I love you, but let's talk about something else
April 28, 2011 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Help me find songs about love or close friendship that contain lyrics about something other than the feeeeeelings the couple has for each another.

Now, I like The Cure's Lovesong or Chris Knox's Not Given Lightly as much as the next girl, but I'm looking for songs that tell something more about a relationship than just how much love there is there. The song could be a story of some sort, or just have concepts about the relationship other than "gosh, I love you lots".

An example of what I'm looking for would be The Idea of Growing Old by The Features:
We can talk all night, we can talk all day
We can play charades when there is nothing to say
You turn me on to the idea of growing old

Another example would be The Reasons by The Weakerthans, which is largely about feelings, but also contains lines like these:
I can barely play this thing,
But you never seem to mind,
And you tell me to fuck off
When I need somebody to.

Songs about close friends, a couple before they get together, or problems in the relationship are welcome, as are outsider views on the relationship. I'm focusing more on lyrics than the sound of the song, but good music is preferable to bad. I've looked through all of the 69 Love Songs, and most of the AskMefi questions tagged with 'song' - found a bunch of great stuff, but I'd like more!
posted by Gori Girl to Media & Arts (51 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
The Sprites' Bionic Hands? The guy gets bionic hands, but the girl still wants to hold his hand, she knits him some mittens, etc.
posted by leesh at 10:17 AM on April 28, 2011

Perfect day by (among a lot of others) Lou Reed obviously.
posted by Sourisnoire at 10:22 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pretty much anything ever done by Of Montreal and The Lucksmiths.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:22 AM on April 28, 2011

Spending the Day in the Shirt that You Wore, by Poi Dog Pondering
Oh, the days of wine and roses and the rubbing of noses
Bare feet, new sprouts, and garden hoses.
Skipping stones while skipping home,
"Look at the tree, it's got a brand new leaf!"
Cande light, candle light, for no reason.
Eating fresh fruit when it's in season.
Take an aimless drive behind a motor wheel.
Sticking fingers on paintings to see the way they feel!

Spending the day in the shirt that you wore,
I can sense your presence from the day before.
Spending the day in the shirt that you wore,
I can sense your presence from the day before.
posted by alms at 10:23 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wish I could find a YouTube for it -- Gotta Get Over Greta- The Nields

We played as monsters in the kitchen
She was the vampire and I was her victim
And at the dance we hid in the light booth,
laughing at the boys below


Two skinny tomboys on our bikes
Riding forever into the summer night
There is no marriage more sublime
There is no divorce more final

posted by Ashley801 at 10:23 AM on April 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Steve Goodman's The Dutchman is a lovely, lovely song about an old Dutch couple who've been married for years, and now the husband is senile and the wife is taking care of him --

"The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes,
His cap and coat are patched with the love
That Margaret sewed there.
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam.
And he watches the tug-boats down canals
An' calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain.
Till Margaret comes to take him home again
Through unforgiving streets that trip him, though she holds his arm,
Sometimes he thinks he's alone and he calls her name.

Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you want only happy songs?

Hey Boy by The Blow might work, though it's more like: "Hey boy, why you didn't call me?"

Your New Man by Mason Jennings talks about a relationship ending and his ex dating someone else. (Surprise getting-back-together at the end).

The Good Life's Album of the Year is 12 songs that tell the story of a relationship through a year, from attraction to breakup.
posted by runningwithscissors at 10:26 AM on April 28, 2011

Kate Rusby's "Radio Sweethearts" comes to mind, and is lovely.
posted by jbickers at 10:37 AM on April 28, 2011

Ingrid Michaelson has a few of these. You and I springs to mind right away. Lyrics:

Maybe I think you're cute and funny
Maybe I wanna do want bunnies do with you if you know what I mean

Oh lets get rich and buy our parents homes in the south of France
Lets get rich and give everybody nice sweaters and teach them how to dance
Lets get rich and build a house on a mountain making everybody look like ants
From way up there, you and I, you and I

Well you might be a bit confused
And you might be a little bit bruised
But baby how we spoon like no one else
So I will help you read those books
If you will soothe my worried looks
And we will put the lonesome on the shelf

I always liked her songs because they really show the love without going on and on about feelings. Hope this fits into what you're looking for.
More lyrics to her songs here.
posted by routergirl at 10:43 AM on April 28, 2011

Song for an Old Friend by The Mountain Goats
posted by MsMolly at 10:45 AM on April 28, 2011

"Tim, I wish you'd been born a girl" by Of Montreal.

"Tim, wish you were born a girl,
So I could’ve been your boyfriend.
I know it’s not possible now.
I just never met a girl I like half as much as you.

And we could lay around in bed, stay there all day,
Or at least until the afternoon
And I could make you spaghetti with tomato sauce
With just a touch of oregano and a parsley stem.

