Friday, February 18, 2011

Love Songs for Valentine's Day (Everybody Now: "awwwww")

This is long, I know. Read it in chunks, if you like. Because it’s so long and I’ve worked on it in several sittings, it is probably more prone to typos. If you notice any, feel free to point them out with a post or let me know directly. If there’s any songs that you agree or disagree with me on, or think were overlooked, I’d love to hear about that, too.

It’s Valentine’s Day week, and we’re still celebrating over here at Will Preach For Food. And really, shouldn’t the spirit of Valentine’s Day be with us the whole year? Just like the spirit of Christmas. And Thanksgiving. And probably a few of the lesser known ones.

To commemorate this special week, I’m going to share with you the list of songs that is my itunes “LOVE SONGS” play list, with a word or two about some of them.

First, some criteria a song must meet to make this list:
1. I’ve got to like it. This is a surprisingly recent rule for inclusion on a song list of mine. I used to include songs because “they fit” or because I knew other people liked them. Beyond individual songs, there are certain genres of music that I like more than others. Those will probably become apparent.

2. Must be “somewhat known”. I used to have a hard-and-fast rule that a song had to crack the Billboard top 40 to make it onto a mix of mine. This was largely because I wanted people to listen to my mixes and both like AND know the songs they heard. It was half genuine-courtesy and half self-esteem-booster (and mostly anal-retentively arbitrary). For a lot of reasons, my rule has softened and is now something like, “This song reasonably could have been heard by someone through some form of media other than that person actually buying the album and playing it.”

3. Only one song per vocalist. For example, I couldn’t have two Journey songs, but also couldn’t have one Journey song and one Steve Perry song.

Now, I’ll list out the songs. You’ll probably see right away that the songs on this list can easily be broken down into 10 “types”. After this uninterrupted list, I will re-list them under their “type heading.” That is where I’ll say a word about some of the songs.

“Accidentally In Love,” Counting Crows
“Almost Paradise,” Ann Wilson & Mike Reno
“Bed Of Roses,” Bon Jovi
“Broken Arrow,” Rod Stewart
“Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol
“Collide,” Howie Day
“Crazy,” Icehouse
“Ever The Same,” Rob Thomas
“Everything,” Alanis Morissette
“Falling Slowly,” Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
“Forever And For Always,” Shania Twain
“Heaven,” Bryan Adams
“Hero,” Enrique Iglesias
“Hey, Soul Sister,” Train
“Hold My Hand,” Hootie and the Blowfish
“Hypnotize Me,” Wang Chung
“I Can’t Hold Back,” Survivor
“I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain
“I’ll Stand By You,” The Pretenders
“I Melt With You,” Modern English
“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel
“I Want To Know What Love Is,” Foreigner
“Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam
“Kiss the Girl,” Samuel E. Wright
“The Lady In Red,” Chris De Burgh
“Lay Your Hands On Me,” Thompson Twins
“Let My Love Open The Door,” Pete Townshend
“Love Story,” Taylor Swift
“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” Air Supply
“Mandy,” Barry Manilow
“My Love,” Lionel Richie
“Open Arms,” Journey
“The Rose,” Bette Midler
“Shama Lama Ding Dong,” Lloyd Williams
“She’s So High,” Tal Bachman
“Stand By Me,” Ben E. King
“Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper
“To Love Somebody,” Bee Gees
“To Love Somebody,” Michael Bolton
“Up Where We Belong,” Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
“You Decorated My Life,” Kenny Rogers
“You’re the One That I Want,” John Travolta & Oliva Newton John
“Your Song,” Elton John

Now, the 10 types of love songs on this list.

“Almost Paradise,” Ann Wilson & Mike Reno, from “Footloose”. This is part of the reason why I don’t have “Heaven In Your Eyes” by Loverboy (lead singer: Mike Reno) on this list (see criteria 3 above).

“Falling Slowly,” Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, from “Once”. My older daughter played this at her first piano recital.

“Up Where We Belong,” Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, from “An Officer and a Gentleman”

“You’re the One That I Want,” John Travolta & Oliva Newton John, from “Grease”. It was about the 6th listen before I could figure who was singing what part.

