Few events on the U.S. holiday calendar muster the same degree of cynicism in people as Valentine's Day, the other notable dates being Christmas and Election Day. Somehow, this tradition that spans more than six centuries is now just as bad as a religious holiday that became a secular merchandising event. Most likely, the greeting card, flower, diamond, and music industries are to blame for this. Well, women, too.
The fairer sex has turned a day for romantic confessions into a day for romantic validations, as men are now expected to prove their affection with flowers, grand gestures, and huge rocks. If a man fails to meet these lofty expectations, he is doomed to, at the very least, several weeks of sexual indifference and the proverbial cold shoulder from his lover. During this time, the man will probably also hear several rants about how "her mother" thinks he's "a deadbeat loser."
Isn't love grand?
And yet, it persists, and nowhere does it thrive like it does in song. Yes, music really can sum up the complexity of human emotion in three verses and a handful of catchy refrains. This is the message behind Moulin Rouge!, which actually made a lot of sense when you think about it.
Recently, we asked some musical artists to name what song they would place as track one on a Valentine's Day mix CD to the one they love, as sort of a help guide for you, the wary, worn-down lover in search of some way to prove to your other half how much you love him or her. The results were mixed (and sometimes weird), but we hope they'll point you in the right direction and help make this Valentine's Day just a little less cynical for you.
Okay, that's just bullshit. This is the furthest thing from a cure for cynicism. However, it might give you a reason to laugh, or maybe even download some tunes you hadn't heard of.
"Still the One" (remix), Shania Twain. "My wife, who is completely tone-deaf and owns precisely three CDs, went around before our wedding eight years ago telling everyone [this] was 'our song.' I kept saying, 'That is not our song.' But somehow, at the party we had after our wedding, the DJ got ahold of that song and played it, to my extreme embarrassment. But, come to think of it, it is actually kind of a good song although the hook was stolen from the band Orleans."
Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne
"I Was Made to Love Her," Stevie Wonder. "Love is a complicated thing, and to express it, you must explore its two different yet equally important elements. I feel like this song deals well with both. One, the sentiment: This song's lyrics are very simple and heartfelt. There's no need to confuse the lady with a bunch of big words. And two, the groove: You have to let the person know how groovy you feel about them, and the groove in this song is unparalleled. You almost don't need the words if the groove is there."
Chris Faller, The Hush Sound
"Cupid's Chokehold," Gym Class Heroes. "Our song, 'Cupid's Chokehold,' should most definitely be included on any proper Valentine's Day mix CD. Aside from the obvious title reference, we predict that this song will lead to a large number of pregnancies during 2007. And, well, nothing says 'I love you' like makin' babies!"
Matt McGinley, Gym Class Heroes
"Once Upon A Time," Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells. "It's an easy, breezy duet with a great melody. I recommend the album [Together]!"
Hamilton Leithauser, The Walkmen
"Secret Garden," Al B. Sure, Barry White, El DeBarge, James Ingram, and Quincy Jones. "The reason I think 'Secret Garden' is a classic love song is because this record embodies no emotional restraint. The artists that sing on the song are all balladeers and crooners. They all convey their point well, because they all exude passion."
"I'll Come Running," Brian Eno. "'I'll come running to tie your shoe' is the refrain of this song. It is such a simple, pure expression of love and devotion. It says to me that no matter where you are, if you need me, I will be there to help with the simplest of tasks. And it's a happy little song."
Louise Post, Veruca Salt
"I Believe," Stevie Wonder. "When I hear this song, I feel hope. This is a song for people out there who haven't found love yet, but will one day. It's a song that reinforces that love is there. I love it!"
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"Happy Together," The Turtles. "This is a song that my parents used to play for me while I was growing up. It's the one song that really stands out in my mind from my early childhood, and it has such a sentimental value to me that it makes me want to share it with someone I care about. Even though it's from before my time, I really feel like it's a universal song that everyone can get into and sing along to."
"Drugs or Me," Jimmy Eat World. "Love is an emotion that feels the most real to me when its more somber side is displayed. For this reason, the minor melody played in 'Drugs or Me' feels like something I would want my Valentine to feel from me. Also, lyrically, this song is asking the listener to choose between drugs or the lover. Usually, people in love have to make sacrifices and choose that person over something, not necessarily 'drugs,' but some object or desire important to them."
Meg Frampton, Meg & Dia
"Wouldn't It Be Nice," The Beach Boys. "Not only have I put this song on a mix CD to the girl I love, I even started the whole thing off with this song! The Beach Boys are by far one of my favorite bands, and the message of this song really says a lot about two young kids in love dreaming about what life is gonna be like 'in the kinda world where [they] belong.' The background melodies that Brian Wilson thought up for this song definitely give me goosebumps, too. This song is 10 kinds of genius, but that's just my 2 cents."
Patrick Carrie, Limbeck
"I Wanna Sex You Up," Color Me Badd. "The first song I'd put on a mix tape for my one and only is for sure 'I Wanna Sex You Up' by Color Me Badd. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, it gets straight to the point. It's sort of like my lovemaking philosophy: Let's get down to business, why beat around the bush? So 'Happy Valentine's, baby, because I wanna sex you up.'"
Gabe Saporta, Cobra Starship