TAS Takes On Valentine's Day With Not-So-Silly Love Songs
Ah, Valentine's Day. A time of crushes, Cupids, chocolate and champagne. Or a depressing night spent with a dopey Katherine Heigl rom-com while polishing off a pint of Chunky Monkey. No matter what your take on the loveliest - or most loveless - of days, The Alternate Side staff has pulled together some of our favorite songs that we feel express the best and worst of romance.
Alisa Ali (Host of The Alternate Side, Producer and On-Air Interviewer for WFUV)
The Decemberists, "Red Right Ankle" — I love this song so much that I almost can't bear to listen to it. When it comes on randomly on my MP3 player, I get a funny feeling in my belly. I play it sometimes on The Alternate Side. But rarely. 'Cause it just turns me into a blubbering mess (I'm a cryer what can I say?). This song addresses love and love lost. I get verklempt just thinking about it:
And some, they crumbled you straight to your knees
Did it cruel, did it tenderly
Some they crawled their way into your heart
To rend your ventricles apart
Jeff Buckley, "Lover, You Should Have Come Over" — In my opinion, this is one of the best songs ever created. The intensity of his yearning is almost overwhelming. This is another song that I can't play that often, because it's just too good. Lyrically, it's so expressive. You can listen to this on the sunniest day and still feel like it's raining outside. He was such an amazing vocalist. Hearing him sing the line, "She's the tear that hangs inside my soul forever," just floors me.
Van Morrison, "Sweet Thing" — Sorry to state the obvious, but Astral Weeks is possibly one of the most perfect albums of all time. "Sweet Thing" exemplifies blissful contentment. I love so many things about this song, like the imagery: gardens all misty and wet with rain, clear, clean water and ferry boats. And the jive talk, like "sugar baby" and "dynamite!" I put this song on a mixtape for a boyfriend many years ago and it always bugged me that he never commented on it, or said that he also liked that song. Clearly, we were not a good match. But I still love this song and I reckon I always will.
Aretha Franklin, "You're All I Need To Get By" — Specifically, the version found on the Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul. If you are a fan of Aretha — and who isn't? — you should really get your hands on this outstanding album. This song, written by Ashford & Simpson and originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1968, is one of the best love songs ever created. But man, the way Aretha sings it knocks me out. I feel like my heart is going to explode with joy. I couldn't find my favorite version but this one is pretty fantastic.
Russ Borris (Host of The Alternate Side and WFUV Assistant Music Director)
The Cure, "Pictures of You" — I don't have pictures of someone I long for, but Robert Smith makes me wish I did. Something about The Cure makes depression seem alluring.
Eric Holland (TAS Weekend Host, WFUV Presenter):
Nick Cave, "Into My Arms" — This is a romantic song for the ages and one that battles cynicism about the mythology of love and champions same as true religion.
Kara Manning (TAS Web Editor/Writer and TAS/WFUV On-Air Interviewer):
Stars, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" — The bittersweet narrative of this thorny song captures everything about shattered expectations, anger and loss. Also, the interplay of Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan's sweet, but sullen vocals against the drunken horns, thudding drums and woozy, waltzing strings sounds like the aching morning after the worst night ever.
TLC, "Baby Baby Baby"— So many great, gutsy songs from this underestimated trio (could it be that this track is twenty years old?), but this one pretty much lays down the ground rules.
The Cure, "Just Like Heaven" — One of the most dizzyingly pretty, not-quite-happy love songs ever written. Plus you get to spot Robert Smith dancing with his childhood sweetheart Mary in the video ... and they've been married for 24 years.
Paul Weller, "Thinking of You" — Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards' "Thinking of You," first recorded by Sister Sledge in 1979, was covered by Weller on his 2004 release Studio 150. Although both versions are exquisite, it's Weller's gruff and tender take, one of his most vulnerable recordings, that claims my heart.
Sarah Wardrop (TAS Substitute Host, WFUV Assistant Program Director, WFUV Music Weekend Host):
Van Morrison, "Sweet Thing" — Whether you consider Van a sweet sight or not, he's written some beauties on the subject of l-o-v-e. It's tough to pick just one, but "Sweet Thing" is actually one of the least saccharine of the bunch.
Bon Iver, "I Can't Make You Love Me/Nick of Time" — Justin Vernon has his own batch of heartbreak songs (see Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago), but here he sings a medley of two songs that Bonnie Raitt made famous: one that's a rough reality check and one that adds a light at the end of the tunnel. He included some Donnie Hathaway in his performance of this tune on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," but this two-song version serves up a serious Valentine's Day mood swing.
Joe Grimaldi ((TAS/WFUV Assistant Director of Technical Operations, TAS Video Team/ Photographer)
James Blake, "Limit to Your Love" — Blake's cover of Feist's "Limit to Your Love" is a song that closely resembles my love life over the past several months. This is a song about longing for a commitment that you know won't ever be made. There is no greater pain than unrequited love, and "Limit to Your Love" describes coming to terms with the realization that your feelings will never be reciprocated. Blake's use of reverb evokes a sense of loneliness, even emptiness, that I strongly identify with.