Love is as complicated as ever this Valentine’s Day. Social distancing restrictions have made it difficult to connect with people at all, much less fall in love, and many understandably feel jaded about romance this year. Nevertheless, we all remember the enchanting (and sometimes painful) feelings that come with having a crush. Whether that crush is reciprocated or not, it evokes the same emotions: devotion, affection, intense joy and unexpected pain. This year, celebrate Valentine’s Day by listening to songs that capture the complicated and contradictory parts of love.
“Heat Wave,” Snail Mail
Lindsey Jordan, better known by her stage name Snail Mail, is an expert in capturing the beauty and sadness of unrequited teenage love. Her single “Heat Wave” is the epitome of this. As Jordan softly sings, “Heat wave, nothing to do/ Woke up in my clothes having dreamt of you,” she perfectly channels the dreamy, all-consuming feeling of having a summertime crush. Later, atop powerful guitar riffs, she pleads, “I hope whoever it is/ Holds their breath around you/ ‘Cause I know I did.” In other words, she says, “If I can’t have you, I hope the person who can loves you as much as I do.” It hurts, but that’s love.
“Never Be Mine,” Angel Olsen
Even when love is hopeless, it can still be beautiful. Angel Olsen proves this on “Never Be Mine,” a track that tells a story of a one-sided romance. The love that Olsen describes feels completely saccharine; speaking directly to her romantic interest, she sings, “Coming from an endless place/ Heaven hits me when I see your face/ I go blind, every time.” This makes the progression of the song all the more emotional –– although Olsen realizes that her feelings aren’t reciprocated, she continues to yearn hopelessly. “Never Be Mine” is a perfect ode to feelings that just won’t let up.
“My Boy (Twin Fantasy),” Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat Headrest is known for its long songs — some tracks range up to 13 minutes in length — as well as its complicated lyrics and powerful rock instrumentals. “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” abandons most of these signature aspects in favor of a simple, pared down song about a simple, pared down feeling. Frontman Will Toledo repeats just three lines throughout the track: “My boy, we don’t see each other much/ It’ll take some time, but somewhere down the line/ We won’t be alone.” With his husky, melodic voice, Toledo convinces his listeners that the love he describes is pure and worth waiting for.
“Strawberry Blond,” Mitski
Although “Strawberry Blond” tells a sad story upon close listen, it doesn’t quite sound that way at first. The upbeat acoustic guitar combined with Mitski’s delicate vocals and pining lyrics make “Strawberry Blond” evoke rapturous feelings of love and devotion, even if that love is one-sided. The song’s first line, “I love everybody because I love you,” perfectly encompasses what it’s like to develop romantic feelings for someone, to fall in love so deeply that it seems to take over your life. No matter whether the feelings are returned, the love is all-encompassing.
“Everybody Wants to Love You,” Japanese Breakfast
“Everybody Wants to Love You” is an ode to the beauty of everyday romance. Under the alias Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner sings about the simple moments in life that become meaningful when the person you love is involved. She asks her love interest, “Will you lend me your toothbrush?/ Will you make me breakfast in bed?” before repeating “Everyone wants to love you!” on top of upbeat mandolin riffs and echoing background vocals. Between her cheerful voice and charming lyrics, Zauner represents the joy of being in love.