There are a lot of love songs out there. A lot. For that reason, my approach to coming up with a good Valentine's Day playlist was to start with songs whose themes I agreed with, and then to arrange the songs into a roughly chronological sequence, as if they were a relationship, and finally to narrow down by personal preference.
“Moondance,” Van Morrison
The lilting melody makes this song for me, though the lyrics are also wonderfully sweet. The narrator of this song is taking time for a moment of frivolity and wants to share it; he thinks it's a marvelous night because of this woman, specifically. He talks about the stars' reflection in her eyes and the moonlight on her face because he's looking at her, not the sky. As the song goes on, you realize the narrator and his lady are not yet in a relationship. He's waiting until she is ready and eager, and he loves that he's waiting, and he loves her. How romantic is that?
“Cowboy Take Me Away,” Dixie Chicks
I love this angle on the strong and silent cowboy fantasy. The narrator of the song wants a love that is “unruly” between her and her lover. Words such as “fly,” “wild blue,” and “free” assert her own needs, though she also wants more traditional romance, dreaming of sleeping outside in his arms, beneath the stars. To me, this song says that women can have love, even traditional romance, and they can have freedom and self-expression, too. An important thing to remember.
“I Still Miss Someone,” Johnny Cash
This is one of the most poignant songs about love I know, and though it's been covered many times (like by his daughter Rosanne Cash above), I still prefer the original. Some might not think it belongs on this list, but I like to think that someday, one day, the narrator of this song will meet up with his blue-eyed love and they will live happily ever after. …By the way, I have blue eyes. *ahem*
”Kiss an Angel Good Mornin',“ Charley Pride
The simple analogy in this song, kissing his wife like she's an angel and loving her devilishly (perhaps a euphemism for, um, sexy times) at night after thinking about her all day…yeah, I can see that working out pretty well, Charley.
”Dance Me to the End of Love,” Leonard Cohen
The Madeleine Peyroux cover is my favorite version of this standard, but the original has a lot to be said for it, too. The song follows love from beginning to end, and the implication is that the end will be through old age and death. I adore the fanciful language that nevertheless describes a whole range of ups and downs in a relationship. My favorite word in the whole song, and I think the most important word, is “shelter.”
“These Are the Days of Our Lives,” Queen
This song looks back over the fullness of a life together. At my first few listens, I thought it was a piece of fluff, but over time, perhaps influenced by the fact that the song is from Queen's final album before the death of Freddie Mercury, I came to see a deep melancholy in these lyrics about discovering that no matter what's happened, the narrator is still in love.
"Fire At Midnight,” Jethro Tull
This song portrays the deep, agreeable quiet of a long-established relationship through both music and lyrics. After a long day, the woman is undressing, and the man is writing about his feelings for her and about them both. The last line of the song includes the word “home” and it's clear he means that home only exists with his lover. I can almost see them falling asleep to the crackling of their fireplace.
Image courtesy of Pink Sherbet.