’90s Song of the Week: SWV’s “Weak”

I don’t know what it is that you’ve done to me, but it’s caused me to act in such a crazy way. Whatever it is that you do what you do when you’re doing it; it’s a feeling that I want to stay. –Brian Alexander Morgan, “Weak”

I am both older and wiser, but I still can't understand the aesthetic of this photo.

I am both older and wiser, but I still can’t understand the aesthetic of this photo.

SWV (Sisters With Voices) released It’s About Time in 1992. The first single “Right Here,” would be lapped in popularity by “I’m So Into You” and “Weak,” the following singles from the album – that is until “Right Here” was remixed with a sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and placed onto the Free Willy soundtrack along with Jackson’s own Will You Be there? making it worthy of existing on my iTunes playlist even now. But this is not about that, this is about “Weak,” as most SWV discussions are.

On a field trip during my Waiau Summer Fun days with my Sham-Battle Yoda, Mr. B. I am covering my braces.

On a field trip during my Waiau Summer Fun days with my Sham-Battle Yoda, Mr. B. I am covering my braces.

The most specific memory I have of the song is tied to my own days as a kid in summer fun. Back then, the staff would turn down the lights, turn on some strobes, bring in a huge cd player boom box, and play music. As a 34-year old man, this notion seems preposterous. The only thing I can come up with is that it was a super-easy day for the leaders. They just sat in the semi-darkness and made sure no funny business was going on. And as I would find out later in life, there are some days when you really need that, especially the Fridays after college Thursday at Ocean’s when all your friends are back for summer.

It was the summer of 1993 and I had a summer fun girlfriend which basically means she was a girl whose hand I held whose hips I placed my hands on for 6 weeks before never really seeing her again. Ah, youth. But anyway, one of those awesome summer fun dances was going on and “Weak” came on and I was urged by my friends to dance with my SFGF. But I couldn’t (and can’t dance) and I was terrified that at the end of the song, a “fast” song – I don’t know, maybe “What About Your Friends” – would play and I would get stuck out there. When I turned to look at her, she and two of her friends were standing, arms around each other, singing “Weak.” “Next song,” I said. “They like this one.” Great logic, Phil. Some twenty-one years later, we still haven’t recovered my balls.

Later that summer, I wrote “I love (SFGF’s name).” all over the palm of my left hand. We were actually on our way to summer fun that morning when my mom saw my handiwork and she went off. I distinctly remember her saying “YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT LOVE IS?” though that can’t have been all of it. That is simply not her way. Looking back, it was such an isolated incident that I chalk it up to her having a bad morning, then finding out that her 13 year old son has written some girl’s name lavishly and repeatedly on his own hand. If I mentally fast-forward 7 years and I find myself on the parent-end of that exact scenario with Madison, I feel like screaming “WHO THE HELL IS ___________________? OH, SO YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT LOVE IS, HUH?” would be a reasonable response.

The lyrics at the top of this entry are the first verse of  “Weak.” It’s not great and it’s nebulous at best, but that’s kind of the point. The singer’s lover is making her feel things so intense that they defy definition. The best she can do is generalize it; she can’t even guess what or how or why, she only knows it’s happening. It’s the ’90s equivalent of the modern “I’m feeling some type of way.” The entire situation is ineffable because she lacks the ability to articulate her situation, but that’s okay, because feeling that type of way is something everyone who has ever been in love understands without having to say it. But I hadn’t been in love. My mom was right. At 13, I didn’t know shit about love. I knew about sex. I knew that in general I was supposed to want it. And I suspect that if you had asked me about even sex back then, my words would have failed me and become a mess of something and kind of and I guess and it’s like. I didn’t actually feel the same unnamed emotions as the woman singing “Weak.” Instead, the song informed me outlined how I was supposed to feel. Who needs experience when you’ve got pop culture? But when you’ve got your thumbs locked into belt loops of her jeans while Shai is playing, your heart really does feel like it’s beating triple-time, and thoughts of loving her really do cross your mind. How was I to know the difference?

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