LOVE SONGS 101: The Top 101 Love Songs (101-81)
Nov 25, 2003 (Updated Feb 15, 2004)
The Bottom Line Love is the answer.
Maybe what they really mean when they say that something is highly debatable is that it is just not worth debating. Case in point, Love Songs 101: The Top 101 Love Songs.
What is a "top" love song? The ideas are as varied as the stars. Which is why what you'll find here is quite a bit more than the standard "I love you, You love me" love song.
Even unrequited love is still love, is it not? Your feelings are your own; they don't have to be defined by what someone else feels or doesn't feel. And so, many of my love songs have to do with the familiar "I love you, but you don't love me" scenario. But I would still consider them to be "love" songs.
Then you have the P.O'ed breakup songs. I know what you're thinking, a breakup song is NOT a love song. And yet, the whole reason that the songs are P.O'ed in the first place is that the love is GONE! So in a way, they are still at least acknowledging that the love meant something to them, by fighting its disappearance in any way, shape or form. Though they may not be straight-up love songs, love (or at least the defending of it) is still the ulterior motive.
There are love songs for the world, Love songs for the self, Love songs that instill hope from the point of view of a third party (e.g. "You Should Hear How She Talks About You"), even Love songs for the city you live in. Whether any of these show up here, I just ain't gonna talk about it. I'm getting rather anxious to get on with the damn list already, so without further ado...
Let's Kick The Tires and Light The Fires, Big Daddy.
101.) "Go Your Own Way" Fleetwood Mac
If I could, baby I'd give you my love
How can I when you won't take it from me?
Although Fleetwood Mac are one of the most consistently good bands I've heard, they are also one of the few that don't really have that "one" song that grabs me. Except for maybe "Go Your Own Way". The vocal chemistry between Stevie, Linsey and Christine is right on, and Mick's beat is irresistible.
100.) "Give Me One Reason" Tracy Chapman
This youthful heart can love you and give you what you need
But I'm too old to go chasing around, wasting my precious energy.
This soulful number from Tracy Chapman utilizes a simple plucked guitar melody and a quirky beat that hastens as it goes on. All she wants is a reason to stick around and she's asking for it. A bit repetitive on the lyrical side, but Tracy delivers it with aplomb.
99.) "She Loves You" The Beatles
She said you hurt her so, she almost lost her mind
But now she says she knows, you're not the hurting kind.
Here goes one of those "third party" songs I was talking about. Sure, maybe The Beatles were just another manufactured "boy band" (then why wait 30 years to start using the moneymaking formula again?), but they had some pretty inventive melodies here and there. This song starts off with a bang of drums and jumps right into the chorus that everyone across the universe knows by now -- She loves you, yeah yeah yeah! Lonely guys all over the world could listen to this song and at least fantasize about having a girl who actually loved them... or in extreme cases, even having the guy friend to tell them about it. (Gee, only I would think of that...)
98.) "Golden Lady" Stevie Wonder
It's so clear to me that you're a dream come true
There is no way that I'll be losing.
Never dreamed I'd be saying this, but thank you Muzak! This is a song I cannot say I've ever heard in my youth, but was apparently a moderately big hit for Stevie back in the day. This song has a mysterious "I think we're alone now" kind of vibe to it. The chorus is awash with strange and wonderful hooks, and when the third chorus starts in a higher key it's magical. The key continues to elevate at the end until the song sounds like it's losing its mind. And if that's not what love does to you, my friends, then I don't know what love is!
97.) "I Will Buy You A New Life" Everclear
I will buy you a garden where your flowers can bloom
I will buy you a new car, perfect shiny and new
This midtempo romp was quite possibly the highlight of Everclear's career (which ended when it became apparent that their style wasn't going to evolve). With a Wallflower providing organs in the background, Art Alexakis makes a ton of promises to this girl, leaving the listener to imagine what great things he/she could do for the one he/she loves if only the access to greater funds were available. Superficial, but sweet. The video was neat, too.
