(February 1, 2023). When the legendary Diana Ross (while still a Supreme) sang the title line “Stop! in the name of love, before you break my heart,” in that 1965 No. 1 classic, did you know that she was displaying the behavior of “The Hopeless”?
Or when icon Whitney Houston confronted her philandering man with evidence (“I found your credit card receipt”) in the 1999 smash “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay,” that she was emerging from being “The Blind” to a state of enlightenment (especially as she was now liberating herself from the bad relationship)?
Or how about when modern-day R&B singer Jhene Aiko uttered “What’s better for you than me?” in her 2019 hit “None of Your Concern”? Did you realize that she was exhibiting a classic behavior of “The Manipulator”? (“None of Your Concern” was rumored to be Aiko’s breakup song from rapper Big Sean, by the way.)
Those three epiphanies and more are the result of the blog’s correlation of popular songs about being stuck in unfaithful relationships (or, in some cases, finally emerging from them) with behaviors described in the enlightening new book by Sharon Mathews Fortune entitled The Truth About The Lies.
That book, first printed in 2021, deeply explores the topic of infidelity, particularly from a woman’s perspective, and even more pointedly from the author’s assessment that it is the women in these dysfunctional relationships that own much of the control of (and responsibility for) their fates…particularly if they know their man is cheating and decide to stay.
The Truth About The Lies is a provocative look at the roles of both women and men in these situations but the book’s target audience is clear: women who’ve been cheated on and have elected to stay with an unfaithful man, for one not-so-uncommon reason or another.
The book—subtitled “What Women Tell Themselves That Keeps Them Stuck With Cheating Men”— has a main premise: to categorize these women by the lies… not that their men tell, but by the lies the women tell themselves in order to stay in the relationships. The Truth About The Lies isn’t meant to shame women, but to enlighten them and help them rediscover their values, their principles and, perhaps most importantly, their self-worth.
Not surprisingly, the men don’t exactly come out smelling like roses by the time you’re done reading the book (which this blogger highly recommends). Even with old familiar themes and belief systems playing out within its pages, The Truth still offers an interesting take on the age-old institution of cheating, or as it has been more eloquently put in songs over the years: when one’s heart goes out to play (Smokey Robinson’s “Ooh Baby Baby”) or when he’s only being human (“Human” by “Human League”).
This is obviously a sensitive topic, one that the author Fortune, who is also an experienced psychotherapist and Licensed Professional Counselor, takes on boldly. As a music blogger, I found utility in her book because it gave perspective to many of the situations that have played out in some of the most popular cheating records ever made over the past half-century or more.
I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and the last thing you want to read or hear about is cheating in relationships or in song, especially when the holiday of love should instead be about celebrating couples and their commitment to one another. Cupid’s bow should right now be aimed squarely at bringing hearts together, not ripping them apart.
But this is a subject that was too hard for the blog to ignore, especially with so many songs that fit the scenarios painted so eloquently by Matthews Fortune, and examples popping up in practically every genre of modern popular music.
Before we delve deeper, it’s worth noting that not every woman stays or is “stuck” as Matthews Fortune puts it. Many women do leave cheating situations. And many songs have reflected that outcome, some defiantly.
In Beyoncé’s 2006 smash “Irreplaceable,” for example, the singer confidently reminds her philandering man of the assets that attracted him to her in the first place, letting him know that she can find “another you in a minute” before mentioning that the replacement is already on his way.
In Toni Braxton’s “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” the ‘90s superstar asserts that her ex-man’s new wife got the raw end of the deal (the idea of the mistress gaining nothing more than a cheating man is touched on several times in The Truth About The Lies, btw).
But for every victor in Toni Braxton and Beyoncé, there’s a victim in Diana Ross or Dolly Parton, in song at least…the woman who stays stuck because, well, I’ll let these examples explain it.
For instance, in Ross’ 1980 megasmash “Upside Down,” the Motown legend appears to settle for her cheating man when she acknowledges, albeit respectfully: “I’m aware that you’re cheating, but no one makes me feel like you do.” “The Settler” gets a whole chapter in Matthews Fortune’s book.
In Parton’s 1973 classic “Jolene,” the country music icon practically begs the other woman not to take her man simply because she can. “The Finger-pointer” here, as Matthews Fortune categorizes it, is Dolly, even if Jolene hasn’t yet made her move on the man, at Dolly’s behest.
A more contemporary rendering of this sentiment is found in R&B singer SZA’s 2022 hit “I Hate U,” where the St. Louis native declares: “…you air me out tripping about your whereabouts, I can’t keep no conflict with you, boy, can we just rub it out?” Again, another “Settler.”
The protagonists in all three of those songs might also fit squarely into the book’s chapter about “The Helpless,” or women who basically have given up on themselves and feel that their cheating man is all that they have.
In that chapter, Matthews Fortune explores the woman who “feels stuck” because her financial circumstances, for instance, won’t allow her to leave.
The book delves into that dilemma eloquently, while rapper Megan Thee Stallion describes the situation more bluntly in her 2022 nugget “Ms. Nasty,” where she raps: “It really ain’t my business what you do with other women, as long as I’m fed and my pockets stay full. I ain’t f***kin’ up the bag tryna act a damn fool.”
Chuckling aside, Megan may not have been pining for a committed relationship in her brutally honest depiction, but the kind of rope she’s giving her partner to play the field certainly has appeared in tunes describing more traditional relationships.
