For Valentine's Day, we pick the songs that most remind us of romance, heartbreak and love

In the summer of 1976, the No. 1 song in the country asked a rhetorical question: What's so wrong about filling the world with silly love songs? The Paul McCartney confection is an ode to outright sentiment, but its origins are more cynical: It was meant as a grinning middle finger to John Lennon, who had vocally criticized McCartney's 1970s output for being too treacly.

The sentiments of "Silly Love Songs" are nonetheless timeless, because a good love song can make even the most hardhearted cynics into sentimentalists. Valentine's Day is right around the corner, so we're reflecting on the love songs, silly or otherwise, that are most important to us — the tunes we associate most closely with romance, or maybe even heartbreak. Don't mind us while we get a little mushy for a minute.

— NATHAN WEINBENDER

BRIAN'S SONG

Most blatant displays of emotion come across as unbearably maudlin to me. I'm more of a Lennon than a McCartney in that regard. In fact, the track that my wife and I have designated as our song is a joke: "Faded," the only hit by long-forgotten Canadian funk-rock band SoulDecision. We're clearly too cool for sentimentality. But when we saw the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson in concert, we found ourselves blubbering like babies as he lit into "God Only Knows," the crown jewel of 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds. It's arguably the greatest pop song ever, but it's the opening lyric that gets me every time: "I may not always love you." It's kind of cold, cruel almost, yet also achingly romantic, because it's so honest and forthright and realistic. Love stories are so much more powerful when there's a possibility that they could end at any moment. (NW)

JUST MY TYPE

Like any millennial coming of age in the 2000s, burning CD mixes — for road trips, first crushes, workouts, etc. — was an essential teenage rite. I still make plenty of dedication playlists on Spotify. I have one for my partner, Will, and even for our cat Dellie. Mostly I save songs that remind me of them and happy moments in our lives. One day, when I heard "My Type" by Saint Motel, I added it to Will's playlist. I'll admit: I've never been the savviest lyric interpreter. Sometimes, all that matters is how a song makes you feel versus the meaning of the words, right? Later when I played it for him and he heard the chorus, "You-you-you're just my type / Oh, you've got a pulse and you are breathing," his reaction contained significantly less romantic appreciation than sarcastic surprise. (CHEY SCOTT)

LIP SERVICE

Among the oddities of high school dances in Omaha was the fact that they were called "sock hops" despite it being the 1980s and not Happy Days, and that they ended with a slow dance to "Stairway to Heaven." Just try to shift gears from gentle, awkward teen-dance swaying into something that's not breathtakingly uncool when that song goes nuts at the end. But I digress. I was one of many who experienced my first kiss in a dimly lit gym at a sock hop. I remember the girl. I remember wondering if I was doing it right. I remember peeking with one eye to see if her eyes were closed. And I've always remembered the song, one I literally never heard again until looking it up for this assignment: Eric Carmen's "I Wanna Hear It from Your Lips." Does it hold up? About as well as calling a dance a "sock hop." But it's planted in my brain forever. (DAN NAILEN)

SAD SACKS

Considering it's about the inevitable slow death of passionate love over a lifetime, "Brothers on a Hotel Bed" by Death Cab for Cutie probably shouldn't be what a couple calls "our song." But that's exactly what it is for my wife and me. It connected with both of us in a time of uncertainty — we'd recently started dating, yet I was about to move 300 miles away just as our relationship had blossomed. Would our relationship fade with the distance, like it can fade over time? As it turns out, the answer was no. We survived the distance, and now, years later, that song represents something entirely different, something we were able to conquer together. (WILSON CRISCIONE)

PROBLEMATIC VENTURE

Impulsive decisions generally aren't the best ones. Partially because they tend to involve blowing excessive amounts of cash. Like that time I hopped on a redeye flight to spend a weekend in New York City with a woman I was smitten with at the time. We had been friends and she was visiting a few American cities on business when a poorly thought-out romance developed. She loved Radiohead and we listened to tracks like "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" and "All I Need." After the brief trip out east, the quixotic relationship quickly crashed and burned in a less-than-amicable fashion. But now, whenever I hear those songs, I always think of that sun-drenched summer evening happily meandering around Brooklyn with her. It's an absurd, expensive and sad-but-comical memory forever linked to a band that I'm otherwise ambivalent about. (JOSH KELETY)

ICE KING

Time has a weird way of icing over feelings. My once deeply held beliefs on love and relationships have hardened since my sentimental teenage years. But "Mountain Annie" by bluegrass group Fruition is one of those songs that manages to break through that icy barrier. It's not so much about being in love with someone as it is falling for someone who won't reciprocate. We've all been there. It sucks. The song's perfectly executed licks from the mandolin and vocal harmonies make it energetic, despite how depressing it is. "Get out of my head, give me back my heart Mountain Annie." Sad, yet sweet. Maybe even happy after all. (QUINN WELSCH) ♦

ZZ Ward: Stardust Tour @ Knitting Factory

Fri., Feb. 21, 8 p.m.
  • or