This whole idea really solidified in my head when I was talking with my parents about what really constitutes a love song. Of course, my dad mentioned ‘Closer’, by Nine Inch Nails, and we all laughed a bit, but then I got to thinking: what really is a love song? I’ll start off by saying that ‘Closer’ is probably not a love song, but love songs exist along a spectrum, and wherever you are comfortable drawing that line is fine. The problem with defining a love song is that the feelings of infatuation that we feel are often a lot stronger and easier to communicate than some abstract sense of love. This holds true in writing about music as well, and if I sat here and tried to quantify what makes a love song (vs a lust song) I would fail miserably. So I will offer: no conclusions, no decisions, just themes and attitudes in some songs that I like and think should be on your radar this Valentine’s day.
Hozier is somewhat of a conventional sound (if a little dark) when it comes to this subject, but this song ‘Like Real People Do’ exemplifies the concepts of acceptance and space. On the first 20 or so listens of this song I really thought it was a song about longing, loneliness, and leaving, but listening to the narrative feels different. The way the song portrays trust is truly beautiful, and it gives the sense that the connection between these two is unshakable. In contrast to this, Hozier’s ‘From Eden’ is much less familiar. The overwhelming sense of intrigue and attraction permeates every word of this song. There is so much less familiarity here, as opposed to ‘Like Real People Do’, and what feels like a lot more distance.
Something else I think about is songs that make fun of the idea of love songs that aren’t. ‘Closer’ fits this bill, absolutely, but what I want to talk about is ‘Brain’ by N.E.R.D. (yea, the people who made ‘Lemon’ feat. Rihanna) because critique from within a genre is always more relevant than from without, and I feel that pop music, by sheer volume alone, is prone to having the most relevant love songs, as well as the most tried-to-be love songs. I won’t give it away but the entire premise is a little ridiculous, and it is nowhere near as forward (or as tone-deaf by today’s standards) as, say, Dr. Octagon, but it is still a worthwhile listen, even if only for the comedic value.
Finally, Love is not just between partners, but between family members, friends, and strangers. One of the best love songs of all time is ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens. Stevens is ultimately wishing for his son to find love as he did. He expresses the kind of familial love that we may be more familiar with. Past the point of calling it a beautiful song, it is love that makes a lot more sense than the love that we seem to search for throughout life.
I guess, to conclude, the definition of love varies greatly. I have no authority to tell you what is or is not representative of your definition of love, and I don’t have any authority to tell you what is a love song and what is not, but I think that knowing where songs fall for you is important. Finding songs that mean something to you is a way to further appreciate the art that we consume, and to further its applications to other areas in our lives.