It’s February and your corporate overlords tell you your plans be damned, it’s the month of love. So how about we listen to some cool songs about love from a few different genres?
“I’m looking so crazy in love, got me looking, got me looking so crazy in love.”
We begin with an in-depth analysis of Beyoncé Knowles’ 2003 pop masterpiece Crazy In Love.
Just kidding. I’m not really a big fan of Beyoncé. Or love songs for that matter. I tend to enjoy the abstract side of music more, so when I’m listening I’m always less focused on the meaning than on the groove.
But I do listen to a shitload of music, from classical Indian to Korean pop. So from time to time I stumble across the odd song where someone’s either in love, been in love, or going to be in love. The topic comes up.
We find the official February brand of love a little boring so we threw together a couple of Not-Valentine’s Day songs about love – all love, with its tenderness, its messiness, its sweetness and its sorrow. And also, you know. Sheboinkin’.
1. Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? – She & Him
Why don’t you sit right down and make me smile. You make me feel like I am just a child!
You’ve gotta love this upbeat little affair by Zoey Deschanel’s indie duo She and Him. It’s so purdy! A disarmingly charming pop ditty with an intro and harmonies very much reminiscent of Help!-era Beatles. The video is also cute-as-hell. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Deschanel’s co-star in 500 Days Of Summer) and Zoey herself, it dares you not to learn the dance routine with your loved one (minus the back-flips).
The lyrics are actually a little bleak, but the playfulness of the music and Deschanel’s bright, naive vocals (uh-huh!) turn it all around – this feels like an innocent love, with its best days still ahead. If this tune doesn’t put a smile on your face I don’t know what will.
2. It never entered my mind– Miles Davis Quintet
Once I laughed when I heard you saying That I’d be playing solitaire Uneasy in my easy chair It never entered my mind.
Smiles don’t abound on this one, though. But on the other hand, it’s one of the most touching ballads about loneliness and regret I’ve ever heard and one of Miles Davis’ best evah recordings.
It’s an instrumental version of the classic jazz standard, sung by everyone big from Ella to Sinatra, so you miss out on those lyrics but it more than makes up for it with smooth musical awesomeness. Miles and his Quintet conjure dim lights, cognac in big glasses, and the faintest scent of perfume. And they take it real slow too (listen to how that rhythm section just eeeases into action), evoking all the pensive nostalgia of the original but y’know. Without words (yay jazz).
This is Miles at his least cool and detached and it’s gorgeous. Who said serious jazz couldn’t be easy listening?
3. Jellyfish – Ghostface Killah
Ayo she a diamond in the rough Black rose in the hood I love my queen and she treat me good Fuck cookin’ for me She stash me out when the feds come lookin’ for me.
That’s love. This tune is awesome because it makes me think of my 2nd and 6th favourite things: food and sex. Starring the insanely talented Ghostface Killah (Wu Tang Forever!), this track is sexy as hell and punctuated by the grooviest baseline you’ll hear all year, courtesy of a sample by MF Doom. And these guys make their ladies sound absolutely delicious:
Waitin’ on my sweet strawberry pecan rican LaShawn Holdin’ my taffy down when I’m gone [. . .] Thats why I’m eatin her candy And suckin her toes.
I’ll have two of those, please!
Plus it has both (i) an absolute classic music-nerd orgasm moment – when the bass breaks at the end of the section beginning with an excellent Marvin Gaye citation and ending with the bit quoted up top; and (ii) Ghostface’s hilariously abortive attempt at singing at the very beginning. A very exciting girl indeed.
Check it out, yo.
4. La fille aux cheveux de lin – Debussy
Boo bonking, let’s get things classy in here. Hey, do you like Debussy? We do! He makes music and he’s French. We also love that he’s the ultimate musical impressionist (but don’t tell him that, you’ll piss him off ). The way he hints at melodies and outlines themes and then allows you to fill the gaps yourself is very Monet (just listen to his Nuages while looking at Water-lilies) and looks like a pretty clear inspiration for bebop and other forms of jazz.