“Kiss the Girl,” Samuel E. Wright, from “The Little Mermaid.” No apologies for liking this one: In movie context, bringing in the instruments one by one as “sounds of animals” is brilliant. Just perfect.

“Shama Lama Ding Dong,” Lloyd Williams, from “Animal House.” Sweet, fun song from an obnoxious movie.

“Heaven,” Bryan Adams. I’d probably cut this if it hadn’t been on this mix since 1990 or so when I first started making mixes. It doesn’t resonate as “true” as it used to back in junior high.

“I’ll Stand By You,” The Pretenders. Not quite as classic as the others, but deserves to be. Great vocal—she doesn't treat the words as merely an opportunity to show her vocals: she actually sings the substance behind the words. And despite the ordinary title, the verses are pretty distinct lyrically (e.g, “So if you’re mad, get mad” is an unusual line for a love song).

“I Melt With You,” Modern English.

“In Your Eyes,” Peter Gabriel. I can honestly say I liked this song even before “Say Anything” was released; it was seeing the preview for “Say Anything” where I really fell in love with this song.

“I Want To Know What Love Is,” Foreigner.

“The Lady In Red,” Chris De Burgh. Lots of interesting stuff about Chris and this song on Wikipedia, including the fact that this “song was written in reference to (though not specifically about) his first wife Diane.” Not sure what that means exactly, or why they would refer to Diane as Chris’s “first wife” when it seems that she was and is his only wife (also from Wikipedia), but it’s interesting. If I could convince myself that “Don’t Pay The Ferryman” was a love song, this would get the boot.

“Open Arms,” Journey. Same as what I said about “Heaven”, but even more.

“Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper.

“Your Song,” Elton John.

When I know that the person singing is also the one who wrote it—and is someone regarded as a songwriter—the “sincerity factor” jumps pretty high.
“Ever The Same,” Rob Thomas. I was liking everything I heard from Matchbox Twenty, but hadn’t heard a love song, per se, from them. When Mr. Thomas released his first solo album, I liked the first two singles OK, but still no love songs. I remember hearing this for the first time as “the latest from Rob Thomas” and being like, “There it is. Rob Thomas writes a love song.”

“Everything,” Alanis Morissette. Nice little song about unconditional love. I once preached a sermon about this song, actually.

“I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain. I understand about 20% of the words in this song, but it sounds nice.

Love song mixes tend to be pretty mellow musically speaking, so if a song is more upbeat, it’ll move up the list for it.
“Accidentally In Love,” Counting Crows.

“Hold My Hand,” Hootie and the Blowfish.

“Let My Love Open The Door,” Pete Townshend. More interesting trivia from my sister site, Wikipedia: “A cover of this song was recorded by Audio Adrenaline with the interpretation of ‘my love’ referring to God’s love. This may be consistent with the composer’s intent: In the liner notes of Townshend's Gold (Remaster) CD, he refers to this song as ‘Jesus sings.’”

“Bed Of Roses,” Bon Jovi. Not the most popular Bon Jovi song, and arguably not really a love song, either—or at least not one I would want to have sung to me since the first verse mentions a blonde that the singer thinks is still in his bed. Makes the chorus seem slightly less sweet. But, dang, I do like the words, and bonus points for rhyming “close as” with “Ghost is”. Interestingly, for all of the swooning that Bon Jovi has caused through the years, they have released surprisingly few true “love songs.” “Bad Medicine”? “You Give Love A Bad Name”? “Living In Sin”? Not really love songs. “I’ll Be There For You” is probably their truest love song, but I like this one a lot better.

“Crazy,” Icehouse. Reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their other song, “Electric Blue”? #7. A travesty, I tell ya!

“Hypnotize Me,” Wang Chung.” Together with “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” makes up the yin yang of Wang Chung. Was included in but not written for the movie “Innerspace.”

“I Can’t Hold Back,” Survivor. They also sing those “Rocky” songs.

“Lay Your Hands On Me,” Thompson Twins. Not Bon Jovi, mind you, who sing their own “Lay Your Hands On Me.” And not “Hold Me Now,” which is that other Thompson Twins song.

