12 Silly Love Songs: In Defense of Schmaltz and Sincerity
When I was younger, I prided myself on the obscurity of my musical preferences. With every passing year, though, I’m beginning to embrace my love of cheesy, uncool, popular music. Which brings me to my current hot take: I’d gladly listen to Wings over the Beatles any day of the week. And my favorite Wings tune? “Silly Love Songs,” (Even if I recognize that “Band on the Run” is an objectively better song) which I’ve had on the brain all this week.
Now, the cynics among us may deride February as a grand conspiracy of the chocolate and rose manufacturers, but while we’re embracing earnestness, I love Valentine’s Day.
Not for the teddy bears or flower bouquets, or the romantic evenings out. I love Valentine’s Day, because for most of the month, I get the chance to sing cheesy love songs at work!
"I love Valentine’s Day, because for most of the month, I get the chance to sing cheesy love songs at work!"
As a songwriter, I’m fascinated by the craft of writing a good love song (because, oof, there sure are a lot of bad ones out there). As a music therapist, I’m wowed by the power of a good ballad to capture a lifetime of emotion. One of the great joys of my job is working with older folks who have been together much longer than I’ve been alive. Singing “their song” is like seeing Cupid’s proverbial bow in action- time stands still and everyone is young and in love again. I love how the right song can lead to the sharing of so many beautiful memories.
I think "Silly Love Songs" captures both of these phenomena for me. It’s a tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre of “love song” while still capturing the breathless sincerity of being smitten with someone. “How can I tell you about my loved one?,” indeed. Why haven’t people had enough of love songs? Because nothing expresses our feelings quite like music.
We make mixtapes (or Spotify playlists) for our crushes, we go to concerts on a big night out, we carefully choose the musical selections for our wedding ceremonies. Our musical tastes greatly affect our self-perception, and help us get to know each other. As P!nk sang, “If God is a DJ, life is a dance floor, love is the rhythm.”
Have you ever tried to date someone whose musical tastes had zero overlap with yours?
Or have you found that the overlap of your musical venn diagram with your partner’s is where “your songs” live? We’ve all got those particular songs that mean a lot to us (and this is where my personal preferences often delve back into the obscure and unsung), but I’ll give you a bouquet of a dozen musical roses, if you will- songs that have meant a lot to my clients and their sweethearts’ throughout the years.
12 Love Songs Our Older Client Adore
It’s hard to pick just one Sinatra tune for this list, but I love this one for its puckish sense of humor and embracing of all the flaws that come with loving any one person. I know a gentleman who sings “It had to be me” each time he sings this one, and that too, gives it a special place in my heart.
Broadway musicals have given us many magnificent love songs. I’m partial to this one, from the Music Man, for how it goes all-in on the cinematic love story element. “There was love all around, but I never heard it singing, no I never heard it at all, ‘til there was you-” that’s romance, right there.
I love to use this one for Valentine’s Day since the lyrics actually mention roses (and we can get into a debate over the best Valentine’s gift- it’s always a battle between chocolate and flowers, though every now and then someone advocates for the Teddy Bear contingent).
Dean Martin is another obligatory crooner (and I’m starting to regret leaving Mel Torme off this list). I love this one for its inclusivity- it also opens the door for discussions about all the forms of love beyond romance, that are so important throughout our lives. Valentine’s Day can also be a difficult holiday, especially when folks are grieving the loss of a partner or spouse.
Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” also gets an honorable mention here, but “You Send Me” is brilliant in its simplicity and sing-a-long-ability. And the bridge often lends itself to a good reminiscence discussion about proposals and weddings.
I must confess- despite my early love of jazz standards, I didn’t know this one until recently, when a couple requested it, as “their song.” But it's quickly become one of my favorites, both for the evocative musical composition, and the repetition of the title. Valentine’s Day is one of those times when men get permission to embrace their gentle side, and that's always a good thing.
A classic Gershwin tune, this song can inspire reflection about the little things that endear us to one another. Bittersweet, yet ultimately hopeful and sentimental, it leaves space for complicated feelings about love, while still holding onto gratitude for the whole experience.
No list of love songs is complete without Elvis. (“Can’t Help Falling in Love” also ranks highly in terms of popular ubiquity and frequency of use for wedding ceremonies.)
Nat King Cole’s signature song, this tune delights in the reciprocity of finding someone who thinks you’re just as special as you think they are. The posthumous duet his daughter Natalie recorded is also a beautiful tribute to the influence of family on our lives.
An oldie, but a goodie, I don’t think I’ve met a single person who doesn’t know this one. We can split hairs over whether the eyes are “blue” or “true”, or whether the light is “glowing” or “burning,” but everyone agrees on the aspect of love.
This song was a huge hit for the Everly Brothers (and has been covered enough times that it stays in the popular consciousness), and I find the story behind Boudleax Bryant’s writing of it fascinating. According to the biography of his wife, Felice, “She was working as an elevator operator at the Schroeder Hotel when she saw Bryant. She has said that she "recognized" him immediately; she had seen his face in a dream when she was eight years old, and had "looked for him forever." She was 19 when they met.” That story puts a whole new spin on that song, doesn’t it?
I think this might be the most popular wedding song in America from 1930-1970, judging by the frequency with which folks I meet cite it as “their song.” Irving Berlin allegedly wrote this tune as a wedding gift for his wife (and also gifted her its royalties). It’s a brilliantly simple song which perfectly captures traditional wedding vows, and it’s an absolute privilege to sing it with couples who have seen all those vows through, and then some.
What would be on your list of “Most Romantic Songs of All Time?”
What love songs do you want to be sure to pass on to the next generation?
Are you curious how you can use songs like these to help older adults in your life?