This month, in honor of St.
Hallmark’s Valentine’s day, it’s a special theme version of Musical Moments To Die For.
Love songs! Nothing but love songs!
Well, that’s not exactly right: not so much love songs, but songs about love, which is a totally different head. Totally.
However, just because I’ve applied a theme to this month’s post, it isn’t meant to be a definitive list of greatest songs about love or anything like that. It just happens that all of the songs this month are about it, that’s all. Which means, not uncoincidentally, a lot of these songs were huge hit singles or are incredibly familiar or obvious. Which, of course, doesn’t make them any less to die for.
19 MUSICAL MOMENTS TO DIE FOR:
- Perfectly capturing how much you can enjoy just watching the person you love doing the thing that she loves to do. And with the reach-for-the-sky-guitar, and The Byrds 2.0 harmonies, the only thing that could have made this song better would have been one last chorus of nothing but “la la las” during the fade. Of course, sometimes you love because of the imperfections. At 1:10 in She Bangs The Drums by The Stone Roses.
— From 1989’s eternal and mysterious The Stone Roses
- “In my mind, in my soul, I never really loved you.” Sorry about that. At 2:55 in Life Floats By by The Jayhawks.
— From 2000’s busy Smile
- Gladys Knight wants to make damn sure you know where she stands on the issue of long-distance relationships, and why she’s doing what she’s doing. And The Pips? They’re not just helping her onboard, they’re showing her to her seat. At 4:00 in Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
— From 1973’s hit-filled post-Motown debut Imagination
- The hit single that Sonic Youth never made hinges everything on the moment where Karen O forgets her studied NY indie detachment and actually sounds desperate for a few seconds. Suddenly, her mumbled “wait, they don’t love you like I love you” becomes the pleading “wait!! they don’t love you like I love you!” Naturally, she almost instantly remembers to be cool again, but it’s too late, the damage is done at 2:30 in Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
— From 2003’s dissonant Fever to Tell
- In the 1980s, it was still a bit of a scandal in the hardcore world to be overtly melodic. It was also a bit of a scandal to be overtly romantic. So imagine how the anarchy sheep reacted to the calmly sung, straightforward chorus at 0:25 in Things That Make No Sense by Dag Nasty.
— From 1988’s ahead-of-it’s time Field Day
- Of all of the words — big and small — that Stephen Merrit wrote for his monumental 69 Love Songs, the one I love the most is “unboyfriendable.” Which I probably wouldn’t even have noticed had he not made it part of the sweetest song you’ve ever heard. At 1:52 in All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields.
— From 1999’s truth-in-the-packaging 69 Love Songs
- On Translator’s best single, Steve Barton worries that he’s falling in love just to keep from being lonely, and all of his trepidation can be found in the sly pause in the middle of the chorus, but at the same time, he’s going to keep moving forward at 2:55 in Un-Alone by Translator.
— From 1983’s honorable follow-up No Time Like Now
- Warren Zevon — whose death I realize I’ve mourned as much as any artist I’ve ever loved — reaches out from beyond the grave to provide shivers. Like so much of his best work, the last song he ever recorded is deceptively simple, but endlessly deep. Sigh. For a while, Warren? How about forever? At 2:25 in Keep Me in Your Heart by Warren Zevon.
— From 2003’s swan song The Wind
- Completely drenched in the background vocals of Stevie Nicks — who knows about this stuff — Christine McVie wonders if she should reconsider her skepticism about miracles and magic. As if she needs any more proof of either than what what her rhythm section — and Lindsay Buckingham’s guitar — are conjuring up for her at 0:51 in You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood Mac.
— From 1977’s mega-everything Rumours
- “Valentine” isn’t my favorite Paul Westerberg love song. That would probably be “I Will Dare,” or “Within Your Reach” or lord knows, “Answering Machine.” It is, however, the one that has maybe his punchiest guitar riff and opens with the awesome “When you wish upon a star / that turns into a plane.” Which he then tops with “If you were a pill, I’d take a handful at my will.” And other ‘mats fans know that this is the song that will show up in their email box tomorrow. At 0:00 in Valentine by The Replacements.
