What songs to play this Valentine’s Day
Brett and Jemaine perform "If You're Into It" on Flight of the Conchords S1E4
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A disproportionate amount of pop songs tend to center around one topic—not death, not taxes, not Aristotelian theory—but love. That does not mean, however, that just any tune is worthy of being on your soundtrack this Valentine’s Day. When you stop to think about it, the love of lyrics is generally superficial and, quite often, fleeting. Love songs that are actually about love and not simply lust, coolness, or break ups are thus worthy of distinct appreciation. Here are some you can enjoy this Valentine’s Day regardless of whether you are in love, or simply conveying some festive spirit.
1. “Up Where We Belong”-Buffy Sainte-Marie
Originally written to be the romantic component in a cinematic soundtrack, the song was taken back by Sainte-Marie, its songwriter, in 1996 and reimagined with gentle guitar licks. The song’s lyrics are cautious, thus avoiding sappiness, but are nonetheless optimistic and romantic. If, for some odd reason, you prefer your love songs to be cynical, check out Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time for You to Go.”
2.“Greetings to the New Brunette”-Billy Bragg
Are you a rough-around-the-edges, anti-Thatcher, footie fan who still has strong romantic feelings? If so, this is your anthem. If not, you can appreciate this track for its distinct lyrical character, and the sound of Johnny Marr’s guitar.
Love is sometimes too simple a feeling for words. This song’s lyrics aren’t just simple, they are laughably simple: “I/I/Love/Love/And I/And I Love you/Oh you/you/yeah, you!” Don’t be fooled, however, as this song’s beautiful instrumentation will lead you to fall in love with it in a completely non-sarcastic way.
4. “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”-The Shirelles
To honour love and sexuality means recognizing the anxieties that complicate them. The Shirelles’s version of this track is sufficiently upbeat so that the song makes for good pop-romance despite its depth. If you’re in a more introspective mood, however, check out the Carole King (the songwriter’s) version as well.
5. “If You’re Into It”-Flight of the Conchords
Semi-fictional songwriter Brett McKenzie wrote of how he’d climb the tallest mountain for his lover. Upon realizing that he couldn’t commit to this, he wrote this more … ”down to earth” track (watch Flight of the Conchords to get the whole context). If your partner is not in the mood for silliness, you may want to opt for Tracey Chapman’s “For My Lover” instead, which is closer in its sentiment to McKenzie’s original composition.
6. “There’ll Never Be Anyone Else”-Ricky Nelson
An early rock ‘n’ roller, Ricky Nelson played upbeat, youth-oriented tunes, but with a folky acoustic guitar (and in other cases, such as “Hello Mary Lou,” cowbell) sound. Nelson’s rustic style is particularly appealing, as it makes him easy to cover when playing a romantic serenade of your own.
7. “Nikita”-Elton John
While not John’s best song, this tune about a Cold War-era East-West romance has an important coded message to it. While the music video features John and a woman, Nikita is in fact a man’s name in Russia.
8. “Burning Love”-Elvis Presley
Love need not be all about slow dances. While still containing the traditional romantic imagery of fire, this song allows listeners to groove by combining the big sound of Elvis’s later years with the rock ‘n’ roll rhythm of his best tracks.
9. “I’m a Believer”-Neil Diamond
This song combines the upbeat sappiness of “Burning Love” and the accessible aesthetic of Ricky Nelson, as the rhythm in the track is provided by clapping back up singers. Listeners new to this version will likely be pleasantly intrigued to learn where “that song from Shrek” comes from, while appreciating the distinct angsty sound of Diamond’s young voice.
10. “Miracle of Miracles”-Leonard Frey
Perhaps I’m cheating by including a Broadway track, but this one is short and sweet. Built on charismatic vocals and over-the-top biblical allusions, this Fiddler on the Roof track is sung by a young man who overcomes rigid traditions and social anxiety to become engaged to his long-time love interest. It is thus an anthem for melodramatic, awkward romantics everywhere.