With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it’s high time some of us figured out our lovey-dovey plans for our significant partners, friends or ourselves. With the state of entertainment predominately taking place indoors, movies and shows have been in a permanent state of play. So, take a break from this one option with some classic, romantic ballads to get you up on your feet for a couple’s waltz or a freeing solo jam.
“Our Love (Will See Us Through)” by Nina Simone
From “Put a Spell on You” to “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” there are a ton of songs from the untouchable Nina Simone that would make for a wonderful slow dance, but “Our Love” earns the most spins on the record player for me. As opposed to singing about the best times or what she’d do if this couple were together, Simone lovingly croons about love fighting through tough times. For couples out there who have faced their share of adversity together, a song like this can hit home and draw together for the dance they need at the time. Her complex, simultaneously gloomy and thunderous voice peaks at points in the time to soar to the heights that love can go. So, add this one to your Spotify for a classy, lounge singer vibe.
“Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke
While the illustrious Cooke has a generally accepted date night classic with “(What A) Wonderful World,” I argue for Valentine’s Day, “Bring It on Home to Me” is the tonally perfect pick. While admittedly being a break-up song, Cooke’s ode hits all of the notes of a classic song of yearning with a rhythm and tone built for embraced swaying. Add Cooke’s flawlessly singable lyrics that seem to be designed to be carelessly belted for utmost enjoyment and you have a song to sing to your baby this Valentine’s Day.
“Portrait of Tracy” by Jaco Pastorius
If there is a stronger example of musical romanticism out there, I haven’t heard it yet. “Portrait of Tracy” is an instrumental track that the late Jaco Pastorius composed for his wife, the titular Tracy, but Pastorius wasn’t satisfied with the usual tones brought by his immaculate jazz bass playing. As opposed to usually picking, plucking or slapping, Pastorius plays the song almost entirely in natural harmonics. This perfectly emulates the feelings of Pastorius for his wife, being so in love that he’s in a lighter-than-air, dreamlike state. Sadly, the track is locked to the landmark 1976 self-titled album, so you have to find the song uploaded to YouTube if you want to throw it on for a hauntingly romantic tone. Fret not, the rest of the tracks on this list are readily available on Spotify.
“One Hundred Ways” by Quincy Jones and James Ingram
I first discovered this song when rapper MF DOOM sample the synthesizer solo for his outstanding 1999 track “Rhymes Like Dimes.” Released in 1981, “One Hundred Ways” fights against the typically chauvinist lyrics of many love songs made by men by telling lovers to perform those simple things they know their significant other loves. Honestly, the lyrics came as a breath of fresh air after hours of listening to countless grand lyrical gestures. No more immaculate trips or unimaginable gestures, this song asserts “if it’s violins she loves, let them play,” or to open up with your feelings, “If you need her so much more, why don’t you say?” If you haven’t figured out any Valentine’s ideas, find this track on Spotify and by the time you reach the aforementioned synth solo, you’ll find 100 ways.
“Love and Happiness” by Al Green
For our last pick, join me on a trip back to 1972. Swinging guitar licks, fluid keys and bright, poppy horns make this track another effortlessly listenable one. Grooves aplenty, “Love and Happiness” gives the listener nothing but a steady, 96 beats per minute jam essential for a Valentine’s dance.