Friday, February 14, 1997
Whether you are in or out of love, these tunes promise a sweet
and entertaining time
Love may not be in the air or in the cards for many of us, but
it’s certainly everywhere else Â magazines, TV shows hosted by
perky, hair-sprayed females, and perkier grocery store candy heart
Valentine’s Day has always been two parts sour, one part sweet,
and I’ve compiled this list of "Love Songs" with that in mind.
These songs have all meant a lot to me, but they stand on their own
as well Â as great songs about love or love lost. Because
these are my personal favorites and not an objective list Â as
if such a thing exists Â there’s not much squishy stuff here.
No ’90s pop divas. And NO Chicago. So when you put on your lace,
your spandex, or your ripped sweats and mud mask tonight, try
putting on one of these as well. But wash Madonna well before
handling. You don’t know where she’s been.
10. Tracy Chapman, "Baby Can I Hold You" Â If there’s
anyone who can put together a great melody and straightforward
lyrics, it’s Tracy Chapman. Her masculine, down-to-earth vocals
assure you that she’s 100 percent genuine in a world where things
seldom are. How many loves, romantic and otherwise, have you lost
because, "Sorry is all that you can’t say"?
9. Depeche Mode, "It Doesn’t Matter" Â If this isn’t your
favorite Depeche Mode song, you’re in the minority. People pick
this one even over "Somebody" (a junior high school anthem written
on every chalk board during day care) because it’s so simple and
unusual. It features Depeche Mode’s famous keyboard "sounds" that
don’t exist in the real world, and it combines them with equally
post-modern sentiments. In a world of alienation, some give up
hopes of true love for any connection they can forge.
8. Madonna, "Justify My Love" Â This one flies right by all
the pleasantries and reminds me of a fraternity pick-up line I once
heard: "Nice shoes. Wanna fuck?" Madonna says the song is about
being open with each other’s fantasies, but no one really cares.
The beat is enough to make you want to grab whomever you’re with at
the moment by the hair and drag them upstairs. Plus, this is one of
her most sensual performances, which is saying quite a lot. This
one is definitely for the Rebound Valentines and their
no-holds-barred one-nighters. Light the candles, put on the
leather, and enjoy!
7. R.E.M., "Perfect Circle" Â One of R.E.M.’s best-ever
songs, this one could be as much about milking goats as it is love,
but the feeling’s all there. Actually, it’s pretty clearly about
some sort of relationship Â new and delicate, filled with a
quiet intimacy. The most beautiful part of the song is the piano,
though, which basically duets with Stipe’s husky voice throughout
most of the song. The heartbeat-like drum beats are secondary and
just provide a pulse.
As with all of R.E.M.’s best songs, what makes it special is the
missing ingredient. Only you don’t know just what it is.
6. Neil Diamond, "Hello Again" / "Love on the Rocks" Â OK,
let’s dispense with the snickering … I’ve grown quite accustomed
to my dad’s love of Neil Diamond. He’s a great songwriter and
wouldn’t be half-bad if he shaved his chest (Diamond, not my
father). These two songs are like two sides of a coin Â one is
uplifting and filled with reunion and expectation, the other is
desperate and filled with loneliness and shattered dreams.
The music mirrors this perfectly, as one is light and airy with
a cascading piano, while the other is just a subdued keyboard until
waves of sadness and drama crash in. It’s fascinating to hear the
same songs for 20 years and understand different elements of them
as time passes … I’ll bet many of you played Legos to something
by Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra or The Beatles.
5. Elton John, George Michael, "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
(1991) Â I prefer this to the original Â it’s more
melodramatic and full of passion. Michael has an exceptional voice,
and the dynamic of two personalities singing really adds to the
sense of the song as a plea or conversation. The two men have a
chemistry that I’ll leave, er, unexplored … This was written
during John’s earlier period (1974), before a lot of his love songs
started to sound heavy-handed and cliched. The CD single is
definitely worth buying Â it’s got two other covers by Michael
that are a bit sappy, but irresistible anyway.
4. Fiona Apple, "Shadowboxer" Â I’m not usually one for
lyrics, but these are easily as memorable as the music. And the
music is fabulous, not to mention Apple’s natural-but-unpolished
vocal talent. She likens an unpredictable, semi-abusive
relationship to a shadowboxing match, an ingenious, if
all-too-accurate, metaphor. The seventh chords and ever-present
vibraphone add to the mood that her sultry, smoky vocals create,
and though the music is simple, it’s very powerful.
Anyone who likes Tori Amos should check out Apple’s album,
"Tidal." Most of it falls under "I want your love," "I don’t want
your love" or "Who am I and what the $#%! am I doing here?" Â
sentiments equally popular on Valentine’s Day.
3. Ray Charles, "Georgia On My Mind" / "Born to Lose" / "You
Don’t Know Me" Â Ah, Ray … It’s so hard to pick just one.
All of these smack of some serious blues, of course, especially the
last two. No one can bring you up or down like Ray Charles, with
his unmistakable voice Â that of the familiar friend, the guy
who’s been there.
The thing that current artists need to learn from Charles is
that you can tell your sad stories without wallowing in them.
Charles always makes you feel like you and he are sitting on
someone’s back porch in Georgia drinking spiked lemonade and
sharing your woes. These are three of his best tales, and their
beauty defies description.
2. The Beatles, "Yesterday" Â This song can always make me
cry if it catches me in the right mood. It’s one of the best songs
by one of the best bands in rock’s short history, and illustrates
pure, unencumbered songwriting at its best.
Everyone can identify with its message, it’s simple without
being ordinary (a difficult distinction to master as an artist) and
the harmonies make you want to curl up under a rain-sprinkled
window and cry into your pet’s fur. Or maybe that’s just me …. No
one needs to be told what The Beatles, or this song, are like, so
we’ll leave it at that.
1. Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive" (1979) Â By now, almost
everyone who missed this great song the first time around has had a
chance to hear it, at least on the dance floor. This is not only
the ultimate disco song, it’s the ultimate love song Â the
ability to love, be hurt, get over it and move on … and maybe
learn something about yourself in the process. As a first-grader, I
loved this song because it was fun to dance to and because Gaynor
really knows how to belt, but now it means much more. This one’s
for everyone who’s going solo this Valentine’s Day, by choice or by
Kristin Fiore is a fifth-year art history student and head of
the coalition to merge Halloween and Valentine’s Day into one