Realistic love songs
February 26, 2015 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I love love and I hate most love songs. I feel that real love is incredibly beautiful in it's complexity yet knowledge of it's frailty. I want songs that express this sentiment without being cynical.
posted by eq21 to Media & Arts (49 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
Is the "frailty" bit a dealbreaker?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:28 PM on February 26, 2015

Ring on the Sill by the Cowboy Junkies is a song about a married couple dealing with an unnamed tragedy.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:31 PM on February 26, 2015

In Love But Not At Peace by Dar Williams is my favorite"grownup" love song. (Sorry about the Google Play link, couldn't find video and I figured lyrics from a non-spammy page would be the next best thing)
posted by lunasol at 2:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wild Way by Tori Amos
posted by bananana at 2:36 PM on February 26, 2015

Hey Baby Hey by Greg Brown. This was Big ears and my first dance song :)
posted by lil' ears at 2:39 PM on February 26, 2015

Two Mountain Goats songs I think might fit the bill: Love Love Love (lyrics) and Twin Human Highway Flares (lyrics).
posted by divined by radio at 2:46 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

The usual answer to this question is the entirety of 69 Love Songs by the Magnetic Fields.
posted by matildaben at 2:48 PM on February 26, 2015 [13 favorites]

Goddammit, Matilda Ben.

Matilda is correct, btw. The theme for every hipster wedding I've been to in the last ten years. But all of 69 Love Songs probably fits your bill.
posted by maggiepolitt at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2015

Not sure if this one would be considered "cynical", but I like Tim Minchin's If I Didn't Have You.
posted by losvedir at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah, matildaben has it. Book of Love.

I also like this Rilo Kiley song.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:51 PM on February 26, 2015

I totally agree with Book of Love by the Magnetic Fields. Even though they're kinda terrible performers (yeah, yeah, shoot me), he REALLY hit something with that song.

I've always thought My Girls by Animal Collective was a really nice, if somewhat quaint, look at mature love.
posted by nosila at 2:55 PM on February 26, 2015

You Make Me by Nick Lowe is a song with shaded intentions that I didn't get at first.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:15 PM on February 26, 2015

Not sure if its a bit upbeat for you, but The Wannadies You and Me Song is a sweet song about the mundane realities of love.

"Always when we fight
I kiss you once or twice
And everything's forgotten
I know you hate that...
Now we watch TV
Til we fall asleep
Not very exciting
But it's you and
Me and we'll always be together"
posted by billiebee at 3:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Echoing divined by radio above; Here is transcribed commentary by John Darnielle (Mountain Goat's lead) on the song Love Love Love:

"I think that we are fairly well damaged by the legacy of the romantic poets, who think that love is this thing that is accompanied by strings and well, if something bad happens then that’s not love, it’s something else. I don’t know so much about that – I think that the Greeks were right about love – that love can eat a path through anything, that it may destroy a lot of things on the way to it’s own objective, which is just it’s expression of itself."
posted by u2604ab at 3:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Love Like This. Drive-by Truckers
A World of Hurt. Also Drive-by Truckers
posted by dortmunder at 3:26 PM on February 26, 2015

So many songs by Yo La Tengo could fit this category! Georgina and Ira have been married for many years and their songs commonly address the love that only happens when you've known someone for a long, long time. "Our Way to Fall" is one of my favorites, and so is "Autumn Sweater."
posted by Otter_Handler at 3:26 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bette Midler The Rose, though it suggests frailty and resilience.
posted by Michele in California at 3:31 PM on February 26, 2015

"And I Love Her" by Passenger. Actually pretty much anything by him might just suit your requirements and it might be worth you checking out.
posted by wwax at 3:39 PM on February 26, 2015

Neil Finn - "Turn and Run" (A lot of Neil Finn's work -- with or without Crowded House -- gets at the "love is hard work but worth it" idea.)

The Blow - "Parentheses"

Lamb - "Hearts and Flowers"
posted by darksong at 3:44 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Definitely 69 Love Songs, but certainly don't stop at "The Book of Love." The whole record is about delving into all of the many facets and perspectives on love. Stephin Merritt/The Magnetic Fields have also got some sterling examples from other records -- "It's Only Time" from i comes to mind.

A bunch of the new Father John Misty record hits these marks as well -- e.g. the title track, "I Love You, Honeybear," "Chateau Lobby #4," "When You're Smiling and Astride Me," and "I Went to the Store One Day."
posted by ludwig_van at 4:11 PM on February 26, 2015

Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Follow You Into The Dark

I'm not one for love songs but this makes me cry every time I hear it.
posted by radioamy at 4:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

This Must Be The Place.
posted by rewil at 4:19 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Not a happy love song but not a sad one either, I just recently discovered this and it's been breaking and mending my heart on repeat:

Simone White- Flowers In May.

