Neverlasting love songs?
September 10, 2010 9:29 AM   Subscribe

"God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys has the best opening line to a love song: I may not always love you. Can you think of any other love songs that have the same vibe of: "I really hope this lasts, but I can't make or ask for promises."

Other songs I've been able to think of:

Never My Love - The Association
Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye - The Casinos
posted by ictow to Media & Arts (62 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, and:
"And So It Goes" - Billy Joel
posted by ictow at 9:32 AM on September 10, 2010


Momus's song "I Want You, But I Don't Need You."
posted by koeselitz at 9:34 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Weakerthans - My Favourite Chords has this lovely bit:

"And we've got a lot of time,
or maybe we don't,
but I'd to think so,
so let me pretend,"
posted by Richat at 9:35 AM on September 10, 2010


Fiona Apple seems to write entire albums about this.
posted by hermitosis at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2010


"You've Really Got A Hold On Me" -- Smokey Robinson and The Miracles

It's not really "it may not last", but it definitely embraces ambiguity: "I don't like you, but I need you..." etc.
posted by briank at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2010


Eagles' "Peaceful, Easy Feelin'":
I got this feelin' I may know you
As a lover and a friend.
This voice keeps whisperin' in my other ear
Tells me I may never see you again
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:37 AM on September 10, 2010


Silver Jews, "We Could Be Looking for the Same Thing" — not one of my favorite songs by them, but it certainly fits your criteria.

Papa M, "Glad You're Here with Me" off Whatever, Mortal

Arab Strap's Islands does a lovely job of evoking the earliest stage of love, knowing there's a chance it could go either way:
Now, we've been on these open seas far too long—so take a breath, take my hand, there's land ahoy.
posted by cirripede at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2010


This one isn't quite right, but it's such a fantastic song it should be on here anyway:
Leonard Cohen - Chelsea Hotel #2

I mentally made a list of these a few years ago...I'm going to go scroll through my music now.
posted by phunniemee at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2010


Paradise By The Dashboard Light - Meatloaf
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I tell you that I love you, don't test my love
Accept my love
Don't test my love
'Cause maybe I don't love you all that much
--Dan Bern, Jerusalem

Goes on to pretty much not be in any way a love song.
posted by silby at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


"God Only Knows" is the ne plus ultra of hesitant and cautious love songs. You might want to look at the songwriters that were in direct competition with Brian Wilson when he wrote that.

George Harrison's contributions to the Beatles tend towards a degree of caution and cycnicism that is absent in most of the Lennon-McCartney stuff (McCartney especially). At the beginning George is warning the listener You Like Me Too Much and tentatively venturing that If I Needed Someone, the listener will "maybe get a call from me." By the end, he is more secure, but even then:

You're asking me will my love grow,
I don't know, I don't know,
You stick around, now, it may show,
I don't know, I don't know.

posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:48 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm Not Sayin' - Nico
posted by helios at 9:52 AM on September 10, 2010


The Beatles - "Two of Us" (You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead)

However, I disagree that "God Only Knows" is one of these songs. The next lines are: "but [as] long as there are stars above you" -- which means always, "you'll never need to doubt it / I'll make you so sure about it."
posted by John Cohen at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


To clarify the question, are you looking for songs that even mention the possibility of love ending (as opposed to actively contemplating it)? For example, after the first line of God Only Knows, it seems like he is promising love forever when he says "as long as there are stars above you, you never need to doubt it." He says if she ever leaves, he'd have no reason to live. Similarly, in Never My Love, the singer is using the refrain to pledge his eternal love to the girl. He expressly rejects the possibility (from his perspective, anyway) that it won't last.

One song that surely fits is Say Goodbye by Dave Matthews Band.
posted by AgentRocket at 9:57 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


ricochet biscuit's point about Harrison stands, but those lyrics are from "Something" not "If I Needed Someone". /beatlesnerdalert
posted by clavicle at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2010


5 Years Time - Noah and the Whale
Video / Lyrics
(Unfortunately, the lyrics came true and they broke up before the second album.)

When You are Old and Grey - Tom Lehrer
Video / Lyrics
(Not-so serious.)
posted by matsho at 10:07 AM on September 10, 2010


"I Used to Say I Love You" by Robyn Hitchcock:

I used to say I love you,
It wasn't really true.
I wanted to believe it,
And now I almost do.
I used to say I love you,
I meant it as a threat.
Or maybe as a promise,
to see what I could get.

