In Rob Sheffields’ 2007 autobiography, titled, Love is a Mixt Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time he proves in many ways that saying, “so and so’s album was the soundtrack of my life” is any but an exaggeration. Early on in the book, on the matter of mix tapes — playlists if you want to think of it in a modern context — he explains rather categorically, “There are all kinds of mix tapes. There is always a reason to make one.”
This got me thinking. I always find myself complaining about the sheer surplus of love songs that come out every year. Love seems to reign supreme in music. Either you want to fall in love, you just fell in love, or you fell in love but said lover broke your heart… you know the deal. There are all kinds of love songs and apparently many reasons to write them, so in honor of Valentines’ Day, here are the 11 shades of love songs.
Every epic love story has a beginning. That moment before you even had a chance to get their name. The moment you knew there was something there; that there could be an us.
Childish Gambino’s “The Night Me and Your Mama Met,” does a fantastic job at wordlessly communicating that moment. And, with a little more to say about the same instant connection, bazio’s “Mad” and Outkast’s “Prototype” share the same sentiment with a little more familiarity.
They love me, they love me not. People are sneaky about a lot of things, their feelings included. Tiptoeing in the in between stage songs come in many shapes and sizes, but if there is one thing they have in common it’s an underlying fear of rejection and lovesick confusion.
Speaking of being obsessively cautious and aware of your counterparts' hold on your emotions, “A BOY IS A GUN*” fits perfectly into this category. From brushing the person off, to pleading with them to stay near, Tyler the Creator manages to flip between desire and disregard in the impressive span of four lines.
On the other side of spite, there is cautious appraisal, or, to put it simply, Mark Ronson and Diana Gordon’s “Why Hide.” Craving closeness, while remaining acutely aware of the space the other person is trying to impose upon her, she implores her subject to call her, and confirm that they are falling just, “as deep” as she is.
Depending on the context, infatuation can be endearing, or concerning. However, once put into a song, everything evens out, and you get the ever relatable I'm Obsessed With You track.
In terms of concentrated and light hearted interest, Amyl and The Sniffers’ “I Got You” fits the bill perfectly. As the “spot you across the room, you're kinda hot and I want you” scenario plays out, it’s impossible not to sing along and grin at the energic track.
A little funkier and casual, ESG’s “My Love For You” explores a more familiar bond. Leaving behind the usual butterfly trope, Renee Scroggins sings of her love as a transient roller coaster: “it goes up, down, and all around.”
While we are spoon fed romanticism, platonic love is just as strong and impactful as the latter. Giving it up to the 1% of in lives, you know me sooo well tracks are often dedicated to those friends that happen to know us inside and out. Your ride or die, so to speak.
As the title suggests, Donny Hathatway and Roberta Flack’s, “You’ve Got A Friend” is a wholesome track about the friendships for which you’d go through rain and sunshine.
Categorized as sacred love in Alain de Botton' novel “the course of love,” finding somebody who loves and understands you, whether it be platonic or romantic, is something that doesn’t come by very often. Ethereal connection songs express gratitude for these rare and necessary bonds.
In a very contemporary case, one of boygenius’ latest tracks “True Blue.” pictures this kind of admiration and appreciation in beautiful light. As they sing in the chorus, (“It feels good to be known so well”) the trio reflect on the simple comforts found in these relationships with great wonder and precision.
Here’s another question for you; never mind how many love songs there are out there, how many people do you think get engaged on Valentine’s Day? For the few, or many, that do I’m sure it’s for a good reason. A perfect proposal requires a perfect soundtrack, and what better way to tie the proverbial knot than to queue up a Forever Song.
Tender and light, Dijon’s “alley-oop” might be the perfect forever song. A proposal followed by a string of tentative commitments, “alley-oop” perfectly captures the subject's apprehensions as he almost hesitates to pop the question. Very sweet and idyllic, it doesn’t get better than this.
While relationships can materialize overnight, it doesn't take long before the dark clouds start rolling in, turning your romantic utopia into a dystopian quarrel. Trouble in Paradise songs aren’t quite as fun as I'm Obsessed with You tracks, yet they still manage to out-stage them in terms of emotional impact.
“Grapevine,” a bittersweet ballad off of Weyes Blood's latest album, always does the trick. Set in a long car ride on the infamous grapevine, the track is centered around a petty disagreement fueled by prior resentment. Throughout the song, the narrator jumps between the early days of their relationships, the good times, and the present as they slowly distance themselves from their partner.
While they occur more often than we’d like to admit, no matter how many times you’ve been through one, break ups can be tough. Embracing vulnerability and broken hearts, The Wounded Bird category encompasses all variations of break up songs.
There is nothing more resonant than a country song concerned with heartbreak and heartbreak only. So, to start off on the only appropriate note, we have Wednesday’s cover of Gary Stewarts “She's Actin ’Single (I'm Drinking Double).” Scratchy and refreshingly gritty, Wednesday’s rendition of this classic tune is sure to hit a little different when in your romantic depths.
On the other side of the coin, Darondo’s “Didn’t I” takes a more contemplative approach. Smooth and almost nostalgic, he takes the time to rummage through his memories and analyze whether or not he did enough for his significant other. Whether he did or didn't “treat her right” isn’t the main focus of the track, but rather the perplexed pleas that follow the rupture.
There are many reasons why one might avert intimacy and love all together. Songs in the Never Again category seek to self sooth and at times empower our decisions to momentarily call it quits.
Turning to a classic, “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” is the blueprint to this category. A light and pleasant track, “I’ll never fall in love again” gives fairly valid reasons to give up on romance like: germy pneumonia infested boys and the “lies and pains and sorrows” that follow. Lined up with Dionne Warwiks wispy voice and suave instrumentation, it’s hard not to reason with such strong arguments.
Without having to use too many words, songs in this category - including Marvin Gaye’s classic - do all the talking, allowing us to worry about the smaller details.
Slightly muted and filled with stylistic flares, D’Angelo’s “Feel Like Makin Love” leaves you wanting so much more. Staying true to the original's context and melody, jumpy bass riffs and short phrases add to the track's sensual intrigue. The ultimate tease.
Personally I will always consider “L’Amour Looks Something Like You” to be one of the most seductive tracks of all time. Awfully in tune with her desire for said love interest, Kate Bush delivers a theatrically captivating and enticing performance.
No matter how sorry you are, communicating remorse doesn’t always go as planned. While I’m not sure texting a “take me back” song in the dead of night will get you anywhere, Redemption Arc songs are always a good place to start when short on inspiration.
Tying the knot with what I'd consider to be a modern classic, we have Steve Lacy’s “Give You The World.” Sparkly, contemplative and oh so soft, “Give You The World” sees Lacy face his other half as a changed man. Willing to move forward and give them everything he didn’t in the past he asks for forgiveness in an impressive and vulnerable falsetto.