Guess what? Most love songs suck. I accidentally heard Celine Dion warbling some drivel about her heart or something once, and nearly got sick before I could escape the racket. Michael Bolton is going to have to live without me, and all I can think of when I hear ‘Islands in the Stream’ is that old dirty joke about Dolly Parton in the bathtub. If you can wade through all the saccharine and cheese on the airwaves, though, there are plenty of love songs out there that won’t send you into a diabetic coma.
1. Love Buzz, the Nirvana version
I had to start off with this one. A cover of a song by Shocking Blue, this is a sweet and slightly twisted song that manages to avoid being cheesy simply by virtue of the fact that it rocks, hard. It starts out with a poppy little bass line and then Kurt throws in a guitar riff that can only be described (by me, anyway) as ‘noodley’. The song really kicks into gear when Kurt drawls the line, “Can you feel my love…BUZZ?”, lending that infamous Cobain scream to the “buzz”. If a song could orgasm, that line would be it.
2. Friday I’m in Love by the Cure
You can’t really listen to this song without dancing a little bit in your chair and singing along, but the line “Thursday I don’t care about you” keeps it from falling into pop-love hell. Who really loves somebody every day, right?
3. Self Esteem by the Offspring
“I know I’m being used; that’s OK man cause I like the abuse”…He swears he’s done with her, but when she shows up drunk and ready to go, what are you gonna do? Dexter Holland’s deadpan voice is perfect for this song about a self-described “sucker with no self esteem” and the girl who takes advantage of it.
4. If You Love Somebody Set Them on Fire by the Dead Milkmen
The first line borrows heavily from the Doors’ Light My Fire, but from there it veers off into obnoxious hilarity in typical Milkmen fashion. It’s just your basic song about a guy who loves you, and happens to set your dad on fire. If you’re looking for another great love song by the incomparable Dead Milkmen, check out Punk Rock Girl. For anyone who’s ever jumped up on a table and shouted Anarchy! it’s a heartstring jerker, for sure.
5. Hot Blooded by Foreigner
Heh. Just kidding.
OK, seriously-5. Longview, by Green Day
Back before they were selling gazillions of albums and had stylists to stick them in matching red-and-black outfits, Green Day were a pretty cool little punk rock band. You can hear the genuine angst in Billie Joe’s voice as he sings about being stuck in the house with nothing to do but…um…flip his channels. Hey, nobody said it wasn’t a love song if it was only about self love.
6. Euro Trash Girl by Cracker
The poor guy spends all his money buying drinks for a soldier in drag, gets his car broken into, and when he calls his mom for cash she sends him to his dad, whose new wife hangs up on him when he calls. Why does he go through all that? Because he’s searching the world, trying to find his Euro Trash Girl, his angel in black. Sometimes I wander the streets in my ETG shirt, in hopes that David Lowery will spot me and end his search.
7. Closer by Nine Inch Nails
Not a song you want played at your wedding, unless Grandma’s really, really hard of hearing, but you won’t find a more intense, primal love song for the wedding night. “You get me closer to god”-that’s love, and if not, we’ll pretend it is.
8. Nothing with You by the Descendents
The ultimate punk rock love song-everybody wants him to get up and do something, but all he wants to do is sit and do nothing with his girl.
9. Close by Soul Asylum
This one isn’t about loving yourself, or setting anyone on fire, or unsuitable for tender ears. It’s just a sweet song about two people who have known each other for a long time and somehow managed to live through it together. Shot through with Dave Pirner’s poetic and slightly ridiculous plays on words, the line “If we ever get split up, I’ll always be on your side” alone makes it a keeper.
10. Sugar Magnolia by the Grateful Dead
I’m not quite sure how to describe this, and really I shouldn’t have to. For those of you who don’t know it, Sugar Magnolia is a love letter set to music…it’s a love song by the Dead. What could be better?
11. NFB by Anthrax
An awesome parody of all the cheesy hair ballads of the 80s, NFB (dallabnikcufecin) beautifully details all the ups and downs of a typical relationship, including when the guy accidentally sleeps with all your friends. They were so, so happy, and then…well, you’ll have to listen to find out. I can’t ruin something that good by giving away the ending.
12. Love Stinks by the J. Geils Band
Absolutely the best love song ever written, hands down. What more needs to be said? Love stinks.