Strawberries, roses, and chocolate: the trifecta of Valentine’s Day foods. Roses and chocolate both have long histories of romantic and sexual connotations, so it’s not surprising that they remain popular gifts for the occasion and popular ingredients or garnishes of Valentine’s Day menus. But why strawberries? They are red, sweet, luscious, and vaguely heart-shaped, but so are many other fruits. They are not in season in February. Chocolate, wine, and roses are all suggestive of indulgence, the luxury of spending money on pure pleasure, but strawberries don’t usually carry that connotation–unless, perhaps, they are dipped in chocolate or smothered in cream.
In music, strawberries and their characteristic sweetness and freshness are often linked to innocence and childhood–appropriately enough for a fruit that comes into its season early in spring. The same characteristics sometimes carry erotic connotations, but when strawberries are sexy it tends to be the sex appeal of sweetness, simplicity, and springtime.
Paul Baribeau, “Strawberry”
This adorable little song makes a number of clicheed comparisons to the singer’s beloved, but he extends each metaphor to an even more adorable degree. Example: “To say that you are cute is like saying that a strawberry is sweet. Because a strawberry has secret flavors that are sharp and tart and red and deep.” He goes on to rhapsodize about finding his beloved growing wild in the woods, and so forth.
Deana Carter, “Strawberry Wine”
The singer compares the nights she spent with her first love to strawberry wine: sweet, intoxicating, a little green or immature. Sitting squarely in the pop country genre, Deana really drawls on that strawwwwberry, emphasizing the pastoral context of this romantic memory.
Franz Ferdinand, “Fresh Strawberries”
On a more cynical note: this song emphasizes the “fresh and young” connotations of strawberries only to overshadow them with certain doom: strawberries get rotten, and we’ll all be forgotten.
The Beatles, “Strawberry Fields Forever”
At risk of alienating Beatles fans–sorry, you either grew up in a Beatles household or you didn’t!–here is a scene from Across the Universe. I like that it takes the uneasy mood of the song and takes it a step further by making the strawberries bleed and explode. I suppose Julie Taymor’s message is that strawberry fields can hardly be forever if pretty young men are being sent off to war.
Justin Timberlake, “Strawberry Bubblegum”
To end on a lighter note–I think? From certain angles this is a light, playful pop song that captures the silly, heady flush of infatuation. On the other hand, the sexual allusions are not discreet, and as with the ice cream man tunes of the Summer Sweets playlist, it’s a little creepy to juxtapose those intimate lyrics with the childish pleasures of candy and gum popping.
Justin Timberlake: aspiring to be Michael Jackson, is actually Eli lowering himself into a bathtub of homemade jam on Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23.