For example, The S.O.S. Band, the legendary soul group out of Atlanta, made this point very clearly when lead singer Mary Davis emoted: “I don’t care about your other girls, just be good to me.”
A much more classic version of the woman who feels stuck because she simply “doesn’t want to start all over” is described in the book and epitomized in Gloria Gaynor’s iconic 1978 disco anthem “I Will Survive,” where the one-time disco queen begins, “First I was afraid, I was petrified. Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side.”
Of course, the protagonist in that No. 1 smash regains her strength and ultimately shows her man the door (“Go on now go, walk out the door. Just turn around now, ‘cause you’re not welcome anymore”).
In another book chapter, Matthews Fortune addresses “The Finger-Pointer,” the woman who blames her circumstances on everything from her man’s upbringing to his friends’ influence to the other woman’s unsolicited pursuit. On the latter point, the author even explores the man as the victim, a theme the legendary country icon Tammy Wynette immortalized on record with her 1968 classic “Stand By Your Man.”
In that No. 1 country tune, Wynette sang “if you love him, you’ll forgive him, even though he’s hard to understand…oh, be proud of him, ‘cause after all, he’s just a man.” (former First Lady Hillary Clinton famously dissed that song in explaining why she remained with future-president Bill Clinton during a 1992 60 Minutes interview after news of his alleged affair with Gennifer Flowers broke—years before the Monica Lewinsky scandal later rocked the Clinton White House.)
Another well-known, real-life celebrity cheating scenario where the wife ultimately stayed involved superstar Beyoncé and her billionaire rapper/entrepreneur hubby Jay-Z. In fact, Bey, who only a decade earlier took the I-can-do-better-without-you anthem “Irreplaceable” to No. 1 on the Hot 100, made an entire album about Jay’s infidelity and her own empowerment with the 2016 opus Lemonade.
One of that album’s songs epitomizes many of the lies women tell themselves as explained in The Truth, specifically in the song “Hold Up,” where Beyoncé sings: “they don’t love you like I love you” and “I’ma f*ck me up a bitch,” before noting that she “kept it sexy” and “kept it fun.” All of this after she senses that “something ain’t right” as she smells her man’s secrets “comin’ up after midnight.”
In that song’s lyrics alone, Bey embodies several of Matthews Fortune’s lie categories, including “The Manipulator,” “The Fingerpointer” and “The Blind.”
Speaking of Bey’s predilection to “f**king up” someone, another aspect of the cheating dynamic that Matthews Fortune explores and which has often played out in song is the women who confront and fight each other over the man at the center of it all.
This confrontation has played out in many classics of different genres, including by country’s first lady Tammy Wynette (“You Ain’t Woman Enough”), ‘90s R&B group MoKenStef (“He’s Mine”), neo-soul star Meshell Ndegeocello (“If That’s Your Boyfriend, He Wasn’t Last Night”) and, perhaps the biggest of all, Brandy & Monica (“The Boy Is Mine”).
But biggest isn’t always best, as evidenced by the two songs this blogger believes epitomized this confrontation between women better than any two songs before or since.
In 1974’s No. 1 soul song “Woman to Woman” by Shirley Brown, she name-checks “Barbara” and sings: “it’s only fair I let you know that the man you’re in love with… he’s mine” before adding, “the clothes on his back… I buy them. The car that he drives, I pay the note every month.”
That was enough of a slap to elicit a response record months later by opportunistic Barbara Mason titled “From His Woman To You,” where the “Yes, I’m Ready” singer retorted, “I don’t know what you’re gonna do, but he is giving to me what he’s getting from you” before calling Shirley “the fool.”
You might call Barbara Mason “The Compromiser” in this situation, or as The Truth About The Lies explains in the final chapter, a woman who stays because “he takes care of me.” After all, Barbara does admit in her song that she “doesn’t mind sharing” and “if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you.”
Seems fair, right?
Oh wait, Barbara was the other woman in that love triangle. Her song’s boldly possessive title threw me off there for a minute.
Elsewhere in her book, Matthews Fortune distinguishes between the man who is a cheater and the man who has cheated. She discusses the pros and cons of couples counseling. She also illustrates the irony of women not leaving their cheating man out of fear of just meeting another cheater and, instead, simply resetting their relationships with a known cheater.
The Truth is there are as many nuances to this issue of infidelity as there are songs about cheating, or being cheated on, as Matthews Fortune so adeptly illustrates in her book’s eight chapters… many more aspects than I’ve described here.
You’ll just have to get yourself a copy of The Truth About The Lies (and while you’re at it, the companion workbook) and find out what else drives men to cheat, and what women tell themselves that allows them to stay in those situations.
In the meantime, enjoy this short playlist of cheating songs told mainly from women’s points of views (or at least sung with their voices).
Author Sharon Mathews Fortune and DJRob are high school classmates. DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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4 thoughts on “<strong>Girl, You Can Do Better! A musical parallel to the book ‘The Truth About The Lies’ by Sharon M. Fortune, and why women stay with cheating men</strong>”
Hi! Just wondering- what template did you use for your website? I want to use it on my blog at https://garminexpress.global
It’s called NewsUp. It works with WordPress.
I still crack up laughing every time I hear Whitney Houston sing –
“Friday night you and your boys went out to eat, uhhh
Then they hung out
But you came home around three, yes you did
If six of y’all went out, ah
Then four of you were really cheap, yeah
Cause only two of you had dinner
I found your credit card receipt” She called out that BS #Bwah-ha-ha! 🤣
Yes she did! It was perfectly clever!