— From 1987’s hard-to-beat Pleased to Meet Me
- Yes, I know that you’re probably sick of this song, and the Foo Fighters in general. That said, there’s a reason that they’re one of the great singles bands of this era, and I say that it got solidified right here. Dave Grohl is hardly a great lyric writer, but he hit a chord with how this chorus slides from being too on the nose to the almost desperately ambiguous “you gotta promise not to stop when I say ‘when.'” At 1:40 in Everlong by Foo Fighters.
— From 1997’s massive The Color and The Shape
- What if the sound of Big Star’s Sister Lovers was cast in the service of an unabashed paen to happiness, instead of sadness? That’s the near-impossible feat pulled off at 1:52 in In Your Eyes (alt version) by Jason Falkner.
— From the seemingly download-only Eloquence album
- After a minute and a half of Jack White proving that he could craft a song that would have been a hit in 1969, and quite possibly 2040, Loretta Lynn finally gets a chance to jump in with a boozy tale of doomed love at first sight at 1:37 in Portland, Oregon by Loretta Lynn.
— From 2004’s call-it-a-comeback Van Lear Rose
- Mick Jagger is known for his great hate songs, but this right here is his best love song. Supported only by a piano and his lifelong BFF, Keef (whose greatest love song follows hard on the heels of this one), he’s all self-depreciation and sincerity. Well, as sincere as Mick Jagger can be. At 0:15 in Loving Cup by The Rolling Stones.
— From 1972’s masterpiece Exile on Main Street
- I think that one of the reasons the Exile in Guyville is such a landmark was the specific details in each story — I mean song — on the album. I mean: “It was late at night, and we’d been driving since noon,” is a whole world of trouble. But that’s not all: in this particular case, it’s also the sadness in her voice as she comes to the realization that she didn’t want to be proved right, because she already knew that the problem was her. At 0:49 in Divorce Song by Liz Phair.
— From 1993’s masterpiece Exile in Guyville
- Cementing a musical partnership that’s now lasted for over two decades, Peter Buck & Robyn Hitchcock pile on the jangly guitar hooks all over what I think is the most gorgeous song that Robyn Hitchcock has ever written. Also: “Madonner,” which never ever fails to make me smile. The answer to his question? “Yes.” At 1:26 in Madonna of the Wasps by Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians.
— From 1989’s mid-period Queen Elvis
- After declaring that the object of his obsession will never be free, Harry Nilsson pitches his case: “We can make each other happy,” he insanely echoes over galloping, chattering guitars. The part he leaves out? “Or else.” At 2:48 in Jump Into The Fire by Harry Nilsson.
— From 1971’s bleary-eyed Nilsson Schmilsson
- When Chris Stamey and Peter Holsapple are kissing off a relationship with the vicious “I don’t enjoy you anymore,” it’s obvious that they aren’t listening to Will Rigby’s stuttering, rumbling, thoroughly enjoyable drums 1:31 in Black and White by the dBs.
— From 1981’s landmark Stands For DeciBels
- Amy Rigby — who should most certainly know — kids because she loves watching the person she loves doing the thing that he loves to do. At 2:33 in Tonight I’m Gonna Give The Drummer Some by Amy Rigby.
— From 1998’s Middlescence
That’s it! We’re up to 144 moments, all told. A gross! Next month: 18 Musical Moments to Die For.
- 20 Musical Moments to Die For
- 21 Musical Moments to Die For
- 22 Musical Moments to Die For
- 23 Musical Moments to Die For
- 24 Musical Moments to Die For
- 25 Musical Moments to Die For
- 207 of The Greatest Indie Rock Songs of All Time
- My Favorite Album For Every Year I’ve Been Alive
- Why The Replacements Saved My Life