We’re never more vulnerable than when we express our love for another person, and I think properly expressing that vulnerability is one of the hardest things a pop songwriter can try to do. Too often, we’re willing to settle for sentimentality, irony, or cute humor — unnecessary layers built up around a simple, powerful emotion. And it’s understandable, really; when you’re talking about something that boils down to three simple words, you have to find some way of filling up your three minutes.
For a song that most people have never heard — recorded for the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s Clockers, a movie most people have never seen — I think Bruce Hornsby and Chaka Khan’s “Love Me Still” does a pretty tremendous job of expressing the hope and vulnerability of that emotion. It’s a simple song, but it’s honest, and it’s one of the lovelier, more unappreciated entries in a catalog filled with them.
Starting with the quiet bravery of the first line, “Here is my hand for you to hold,” the song echoes places we’ve all been: the declaration of love, the line drawn between “us” and “them,” the bittersweet rush of coming home to another person, the all-important question — do you love me still? One of the things I like best about Hornsby is his need to keep moving musically; few artists have the talent, or the cojones, to wander so far from the sounds and styles that have brought them the most success. But I think his best quality might be his gift for expressing pure emotional openness and honesty, and this song is a case in point. Here are three versions: an instrumental, the soundtrack cut featuring Khan’s vocals, and a live solo performance taken from Hornsby’s box set, Intersections: 1985-2005.