As the card companies and jewelry stores will tell you, Valentine’s Day is a-comin’. Love it or hate it, there’s no stopping it. I am about the least romantic person you’ll ever meet, but I’ve never had a problem with it. To me, Valentine’s Day meant one thing, and one thing only: candy. Some years, I got more candy on Valentine’s Day than I did on Halloween. Valentine’s Day was not about boyfriends or true love or any of that garbage; it was about receiving candy and handing out the goofiest Valentine cards you could find.
Since I celebrate Valentine’s Day for the wrong reasons, I do enjoy the holiday. In celebration of a day full of chocolate heart-shaped treats, I present a two-part Valentine’s Day blog: love songs.
I know what you’re thinking: love songs? Didn’t I just say I wasn’t romantic? It’s true: I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy music. I loved some of these songs before I even KNEW they were love songs. I divided them into two sections: the first section contains songs that are pretty easily pegged as love songs – they tend to be sweet and nice and there’s no question about it. However, most of these love songs are about fleeting love, so even I can handle it. The second section, however, consists of songs that I personally would categorize as love songs, but they’re a whole lot less romantic. Here we have Part I: Romantic Love Songs. I’ll do my best to stomach it.
Simon and Garfunkel: “Kathy’s Song”
In order to fully grasp my appreciation of this song, one must fully grasp my appreciation of Simon and Garfunkel. I spent a solid five years during junior high and high school listening to almost nothing but oldies radio, and Simon and Garfunkel emerged as my clear favorites. I was a die-hard fan… about 35 years after their prime. I had all of their albums on CD and vinyl, and my friend Sarah and I even went to one of their reunion concerts in 2003. In any case, while “Kathy’s Song” is not my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song, it is one of my favorite love songs. Paul Simon wrote it after he had spent some time in England, where he met a girl named Kathy. The song is short and sweet, and it’s all about how much he misses her. SPOILER ALERT: Paul Simon and the mysterious Kathy never did end up together, but Paul Simon did end up (briefly) marrying Carrie Fisher, aka Princess Leia.
Tommy James and the Shondells: “Crimson and Clover”
I so clearly remember the very first time I heard “Crimson and Clover.” I was driving in the Buick, listening to the radio. Towards the end of the song, the music gets all wobbly. (Fun useless fact: this effect was achieved by plugging the microphone into a guitar amplifier and flipping the tremolo switch.) I thought my radio had blown a gasket, and I certainly couldn’t live without my radio. Just as I was calculating how much I’d have to save to get it switched, the song ended and everything went back to normal. “Crimson and Clover” has been one of my favorites ever since.
Neutral Milk Hotel: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
As evidenced by their name, Neutral Milk Hotel is one weird band. Many of their songs are just plain bizarre, but this one is bizarre in a “weird, but what a nice sentiment” kind of way. With lines like “but for now we are young/let us lay in the sun/and count every beautiful thing we can see,” it’s easy to look past the peculiarity of the song and just take in how sweet it really is.
Donovan: “Catch the Wind”
“Catch the Wind” is a love song without the happy ending. The song is about how wonderful it would be to be able to be with this woman, but it is impossible because of how flighty she is. You feel bad for the poor narrator; he’s smitten, but he knows it will never work. The lyrics are endearing just the same: “for me to love you now would be the sweetest thing/’twould make me sing/ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind.”
West Side Story: “Tonight”
West Side Story has never been one of my favorite movies. I know, I know: Romeo and Juliet, blah blah blah. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I’ve never been thrilled with the idea of love at first sight. Tony and Maria have known each other for approximately two seconds (give or take) when they sing this song. Gag. All that aside, it really is a nice song about how love makes the world a better place. That is, until the gag war, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Frank Sinatra: “The Way You Look Tonight”
Old Blue Eyes never fails you come Valentine’s Day. That smooth voice, that smile. This song is a must-have at any respectable wedding. Sinatra sings about always remembering you “just the way you look tonight,” come what may. I’m no romantic, but this song can melt even my cynical heart.
Pete Yorn: “Precious Stone”
Much like “Catch the Wind,” “Precious Stone” is about impossible love. In this case, the relationship’s end is inevitable, even though the narrator doesn’t want it to be: “I know you know it’s going nowhere/and I feel the hurt from miles and miles/cause I want to be with you forever/I want to be your precious stone/I’ll never be your precious stone.” It’s really quite sad; the rest of the lyrics are about how incredible this woman is and how much he really does love her. Poor Pete Yorn. Life is tough.
The Beatles: “Here, There, and Everywhere”
This is really a nice song. It’s about the narrator’s love for a woman who apparently has super powers: “changing my life with a wave of her hand.” Ok, maybe she doesn’t have super powers. But in this case, whatever the two of them have must be something special.
Elton John – “Your Song”
Elton John is generally not the first person you think of when you think of love songs. I tend to associate him more with sparkly glasses and giant platform boots. However, “Your Song” is really quite nice. Elton John sings about “how wonderful life is/while you’re in the world.” Aww, fer cute!
The Proclaimers: “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”
This song is about a guy who is very insistent that he’s going to be the one in this girl’s life. He’s gonna be the one getting drunk next to her, and he’s gonna be the man who’s coming home to her. He isn’t quite as bossy as he sounds: he’s willing to give her all his paychecks and will walk 500 miles, and then 500 more “just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door.” Now that’s dedication.
So there you have it. My top 10 romantic-ish love songs. Now that we've gotten all the drippy stuff out of the way, stay tuned for part II: less romantic, more awesome!