This one’s based on a poem by Leconte de Lisle, on whom I do not have an opinion, but if I did it would be very profound. The poem’s very pretty, but I think Lang Lang’s finger tink-a-linking more than does the trick on its own. Do you have a favourite recording of this composition? Let us know which, we’d love to discover it.
5. It Is You – Natalie Prass
So many things will fill my life But only one will do It is you, it is you, it is you.
Natalie Prass had quite a 2015. The Nashville singer-songwriter’s debut album was met with universal acclaim and the media kept comparing her to our 13th favourite action hero type -the Disney Princess. It’s easy to hear why too. As Pitchfork’s Jeremy Gordon put it:
There’s idealism in her voice that’s tempered by heartbreak without falling prey to cynicism—like the bitterness has been skimmed off the top, leaving an evergreen sweetness.
It is You is perhaps her most Disney song of all, and fans of Frozen will enjoy it. It’s not a brand of love I particularly relate to, but it’s a sweet little tune that takes the edge off things, a little like morphine. I’d have to listen to it close to a poodle and see how far its effect really goes. Anyway, give it the proverbial spin and discover one of 2015’s more twee entries in the music world.
6. Shelter from the storm – Bob Dylan
Suddenly I turned around and she was standing there With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
I! LOVE! THIS! SONG! And you love it too, really. Remind yourself.
It’s a Great thing to have a partner that makes you feel safe in their hands. Dylan weaves verse after beautiful verse around this sentiment, but from a place of heartbreak. At the time the album Blood on the Tracks was released, he was getting increasingly estranged from his wife Sara so the whole thing is tinged with nostalgia and regret. Hey! I’m sensing a theme here.
I love it when Dylan goes all mythological on us with verses like the one quoted above. That description of her is pretty much my Looking For entry on all of my online dating profiles: ideal date must take crown of thorns and be stealthy. Oh Bob, you’re so me.
Anyway, the point is, even if filtered through heartbreak, Shelter from the Storm is a beautiful depiction of love at its most reassuring. Also, I think she sounds hot.
Yeah then I saw love disfigure me, Into something I am not recognising.
Yep, fasten your seatbelts ’cause this is the most depressing song on this list. But at least it’s one of the most beautiful. Phosphorescent’s poignant Song For Zula is all about love as a scarring experience, a killer from some awful dream. But it’s also incredibly earnest and that emotional honesty at its core elevates this into one of my favourite tracks of the past five years.
8. Bring it on home to me –Sam Cooke
You know I’ll always be your slave Till I’m buried, buried in my grave.
My absolute favourite singer, King Of Soul Sam Cooke, became a superstar thanks to his combination of incredibly raw, passionate vocals and a production as smooth and silky as Marc’s tannins. In this legendary live performance recorded in 1963 at the Harlem Club Square you get a taste of the real Sam, without studio post-production, and backed instead by a stripped-down brass section. And he really lets loose the full impact of his trademark rasp.
He starts with a passionate monologue about a phone call with his baby that climaxes in a dramatic citation of his own mega-hit You Send Me – the guy has sounded smoother but never more powerful. Then he belts out a joyous, heartfelt rendition of his classic Bring It On Home To Me that just brings the house down.
It’s a Great Musical Moment, captured in the spectacular opening montage of Michael Mann’s underrated boxing biopic Ali. The finale is also brilliant, with Sam’s call-and-response with the audience reminiscent of the best live Freddie Mercury. Listen to it – it’ll make you sweaty.
If you like anything on the list (or not) let us know why in the comments below. And if you’re in the mood for more music about love, check out our little post on Jacques Brel’s heartbreaking Ne Me Quitte Pas. If you have Spotify and would like to shuffle- listen to the very ginormous love song playlist I put together, click hereor scroll below: