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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Scene Selections: ValenTUNES for Valentine’s


Valentine’s Day is here! In honor of this day of love, The Observer has compiled a playlist of all our favorite love songs. Regardless of if you’re single or taken, we hope this collection inspires you to embrace the spirit of the holiday and celebrate love.

You can listen to our full extended playlist here:



If you're single...


“Soulmate” by Lizzo

Lexi Kilcoin, Scene Writer

If you’re like me, you’re sick of Valentine’s Day hype that includes chocolates, flowers, teddy bears and whatever else society tells us we need for love. I’d argue most people even forget (or don’t even know about) the origin of Valentine’s Day — cue Saint Valentine. While I’m not going to bombard you with information on a Saint, I will bombard you with reasons why you don’t need to love anyone but yourself this Valentine’s Day; Lizzo’s “Soulmate” is a great place to start.

Lizzo’s powerful vocal cords shake me to my core every time I hear any of her songs, but “Soulmate” hits a little different as she belts her heart out in a love song to herself. The beat is relatively simple with some fun electric sounds so the lyrics have time to shine. From the start, Lizzo lets us know “I figured out I gotta be my own type,” setting us up for the empowerment we didn’t know we needed. Her repetition of “I’m my own soulmate / I know how to love me” and “I know I’m a queen, but I don’t need no crown” displays the self-confidence and assurance that everyone needs to hear. Lizzo wants us to not give in to societal pressures of love and find happiness within ourselves. So if you find yourself single this Valentine’s Day — own it — and remember that you are your own soulmate.


“Heart Basel” by The Drums

Amy Lenkiewicz, Scene Writer

Your roommate’s roses may reek of Valentine’s casting call: an auditioning love interest acting out a rom-com script, chocolates and cards as mandatory props. An easy eye roll. Despite how commonplace and choreographed Valentine’s displays may be, it is a mistake to dismiss grand gestures and romantic gifts as shallow formalities.

Johnny Pierce, the warbling voice of The Drums, sings unsarcastically about missing what we collectively disdain as empty gestures. “I wanna share a secret and I wanna go dancing in the rain,” he describes, unsarcastically lifting images and intimacies from the creative likes of Nicholas Sparks. Pierce wants these cliches desperately, his chorus pleading, “Please call me and tell me that you want me / ‘Cause right now my life is getting pretty ugly.”

In an interview with Stereogum, Pierce explains, “I continued to let him,” a boyfriend with whom Pierce attended Art Basel, “treat me like garbage because I thought if I had this handsome guy with me that somehow I wasn’t doing too bad.” “Heart Basel,” punning on the Swiss-based international gallery exhibit, Art Basel, echoes the centuries’ old message of Basel’s resident philosopher, Erasmus: “Love that has nothing but beauty to keep it in good health is short-lived.” Chocolates, on the other hand, are much more filling. The superficiality we ought to criticize is the way we value the faces of those that pick us up for Valentine’s dates over whatever kindnesses they’re carrying.



If you're taken...


“Light My Love” by Greta Van Fleet

J.P. Spoonmore, Scene Writer 

Greta Van Fleet’s most recent album, “The Battle of Garden’s Gate,” offers an operatic and dreamlike shift from their previous work. “Light My Love,” emulates this evolution brilliantly as it stands apart from their previous love songs. Its bombastic chorus rings the highest notes, supported by heavenly background vocals and the best lyrics in the album. Bassist and pianist, Sam Kiszka, and drummer, Daniel Wagoner, really shine in their floating chords and crashing symbols respectively. With elemental lyrics expanding the joys of loving someone “beyond the stars,” the ethereal voice of Josh Kiszka wraps it in a golden bow. Guitarist, Jake Kiszka, takes a step back to let his brothers take center stage, bringing a balanced sound most other Greta Van Fleet songs don’t have.

It’s a softer, slower melody that is more charming than adrenaline-pumping. I highly recommend watching their “candlelight sessions” music video, which adds an accompanying orchestra and gorgeous, candlelit lens flares. “Light My Love” is more than a simple love song, it’s a confession that says love is a beautiful emotion that exceeds time and space. It’s an existence shared within minds, unbound by hate or materialism. Pure light. “Infinite wonders.”


“Flower Power” by Greta Van Fleet

Anna Falk, Scene Writer

Greta Van Fleet, a group of twenty-somethings from Michigan, have seemingly walked out of a time capsule from the 1960s. Their musical style and fashion aesthetics have listeners longing for the days of classic rock. Many also yell about their similarities to acts like Led Zeppelin and Rush. However, those people forget just what makes them so great — their modern perspective. 

The song “Flower Power” from the band’s first LP, “From The Fires,” is perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time. It gives one the sense of driving in a convertible on a long and winding road, top down, wind blowing in your hair, basking in the bright rays of the setting sun and riding next to the one you love most. It embodies wanderlust and soulmate-like love in a mere five minutes. While the music resembles that of rockers past, the lyrics embrace and celebrate the quirks and wonders of the modern woman in question. She is strong, and she is delicate. She is the light in the dark, and she’s “outta sight.” How could you ask for more?


“The Way You Look Tonight” by Tony Bennett

Reyna Lim, Scene Writer

Originally sung by Fred Astaire in 1936, “The Way You Look Tonight” has since been covered by an impressive list of greats including Bing Crosby, Olivia Newton-John and Frank Sinatra. I personally prefer the 1958 recording by Tony Bennett, featured in the soundtrack of one of my favorite films, “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Bennett’s cover is beautifully simplistic. In contrast to the original version, it interprets the melody as a slower ballad, depending solely on Bennett’s phenomenal vocals and soothing piano accompaniment. 

The lyrics explore an enamored man’s appreciation of a lover’s “breathless charm” and laugh that “touches his foolish heart.” Bennett’s performance is raw and earnest, audibly laughing throughout the recording and at times, almost speaking rather than singing. It is a classically tender, fairy-tale song and I’ve always imagined it to be the perfect soundtrack for a candle-lit dinner or a breezy summer evening out on the patio. Perfect for when you want to feel serenaded or just need a melodic boost of confidence. Surely, in Bennett’s smitten eyes, “the way you look tonight” could refer to the way you look in anything from your best party dress to your coziest pajamas. 


“Jonathan” by Fiona Apple 

Evan McKenna, Managing Editor

If you’ve watched any “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” you might have heard this oft-repeated catchphrase from the show’s titular queen: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” 

It’s a sweet sentiment. But under the surface, it holds a more sinister message: that those struggling with mental illness or self-esteem issues aren’t worthy of love from others.

Fiona Apple’s “Jonathan” dives into this dilemma, encapsulating the bewildering experience of being in love while struggling to love oneself. In the song, Apple asks her lover Jonathan to take her on a date (“Take me to Coney Island / Take me on the train”), but also warns him: Having lived with mental illness since childhood, she’s always at the whim of her own mind. At any moment, even during a romantic night with her partner, she might be overcome by a sudden sadness.

Apple can’t explain this sadness, nor does she want to. “I don’t wanna talk about / I don’t wanna talk about anything,” she sings shakily, as discordant piano and a strange mechanical loop rattle behind her.

But Apple just wants to spend time with Jonathan. Despite her seemingly hard-hearted headspace, she reaffirms her appreciation for his presence: “I like watching you live.” 

The song doesn’t sound like love, I know. But I think Apple’s message is endlessly romantic: Even when she’s going through hell, she still wants to be by Jonathan’s side.

And that’s what love is, I think. Finding someone whose simple presence is a comfort — in sickness and in health.


“Before I Knew It” by Mason Ramsey 

Isabella Volmert, Assistant Managing Editor

This would unfortunately be my number one if Spotify Wrapped came out right now. Yes, Mason Ramsey is that kid who became famous by yodeling “Lovesick Blues” at a Walmart in 2018. His 2019 EP “Twang” recently came back into the spotlight when the banger “Before I Knew It” became popular on TikTok, along with the discovery this blue-collar country king works at a Subway. This song reflects the kind of young love that’s just head over heels. Ramsey sings about finding out he loves doing cute couple-y things, such as holding doors, holding hands and sitting at a table for two, even when he thought he would never be that type of guy. My favorite line is “getting off of work just as fast as I can.” That’s what love is: wanting to be with the other person. Plus the country instrumentals scratch my Missouri-raised brain just right. 


“Love Story (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift

Isabelle Kause, Scene Writer 

Taylor Swift’s album, “Fearless,” is arguably one of the world’s greatest musical masterpieces. In its entirety, the album sums up being in a relationship, from that feeling of love-at-first-sight to tremendous heartache. “Love Story” offers a twist on Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Romeo and Juliet.” The meaning behind the song is just as powerful as the song itself. Taylor was inspired to write “Love Story” because her parents did not approve of a guy she was dating at the time. In her version of the tragedy, Romeo and Juliet live happily ever after. 

“Love Story” contains a variety of different instruments, including banjos, drums, guitars and even fiddles, which all contribute to a beautiful melody fit for an authentic love story. Paul Sidoti, the main background singer, complements Taylor’s vocals without overpowering them. The hook — “Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone. I’ll be waiting, all there’s left to do is run. You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess. It’s a love story, baby, just say, ‘Yes’”— is both catchy and captivating, which makes you want to stick around to hear how it’ll end for the couple. Regardless of your plans on Valentine’s Day, I can guarantee you that you won’t regret adding this award-winning song to your playlist.



If it's complicated...


“God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys

Natalie Allton, Scene Writer

The Beach Boys are perhaps best known for their surf rock sound of the early ‘60s; you probably know “I Get Around” or “Surfin’ USA”, even if you aren’t consciously aware that they’re from The Beach Boys. In the mid-60s, they changed their game and swung pop, releasing their album “Pet Sounds” in 1966. “God Only Knows” was the last single released from the album, and in my humble and understated opinion, it’s the greatest love song of all time. 

Without waxing poetic in technical jargon about music theory and harmonics, believe me when I say that the composition of the song is simply bonkers. It isn’t in any definitive key. It ends in a round comprised of counterpoint vocal melodies — common in the works of Bach and Handel, but almost entirely unheard of in 1960s pop music. The use of “God” in the lyrics was controversial: too taboo for the older conservative generations, too square for the younger and increasingly non-religious generations.

But it’s the lyrical content that makes the song so romantic. It’s strange for a love song to start with “I may not always love you” — and it’s also the crux of the message. In the narrator’s eyes, the relationship may not last, but it almost doesn’t matter. Only the supreme deity of the universe can fathom what kind of person I would be if I hadn’t known you. In simpler terms: my life is irrevocably changed because you’ve been in it. At its heart, that’s what love is.  


“Strawberry Blond” by Mitski

Christine Hilario, Scene Writer

Japanese-American indie-pop singer Mitski is well-known for writing the perfect songs for 3 a.m. bathroom cry sessions, so what’s she doing on a love song playlist? 

“Strawberry Blond” is one of the cheeriest songs in Mitski’s discography. It opens with the line, “I love everybody because I love you,” which perfectly encapsulates how being in love can make the entire world seem like a better place. The first two verses feature simple yet effective lyrics with bright acoustic guitar instrumentals that bring to mind the perfect pastoral day — one where you can just exist out in nature with someone you love. 

However, this IS a Mitski song, so there’s a sad twist to this perfect pastoral image. The third verse opens with the lines, “Reach out the car window, trying to hold the wind/You tell me you love her, I give you a grin,” reframing the song to be about unrequited love. 

Although this may be an unrequited love song, the instrumentals and melody are upbeat enough to disguise the bittersweet lyrics, with the outro of the song even featuring a kazoo. This song flawlessly conveys the simple joy love can bring you, even if that love isn’t reciprocated, but I think it’s this complexity that makes this song brilliant. 


“Station to Station” by David Bowie

John Clark, Scene Writer

“Station to Station” is an incredible hype song, but I never considered the song’s meaning until recently. In the fall semester, I found myself falling for somebody for the first time in years. I was dragged by my heart kicking and screaming. Loving somebody when you don’t totally love yourself is a very complex experience. When I realized “it must be love,” my internal reaction was, “I’m so sorry, I don’t want me to be feeling this way either.” 

I recently got back in touch with my emotions after having shut them down for a long time. It destroyed my poker face, which was distressing, especially considering my intense fear of rejection. I hated myself for placing this invisible burden on them, choosing them to fill a hole in my heart. However, I was also elated. It was “too late.” The distress was drowned out by the emotional high. There was a genuine belief that I was worthy of love. Part of me was looking for somebody “who would connect me with love.” “Station to Station” captures my process of fighting against love, losing, then juggling all the conflicting feelings and trying to make the most of the high while it lasts.


“Bodys” by Car Seat Headrest

Claire Lyons, Interim Scene Editor

It’s been love-at-first-listen ever since I heard the iconic synth drum intro to “Bodys.” It’s been four years since my friend introduced it to me, but the song still perfectly encapsulates my love life: a little happy and a little tragic. 

The song is just about perfect, exploding into an energetic electric guitar riff and eccentric percussion that will make you think: “Is that a cowbell?” The singers and instrumentals manically increase in intensity, then abruptly transition into a dreamy acoustic guitar. This part is a euphoric come down that makes time stand still; it feels like love. The ending splices refrains from previous verses and the chorus together to create a beautiful (somewhat messy) marriage between the two parts.

Besides the music, the lyrics mean a lot to me. As somebody cursed with perpetual foot-in-mouth syndrome, it’s comforting to be reminded that actions speak louder than words: “We’ll forget we forgot how to talk / When we dance.” 

When the singer asks: “Don’t you realize our bodies could fall apart at any second?” I know he’s right. Whether you’re happy or heartbroken, “Bodys” is a reminder that life is too short to spend without loving as deeply as you can.  


“Easy to Love” by Couch

Adriana Perez, Editor-in-Chief

Here’s the thing: I do not know that I have experienced love (or heartbreak, for that matter) in the way that your typical love song describes it. Anyways, this is not me looking for pity. This is just the fact of the matter! What is most concerning about my situation is how tricky it has become to find a love song that actually RESONATES with me. But Couch’s “Easy to Love” checks off all the boxes. First, the melody is wonderfully catchy and the guitar riffs are exquisite. (Are those trumpets? Maybe. I have terrible hearing). Lead singer Tema Siegel’s vocals melds it all together perfectly.

But the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics. This song is about transitioning from feeling contempt for love — lovers are “weaklings playin’ a risky game / fools, no independence to their name” — to craving a love that is easy both ways. That’s the main gist of the song, and if that’s not something every single one of us is looking for — whether you have been in love or not, whether you are spending today with a significant other or not — then I do not know how else I can feel connected to the love so many have experienced. Whatever your romantic situation this Valentine’s Day, the main lesson this song holds for all of us listeners is: Kids, do not force love, but do not scorn it either. 


“What Were We Doing If We Weren’t in Love?” by Sure Sure

Kate Casper, Scene Writer

When I listen to “What Were We Doing If We Weren’t in Love?” I think about the feeling of longing for someone, the feeling of wondering what-if, the feeling of that all-too familiar pang of hurt when I realized it was time to move on. The song opens with lead singer Chris Beachy describing a dream-like scene of a party with “a full mariachi.” The love interest is dancing (even though she isn’t very good) and the narrator is laughing with her. In the chorus, he asks, “What were we doing if we weren’t in love?” The second verse takes a turn from the idealistic scene and romantic sentiment, diving into the truth of the narrative: the narrator must move on. The narrator ponders in the bridge, “As the days go by / Will you think of me too?” This song perfectly captures these feelings of hurt, yearning, bliss and excitement. This Valentine’s Day, let’s embrace the unrequited love we’ve experienced in our lives. Let’s skip happily to the chirpy, cheery beat of a song that celebrates every type of love and every stage of love: unrequited and mutual.