Oh boy, I thought. Here we go.
After all, when a heartthrob’s latest falsetto-filled R&B jam begins with the smoldering line, “Sweet baby, our sex has meaning,” we pretty much know exactly where it’s headed, right?
But in this case, I was (mostly) wrong.
It’s true, “Let Me” starts with an undeniably flesh-focused first verse, as former One Direction singer Zayn follows the line above with, “Know this time you’ll stay ’til the morning/Duvet days and vanilla ice cream.”
From there, however, Zayn expresses a longing for something more than just a casual sexual relationship. Instead, he wants a permanent one with the woman he loves. So much so, in fact, that much of what follows sounds closer to a wedding vow than a pickup line.
“Baby, let me be your man,” Zayn practically begs. “So I can love you.” If that offer wasn’t strong enough on its own, Zayn sweetens the deal with a litany of promises. “And if you let me be your man/Then I’ll take care of you/ … For the rest of my life, for the rest of yours/ … For the rest of ours.” Elsewhere, he adds that he wants “more than just one night together exclusively.”
Zayn also imagines some of what they might do together: “We’re drinking the finest label,” he says. “Dirty dancing on top of the table/Long walks on the beach in April.” Then another significant vow of sorts: “Yeah, I promise, darling, that I’ll be faithful.”
Things do take another sensual turn late in the song, as Zayn sings, “Give me your body and let me love you like I do/Come a little closer and let me do those things to you.” But then he reiterates that his desire is bigger than just the moment: “Let me be your man so I can love you/ … For the rest of my life, for the rest of yours.”
Obviously, we’re dealing with a romance in which physical intimacy has outpaced commitment here. That’s clear, and it’s problematic.
But though the song starts with sex, it doesn’t end there. Zayn says he loves this woman so much that he wants to spend a lifetime with her—a lifetime of love and faithfulness. Zayn may not mention marriage explicitly, but he’s at least expressing a longing for a permanent, committed relationship where intimacy has decades to grow and flourish.
And in a popular culture where feeling good in the moment is often the highest value, I think we need to give this British singer some credit for focusing on his desire to experience love for a lifetime in a committed relationship.
Jarringly, the song’s video casts Zayn in a Miami Vice-style narrative in which he’s a young drug dealer trying to entice a crime boss’s lady to join him. Passionate embraces and very skimpy outfits abound, while the song’s more significant themes of faithfulness and permanence take a backseat. I realize, of course, that plenty of videos do similar things. But in this case, the song’s themes of longing and yearning are replaced with images that are edgy, sensual and violent.
Returning the song itself, Zayn’s lyrics genuinely seem to reflect where he was at when he wrote the song. In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, he seemed to admit that it was about his famous ex-girlfriend, model Gigi Hadid:
“I was in love—and I think that’s pretty evident. And yeah, I was aspiring to be in love with someone for the rest of my life and the rest of theirs, as we all do. And things change and we move forward in life. Times change, but yeah, that’s what I was thinking when I wrote it.”
So despite the earnest emotions he pours out in this song, things didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped. And that outcome reminds us of an important cautionary lesson: When physical intimacy outpaces commitment—specifically, a marital commitment—the possibility for heartbreak gets amplified significantly.
And that’s a subject this song doesn’t deal with.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.