“How much better is your love than wine; the fragrance of your perfume is better than any spice!” –Song of Solomon 4:10
Welcome to a special Valentine edition of Overlooked Hooks! In the spirit of all the lovey-dovey hooey that gets associated with February 14th, we’ll look at a song taken almost word for word from the most amorous book of the Bible, Song of Solomon.
Derek Webb has always stood out as unique voice in Christian songwriting since he helped found the successful and influential band Caedmon’s Call in the mid-nineties. “Better Than Wine”, comes from Webb’s second solo album after leaving the band for a solo career in 2003, shortly after marrying fellow singer/songwriter Sandra McCracken. I See Things Upside Down started in earnest a divergent direction Webb has continued to the present day. While much of the album retains the folky roots of his “Call” days, songs like “We Come To You” exhibit a bit of his electronic music leanings on this album, which he has embraced fully on his most recent release, Stockholm Syndrome. “Better Than Wine” keeps straight pop presence throughout, without much of the quirkiness found in other tracks, but still stands out for its incorporation of so many words taken directly from the scripture on which it is based.
Opening with a simple strumming, the production fills out with piano and a lead guitar, setting up a feel that makes me think of early 80’s pop. The first hook comes in verse one, with the song’s title “better than wine”. This is repeated twice at the end of verse two, “cause you are mine” where it sets up the chorus. The chorus itself is distinguished by Webb’s voice hitting a high register on the title again, then coming back down to hit hard on the word “love” for “is your love, is your love”. A nice bass line punctuates the bridge, and gives a change of pace before transitioning into the chorus with “your love is so much…”
The song opens with Solomon’s words to his bride, and Derek sticks to this type of narration throughout the song, so it’s easy to imagine the king himself giving an update on his original “Song” through a new voice. Almost all lyrics in the verses are taken directly from the scripture, moving around the theme of wine, which Webb gets to again in the bridge, stating love has made him “feel a little drunk”, but quickly explains he’s in his “right mind” about how he feels.
You can hear plenty of sappy songs around Valentine’s Day that can’t touch the power of the spiritual bond described in this song. This isn’t a longing puppy love, or a shallow tryst, this song (and Solomon’s Song) paint a picture of what true commitment looks like. It’s not easily thrown away, certainly isn’t boring, and while both may make you feel “a little drunk”, the kind of love the song and the scripture tells about is “so much better than wine”.