Imogen Heap, "Goodnight and Go" (Megaphonic; 2005).
Weezer, "Pink Triangle" (Geffen; 1996).
Josh Ritter, "Hotel Song" (Hungry Ear; 1999).
Rufus Wainwright, "The Art Teacher" (Geffen; 2004).
The Nields, "Gotta Get Over Greta" (Razor & Tie; 1996).
Sarah McLachlan, "Good Enough" (Arista; 1993).
Matthew Sweet, "Sick of Myself" (Zoo; 1995).
The Nields, "Best Black Dress" (Razor & Tie; 1996).
The Cranberries, "Pretty" (Island; 1993).
Cake, "Friend Is a Four-Letter Word" (Capricorn; 1996).
Björk, "I Miss You" (Elektra; 1995).
Franz Ferdinand, "Michael" (Epic; 2004).
Ben Folds Five, "Kate" (550; 1997).
I think it was Edith Wharton who said that the only pure form of love is unrequited. Yet one-way love often leads people to their doom, so if that's the pure stuff, maybe it pays to cut it a little. What about unrequited crushes? Ever since kindergarten, I've had too many, which renders a person unfocused and, for the most part, frustrated. I have crushes on colleagues, friends, baristas (a Seattle cliché, I know), and even women I meet once and never see again. Who can say whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of secretly crushing rather than taking arms against a sea of troubles and spitting your goddamn feelings out already? If you keep them inside, there's the risk that frustration will turn you bitter.
Maybe that's why so many songs eschew the operatic theme of unrequited love and document the star-crossed crush instead. One of my favorite crush ballads, "Teenage Dirtbag," is a wonder of trash-pop storytelling. Against cartoonish sound effects and lusty, thrashing power chords, our plucky narrator gets us up to speed on his desideratum, a classmate named Noelle with a gun-toting "dick" of a boyfriend and no idea, seemingly, that a dude with low self-esteem and an Iron Maiden fetish has the hots for her. The setup is classic; the conclusion, pure wish fulfillment.
Girls with crushes on girls wander freely through this mix. In "Gotta Get Over Greta," a married woman longs for her (female) high-school crush; "Good Enough" finds Sarah McLachlan coming on to a female friend in an abusive relationship, which—depending on your taste—comes off as either romantic or predatory. More often than not, unrequited crushes stay that way; the best you can do is have a sense of humor about it. In "Pink Triangle," Rivers Cuomo's misplaced crush on a lesbian rings painfully true, particularly in its last-ditch wistfulness: "If everyone's a little queer/Can't she be a little straight?" Then there's Josh Ritter's beleaguered hotel receptionist, who develops a crush on just about every girl who walks in the door. Nothing to be done, though: "Because every time I find my heart, I lose it to that long yellow line," aka the road. Perhaps most desperate is poor Imogen Heap, who hatches a complicated plan—involving a missed train, alcohol, and a broken heater—to ensnare her crush. Good luck, lady. The only role model here is Ben Folds, who may not be able to get what he wants—the stoner-slacker of his dreams—but seems happy enough in the simple knowledge that she exists at all.