96.) "Sail On" Lionel Richie
I know it's a shame, but I'm giving you back your name
Guess I'll be on my way, I won't be back to stay
I guess I'll move along, I'm looking for a good time
The hybrid of a P.O'ed breakup song and a love song for himself and his.. um, new life, "Sail On" embodies Lionel's bittersweet departure from someone who is better at the taking than the giving. The piano melody in this song is simple, so simple in fact that some might call this song boring. And I could hardly blame them. But I think it is because of the song's simplicity (not to mention its off-into-the-sunset climax) that makes it so beautiful.
95.) "I See Your Smile" Gloria Estefan
Tell me if I made the wrong advances
Tell me if I've made you feel ashamed.
This piano-led ballad comes from "the other side" of the unrequited love fence -- the woman's side. And since I'm not a woman, well, you know. Gloria's biggest strength, at least to me, was in her slower songs (as long as they weren't Olympic-related) and this one is the absolute most beautiful of all hers. Of course if you really want to know what's beautiful about it, just ask Mom, it's her fault that I ever knew about this one in the first place :)
94.) "Follow The Light" Travis
But it's allright, just follow the light, and don't be afraid of the dark
In the moonlight, you'll dance til you fall, and always be here in my heart.
A soft-spoken but oddly upbeat tune by Travis reveals an intense romantic side behind all that dark introspection. It is mostly because of the lyrics that I have the song here, and that doesn't happen too often.
93.) "Be Mine" R.E.M.
I'll strip the world that you must live in
Of all its godforsaken greed
I'll ply the tar out of your feathers
I'll pluck the thorns out of your feet.
Talk about the ultimate "keep it simple" song. I don't know if it's the way they play this one or if it's that left-of-center hook that comes toward the end of the chord sequence, but I have been in love with this song ever since a half hour after I first made that last-second run back into the mall... to get the CD from whence this song came.
92.) "Comedown" Toad The Wet Sprocket
Won't you come down, help me stand
There is healing in your hands
This one's a bit iffy, 'cause I'm not entirely sure what it's about. This is where I tend to differ from most people; if I want a song to be a love song, it'll usually end up being one. Because I live in a fantasy world, that's why. Anyway. Toad were really starting to beef up their skills as a band when they put together this sucker; it's really too bad they didn't keep going, 'cause they pulled some real gems out of their sleeve, just like "Comedown". It's hard to imagine an upbeat song with such desperation in its melody, but that's what you get here.
91.) "Tell Him" Celine Dion & Barbra Streisand
I don't think I could endure if I let him walk away
When I have so much to say.
The ultimate showdown -- Celine and Barbra, battling it out here in the arena. Just listening to them take turns on the high notes, you can almost hear Barbra thinking "Okay, b!tch, see if you can hit THIS one... AHHHHHHHH!" And then Celine keeps right up with her. In the process, they create a pretty decent love song here. Just like Billy Joel when he says to "Tell her about it," Celine and Barbra say "Tell him 'bout the sun and moonrise in his eyes." This song wins out because it's hard for an upbeat song to come across as romantic, no matter how you slice it.
90.) "My Hero" Foo Fighters
There goes my hero, watch him as he goes
There goes my hero, he's ordinary
I can only imagine what people are thinking when they see me calling this a love song. But I wouldn't doubt that Dave Grohl had love for his master, Kurt Cobain, whom this song is about. And even if it's not what we would traditionally consider a love song, it wouldn't be bad for two gay guys, would it?
89.) "Your Song" Elton John
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is when you're in the world.
Ahh, for some this may be the first really good song I've mentioned yet! This one makes the list for being simple, for staying conservative with the piano, and for saving its percussion until the second verse (never fails). Elton's conversational tone later in the song is also kind of charming.