Kassem Mosse / Simone White - "Flowers in May" (if you're partial to downtempo electronic sounds)
posted by kaspen at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2015

Etta Jones - Don't Go To Strangers
posted by gyusan at 4:43 PM on February 26, 2015

PJ Harvey, Good Fortune

Roberta Flack, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face utterly incapacitates me. A voice like that transforms conventional thoughts into transcendental full-body sensations. The story behind the song and its songwriter makes it even more poignant and complex.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:14 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

You and I — Stevie Wonder

Don't Talk, Put Your Head on My Shoulder — Beach Boys

Love — John Lennon

Both Sides Now — Joni Mitchell

Hidden Place — Björk

Fall In — Esperanza Spalding
posted by John Cohen at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Rain Song, Led Zeppelin
posted by Room 641-A at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

SO MANY Ani DiFranco songs. The one that comes to mind is "Overlap"

I search your profile for a translation and I study the conversation like a map
Cause I know there is strength in the differences between us
And I know there is comfort where we overlap

Or try "Pulse"

The night you leaned over and threw up into your hair
I held you there thinking I would offer you my pulse if I thought it would be useful
I would give you my breath

(Lyrics typed from memory, may not be 100%)

Seconding Mountain Goats and Death Cab.

If you want earnestly romantic without sappy try Flames by Vast, ugh, 15 years on it still gets me.
posted by AV at 7:29 PM on February 26, 2015

Neko Case, That Teenage Feeling.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:35 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

John Wesley Harding has a lot of amazing love songs that are not sappy about how wonderful love is, but how hard it is to reconcile oneself to loving a whole person who has difficult sides along with the wonderful ones that drew you to them. The best of these -- "She's a Piece of Work," and "Who You Really Are."

Then there's the ones where the singer is sure he's not up to the task and that his flaws will doom the deal -- "I'm Wrong About Everything," chiefly.

And finally, the song about how it all seemed to depend on one little kiss: "Affairs of the Heart." Oh, but who would have thought it would turn out like this? And if I had, I'd still have taken the risk...
posted by Smells of Detroit at 8:04 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Holly Williams "Waiting on June"
posted by CincyBlues at 8:04 PM on February 26, 2015

Vienna Teng - Eric's Song (lyrics)
posted by nemutdero at 9:10 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

She's An Angel, They Might Be Giants
posted by augustimagination at 9:10 PM on February 26, 2015

Dance me to the End of Love
posted by she's not there at 9:15 PM on February 26, 2015

You know what may be a better album about the complexity and frailty of love than (the great) 69 Love Songs?

Funeral Dress by Wussy. Example.
The yellow cotton dress is beautiful no doubt
But it becomes a motherfucker when you fill it out
The pillow on your side is practically brand new
but it can't offer comfort to me until it smells of you
You're everywhere
The silverware you used is on the table still
Someone else will have to move it because I never will
You're everywhere

posted by Mothlight at 9:55 PM on February 26, 2015

The Reasons by The Weakerthans
And you tell me to fuck off,
When I need somebody to,
How you make me laugh so hard,
How whole years refuse to stay,
Where we told them to bad dog,
Locked up blindly in a word,
Or a misplaced souvenir,
How the past chews on your shoes,
And these memories lick my ear.

posted by Jaclyn at 10:00 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also: The Idea of Growing Old by The Features
posted by Jaclyn at 10:08 PM on February 26, 2015

Into My Arms - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
posted by fullerine at 3:56 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

For me, the most sweetly erotic and raw love song is "Bucket of Girls" by David Mead. Lyrics here.
posted by jbickers at 6:18 AM on February 27, 2015

Lumineers, "Dead Sea." Chokes me up every time because I know I'm somebody's Dead Sea.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:47 AM on February 27, 2015

Sunlight in a Jar by the Lucksmith even addresses your complaints about the "love song" genre:

Complex, completely credible love
The kind that is made, not handed to you from above
Is difficult to talk about and harder to write
Like the rhythm of a pulse, or the contours of firelight

Overblown libretto and a sumptuous score
Could never contain the contradictions I adore
We can just be chaos and then something aligns
It's so hard to contain, maintain it or define it

Damn catchy too.
posted by theweasel at 7:01 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

finite=alright , david byrne. yes, it is a love song.
posted by steinwald at 8:01 AM on February 27, 2015

I think Regina Spektor has a nice pragmatic take on love. There are others but On The Radio came to mind first:
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 yeahlikethat at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

There were quite a few great suggestions upthread; but I'd check out Jens Lekman's "Someone to share my life with"
posted by furnace.heart at 1:29 PM on February 27, 2015

Echoing all the recs for Ani Difranco! And so many other amazing love songs.

Hell Yeah - Ani Difranco
Say Yes - Elliott Smith
Willow Joan Armatrading (You could argue this is about love between friends rather than about romantic love, but I don't think it matters.)
This fire - Lori McKenna (I can't find a video link to this but it's amazing. From her album Pieces of Me.)
Be Real - Joy Denalane
Beeswing - Richard Thompson (link is to a cover by Mary Lou Lord)
Oysters - Me'shell Ndegeocello
Priscilla by Suzanne Vega
Mistakes - Pearl and the Beard

Breakup bonus! Realistic songs about love being not quite enough.
China - Tori Amos
Linctus House - Robyn Hitchcock
Good Person - Jill Sobule

But there are signs of hope.
February - Dar Williams
posted by prewar lemonade at 3:20 PM on February 27, 2015

I like Northbound 35 (as covered by Richard Shindell)
posted by JDHarper at 10:02 AM on February 28, 2015

Holly Cole's Cry (If You Want To).
posted by Amy NM at 7:22 AM on March 4, 2015

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