Slight spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it, but…
In the final fight scene of Deadpool, when the titular hero (Ryan Reynolds) is doing battle with the main villain, a rather anti-climactic song begins playing — Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration.” It was one of many subversive moments for a movie that set out to poke fun at typical superhero-film conventions, and yet, it also just kind of worked. As we watch Deadpool’s lover Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) look on while he fights, with the ultimate goal being to win her back, it’s kind of the perfect song — even though it’s also the last song in the world you’d expect to hear playing during such a violent scene. Your first reaction is to laugh, but after that, you can’t help but get a bit misty-eyed. When we consider that during another point in the movie, Deadpool proclaims his love for Wham!, and later, “Careless Whisper” plays over the closing credits, it feels like the people behind this movie are acutely aware of one of music’s best-kept secrets.
Sappy love songs are actually kind of awesome.
Think about it. Sure, in an ideal world, you’d only like the cool stuff, but deep down, there’s a few super-cheesy ballads that get you every time. Who hasn’t pined for someone they liked as more than a friend to REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” or struggled through a long-distance relationship with Journey’s “Faithfully” as the soundtrack. The reason why there is such an over-abundance of songs like this is because, well, these situations keep coming up in our own lives. So, naturally, our favorite artists would often be going through similar problems.
But how could songs of this schlocky nature be so cathartic while still feeling so corny? To answer that, we might look to comedian Patton Oswalt, who once said “the truth is hack.” In his case, he was referring to stand-up routines; that the reason why endlessly repeated gags about marriage troubles or airline food still get laughs is because that’s what people can relate to. The same holds true for songs. Anyone can relate to songs about lost love, or about trying to tell your crush how you feel. That’s why there are dozens of songs about these topics, and that’s why they still resonate even when we’ve heard their sentiments so many times before.
Of course, it’s also worth noting that, often times, the “cool” songs that we love touch on the same topics as the corny “corporate-rock” songs we’re ashamed to admit we love. Consider two songs that were both released in 1984: “How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths, and “I Want to Know What Love Is” by Foreigner. One is a beloved indie classic, and the other is a power ballad that certainly has its fans, but you’d be hard-pressed to get a committed music snob to admit they like it. And yet, they’re basically the same song. Both songs discuss loneliness and isolation; specifically the feeling that they are unlovable, and that yearning to simply be appreciated in the way that everyone else appears to be. At first glance, Morrissey and Lou Gramm would be as dissimilar as possible. And yet, in the same year, they both wrote songs that explored the same topics in remarkably evocative ways. “How Soon Is Now?” and “I Want to Know What Love Is” appeal to different crowds now, as they did upon their release, and yet, they are equally memorable, because they both hit us right where it hurts.
Even if Deadpool used “You’re the Inspiration” at least partially as a joke, it still had a genuine emotional impact. After all, Deadpool’s entire motivation for wanting to kill the film’s main baddie is that, after having his face brutally mutilated by his experiments, he now feels like there’s no way he can go back to Vanessa unless his appearance is returned to its previous form. Essentially, this is all for the love that he feels has been taken away from him. With that in mind, you really couldn’t pick a better song than “You’re the Inspiration.” Like so many unfairly-maligned ballads, it describes a frustration nearly all of us have felt at some point. Deadpool was able to mine both laughs and catharsis out of acknowledging the power of the schlocky love ballad. Maybe now the rest of us can admit the place these songs have in our hearts.