“Broken Arrow,” Rod Stewart. I’m not a fan of Rod Stewart’s voice. He doesn’t write many of his songs, including this one. I would have thought my affection for this song would have worn off by now. Not sure why it hasn’t.

“Forever And For Always,” Shania Twain. I also like “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”—as long as I’m being honest and all.

“Hero,” Enrique Iglesias. I could do without the whispering, “Let me be your hero.”

“Making Love Out Of Nothing At All,” Air Supply. Featuring Roy Bittan and Max Weinberg of E Street Band fame on keyboards and drums, respectively.

“Mandy,” Barry Manilow. Mondegreen alert: I used to think the line “when you kiss me and stop me from shaking” was “when you kiss me and stop me from shaving.” Just a different image, one that involves a shirtless Barry Manilow with a towel around his waist and a face full of shaving cream—but that’s OK, right?

“My Love,” Lionel Richie. I don’t like it as much as I used to. It’s “on the bubble.”

“You Decorated My Life,” Kenny Rogers. My mom used to listen to Kenny Rogers a lot, and I was probably the biggest Kenny Rogers fan in my entire grade school. He’ll probably get his very own blog post one of these days. This is pure cheese.

These may not be as new as they once were, but nothing is, right?
“Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol. Within a year of this coming out, I saw it on a list of “Greatest Love Songs Ever” on or some similar site, so it made its mark pretty quick.

“Collide,” Howie Day.

“Hey, Soul Sister,” Train. Maybe you’ve heard this one.

“Love Story,” Taylor Swift. Could also be under “SINGER SONGWRITER”.

“To Love Somebody,” Bee Gees.

“To Love Somebody,” Michael Bolton. I first heard Michael Bolton’s version and thought it was a pretty nice idea lyrically, and I thought it was catchy enough. I also didn’t (and don’t) hate Michael Bolton as much as most people. (Wow, I feel like I’m really opening up here!) Then I discovered that this was a Bee Gees song originally, and heard their version. It’s pretty different, more innocent sounding, reminiscent to me of “Your Song”. I liked it. So which one do I bump? It’s like asking me to choose between my children. They both stay.

“Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam. I read a review that “this is the closest thing to a love song that Eddie Vedder has ever written.” It might be more of a “friendship song” or a “lost love” song. There’s definitely some bittersweetness to it. But it is one of my current very favorite songs of any type.

“The Rose,” Bette Midler. This is more ABOUT love in general than it is an actual love song. Fine line, maybe. The lyrics are a bit cheesy, but I think they’re spot on in that, while the writer was obviously married to a rhyme and rhythm scheme, she did not cheat on the line content; every line rings true, if not emotionally, then factually.

“She’s So High,” Tal Bachman. More of a sub-genre of love songs that I affectionately call “stalker songs,” which would include “She Don’t Know Me,” by Bon Jovi; “Suzanne,” by Journey; and (recent addition) “Marry Me,” by Train.

“Stand By Me,” Ben E. King. Probably associated more with friendship, thanks in part to the movie of the same name.

“I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” The Proclaimers
“Just The Way You Are,” Bruno Mars
“No One,” Alicia Keys
“One Good Woman,” Peter Cetera
“She’s Always A Woman” or “Just The Way You Are,” Billy Joel
“The Sweetest Thing,” U2

Bruce, bless his heart, doesn’t write a whole lot of love songs, certainly not in the traditional sense. And the ones he does write usually don’t get released as singles. “Secret Garden” is probably close to making it into this list. But I think his best pure love song is “If I Should Fall Behind,” from the album “Lucky Town.”

What is perhaps my favorite love song is not widely known, but is beautiful, sweet, simple, gritty, spiritual, and was the song that I danced to with my bride at our wedding. I recently figured out how to make it a ringtone for when she calls me. It’s called “You Were There” by a guy named Tonio K. You should be able to hear it here:
Happy Valentine’s Day, my sweetheart. Thanks for “being there.”

To everyone else: See you Wednesday.


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