“Everyone is warm inside, their houses in the snow. The mercury is dropping down to minus 10 below, Outside it’s chilling, but inside it’s thrilling. The fireplace is burning, and records that keep turning.” – “It’s Now Winter’s Day” – Tommy Roe.
They don’t write ’em like that, anymore – and it’s never more noticeable than on Valentine’s Day. You can mold a romantic mood with a lighted fireplace, low lighting and scented candles, but without the ultimate enhancement of romantic music, it’s just not the same.
And to be sure, Valentine’s Day won’t be the same this year – unless “I Knew You Were Trouble” is your idea of the ultimate love song.
Ever since the inception of turbo pop (a nonstop accelerated dance beat) a few years ago, love ballads have been all but banned from radio. For that matter, slow songs of any theme are pretty much passé, although, oddly enough, the few that break through are dripping with angst (“The A Team,” “Ho Hey,” “Rolling in the Deep”).
For decades, it was common for the third hit single from new teen groups to be a love song. As it often unveiled a softer side of the artists, proved they were diverse and expanded their appeal to adults, these songs would often cement their fame and propel their career to new heights. A side benefit, of course, was that the tempo-breaking tunes provided radio with a steady stream of songs that appealed to a wide bracket of listeners.
• The Beach Boys’ “Surfer Girl” followed “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ USA”
• The Temptations released “My Girl” after “Way You Do The Things You Do” and “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)”
• Gary Lewis offered “Save Your Heart For Me” after “This Diamond Ring” and “Count Me In”
• The Partridge Family brought out the hankies with “I’ll Meet You Halfway” after “I Think I Love You” and “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted”
• The Eagles paused with “Peaceful Easy Feeling” after “Take It Easy” and “Witchy Woman”
• Leo Sayer scored his first No. 1 with “When I Need You” after “Long Tall Glasses” and “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing”
•Maroon 5 became Top 40 staples with “She Will Be Loved” after “Harder to Breathe” and “This Love.”
Many thought current teen sensation One Direction would score mightily after “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Live While We’re Young” with its third major single, “Little Things,” a tune so sensitively-written and unlike anything else on the radio that it demanded attention. But despite heavy out-of-the-box airplay and some DJs even begging fans to give the song a chance, it faded quickly. Evidently, a teen base accustomed to a personal playlist of profanity, sex and alcohol-related songs just wasn’t interested in taking a pause for the cause of romance.
The sad fact is that no artist today – or in the past few years – is associated with love songs. The hottest singer out there – Taylor Swift – is best known for her releases that rip into past boyfriends, real or imagined.
What’s a guy or gal in love to do?
The vinyl stylings of Johnny Mathis and Barry White immediately spring to mind, and Barry Manilow, Frank Sinatra and Lionel Richie are certainly acceptable substitutes.
If it’s a mix tape you prefer, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “At Last,” “And I Love You So” “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You,” “Endless Love,” “Amazed,” “You Had Me From Hello” and, for the inarticulate, “La La Means I Love You” certainly fill the bill.
Of course, if you’re content with someone else’s favorite songs, those TV-packaged “Love Songs of the ’60s,” “Sultry Soul of the ’70s” or “Romance in the Eclectic ’80s” will suffice.
“Taylor Swift’s Greatest Hits”? Not so much. An hour of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “Mean,” “Picture to Burn,” “Should’ve Said No” and “Teardrops on My Guitar” is sure to dampen the mood.
The radio as background noise won’t work, either, unless your idea of a romantic evening is party-til-you-puke - the prevailing theme of Top 40 for the past few years. Try “Blackout,” “Don’t Stop the Party,” “Party Rock Anthem,” “Good Time” and “Blow” after which you could be perfectly indecisive about your intentions with “Call Me Maybe.”
Of course, if the Valentine flowers or candy didn’t come this year, you can lash out with “Troublemaker,” “Rude Boy,” the aforementioned “I Knew You Were Trouble” or “Get You’re Ass Back Home,” sink into a funk with “Die Young” and “If I Die Young” or settle for all-out depression with “Blow Me One Last Kiss,” “Don’t Wake Me Up,” “It Will Rain,” “I Cry,” ‘Grenade,” or any one of Adele’s breakthrough/breakup hits.
But if “Set Fire to the Rain” isn’t your idea of a snuggle-up Valentine’s Day song, you’re pretty much out of luck.
To be fair, there are a few – very few – touches of romance out there, but they don’t have the same ring as the classics. In 2009, the best-selling love song was “My Life Would Suck Without You.” ‘Nuff said. Currently, the most notable romantic interlude is Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me.” But you probably can guarantee an early goodnight from that special someone if you propose a serenade by the Biebs following a bottle of wine and a candlelight dinner.
For Valentine’s Day, this year at least, it’s preferable to go old school. “La La Means I Love You” may be inarticulate, but it serves the intended purpose quite well. After all, when you’re in love, words – articulate or not – just get in the way.