If There Was Love
by Liza Minnelli

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 1989
Original album - Results (Liza Minnelli)
Producer - Julian Mendelsohn, Pet Shop Boys
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

Another track that Neil and Chris wrote specifically for Liza and Results—and, continuing with the theatricality, perhaps the most paranoiac song they've ever composed. We live in a world in which ordinary people are pawns of "men of affairs [and] women with power," in which we are manipulated by "pollsters and planners," in which there are "satellites talking to clutter our lives," and in which, in perhaps the most apocalyptic lines ever recorded from Neil's pen:

There's a hole in the sky as distant and vast
As our moral vacuum and growing as fast

Wow! What hope is there? "If there was love, would that be enough?" We're left to ponder this amazing question. Is love possible in such a world and, if so, is it alone enough to sustain us against such opposition? One might interpret the "hole in the sky" as an allusion to the apparent absence of God in the modern world, which corresponds and correlates to "our moral vacuum." That is, maybe without God to serve as the font of morality, humanity is destined to become increasingly bereft of virtue. Of course, Neil might also be referring, in a much more literal sense, either to the hole in the ozone layer (very much in the news in the late eighties, when this song was written) or even to a black hole—one of which physicists postulate lies at the center of our own galaxy—but that does nothing to undermine the "absent God" theorem; in fact, one or the other might help corroborate it. A phrase can have more than one meaning, after all, especially coming from as artful a lyricist a Neil Tennant.

But getting back to that "moral vacuum," is love alone enough to provide a compass in such a universe?

Rather than offer an answer, the Boys have Liza read William Shakespeare's Sonnet 94. It was apparently a spur-of-the-moment decision that came about because Neil happened to be perusing the sonnets while in the studio listening to a playback of the song. (Liza herself verifed this in an interview in the October 1989 issue of i-D magazine, adding that Neil was searching at the time for something to read at the funeral of a friend who had just passed away.) Sonnet 94 contrasts powerful people who are benevolent and do not harm others with those who are more malevolent, ending with these lines:

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

In other words, great and powerful people who turn bad are far worse than those who were never great to begin with. Through this sudden, fortuitous coupling of their song with a classic of English poetry, the Boys (with Liza as their "spokeswoman") seem to be wondering whether we poor little weeds—even if we manage to find love—can survive in this world amidst all the festering lilies.

The song revolves around that recurring question: "If there was love, would that be enough?" We're left to answer it for ourselves, if we're able to at all.


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