Tom Petty said it best in the Heartbreakers’ hit “You Got Lucky”:
“Good love is hard to find.”
If you are anything like me, you have not been so lucky to find the one to fill your heart and your Instagram feed just yet. In the name of public service, I have decided to compile a short list of the best love songs that are most dangerous to singles on the capitalist-fueled faux holiday we call Valentine’s Day.
“Love On The Brain”- Rihanna
If you listened to the radio at all in the past year and a half, you definitely heard this beautiful ballad. Rihanna uses her insane vocals to describe a sadistic love that beats her “black and blue” on the slow, building track. The pop powerhouse is accompanied by a deep drum and a soulful keyboard to create a timeless doo-wop sound. The lyrics are so universal that the song can be sung in any genre and retain its powerful meaning: Alternative rock group Cold War Kids performed a beautiful rendition of the song during their set at Bonnaroo Music Festival this past summer (although I definitely prefer the original). RiRi perfectly details the dichotomy of love: the pain it brings alongside the relief only it can provide.
“I Want You”- Bob Dylan
This happy-go-lucky tune opens with signature Dylan harmonica and country medley of instruments. Dylan sings poetic verses in between the chorus that longingly recites “I want you.” Perhaps one of my favorite lyrics ever sung comes from this song: “The cracked bells and washed-out horns / Blow into my face with scorn / But it’s not that way / I wasn’t born to lose you.” The skilled songwriter places extra emphasis on “born” in order to create a near-rhyme with the preceding “horns” and “scorn,” an intelligent tactic that gives the line a special ring. Dylan describes his purpose as loving another with the line that discusses overcoming obstacles to obtain the object of his affection. Dylan beautifully captures the vulnerable struggle and fulfilling reward inevitably involved in loving someone. You have my whole heart, Bob.
“LOVE.”- Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari
DAMN., an album that definitely should have won Album of the Year at the Grammys, would be incomplete without an authentic love song—one is not authentically human without experiencing love. Rapper Kendrick Lamar overcomes the historically stringent expectations of masculinity of black men on the sultry track in order to discuss his experience with real love. Lamar ditches hip-hop genre conventions of objectifying women with derogatory terms (yay feminism) in order to respectfully court the woman of his affection, a bold but noble endeavor. The loved-up beat is composed of slow, John Hughes-esque ’80s love song tones punctuated by trap hiccups. Zacari’s angelic voice provides half of the chorus for the song, begging “Sippin’ bubbly, feelin’ lovely, livin’ lovely / Just love me.”
“You’re The One”- The Black Keys
If I could marry a song manifested in the form of a human being, it would undoubtedly be this one. The lyrics are simple and few, but they tell a beautiful story: A boy matures and moves from familial love for his mother to gain the capacity for romantic love for a woman. Dan Auerbach’s dragging out of the lyric “Now I’m old / And Wise / When I see / Your Eyes / You’re the one” along with the slow, romantic guitar chords allude to the growth required to experience feelings of love beyond lust. The song is relaxed and mellow, mirroring the steady nature of true love. The relaxed ballad is also dear to my heart because it reminds me of my favorite corner of the world, Avila Beach, Calif., where I have watched many a beach sunset to this tune—if you aren’t loving a person on Valentine’s Day, you can at least love a place.
“Can’t Help Falling In Love”- Elvis Presley
Chances are, this was your parents’ or grandparents’ (shout out to my grandpa’s year-long campaign for a family vacation at Graceland) wedding song. Released in 1961, this Blue Hawaii hit is undoubtedly one of the greatest love songs of all time—if not the greatest. Elvis, the original heartthrob, sings of the natural and unstoppable force of love over the serene sounds of an acoustic guitar, light drumming, and a ukulele. The simple four line chorus is beautifully simple and timeless: The King croons “Like a river flows / Surely to the sea / Darling so it goes / Some things are meant to be.” Slow and steady, the song imitates the sustaining happiness that only good love can provide. Plus, (young, relatively sober) Elvis wouldn’t be the worst Valentine in the world—at least before he books you a room at the “Heartbreak Hotel.”
It goes without saying that anything by Ed Sheeran or John Mayer should be avoided at all costs—those men have more feelings (or at least greater awareness of their feelings) than the rest of the male species combined. If you are single, consider sticking to songs like Rooney’s “Where Did Your Heart Go Missing?,” The Police’s “So Lonely,” or of course The Killers’ Heartbreak Hill anthem “Mr. Brightside.” During my diligent research for this column (which really just consisted of consulting my “Wedding” playlist on Spotify), I discovered that music finds its way back to the subject of love more often than not—maybe just leave the headphones at home on Valentine’s Day.
Featured Image by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor