Claire: Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and the Charm City Jukebox is here (as always) to fulfill all of your musical needs. This month we’re covering music to fall in love to and with, as well as breakups, makeups, hookups, the movie “Up”…..the list goes on. Welcome to Week One: Top 5 Love Songs. Joshua and I have pulled together a few of our favorite musical snapshots of love, old and new. Sit back, enjoy, and leave your top love songs in the comments (Hey, we need some new songs sometimes too, right?)
Taj Mahal, “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes”:
Sweet and simple, the kind of “I just want to be with you and make you happy” music that you listen to as your falling in love, and that means a bit more as you keep going. Was anyone else kinda pissed when Jenna Bush used this as her wedding song? I feel like she tarnished it’s weddingy-goodness for the rest of us.
Cake, “I Want to Love You Madly”
Joshua and I have an unofficial rule that several weeks without a Cake mention on this blog just won’t stand. So here’s an upbeat Cake number for all of your romancing needs. A good song to play as you get ready for a date with that special someone, a good roll down the windows and blast it track for when you’re feeling in love and really psyched about it, a good snapshot of head over heels love.
Etta James, “Sunday Kind of Love”:
If there was a record of Etta James singing the phone book, I would lie around in a dreamy haze and spin it on repeat. Of Etta’s many love song classics, “Sunday Kind of Love” is my favorite: Her voice has that rosey falling-in-love tone, like she’s fallen in love with the idea of that love she’s “dreaming and scheming” about all week. I think it’s what everyone is looking for: Someone so solid and real that he/she chases the Sunday gloom away, someone so warm and wonderful that they’re worth falling over the top in love with.
Otis Redding, “That’s How Strong My Love Is”
A song for when you’ve been through life together. And not friends and dinners, falling into bed and getting a little older, arguing and trying. Real, messy, pull-you-apart, push-you-together life. And not just once, but again and once more, and more after that. You earn this song.
Dan Wilson, “Easy Silence”
Originally made popular by the Dixie Chicks, which is, I must admit, a better version. But I have a soft spot for the Dan Wilson version because it’s part of a falling-in-love soundtrack for me from my senior year of college, when I started dating my boyfriend. I love Dan Wilson’s voice (Wilson is from Semisonic who, much like Shawn Colvin last week, is a 90′s throwback who deserves some dusting off. Semisonic is awesome. Go listen to “Singing to Me in My Sleep.” Or “Secret Smile.”), and I love the idea of love as an oasis from the craziness of life. That chorus always gets me, when he sings “And the way you keep the world at bay for me.”
Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”: I’ve listened to this song a million times, but my favorite was driving with the top down along Big Sur to Monterey. We blasted this song, the sun beating down on our slowly burning faces, and I was insanely in love: with my boyfriend, with California, with the whole world. If you ever do that drive, I promise you, all those heart-stopping views are nothing without the Beach Boys.
Richard and Linda Thompson, “Dimming of the Day”: In the world of this song, Richard and Linda Thompson are meant for each other. Their voices blend together perfectly, and how often do you hear a married couple celebrate how much they still need and love each other daily? In the world of..well, the world, Richard and Linda Thompson went through a hilarious we-might-kill-each-other style divorce, that played out as they were touring with this album.
Citizen Cope, “Sideways”: A “Life isn’t easy, neither is love, but we’re in it for the long haul” song. Cope’s vocals are haunting, and the spare, vocals-focused arrangement has a quiet loveliness.
Barenaked Ladies – Light Up My Room
I love this song so much for so many reasons: The simplicity of the guitar riff, the wonderfully endearing lyrics, and the overall feeling of happiness it just exudes on so many levels. It’s a wonderful snapshot of a couple who are utterly and completely in love with each other. They’re at the point where they can’t fathom being without one another. Not because it hurts to be away from each other; rather, they simply cannot process what it would mean to not be in love with each other. It’s a level of happiness that rare to find in relationships. Or anywhere.
Amy Winehouse – Valerie
Amy Winehouse’s sultry voice leaves nothing to the imagination in this song. The love the speaker has for the subject of the song is lustful and downright dirty. She knows this relationship she has with Valerie is wrong but she wants it – and Valerie – that much more, and specifically because it is that kind hot-nasty we all want but don’t often let ourselves have. She’s given in to abject desire and she’s fine with that.
Otis Redding – Cigarettes and Coffee
An altogether more chaste song than the last…but, like the horn line, is persistently boiling and bubbling under the surface. He begs the subject of the song (unnamed, of course, like he’s singing to every member of the audience or everyone who ever listens to the song) to spend the rest of their lives together, for the simple reason they make each other happy. The seedy part is that this seems to take to place over late night discussions…nothing chaste happens after 3 am. Especially not with Otis Redding’s voice begging you to just take that one more step…with him.
Taj Mahal – Corinna
An easy, easy song. He barely has to reach for the imagery here. He knows he loves this woman and he doesn’t know why anyone wouldn’t. She’s the best woman in the universe and he’s the lucky SOB who happened to get her. He has no idea why she would fall for him but he can’t let her slip through his fingers and this song is one step in that direction – I’d like to hope he wrote this for an actual person and then sang it to her. If someone wrote this song for you, wouldn’t you be a puddle in their arms? Or maybe a puddle in other places?
Paul Simon – Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
This is my all-time favorite love song because, like “Light Up My Room,” it’s a snapshot. But unlike Barenaked Ladies’ decidedly Polaroid snap, this is a high-quality digital SLR shot in 1080p. The shot is of two people utterly in love and blissfully unaware of their surroundings. They’re in love to the point the rest of the world has completely fallen away. And Paul Simon’s lyrical phrasing and lilting chorus only heightens this feeling of easy, no-worries love. The best line: “She said, ‘Honey, take me dancing’ but they ending up sleeping in a doorway by the bodegas and the lights on Upper Broadway, wearing diamonds in the soles of their shoes.” I’m not sure if there is a better way to stop lovers in their tracks and catch them at their most intimate and then put it down in song. I don’t think I’ve even experienced the kind of carefree love the subjects of this song have. Maybe someday I will. One can only hope, right?
John Legend – Ordinary People: This song got bumped from my main list because those songs were “pure” love songs, or songs that elicit happy feelings about love. This song is much more real. These people love each other but they got shit going on. Deal with it.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps: Certainly off the beaten path of regular love songs, “Maps” is beautiful and gut-wrenching at the same time, courtesy of Karen O’s superb vocals. They don’t love you like she loves you.
The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned): Another tragic love song by the Decemberists. I’ll spare you the recap of the story of the concept album it’s on, but safe to say these lovers have gone through hell to be together. Now that they are, they face even more hell to stay together. Instead, they decide to marry by the banks of a river, then to let the river consecrate their marriage. You read that right. They drown themselves to be together forever. It sounds awful here, but listen to the whole album and this song will have you in tears.