out to me from the singer’s sophomore solo album is “Sweet,” a song about the discipline of love and the importance of how people spend their time. Throughout the track, the Odd Future pioneer and Internet frontwoman places her partner above the distractions that often come with running the streets.
Atop angelic production, and with a soft yet serious tone to her voice, Syd declares, “No more playin’, no more clubbin’, no more frontin’, babe/ Nothin’ but sweet, sweet, sweet lovin’, babe.”
Similar to most value systems we adopt as we age, prioritizing love over life’s less important pleasures isn’t something that comes naturally. It’s a learned behavior. At least for people like me, and apparently people like Syd as well.
What I find most resonant about the conceit of the song’s chorus, that nothing matters more than the love of one’s partner, is the way each verse builds toward that realization. Moments of reflection throughout the track indicate there was once a time when Syd, either in real life or in the life of the character she’s voicing in “Sweet,” didn’t always give her relationship the attention it deserves. Every disciplined person I know can relate to this sort of maturation.
Plenty of health nuts were once people with poor diets and little motivation. The most prolific writers in journalism have learned the hard way to be choosey with how many non-writing hours they allow to clog up their calendars. And most homebody husbands, which is something I’d happily become, were once club-bound bachelors who couldn’t imagine being anywhere else on a Saturday night.
The lyrics of “Sweet,” written in part by a queer singer-songwriter whose lived experience is undoubtedly much different than mine, feel surprisingly aligned with that ambition.
Ask me how I know that this is love
‘Cause it’s gotta be, gotta be, baby
Oh yeah, yeah-yeah
Gifted onto me from up above
It’s what I’ve waited for, waited for, baby
So I can’t f**k it up
Can’t f**k it up
‘Cause they’d love to see us fail (Ooh)
So I can’t give it up
I ain’t givin’ up
‘Cause you just mean too much to me
The rewards of making the right choices in life often come with the reality that making the wrong ones could undo everything you’ve built. There’s a certain pressure inherent in prioritizing love. Essentially, the unwritten contract you signed with your partner stating you’d always be true to them now has an amendment stating you must also be true to yourself. This is the flip side of the saying that “if you knew better, you’d do better.” It isn’t always easy to apply the things we learn once we’ve learned them.
That pressure is subtly referenced in the first verse of “Sweet.” About midway through, Syd refers to the love of her woman as a gift “from up above.” Toward the end, she confesses a fear of f**king that blessing up.
While most of the ways a person could ruin their relationship are regulated internally—managing certain impulses, being mindful of the situations we put ourselves in, etc.—those behaviors are responses to external stimuli. Seeing your single friends much less than you used to, distancing yourself from folks who are a little too flirty despite what flirtation does for your ego, and avoiding the influences of nightlife are parts of romantic maturity that are as challenging as they are gratifying.
With that challenge comes a slight worry that you may not live up to it. The only thing that could ease that anxiety is the type of resolve Syd displays in the final lines of verse one: “I ain’t givin’ up/ ’Cause you mean too much to me.”
Didn’t know what I was runnin’ from (Runnin’ from)
But life is better now, better now, baby (Baby, baby)
Oh yeah (Oh yeah, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh)
Every day I’m even more in love (More in love, ooh)
Now what’s that about, that about, baby (Baby)
Ooh, ooh, yeah, yeah, ayy
Verse two of “Sweet” brings us back to a place of reflection. As Syd admits she doesn’t know what she was running from, but that she was in fact running from something, she acknowledges how much better her life is now that love has finally caught up with her. This speaks to the most disorienting part of growth, which is not being able to recall what was in your sights when your perspective was smaller. It’s a question folks return to even after that perspective has long been in their rearview.
What exactly are single people (and secretly cuffed people) looking for when they’re in the club weekend after weekend? It certainly can’t be love, since that’s not where most others find it. Perhaps ease is what they seek. The way one’s bed is more comfortable than the gym, and the camaraderie in meetings provides a reprieve from the loneliness of work, constant clubbing keeps us from having to improve the parts of ourselves that may be lacking.
Regardless, there’s a snowball effect that occurs once you determine the most beneficial use of your time. Each day feels better than the last because you’re now living and loving with intention.
No more playin’, no more clubbin’, no more frontin’, babe
Nothin’ but sweet, sweet, sweet lovin’, babe
Don’t need jewelry, don’t need money, don’t need nothin’, babe
Nothin’ but sweet, sweet, sweet lovin’, babe
The way it’s sung and produced, “Sweet” contains an appropriate sense of euphoria, as each verse leads to the eureka moment in the song’s chorus. Yet, it’s worth noting that living out the song’s message, that some things simply matter more than others, often results in friction in real life.
I’ve had passionate disagreements with people who don’t understand the power of prioritization and even worse disputes with those who prioritize their time unwisely. A few friends have stopped inviting me out because of how early I go home to wake up for the gym in the morning. Managers have grown frustrated by my insistence that talking about work in meetings is far less critical than the time needed to do said work in practice. And women who still frequent the same clubs I met them in have assumed my current relationship is a temporary phase rather than a permanent life change.
But like the devotion Syd details on “Sweet” and the romantic rewards it’s afforded her, there’s a consistency to my life that can’t be challenged. The proof is in the outcome. There isn’t a friend, colleague, or ex-fling on earth who could dissuade me from the way I’ve set my priorities. Because I’ve created a life that’s too healthy, too productive, and filled with too much love to ever allow what’s important to others to come before what’s important to me.