The Lazy Friday Mix: Good Love Songs

It wasn’t that long ago that I was spending my time complaining to you about unforgivably shitty love songs, many of which were perpetrated by Peter Cetera. Well, it’s a bit too easy to just sit here and rage against songs like “Glory of Love” without offering some viable alternatives. I mean, there have to be good love songs out there, right?

The answer is “yes.” There are several. And they are the subject of this Lazy Friday Mix.

The first decent love song that I can think of whenever I stop to think about awesome love songs is “Be Mine” from R.E.M.’s vastly underrated New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Over what is arguably the finest guitar playing moment of Peter Buck’s career, Michael Stipe sings lines like, “I wanna be your Christmas tree” with such beautiful sincerity that you forgive their inherent cheesiness. With a simple refrain of  “you and me,” this song is and always will be my favorite R.E.M. tune.

My favorite accident at my wedding last year was the fact that, by complete playlist coincidence, I walked down the aisle to “Picture in a Frame” by Tom Waits. Waits wrote it for his wife and he says everything anyone needs to say when he sings, “I’m gonna love you/ ’til the wheels come off” and if you don’t get the true fucking love of that line, you need to listen to this song until you do.

So far, we’ve been talking about pretty sentimental (but still beautiful) love songs. But what about songs that are designed to turn up the heat a little? “Lover’s Day” by TV On the Radio is the best song about fucking (“I’m gonna keep you/ weak in the knees” is among the tamer lines) that has been recorded in the last ten years (“I’m gonna take you/ I’m gonna shake you/ I’m gonna make you cum” is less tame). I could talk about the catchy melody or the awesome horn part (haha, “horn part”), but if you weren’t checking out the song based on my assertion that it’s a great song for the getting of it on, there’s no point trying to woo you with the pure musical aesthetics of the thing.

Sam Cooke had one of those voices that is best described as iconic, to the point that I literally don’t understand the concept of not liking his music. His “Wonderful World” is a classic oldie, the sort of thing that will even get the old folks out on the dance floor and the sentiment is cute without being too precious to be tolerated (a lesson, among many, that John Mayer could stand to learn).

Badass woman Ani DiFranco wrote a pretty realistic but lovely love song for her partner, Mike Napolitano. It’s a tune called “Way Tight” and it sweetly points out how she and Napolitano “get this crazy combination/ of everything and nothing right.” One of the song’s many strengths is that it would rather stick to the romantic facts than toss out platitudes like, “I will never let you down” (Incidentally, my wife and I have been watching a lot of Mad Men lately and one character says to Don Draper, “I will never, ever let you down,” to which John Slattery’s character replies, “Jesus, Campbell. Don’t ever say that.” It’s one of my favorite moments in the show so far). There’s no pedestal upon which a lover can be placed in “Way Tight,” and that’s a good thing – it’s about loving someone for everything they are, even the stuff that drives you fucking nuts.

I’ve mentioned a few times in the last year or so that “We Can Get Together” by The Hold Steady is, to my ears, a pretty sweet song. It’s all about that line, “Heaven is whenever/ we can get together,” which I guess doesn’t just have to apply to romantic situations. But it sure as hell can be applied to romantic situations and has been on at least a few occasions in my life.

Speaking of “In My Life,” I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this Beatles classic on a list of great love songs. Like Tom Waits’ “Picture in a Frame” and the aforementioned Hold Steady line, “In My Life” boils down to one simple, beautiful declaration: “In my life/ I love you more.” And that melody is one of the best the Beatles ever recorded, which is saying something indeed.

Have you heard “Tender” by Blur? If not, why not? It’s a love song with a heaping forkful of gospel thrown in for good measure and it’s wonderfully vague. Rather than composing a love song for a specific lover, Blur went ahead and wrote a love song to love. And it’s fucking awesome.

On the dancey, catchy, and totallyblissful It’s Blitz, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did something I didn’t think was possible: they took a horrifyingly cloying line from Jerry Maguire (“You complete me”) and worked it into a beautiful pop love song called “Hysteric.” Karen O is one of the best vocalists in rock right now and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ albums show that she’s just as comfortable screaming like a banshee on PCP as she is cooing like a dove.

If you like your precious music super precious, you might find “VCR” by The XX to be sugary-yet-simple delight about watching movies on outmoded pieces of technology and thinking that you and your true love are “the best thing.” I tend to favor DVDs myself, but I happen to believe that my wife and I, as a couple, are probably the best thing. It’s a matter of perspective.

When I worked overnight for Target the first time (it’s a long story; well, not a long story but definitely a boring story), we used to listen to shitty radio stations while we neatly arranged diapers and douches on the store shelves and no matter which shitty radio station we were listening to, they always seemed to feature some late night dedication/request show. One night, a lady called in and dedicated, “with love,” the U2 song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to her husband. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song. But it’s a fucking terrible love song (see the title for proof). My point here is that she should’ve chosen “All I Want is You” in which Bono talks about all the stuff his girl wants when all he can think of for his Christmas list is her.

I’m pleased to tell you that I had no trouble whatsoever coming up with this list; there are tons of great love songs out there by a wide variety of totally badass performers, which is all the more reason we should pile our derision mighty high on shitty songs like “Glory of Love” and pretty much everything else Peter Cetera ever did.