I Just Wanna Vibe With You: Writers Give It Up for Their Favorite Love Songs

Writer Round-up - Love Songs - Feature
Posted on 02/13/2013 at 3:58 PM

Related To: Valentine's Week

The Popdust Files: ciara, elliot smith, jo dee messina, norma jean wright, tesla, the national, underworld

If music is the magical elixir of life, then love songs are the special sauce in pop music. Here, writers from around the web share their favorites.

(Want to read more about love songs, musical catfishing, and whether or not Pitbull is a virgin? Check out our special Valentine’s Week stories!)

Tesla, “Love Song”

Despite its title, Tesla’s 1989 power ballad “Love Song” turns the conceit of the love song on its ear. It doesn’t profess unrequited or tragically lost or enduring love; instead it’s power-belted at you from the perspective of a friend offering comfort and reassurance in the face of doubt and loneliness. And it does so without any of the insipid whininess of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend.”

“Love Song” holds a special place for me because I saw it performed live at the Worcester Centrum in 1990 with a friend who many, many years later responded to the news that I’d ended a serious relationship by saying, “Sox game, tonight. I’ve got the tickets, you buy the beer.” Which was, in our local dialect, the equivalent of saying, “Love is all around you.”

Jolie Kerr is the author of My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume, 2014).

Jo Dee Messina, “Heads Carolina, Tails California”

By Valentine’s Day, my frostbitten New York ears could fall for this one based on title alone. Come June, they’re still listening to it because the titular choice—to which warm-weather state should Jo Dee and her boo run off—is only a red herring. Arriving at the end of the hook, the twist is obvious, and only sweeter for it: As long as the two are together, they’ll be happy just about anywhere. Even Boston. In the second verse, she describes the pair as searchin’ for the promised land, but when she returns to that hook and her voice can’t help but leap into a higher octave, you realize she’s already found it.

Nick Murray is a senior associate editor at The Village Voice.

Ciara, “Promise”

“Promise” may be addressed to a “you,” but the object of the song is immaterial; it’s about Ciara (pictured above), what she wants from a partner, and what she brings to the table in a way that’s idealistic, yet embraces all the beautiful contradictions of a real-life romantic relationship. She’s looking for a prince, a knight, a superman and someone she can spoil like a baby (at the same damn time). It’s sexy and self-assured, but at the same time honest and vulnerable in a way that can’t help but make you fall in love. The Janet Jackson-inspired video even spurred a goofy, overcome Lil Wayne to declare his adoration in his own take on the song, and he summed up its universal appeal in the process: “Yeah I know that this is pretty awkward for me/ But I just act like you are talking to me.”

Lily Benson is an R&B lover and internet user.

The National, “Apartment Story”

Is “Apartment Story” a love song or an ode to Seasonal Affective Disorder? No matter. It’s a love song to me, one that makes the otherwise dark, confining claustrophobia of winter seem like something to savor in lieu of taking part in life outside your door. Hiding out, maybe getting drunk, and listening to records while you wait for some kind of unpleasantness to intrude on you, barring the door against not only the winter but the pretense of life, of going through the motions of facing the world as put-together human beings rather than the fractured people we are. Sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave has always struck me as romanticized agoraphobia, making “Apartment Story” a perfect love song for the frightened, the fractured, the weary and those we bring down into the abyss of our winters with us.

Michele Catalano is a civil servant by day, and a freelance-writer insomniac by 3 a.m.

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