Valentine’s Day: The Music Essentials

Valentine’s Day is problematic for anyone like me who borders on the “overly” side of emotional. Exhibit A: On the treadmill yesterday, I listened to NPR All Songs Considered’s V-Day podcast, which was a compilation of listeners’ requests and dedications to loved ones. Perhaps the people who saw me tearing up just thought I was killing myself for the sake of health, but actually I was about 90% on the way to bawling after listening to a girl dedicate “Where’d All The Time Go?” by Dr. Dog to her recently-deceased grandmother, whose birthday was in February. Oh my god. If that wouldn’t make you cry, you are a robot. 

I don’t subscribe to the cheesy, box-of-chocolates and heart-shape-ify-everything part of Valentine’s day. It’s too commercialized for my tastes and ostracizes a particular group of people for the sake of selling flowers and candy, which is not fair. But the holiday has merit if you look beyond the couple as a unit and focus on relationships more broadly. Love manifests itself in many ways – through family, friends, pets, coworkers – and all of those deserve a little recognition on Valentine’s day. What better way than through music? Makes me cry, anyway.

With that in mind, here’s your essential Valentine’s Day playlist, with music for all types of loves. I hope you find a song that strikes a chord. Unless, of course, you’re a robot. Then, I can’t help you. Find links to the songs in their titles, or check them out on Spotify.


For Love of your Pets: “For Emma” by Bon Iver.* Ok, so this one’s a little personal. After my childhood dog, Emmy, died in September of 2010, Shaun made me a mixtape, the final song on which is “For Emma.” This song will always remind me of what an awesome pup she was, and the final line will always be a dedication to her, no matter how long ago it was [“For Emma, forever ago.”].

For the Graphic Novel, Halloween and/or Ryan Gosling Lover: “My Body’s A Zombie for You” by Dead Man’s Bones. Yes, this song incorporates a children’s choir (at the Silverlake Conservatory), zombies, and love into a creepy number sung by front man Ryan Gosling. It’s a great song. Yep, he’s in a band. Bet you didn’t know that.

For Love of your State: “The Ghost of Virginia” by Justin Townes Earle – or “New York, New York,” preferably performed by Frank Sinatra. You’ve got to love where you live, right? Perhaps some “California Dreamin'” or …something about Pennsylvania. Help?

For the Hopeful: “Somebody to Love” by Queen. Hey, any excuse to turn a holiday into a time to listen to Queen. Maybe the “anybody” should be  this body.

For the Blunt Type: “Take You Home” by Annie. Self-explanatory, brutally honest, and a pretty good song to boot.

For the Realist: “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. It takes a strong person to accept that love is not only special but fragile – and capable of ending. In fact, a relationship’s unknowns are often the worst part. But that’s not a reason not to celebrate and immerse oneself in it, and this song captures that perfectly.

For the Manipulator: “The Gardner” by The Tallest Man On Earth. God, this song kills me. It also takes a playful approach to how far someone might go to hold onto a love.

For Love of your Family: “Where’d All The Time Go?” by Dr. Dog. Sorry, NPR, I had to include this one. It’s almost like the modern-day “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carslile, a contemplation of growing up and moving forward and just how fast that happens. The perfect song for me and my mom before we go pick out wedding dresses on Sunday.

For the Hopeless Romantic: “Three Rounds and a Sound” by Blind Pilot. Ok, I’m seeing them on Friday night in the venue that will soon serve as my wedding venue. I’ll let you know if I don’t cry. It doesn’t help that one of me and Shaun’s first dates was a Blind Pilot concert in 2009.

For the Eternally Emo: “Unrequited Love” by Lykke Li. The feeling of utter defeat this song delivers is super intense. You’ve been warned.

For Issie: “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. Unfortunately this video doesn’t come with that face he made on SNL many many years ago, but you’ll know EXACTLY what I mean.

For your Daughter: “My Girl” by The Temptations. I like to think that, when I’m not making him want to rip his hair our, this is what my dad thinks of me.** Also, just watch them dance. Cutest thing, ever.

For the Masochist: “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You” by Colin Hay. This was a toss-up and almost went to “And So it Goes” by Billy Joel, because it doesn’t matter what kind of mood I’m in, both of those songs will send me into a crying fit, regardless of the status of my happiness at that moment in my life.

For a V-Day Dance Party: “Midnight Hour” by Reflection Eternal and Estelle. This is just a stupidly happy, sweet, exciting song. I couldn’t get enough of it last summer when the record came out.

For the 90s Kind of Love: “Everlong” by The Foo Fighters. Best love song ever written. Best music video (directed by Michel Gondry). Courtney’s shameless, shameless plug.

For the Music Lover: “Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by the Four Tops. When this song fell from #1 on the charts, their producer realized they needed a new “hit” to keep them on top. One of the members sat down at a piano, started playing the chord progression from “Can’t Help Myself” backwards, and “It’s the Same Old Song” was born – but with a different meaning. Next time you’re at a 60s party, you can wow people with your knowledge. I have to thank NPR for passing that knowledge to me.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

** My dad would also expect me to be nothing short of cocky, so this self-dedication is doubly fitting.

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Categories: Music


Courtney grew up in Reading, PA, and has lived in New York City (where she earned a bachelor's degree at NYU), Prague, Philadelphia, and Charlottesville (where she received a J.D. from UVa Law). Courtney and her new husband will settle in Philadelphia following a six-week Euro-trip extravaganza in September of 2012. Courtney's interests include music, writing, criticism, fitness, travel, cooking, and sports. Please enjoy the blog. LinkedIn: Tumblr:


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2 Comments on “Valentine’s Day: The Music Essentials”

  1. February 14, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    For love of your country: Cesky sen.


  1. Return to C’Ville: Blind Pilot & Cotton Jones | Ryes and 'Shine - February 18, 2012

    […] week in my Valentine’s Day post, I said I’d let you know if I didn’t cry if Blind Pilot played “Three Rounds and […]

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