May 24, 2024

Cynicism is a growing phenomenon in music. True love songs are hard to come by these days. Deriving its name from Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” Yellow Diamonds is a series of lyric breakdowns in which VIBE Senior Music Editor Austin Williams celebrates songs that sound like love found in a hopeless mainstream. 

In the past, this column has been a space for certain thought experiments. Exercises like unpacking whether heartache can exist in a love song, demarcating the difference between love songs and bedroom music, and contextualizing what it truly means to give someone a chance to break your heart. In Tuesday’s (May 17) breakdown of Brandy’s “Angel in Disguise,” the song at the center of Jack Harlow’s first Twitter dragging, I stumbled upon another thought experiment—searching for the love, care, and shrouded intentions in dirty macking.

Dirty macking is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Broadly, I’d say it’s a form of courtship underscored by something less pure than love, but not totally removed from it. Things like the jealousy one feels when they want what another person has, the temptation in meeting the right person at the wrong time, or even the regret that comes with losing someone to the arms of their next partner.

“Angel in Disguise” was a particularly complicated case of dirty macking to investigate. Throughout the song, Brandy maintains a love for her ex despite seemingly taunting him for allowing someone else to break his heart. As she unmasks the fraudulent deity that duped her man, she makes sure he knows her feelings are still true. The dirty macking in the singer’s 1998 single is certainly present but nearly imperceptible if you aren’t looking for it.

Today, I’m here to compile much more obvious instances of romantic mischief. Below, check out the 9 best dirty macking love songs of all time.

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