July 5th, 2007

Liz Shaw

Natasha Bedingfield vs Statistical Probability

So, it's fair to say that I don't like the Bedingfields in general or Natasha in particular or the appalling twee girls!-your-entire-life-should-be-about-finding-a-man-and-having-babies-with-him-ness of her lyrics in specific. But her latest effort "Soulmate" is particularly offensive. In it, she wails:

"Somebody tell me why I'm on my own, if there's a soulmate for everyone"

which quite apart from the fact that "own"/"everyone" could just about rhyme if sung the right way, and she sings it the exact opposite of that way, demonstrates the entire problem with the soulmate concept. There are more than six billion people in the world. You will probably properly meet a few thousand people in the course of your entire life. Let's say 60,000 (one in ten thousand of all the people in the world) as a really, really high end estimate.

So, if there is a single soulmate out there for everyone, as Natasha seems to be suggesting, the probability of any given person being them is one in six billion (this is taking everyone as bi to maximise the possible partner pool; call it the Torchwood assumption). Your odds of meeting that person then work out to one in ten thousand(ish). Even if we assume (as the soulmate model suggests) that this means they instantly click and never part except by Plot Device, then 99.99% of the population should be as lonely as Natasha.

Of course the obvious answer is that soulmates don't exist; there are a large pool of potential partners out there and some of them (if you're lucky) you'll form a deep bond with. There's a lovely bit in Captain Corelli's Mandolin (yes, it's incredibly middlebrow faux-deep twaddle, sue me) about people in love being like two trees that have grown all twisted round each other so that they can't be separated -- but they didn't start out that shape, they got there through years of mutual support and so on.

The problem is that the soulmate concept that noise pollution such as this latest song from "NB" (gak) encourages works against the formation of these sorts of relationships by making people think that tiny problems are signs of their partner "not being the one" -- the very idea that there is a "one" out there, magically, somewhere -- rather than something to work through.

Of course, pop music's main market is the romantically unhappy, so encouraging attitudes likely to increase romantic unhappiness is good for it in the long run.

(See also the Onion, "18 year old miraculously finds soulmate in home town".)

In other news: still very grumpy about the last few minutes of the Who finale, completely ruined my lovely Steed/Emma-style we-save-the-world-and-look-good-doing-it ship which I was enjoying a great deal, they did. Am going to retreat into my Who happy places, which are the opposite ends of the old school. Sensible cardigans and too-large leather jackets ahoy!