By Justin Kresse
Once you’ve decided on a streaming service (see the feature article about music streaming services), in honor of Valentine’s Day, you might want to consider listening to selections on this list of the top 10 best love songs. Many have simple musical backings – mostly piano or guitar – so you might even consider learning one to play for your significant other. That is, of course, if you’re feeling especially romantic.
1 - “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley (1961)
The king of rock and roll could do more than just dance and gyrate. He could sing. Perhaps no song proves this better than this one. His smooth-as-butter vocals have absolutely no comparison, with just a slower, minimalist backing track that helps to make this song an utter masterpiece.
2 - “All Of Me” by John Legend (2013)
Switching gears to the 21st century, this entirely more dramatic love song combines a striking piano track with Legend’s bittersweet-sounding voice to create the perfect song that expresses what words simply cannot do.
3 - “You Are So Beautiful’ by Joe Cocker (1974)
Originally written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher, Crocker’s cover (he recorded a version even though he didn’t actually write it) slowed down the tune to better express the singer’s emotions. It’s yet another song with a minimalist piano background track to better highlight the vocals – especially when he screams his heart out – with only a beautiful string accompaniment being added for emphasis.
4 - “Into My Arms” by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1997)
What? It’s another love song with a minimalist piano track and one lead vocal? True, but maybe that’s part of what makes these songs so beautiful. They draw focus to the singer and their words of love. If that’s the formula, then Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have certainly got it down-pat with this tune – though they do add a touch of sorrow into the mix. If that kind of music isn’t your jam, don’t worry. The next song switches things up a bit.
5 - “I’ll Stand By You” by The Pretenders (2004)
Maybe better classified as a rock love ballad, this song starts out similarly with a beautiful piano track complementing Chrissie Hynde’s vocals, but gradually ramps up with drums and guitars to the end with a full-fledged gospel choir. It’s a beautiful message to the listener about how the singer will always be there for them – reminiscent of the words often spoken during a marriage ceremony.
6 - “Something” by The Beatles (1969)
How did The Beatles get put all the way down here on the list? I guess it’s pretty tough competition. Kidding aside, George Harrison’s “Something” is a different kind of love song entirely. It’s much more focused on the musical accompaniment, adding strings for just a touch of sappiness, as well as the guitar and organ. That’s not to say that vocals aren’t important too. Harrison’s voice expresses the stress of adulthood but retains just enough of that “boy from Liverpool” energy to round out the track.
7 - “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars (2010)
If you’re more of a pop music listener, this might be the love song for you. It retains the piano presence in pretty much all of these love songs – I guess there’s something especially moving about those melodic keystrokes – but adds distortion as well as some peppy drum beats to make it a much livelier take on the traditional love song format. Mars’ words are still just as beautiful and heartfelt: “Girl, you’re amazing just the way you are” expresses exactly how love accepts you as you are.
8 - “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones (2002)
Some singers just have a voice that takes your breath away. If you don’t know what I mean, then I would urge you to listen to this song (or any other one) by Jones. It sounds effortless yet extremely emotional. As to the melody itself, this song leans more on a guitar backing track, though the piano is not so far behind. The lyrics focus on escaping with your significant other rather than love itself, but still express a deep connection between the singer and listener that’s perfect for the season.
9 - “You’re the Inspiration” by Chicago (1984)
An 80s song through and through, this track tells the listener just how important they are to the singer. If you’re looking for a sappy or cliché song for a laugh or that extra bit of meaning, this is the perfect choice.
10 - “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran (2014)
Sheeran really knows how to do a song justice and this one is no different. He starts out with just a guitar, but adds the piano and guitar for added texture, breaking away for a moment at the start of the chorus to really pull the listener in. His voice is yet another on this list that is perfect for a love song – strained enough to convey the meaning in his words. And when he goes high, you can feel it. Even his “la la las” add something extra to the musical performance.