It's simple, isn't it? You're in love, and you sing a song. You're out of love, and you sing a song. It's a song about him. It's a song about her. It's song about you and the way you feel when confronted by a person who, for whatever reason, strikes a gong in your soul. It's sad. Wistful. Giddy. Obnoxious. It's the thing you play over and over when you're first in love because it makes you feel like you're drowning in something that's going to split your chest in two.
And you like it. You wish you could drown forever. You'd gulp down the ocean if it wasn't going to kill you.
It's the thing you play when your chest has split in two, over and over, because there's a wicked satisfaction in pricking a tender wound. A love song is a song about love, which is a tiny, terrifying word that, when turned inside out, explodes in every possible direction to become vast, a landscape with features both precise and smudged.
Maybe a love song can be identified like pornography. "I know it when I see it." (A handy little phrase when faced by the need to be both honest and vague... thank you, Justice Potter Stewart.)
Today, I asked friends to recommend their favorite love songs so I could build a playlist for our first rehearsal for a new Sharp & Fine project. It's a work in progress. Right now, it stands at 45 songs... Some expected, tasty old chestnuts, some ungainly oddballs. But, you know, all recognizable for what they are.
So, I've been thinking about love songs all day, but I still haven't figured out which ones are my favorites. "Favorite" is such a dangerous word. Using it in public is like looking down the barrel of a gun. I am an indecisive chicken, and will only say that here are three love songs I like a lot:
When I was 15, I danced in a piece to this music... It blew my heart to smithereens. When I first heard it, I was beside myself, I couldn't figure out how one piece of music could make me feel so many things. I was 15 and I didn't even really know what love was, but I was convinced that, somewhere inside this piece of music, was a large collection of evidence for how it should feel. When I was 19 and freshly away from home, I carried around a walkman with a disc of the recording featuring the Cleveland Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma. The version here is the Taneyev Quartet with Mstislav Rostropovich.
Listening to this song makes me feel like I should be out walking late at night, down a long, black road lined with infrequent lamps, toward a bright, golden room inhabited by the person I want to see most in the world. The tune is so simple... and then his voice spreads out over it, enormously tender, in some of the most sentimental lyrics in the world.
When my friend, Heather, and I went to see The Darjeeling Limited, we left the movie theater and went directly to a record store where we each bought a copy of the soundtrack. It's one of my least regretted music purchases ever. I love this song. I listened to it to excess to clean my ears and heart out after dating a fellow whose tastes ran to blurry, electronic indie pop. The heavy drumbeats are addictive.
LOVE SONGS FROM FRIENDS (so far)
Evolving Spotify playlist HERE. Incomplete, due to my inability to find everything.
Recommendation thank yous go to Hallie Hunt, Dan Wool, Amis Maldonado, Stella Stastny, Amber Hsu, Ali Trotta, Clare Mallaney, Marc Jacobs, Penelope Barcelo, Neil Gaiman, LizAnne Roman, Sarah Miller, Lauren Naturale, Mari Aizawa, Arolyn Williams, Lauren Gallagher, Kelvin Vu, Kat Howard, Rebecca Howard, Noam Rosen, Gabrielle Zucker, Heather McCalden, and Shannon Leypoldt.