And then when you got sick,
I could take the day off work.
I could’ve made you chicken soup,
And we could watch soap operas
- oh, those TV dramas!
I could catch your cold
and you could take care of me."
posted by c'mon sea legs at 10:46 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

White stripes - We're going to be friends, though perhaps younger and more innocent than a lot of the above.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Crash Test Dummies, "The Voyage."

Beautiful South seems good for this--I think particularly of "Till You Can't Tuck It In" or "Have Fun." (I've liked them for being interested in older people and their relationships--and for admitting that they find larger women attractive. It's refreshing.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:53 AM on April 28, 2011

Oh, forgot--Regina Spektor's "That Time." Possibly a little self-centered, but there's definitely a relationship between two people there, and it's got some weird depth.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:57 AM on April 28, 2011

How about Little Man Tate's "Sexy in Latin"? A wonderful, sexy, love story which begins...

Well our mums got talkin at the village store
I was three you were four

posted by stellaluna at 10:59 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Poi Dog Pondering track, Spending the Day in the Shirt That You Wore, so hard.

Not only is it super-catchy, delightfully singable, and witty/clever lyrics-wise, it's a great duet.
posted by carsonb at 11:07 AM on April 28, 2011

Greg Brown
From Slant 6 Mind

You gave me flowers, all wet with dew,
You gave me flowers, I'd like to give you something too.

Vivid flowers, raggedy yellow red and blue,
Smell of rain and summer. Vivid, just like you.

You gave me music with the bouquet from your hand,
You gave me a living song, something I could understand.

Let's go walking when the party is through,
You gave me so much, I want to give you something too
posted by vitabellosi at 11:10 AM on April 28, 2011

I was thinking of "The Reasons" while reading this question, glad to see you know about it! Here are some others that come to mind:

Jenny, Adair, Jeff Davis County Blues, Song For an Old Friend, Orange Ball of Hate, Elijah - all by The Mountain Goats. If you want great dysfunctional relationship story-songs, John Darnielle is your go-to guy, e.g. Soft Targets, Fautlines and all of the album "Tallahassee" just to get started.

more happy(ish) suggestions:
Slow Show - The National
Passenger Seat - Death Cab for Cutie
City Hall, Antebellum - Vienna Teng
How Lucky We Are - Meiko
The Story - Brandi Carlile
When it Don't Come Easy - Patty Griffin
Seconding "You and I" and also suggesting Giving Up - Ingrid Michaelson
posted by nelleish at 11:10 AM on April 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think Run by Ben Kweller might fit the bill!
posted by bahama mama at 11:12 AM on April 28, 2011

Dead Milmen-Punk Rock Girl

NOFX-We Got Two Jealous Agains

The Mountain Goats-Jenny

This is sort of your anti-answer but: Frenzal Rhomb-I Went Out With a Hippie and Now I Love Everyone (Except for Her)
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:17 AM on April 28, 2011

Morphine - The Way We Met

There's no cute story about the way we met.
We just woke up one day in bed.
Shouted out for alarm clocks. Where's the remote control?
Put the blankets and the chairs against the windows and doors.
And stayed close together, trying to stay warm
posted by logicpunk at 11:18 AM on April 28, 2011

Regina Spektor has a lot of relationship songs where the focus is on tangible specifics more than pure feelings: Us, Samson, Ode to Divorce, etc.

Ben Gibbard also likes to avoid broadcasting the lovey-dovey feelings and instead let them emerge from vivid details: Death Cab for Cutie - Brothers on a Hotel Bed; The Postal Service - Brand New Colony

A couple more songs that spring to mind:

Nirvana - Drain You

Tori Amos - Silent All These Years (there are probably a lot more of these by her too)
posted by John Cohen at 11:25 AM on April 28, 2011

In Spite of Ourselves - by John Prine and someone else ( maybe Iris Dement?)
posted by dchrssyr at 11:28 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

For a close platonic friendship, The Only Living Boy in New York. The Wikipedia article explains the backstory.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2011

Sourisnoire: "Perfect day by (among a lot of others) Lou Reed obviously."

Only if your s.o. is named Heroin.
posted by mkultra at 11:40 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hammers and Strings by Jack's Mannequin:

And my friend calls me up
She says, "How have you been?"
I say, "Dear I've been well
Yeah the money's come in
But I miss you like hell
I still hear you in this old piano"

She says, "Andy, I know
That we don't talk as much
But I still hear your ghost
In these old punk rock clubs
Come on, write me a song
Give me something to trust
Just promise you won't let it be
Just the keys that you touch"
posted by chiefthe at 11:41 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The song that immediately strung to mind is Little Plastic Castle by Ani DiFranco. It is kind of all over the map with its ideas, but also has some lyrical moments that really explain the fundamentals of close female friendship (to me, at least).

From the shape of your shaved head
I recognized your silhouette
As you walked out of the sun and sat down
And the sight of your sleepy smile
Eclipsed all the other people
As they paused to sneer at the two girls
From out of town
I said, look at you this morning
You are, by far, the cutest
But be careful getting coffee
I think these people wanna shoot us
Or maybe there's some kinda local competition here
To see who can be the rudest
I wish they could see us now
In leather bras and rubber shorts
Like some ridiculous new team uniform
For some ridiculous new sport
Quick someone call the girl police
And file a report

posted by pazazygeek at 11:45 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Julia", Steve Goldberg (posted in Mefi Music, actually!)
posted by estlin at 12:02 PM on April 28, 2011

I immediately thought of Why?, especially Gemini (Birthday Song):
It starts with you
on a mattress in your parents' old room,
clipping your toenails into the room
like the room will fade
and you will move
onto other rooms
and you will go
to other places.
Then the wedding,
Then the woman passed out
in the driver's seat
at the order board at White Castle.
We woke her up and she went
'round to the pick up window
like she knew exactly where she was.
Then I wept
with my face in your night shirt,
trying hard as hell to say
"until death separates us,"
loosening the skin on your breastbone,
I painted your nails
and you sleep
while I write all this down.
They're basically the bizarro world Neutral Milk Hotel where Jeff Mangum has a rap career.
posted by yaymukund at 12:04 PM on April 28, 2011

Moldy Peaches - Anyone Else But You.

They sure were cute for two ugly people.
posted by coraline at 12:07 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beautiful South - Prettiest Eyes
posted by travis08 at 12:11 PM on April 28, 2011

Alanis Morissette's "Joining You" is a plea to keep one of her friends from succumbing to depression and suicide, with a little backstory.
posted by hermitosis at 12:38 PM on April 28, 2011

The Beatles: Two of Us
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:49 PM on April 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bee's Wing by Richard Thompson
posted by Greenie at 1:11 PM on April 28, 2011

Pretty far afield from your examples, but the lyrics are spot on: Tune of a Twenty-dollar Bill by Joey + Rory is the story of the narrator's grandparents' courtship and relationship, and it's improbably moving, despite no mention of feeeeelings. When they get to her funeral and he says "I'm right behind ya honey" I always tear up a little.

If parent-child relationships are Ok, then Ben Folds' Gracie: You nodded off in my arms watching TV / I won't move you an inch even though my arm's asleep
posted by libraryhead at 4:59 PM on April 28, 2011

Skinny Love by Bon Iver -- kind of a story. The "Skinny" refers to the tenuous grasp each of them has on the relationship. Although this question seems a little too open to me -- a lot of songs aren't all about feelings, esp if they are stories. Are you looking for songs that are stories, or sad songs or? I mean all love songs will be somewhat about feelings, because love is a feeling.
posted by sweetkid at 5:00 PM on April 28, 2011

"Something About You"--Level 42
posted by luckynerd at 5:39 PM on April 28, 2011

Nothing With You - Descendents "'Cause all I ever really want to do
Is sit around doing nothing with you, because
Nothing's only fun when you're there

"Mad About You" at dinnertime
"Seinfeld", "Simpsons", "So-Called Life"
Seen the reruns 20 million times"

on a similar vein, We Can Get Together - The Hold Steady

both songs about just hanging out doing nothing with your girlfriend

Bright Eyes have some good ones.The Calendar Hung Itself is a bit of a breakup song but the start is a great description of love. First Day Of My Life has a really profound line: "I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery"

I Want You - Elvis Costello starts normal, gets dark
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:14 PM on April 28, 2011

A Court Yard Hounds song about a couple separated by distance, trying to meet in the middle: See You In Spring
posted by santaslittlehelper at 6:54 PM on April 28, 2011

Mary by the Scissor Sisters is a beautiful tribute to the (male) lead singer's best (female) friend.
posted by radioamy at 7:46 PM on April 28, 2011

Not everyone's cup of tea, but the soundtrack to "Juno" has a couple of good ones:

- The Moldy Peaches "Anyone Else But You"
Up up down down left right left right B A start
Just because we use cheats doesn't mean we're not smart
I don't see what anyone can see, in anyone else
But you

- Velvet Underground "I'm Sticking With You"
I'm sticking with you
'cuz I'm made out of glue
Anything that you might do
I'm gonna do too

- Kymia Dawson "Loose Lips"
we won't stop until somebody calls the cops
and even then we'll start again and just pretend that
nothing ever happened
posted by mittenedsex at 8:05 PM on April 28, 2011

"Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?"
posted by Neiltupper at 12:32 AM on April 29, 2011

"Good for Me" by Amy Grant.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:45 AM on April 29, 2011

Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is one of my absolute favorites albums, from a lyrical point of view. It was his first solo album after leaving Pink Floyd.

