Songs about Love: the 21st Century Edition

“The Purple Bottle,” Animal Collective, Feels (2005)

Not your average love song by any stretch, or even an average song – it is Animal Collective, after all. But this is the song that made me fall in love with this band and it happens to be about love:

"Can I tell you that you are the purple in me?

Can I call you just to hear you, would you care?

When I saw you put your purple finger on me

There's a feelin' in your bottle

Found your bottle, found your heart

Gives a feeling from your bottled little part"

“Michael,” Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (2004)

The fourth single off Franz Ferdinand's debut made certain male fans uncomfortable with its homoerotic lyrics ("Michael, you're the boy with all the leather hips / sticky hair, sticky hips, stubble on my sticky hips / Michael, you're the only one I'd ever want") despite them being written and performed by an alleged straight man. From a 2004 New York News article: "[Lead singer] Alex Kapranos has said he's a bit surprised that 'Michael' is the song people most want to ask about since it's so straightforward. He told the story behind it to the magazine Boyz: 'It was one night when me and the band were out with friends from Glasgow, and we went to this warehouse dance party thing called Disco X. It was a very debauched night and these two friends got it together in a very sexy way.'"

“Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream Part 1,” My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (2008)

Never has such a dramatic demand been delivered so tenderly and sexy casual as Jim James when he sings "Touch me I'm going to scream if you don't."

“Fidelity,” Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope (2006)

A perfectly lovely ballad by one of today's great songstresses. Here she is being wonderful:

“Plastis Wafers,” of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping (2008)

So many of Montreal/Kevin Barnes songs are about the ups and downs of love. This one's particularly close to my heart and has some of my all-time favorite lyrics, like “I confess to really being quite charmed by your feminine effects / you're the only one with whom I would role play Oedipus Rex,” and “You give me such a rush, make my whole body blush, I don't care if they say you're just my crutch I know you're not, you're the only good thing I've got,” and, the most poetic, “When you're dead I'll search for you, like Orpheus, I'll find you, some way”

“Sweethearts on Parade,” M. Ward, Transistor Radio (2005)

M. Ward’s crushed velvet vocals are sublime in any song, but in this one, they are colored with a particularly exquisite longing.

“One,” Raz Ohara & the Odd Orchestra, Raz Ohara & the Odd Orchestra (2008)

A down-tempo, loungy number with bossa nova rhythms and Raz's voice like caramel, smooth and rich and tantalizing.

“You Know I’m No Good,” Amy Winehouse, Back in Black (2006)

It's dark and heavy soul, about a woman who loves her man but keeps cheating on him time and time again, in the end really only cheating herself since he always seems to know when she's done wrong. "You say what did you do with him today? / And sniff me out like I was Tanqueray."

“She’s the One” Caribou, Andorra (2007)

Dreamy psychedelia has never been so touching. Here's Caribou doing the song for The Pink Room:

“Maple Leaves,” Jens Lekman, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (2004)

The cutest Swede to ever write pop music offers this clever little ballad.

"I think you're beautiful

but it's impossible

to make you understand

that if you don't take my hand

I lose my mind completely

Madness will finally defeat me

She said it was all make-belief

but I thought you said maple leaves

and when she talked about the fall

I thought she talked about the season

I never understood at all"

“Sweetheart in the Summer,” Ween, La Cucaracha (2007)

An easy, cheesy little roots number with lyrics like "She's a sweetheart in the summer / Summertime is here again / She's a sweetheart in the summer / and I hope it never ends."

“1 2 3 4,” Feist, The Reminder (2007)

This song was everywhere for a while and I can't help but like its adorable message. According to WikiPedia, The Reminder was selling 6,000 copies per week, "1234" 2,000 downloads before the Apple iPod Nano commercial featuring the song aired. After the commercial, the song surpassed 73,000 total downloads and reached No. 7 on Hot Digital Songs and No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100; The Reminder jumped from No. 36 to No. 28 on the Billboard 200, with sales at 19,000. Time writer Josh Tyrangiel named it among his Top 10 songs of '07, calling it a “masterpiece” and lauding Feist for singing it “with a mixture of wisdom and exuberance that's all her own."

Some other great ones:“Skinny Love,” Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (2008), a melancholy ode; "Be Gentle with Me," The Boy Least Likely To, The Best Party Ever (2005), a saccharine, blissful number about a boy who's been hurt and needs his new lady love to take it easy; "Spread Your Love," Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, B.R.M.C. (2001), a crunchy rock number with the classic lyric, "Spread your love like a fever"; “Die Die Die,” Dr. Dog, We All Belong (2007), a stabbed-in-the -gut number with the anguished heart-been-broke line, "I don't want to die in your arms, I just want to die"; “All I need,” Radiohead, In Rainbows (2007), in his usual brooding manner, Thom Yorke strips away all romantic notions and says it plain (check out the video below of Radiohead performing "All I Need" on Nigel Godrich's show, From The Basement); “Famous Flower of Manhattan,” The Avett Brothers, Four Thieves Gone (2006), a song that uses floral metaphors to present a story about a city girl and the man who wants to sweep her away to the countryside; and “Paris 2004,” Peter Bjorn and John, Writer’s Block (2007), a blissful ditty about a couple in love in Paris.

Here are some CL Staff picks:

"Breathe (2 a.m.)," Anna Naylick, Wreck of the Day (2005)

-Jamie O.

“Dance With My Father,” Luther Vandross, Dance with My Father (2003)


“Falling Slowly,” the Oscar-winning song by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová from Once soundtrack (2007).

"My Phone’s on Vibrate for You,” Rufus Wainwright, Want One (2003)


"Someday Baby," Bob Dylan, Modern Times (2006)

-(Wade's suggestion if he were still here)

I know there’s a huge swath of songs I’ve forgotten or didn't even know about, so enlighten me, please:

We all know the standard classic mixtape love songs – “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton,” Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love,” Stevie Wonder's “Golden Lady,” "I Will Always Love You," (Dolly or Whitney, you pick the version), "At Last," by Etta James, most of the Beatles' early catalog. But what about modern, 21st century love songs, i.e., those that came out after January 1, 2001?

Up until I started preparing this, I never really thought much about it, but surprisingly, I came up with a wealth of ideas, almost too many. The songs I thought up are not necessarily traditional ballads (though there are several), are not always romantic or saccharine or even very nice, do not always offer bold statements of devotion or everlasting ardor. But in each, the meaning is clear even if it isn't always spelled out clearly.

“Fell in Love with a Girl,” The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (2001)

The song made stars of pasty, Detroit-based indie alt blues duo Jack and Meg White, both because it was nice and short and tasty raw, and because it has a really cool Lego video. Check it out, if you haven't already seen it a few dozen times.


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