But my heart doesn't break anymore..."

posted by the matching mole at 10:10 AM on September 10, 2010


"Stuff and Nonsense" by Split Enz
posted by darksong at 10:11 AM on September 10, 2010


"So Far" by Matthew Sweet: "I love you so far / I love you today"
posted by erikgrande at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2010


I think you're conflating "I don't think I'll ever not love you" with "I will always love you". The entire thrust of the song is introducing doubt and then trying to assuage it. Saying, "Despite what's happened before, or what might happen next, right now I really really love you and that's what matters."
posted by ictow at 10:17 AM on September 10, 2010


Noah and the Whale - Five Years Time
Grass Roots - Let's Live for Today
Cake - Love You Madly
Dusty Springfield - You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
posted by phunniemee at 10:18 AM on September 10, 2010


I once broke up with someone by playing her "Think (Let tomorrow Bee)" by Sebadoh. (I was young and dumb). It's a glum but very pretty song about being fearful of the future. The key line is "I think I love you, though I don't know what love means".
posted by Erroneous at 10:23 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


A ton of mountain goats songs echo this idea, especially the ones about the Alpha Couple and songs on the album Sweden.
posted by wayland at 10:25 AM on September 10, 2010




I want you (I want you)
I need you (I need you)
But-there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you
Now don't be sad (Don't be sad)
'Cause two out of three ain't bad
Now don't be sad (Cause)
'Cause two out of three ain't bad

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad by Meat Loaf.
posted by alms at 10:28 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Love You Madly, by Cake
Crush, by Jennifer Paige
Call and Answer by the Barenaked Ladies
Honey Pie by the Beatles
My Life Would Suck Without You, by Kelly Clarkson
Chelsea Morning, by Joni Mitchell
You Turn Me On, I'm A Radio, by Joni Mitchell
Taking Chances from Glee (formerly Celine Dion)
A Long Walk, by Jill Scott
Modern Romance by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (there are two parts, one really cynical, one cynically hopeful)


Country...

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, by Lyn Anderson
One Night at a Time, by George Strait


From musicals...

Maybe This Time, Cabaret
In Your Arms Tonight, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face, My Fair Lady


And some marginal cases...

Like a Prayer, by Madonna (Life is a mystery/everyone must stand alone)
Promiscuous, by Nelly Furtado
One Week, by the Barenaked Ladies


God Only Knows isn't actually a song about not making promises--it's reworking old cliches but with the same message, including a big ol' promise in the first verse:

I may not always love you
But as long as there are stars above you
You'll never have to doubt it

I'll make you so sure about it...

If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on, believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?

posted by the young rope-rider at 10:35 AM on September 10, 2010


First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes:

So if you want to be with me
With these things there's no telling
We'll just have to wait and see
But I'd rather be working for a paycheck
Than waiting to win the lottery

posted by burnmp3s at 10:36 AM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


(Sorry, didn't see your follow-up, we'll have to agree to disagree about the Beach Boys)
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:36 AM on September 10, 2010


Sister Hazel - 'All for You'
posted by tr_tex at 10:43 AM on September 10, 2010


The Saw Doctors: Share the Darkness.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:47 AM on September 10, 2010


Five Years Time by Noah and the Whale is great. If people have more upbeat songs like that I will conditionally promise to love them.
posted by ictow at 10:50 AM on September 10, 2010


I think you're conflating "I don't think I'll ever not love you" with "I will always love you". ... "Despite what's happened before, or what might happen next, right now I really really love you and that's what matters."

No, it's exactly the opposite. The whole song is looking to the future and saying that what really matters is that they'll love each other forever. He's not just saying "I love you right now, and I don't know what will happen next, so let's focus on how nice our love is in the present." The line "I may not always love you" is just a deceptive/ironic teaser, which he resolves by clarifying that he will always love her. She shouldn't ever "doubt it" ("it" = that the singer will "always love you") -- except in the nonexistent case where the stars disappear, which is like saying "when hell freezes over" (i.e. never). The second verse is also not saying things might end up fine if they don't stay together. He says if she ever left him, "The world would show nothing to me, so what good would living do me?" That rhetorical question, coming after the absolutist line about the world showing nothing to him if he doesn't have her love, is as close to a suicide threat as was possible from a mid-'60s pop song.
posted by John Cohen at 10:57 AM on September 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