The Remains of Our Love
I just cowered in the corner
My pyjama coat over my head
And she smiled as she finished her sandwich
And her cold eyes fixed me to my dark history
As she brushed the remains
Of our love from the bed
And when she had turned back the covers
When all of the prayers had been read
She said, come on over here you silly boy
Before you catch your death of cold
I was only joking
Let's leave behind the city grime
Let's not compete
It could be fine in the country
Couldn't it though...come on lets go
I said, OK

Moment of Clarity
And the moment of clarity
Faded like charity does
I open one eye
And I put out my hand just to touch your soft hair
To make sure in the darkness that you were still there
And I have to admit
I was just a little afraid
But then...
I had a little bit of luck
You were awake
I couldn't take another moment alone
posted by Khalad at 10:30 AM on April 29, 2011

Pretty much all of Billy Bragg's love songs focus on the little details of relationships or of their failure. A few favourite excerpts (and apologies for the total self-indulgence):

The Short Answer
And the sound of happy couples
Coupling happily in the dark
While you and I sat down to tea
I remember you said to me
That no amount of poetry
Would mend this broken heart
But you can put the Hoover round
If you want to make a start

The Saturday Girl
I'll never forget the first day I met her,
That September morning was clear and fresh;
The way she spoke, and laughed at my jokes and the way she rubbed herself against the edge of my desk..
She became a magic mystery to me and we'd sit together in double history twice a week and some days we'd walk the same way home and it's surprising how quick a little rain can clear the streets

Valentine's Day is Over
Thank you for the things you bought me
Thank you for the card
Thank you for the things you taught me when you hit me hard
That love between two people must be based on understanding
Until that's true you'll find your things all stacked out on the landing

A Lover Sings
You and I are victims of a love
That lost a lot in the translation
When I think of all the time that I spent
Sitting on the end of your bed in anticipation
Of you giving in and us living in sin

A hot day, the smell of hairspray
And the sound of a shower running softly
It's things like this that remind me how I felt
The first time you came back for coffee
The way you took it amazed me
posted by penguin pie at 1:17 PM on April 29, 2011

Bob Dylan's Love Minus Zero / No Limit:
In the dime stores and bus stations,
People talk of situations,
Read books, repeat quotations,
Draw conclusions on the wall.
Some speak of the future,
My love she speaks softly,
She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all.
Bob Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go:
Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.
Mine have been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud.
But there's no way I can compare
All them scenes to this affair,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.
Sufjan Stevens's Futile Devices:
And when you play guitar
I listen to the strings buzz
The metal vibrates underneath your fingers
And when you crochet
I feel mesmerized and proud
Animal Collective's Summertime Clothes:
And we'll breath the dawn in its morning blues
With purple yawns, you'll be sleeping soon
And I want to walk around with you
The Velvet Underground's and Nico's I'll Be Your Mirror:
I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty you are
But if you don't let me be your eyes
A hand to your darkness, so you won't be afraid
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you
I'll be your mirror
posted by mbrock at 1:28 PM on April 29, 2011

Sugarcubes' "Birthday" is very charming because of this quality.

She has one friend, he lives next door
They're listenening to the weather
He knows how many freckles she's got
She scratches his beard
She's painting huge books
And glues them together
They saw a big raven
It glided down the sky
She touched it
Today is her birthday
They're smoking cigars
He's got a chain of flowers
And sows a bird in her knickers

posted by ifjuly at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2011

Something About Us - Daft Punk

It might not be the right time
I might not be the right one
But there's something about us I want to say
Cause there's something between us anyway

posted by mrspeacock at 4:04 PM on April 29, 2011

Iron & Wine's "Naked as we Came" is about how in a long-term relationship, one person will watch the other die.

She says "wake up, it's no use pretending"
I'll keep stealing, breathing her.
Birds are leaving over autumn's ending
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes 'round the yard

She says "If I leave before you, darling
Don't you waste me in the ground"
I lay smiling like our sleeping children
One of us will die inside these arms
Eyes wide open, naked as we came
One will spread our ashes round the yard

posted by Karlos the Jackal at 7:45 PM on April 29, 2011

I Know I know I know by Tegan and Sara
New York City by They Might be Giants
Swimming in your ocean by Crash Test Dummies
Punk Rock Girl by Dead Milkmen
Red Ragtop by Tim McGraw is about a relationship, from beginning to end. While it may have sadness, it's not about being sad for the end, just a story of the whole.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:51 PM on April 30, 2011

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