Love and Basketball II: Understanding Prince Phillip Mitchell's "One On One"

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Eric Freeman struck first on this great day of romance, dissecting the lyrics to Hall and Oates's "One on One" in honor of the other V-Day. He found it severely wanting, possibly the work of people who had never once set foot on a basketball court. A nation weeped, and all those pink roses and flammable chocolates looked a little less sexy for it. Playlists were deleted by the thousands, and somewhere, a guidance counselor weeped silently. 

Thankfully, I am here to save the holiday with a far superior "One on One" love song. It's by Prince Phillip Mitchell, a behind-the-scene R&B dude who started getting his own records released in the late 70's. I would so far to say that Mitchell's totally unrelated "One on One," from 1978's killer Make It Good, is both sexier and way more basketball-savvy than that blue-eyed drivel from the city I once called home. Prepare yourself for an odyssey of love, moves (sexy and otherwise), and courtship-as-playground-trash-talk. 

You don't have to tell me

How sweet you are

So right off the bat, there's a competitive dynamic in place. She wants him to know she's the shit. This is warfare, heavy metal warfare. Except graciously—or smugly—Prince Phillip is like "girl, I see you." He's preempting her first impression, maybe even her first move.

Honey I can look at you

And see you're a star

Backhanded and delicious. Whatever happens out there, he's already given her the respect she deserves. Now it's time for him to up the ante, to really make it sexy and sweep her off her feet. She's a star, and he's about to eat her for lunch.

Oh, but don't you think

That I'll get left behind

Just make your move girl and I'll make mine

And we'll be so close at halftime

All strutting aside, let's get down to business. If it's basketball, it's time to exchange blows. If it's romance, it's time to start the eternal dance of two souls toying with each other, in hopes of both giving in. Or one sweeping the other off its proverbial feet. Do souls have feet? Think about that next time you make a promise you can't keep. Of special note: "We'll be so close at halftime" suggests both that, underneath it all, there's an intimacy developing. Closeness through struggle. You love to hate and hate to love. Basketball is homoerotic.

So you're on your own

When you hear the whistle blow

Just shoot your best shot baby

And go for what you know

Sportsmanship and gallantry. There is a ref there, for some reason, which is either kinky or a sign of chivalry. Maybe just implied rules and norms? At the same time, he's like, "come on girl, bring it!" Love is no place for half-stepping.

It's one on one now baby

Ain't nobody else around

Just one on one baby

You've got to get on down

Good move baby

The chorus is almost an exhortation. Starting buzzer, let's get it on, ain't nothing like a party. Oh, and nice job! I love you!

Yeah you're really hot

But once you get me started

Don't you know I'm hard to stop

Supreme trash-talking. He's gone from polite condascension to being outright dismissive. Game on, and while Prince Phillip will acknowledge that she might have game—practically, not rhetorically—he's going to just as matter-of-factly announce that she's about to get housed. I have no idea how this translates into Valentine's Day messaging. Go destroy your significant other on the basketball court?

I'm gonna make a move that you've never seen before

Apparently his sex game is on another level.

Then I'm gonna tie up the score

Either a return to some equilibrium, toying with her, or some outright S&M. Wait, how did she get ahead? Were his fancy moves getting in the way of the real scorekeeping? Is he really messing with her, or is this a subtext of male delusions of control?

You're gonna scream and cheer for more

How she suddenly became a spectator, I don't know. I don't like the sexual politics advanced herein. Though she is clearing having a good time. I don't know of any basketball situation where a participant in a game of one on one suddenly stops and cheers on his or her opponent. Unless she's egging him on for her own purposes. This is one sneaky lady.

And you should be glad

That it's just us two

Cause you ain't gonna want no one to see

What I'm gonna whup on you

He's still talking about what he will do. She's cheering. What is going on? Note: These last two lines are pretty much unintelligible on the recording, so he probably didn't mean them that much.

One on one baby

Your touch against my kiss

We're back in the chorus, where all is shared. It's different this time around, though. The matchup has come into focus. She's a toucher, he's a kisser. She's a shooter, he likes to drive and go glass. This could be one of those stupid games of one on one where the two players are so differen, they can't really play against each other. Actually, the idea of two people making out and exchanging erotic specialties, sort of like "oh yeah? I can school you at X" is a far more interesting concept than a jump-shooter and inside player basically ignoring each other on the court.

One on one baby

We're gonna get to the bottom of this


Now you should be glad

That it's just us two

Cause you ain't gonna want no one to see

What I'm gonna whup on you

This time, he makes sure you can understand it.

One on one baby

Don't need a referee

The ref is gone? Did the game get too intense? Has love lost all rules and meanings? Are we dissolving into transcendental lust clouds?

Just one on one baby

It's me on you and you on me

And so it ends. Competing or embracing after the battle? We will never know. And really, is there any difference? Think about it. Now go be with those you hold most dear.

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