"I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt might fall in line with the theme.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2010


Josh Ritter's "Kathleen" is like this:

I know you are waiting and I know that it is not for me,
but I'm here and I'm ready and I've saved you the passenger seat.
I won't be your last dance just your last goodnight--
every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied.
I'll be the one to drive you back home, Kathleen

posted by gladly at 11:07 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bob Seger, "We've Got Tonight"
posted by coolguymichael at 11:14 AM on September 10, 2010


Harry Connick, Jr, “Forever, For Now”?
posted by hattifattener at 11:16 AM on September 10, 2010


Tim Minchin, If I Didn't Have You
posted by tybstar at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Afraid of Crushes" by Kind of Like Spitting

The way your hair fell across your eyes
spoiled my plans to never fall again.
And when in vain I said so plain,
that I could love,
love that face
hold those hands,
love that place
make big plans.
She almost cried.
And is it alright if I bury myself in your charms?
And is it alright if I swear to you without a sound?
How odd behaved in situations like these,
I can't believe that I'm here
I can't believe that you'd care.
And if, or rather when, it all goes wrong
will I retain any dignity at all?
Unlike the last one
under a cold sun.
Unlike the last one.
I almost died.
Is it alright if I bury myself in your charms?
And is it alright if if swear to you without a sound?

posted by haveanicesummer at 11:24 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the Radio - Regina Spektor
This is how it works
You're young until you're not
You love until you don't
You try until you can't

You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath

No, this is how it works
You peer inside yourself
You take the things you like
And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made
And stick it into some
Someone else's heart
Pumping someone else's blood

And walking arm in arm
You hope it don't get harmed
But even if it does
You'll just do it all again
posted by mayhap at 11:35 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


The stars disappearing is not a nonexistent case, it's an extremely unlikely case. The difference between the two is enormous. "I'll love you unless something extremely unlikely happens" is conditional. "I'll love you forever" is unconditional. Making those synonymous whitewashes the entire song. (Even if you change it to "Until hell freezes over", the point remains the same. It's not the likelihood that I'm arguing for, it's the clause.)

The second verse is totally a suicide threat.
posted by ictow at 11:37 AM on September 10, 2010


"Love the one you're with" Stephen Stills
posted by thatone at 12:07 PM on September 10, 2010


"I could never divorce you,
Without a good reason,
And though I may never have to,
It's good to have options,
But for now, I need you..."

-Pedro the Lion-Options

Oh. Yeah, not upbeat at all. Kind of ponderous, actually.
posted by redsparkler at 2:08 PM on September 10, 2010


Al Green's "Belle" is an interesting twist on this theme - he's telling his woman that as much as he loves her, he will always love God more. I've never heard this sentiment expressed in any other love song, but somehow it works.

Belle...
The Lord and I have been friends for a mighty long time
Belle...
Leaving him has never ever really crossed my mind
Let me say just one thing...
I'd never go so far
cause it's Him no matter who you are
Belle...
oh it's you that I want, but it's Him that I need

posted by Mendl at 2:27 PM on September 10, 2010


The Best I Can Do, by Joe Jackson from the criminally underrated Blaze of Glory:

"I'll love you forever
Or at least many years
If you know I'll never
Take away all your fears"

posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:38 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aimee Mann, Deathly.

Now that I've found you, would you object to never seeing each other again?

Paul Thomas Anderson wrote it into the script for Magnolia.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 2:40 PM on September 10, 2010


Gentle on My Mind by Glen Campbell
posted by marsha56 at 3:00 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Hand In Glove" by The Smiths
posted by SisterHavana at 4:12 PM on September 10, 2010


"Don't Fuck With Me" sort of, by Jill Sobule?
posted by ifjuly at 5:07 PM on September 10, 2010


Blue Rosebuds by The Residents, though arguably that may be more about self-deception than uncertain love.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:20 PM on September 10, 2010


More Billy Joel, The Longest Time...
Maybe this won't last very long
But you feel so right
And I could be wrong
Maybe I've been hoping too hard,
I've gone this far
And it's more than I'd hoped for