88.) "Daisy Jane" America
Does she really love me, I think she does
Like the stars above me, I know
I always used to get this song confused with some Janet Jackson song. Now it's just a guilty pleasure, to hear any man on this planet actually say "I think she does," makes me feel at least a little justified in getting my own hopes up. The melody, while slow, drives along at a fairly upbeat pace with a sort of wanderlust about it.
87.) "Story Of A Girl" Nine Days
And while she looks so sad in photographs
I absolutely love her, when she smiles.
Sometimes a love song is just plain fun, and this is one of those. The girl in the song has "cried a river and drowned the whole world", meaning either that she was (figuratively speaking) sad enough to cry that many tears, or drowning the world around her in her own tears. Either way, you sense that the song (and the person singing it) feel sorry for her and have nothing but honorable intentions.
86.) "Two Hearts" Phil Collins
Leading just one mind
This one's simple enough. Bouncy beat, unabashedly cheerful melody and Phil going on about being with someone forever. The neat thing is how relatively subtle Phil sounds here in relation to most of his songs, where he is usually wailing. Granted, he takes off a little bit in the bridge, but even then he's still far too happy to sound like some attention-deprived loser.
85.) "Exit Music (For A Film)" Radiohead
Pack and get dressed, before your father hears us
Before all hell breaks loose.
This one's a little bit different, but you already knew that when you saw the word "Radiohead". This song came at a perfect time in my life and, to me, will always be a simple love song about taking the girl away into the darkness. And there is an awful lot of darkness. Later, the song might transform and head into that "f*ck tradition" lyrical zone, but even then, I just figure he's talking to her father in that part.
84.) "Sweet Surrender" Sarah McLachlan
You take me in, no questions asked
You strip away the ugliness that surrounds me
Are you an angel, am I already that gone?
Those of you who didn't think Sarah could rock, chew on this one for a minute. The haunting, distant guitars make this the perfect kind of song to hear on the radio when you're driving by the house of someone you love at three in the morning (which is exactly where I was the first time I heard it). This is the kind of song that grabs you by the spirit and brings you to the .. heh heh, surface.
83.) "Waste" Phish
Don't want to be an actor, pretending on the stage
Don't want to be a writer, with my thoughts out on the page
Phish took an unusual route on Billy Breathes and did a lot of quiet material, and amongst that material came one of the most beautifully romantic tunes there ever was. The melody is a bit overused, but they don't attempt to make it sound like anything beyond what it is, just a melody. Not some overblown Hollywood horror (sorry to be using Nickelback lines here). Best part of the song is when it starts to intensify at the end and Trey simply repeats "Come waste your time with me." Wouldn't it be nice?
82.) "Look Away" Chicago
If you see me walking by
And the tears are in my eyes, look away.
Chicago really had it going on in the 80's, and this is a prime example of why. The music is no-holds-barred in your face. It may be synthesizers, which everyone inexplicably hates, but for the sake of Pete, sometimes the end justifies the means! There is nothing more selfless a man can do, in all his pain, than to tell the girl to relieve herself of all awareness of it. (Of course sometimes, you don't even have to tell them to.)
81.) "The One You Love" Glenn Frey
Your heart keeps saying, it's just not fair
But still you've gotta make up your mind
Are you gonna stay with the one who loves you
Or are you going back to the one you love
Someone's gonna cry when they know they've lost you
Someone's gonna thank the stars above.
This one is all about the lyrics, baby. Sure, the string and guitar arrangements are nice, and the saxophone practically defines the song. But the true strength of this song lies in the words and the way Glenn sings them so painfully but mercifully.
And that's all for now. I really would've liked to have better clarity when I threw this segment together, but some days it just ain't there, ya know what I mean? Anyways, stick around and I promise we'll get to the good ones eventually!
Hasta la vista, baby.
Mike's Love Songs 100-81
Mike's Love Songs 80-61
Mike's Love Songs 60-41
Mike's Love Songs 40-21
Mike's Love Songs 20-1