The first book-length inquiry into the subject of the twisted romantic ballad.
Titled after Soft Cell's version of the original 1965 Gloria Jones track, Tainted Love
is the first book-length inquiry into the subject of the twisted romantic ballad, giving a sense of both its history and contemporary currency.
Sometimes extreme, this twist to the conventional romantic ballad spans across gender and generational boundaries to subvert our understanding of both the genre's function and its behavior. Each chapter of Tainted Love
takes a deep dive into a single twisted ballad, examining both its inner workings—lyrics, melody, and vocal approach—and its broader cultural resonance.
Featuring an analysis of songs by Kendrick Lamar, Nina Simone, Roxy Music, Joni Mitchell, The Velvet Underground, Frank Sinatra, Soft Cell, Paul McCartney, Charlotte & Serge Gainsbourg, PJ Harvey & Nick Cave, and Little Simz, this book turns on the question: What compels songwriters to compose—and us to listen to—these warped songs?
"Alex Coles manages to uncover even more depth and beauty in these songs than I thought possible."
— Jeremy Deller
is like a new set of speakers, revealing nuances of lyric and sound in familiar songs. Coles is an uncommonly sensitive listener; his writing always invites you back to the music itself."
— Adam Bradley
"Alex Coles began as an art critic, probed the relationship between art and design, and emerges here in a new guise as a music writer. Coles listens as hard, and hears as incisively, as he used to look. Tainted Love
's essays are highly personal, meticulously researched love songs to a musical subgenre suffused with complex and often awkward emotions."
— Rick Poyner
Alex Coles is a London-based art and design critic, lecturer and editor. He is the author of DesignArt (Tate Publishing, 2005) and a regular contributor to Art Monthly, Contemporary, Parachute, and Artext.