Who knows how much further we'll go on
Maybe I'll be sorry when you're gone
I'll take my chances, I forgot how nice romance is
I haven't been there for the longest time
posted by anaelith at 6:27 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" by Bob Dylan.
posted by Spinneret at 7:51 PM on September 10, 2010


Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares For Me" has a wonderful little twist near the end. From its beginning, it's a fairly typical - if a touch self-satisfied - ode to love:

My baby don't care for shows
My baby don't care for clothes
My baby just cares for me
My baby don't care for cars and races
My baby don't care for high-tone places

Liz Taylor is not his style
And even Lana Turner's smile
Is somethin' he can't see
My baby don't care who knows
My baby just cares for me


It goes on in this way for another verse or two ...

Liz Taylor is not his style
And even Liberace's smile
Is something he can't see


... but just as it winds to its conclusion, Nina throws this in there:

I wonder what's wrong with baby
My baby just cares for
My baby just cares for
My baby just cares for me


If you weren't paying attention, this would be another innocuous love song; a terrific little number for a wedding reception. But at that moment, Nina makes clear that while she doesn't question her baby's devotion, she does question his sanity, and she doesn't quite feel exactly the same way. The Liberace reference is a delightful hint at what's coming next.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 9:42 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oooh, here's one that fits pretty well; Val Emmich's "Try Me" off the appropriately-titled EP, The Fifteen Minute Relationship:

We've both driven down this road before
Never sastisfied always want more
I can't gurantee I'm what you need
But if you're wondering where this will lead

Just try me
Try me
Try me
Try me

You are hesitant waiting for signs
To move you when your courage resigns
You could be waiting a very long time
Soon you will run out of places to hide

So just try me
Try me
Try me
Try Me

Cuz you'll never know what could be waiting
It could be better than what we're anticipating

So just try me
Try me
Try Me
Try me

If this ends badly don't be mad
At us, we gave it all we had
But I hope, I hope this ends good
So I can say I knew that, that it would
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:08 PM on September 10, 2010


mountain goats - dilaudid, at first i thought the alpha couple songs were like this but those are pretty much all from a doomed perspective rather than this might not last.
posted by drbalderas at 10:22 PM on September 10, 2010


The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I'd never let you go
So won't you say you love me
I'll make you so proud of me
We'll make 'em turn their heads
Every place we go
So won't you please

Be My Baby
posted by pianomover at 4:50 AM on September 11, 2010


another mouldy oldie: Mamas and Papas "I Saw Her Again" They often had a way to make indecision and doubt sound cheerful and upbeat!
posted by kuppajava at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2010


Can't believe no one's mentioned Lou Reed's I Love You yet:

"But for now, I love you
right this minute, baby now
I love you
at least for now, I love you"
posted by dobbs at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2010


I'm not sure if you'll think this fits, but I immediately thought of Alibi, by Elvis Costello.

And it seems like a good chunk of Magnetic Fields' "69 Love Songs" would do. "The One You Really Love" (although that's more of an acknowledgement that the object won't return the singer's love). Then there's "Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side" ("Harry is the one I think you'll marry"), "Crazy for You (But Not That Crazy)", and plenty more that you could argue fit the theme.

From other MF albums, I guess "I Don't Believe You" and "I Don't Really Love You Anymore" could do. Ooh, This is probably the best example, from "It's Only Time":

"Why would I stop loving you a hundred years from now?
It's only time."
posted by bah213 at 3:44 PM on September 11, 2010


Definitely "This Year's Love" by David Gray. First line and chorus are "This year's love had better last."
posted by supramarginal at 8:34 PM on September 11, 2010


Keith Urban, "You Look Good in My Shirt"

And maybe it's a little too early
To know if this is gonna work
All I know is you're sure looking
Good in my shirt
posted by Night_owl at 12:12 PM on September 12, 2010


In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel. Although it doesn't exactly introduce doubt about the relationship continuing, it does introduce real life issues and concerns and feelings in the verses, as opposed to the absolutist sentiments (I will Always love youNever leave you) usually displayed in love songs.


love, I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart

* * *
love, I don't like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival

And, of course, the lyrics are part of what makes this the perfect love song.
posted by Jezebella at 7:51 PM on September 12, 2010


Definitely "So Real" or "Vancouver" by Jeff Buckley
posted by venbear3 at 2:50 AM on September 24, 2010


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