Valentine’s Day: love it or hate it, every February 14th it comes around, staring you in the face like a hungry squirrel. Some people seem to genuinely enjoy a chance for public-sanctioned p.d.a. while others loathe this holiday like no other. Me, I’m okay with it. I inherited my grandfather’s sweet tooth (we both knew that a meal isn’t finished without dessert) so I’m naturally inclined to love a holiday built on the exchange of candy and flowers. By sheer coincidence, yes, roses are my favourite flower. And I look darn good wearing either red or pink. What’s not to like? I’ve never had a significant other during the month of February, but I don’t feel left out or judged because of that fact (at least not any more so than the rest of the year). Sure, I run into the “smug marrieds” (as Bridget Jones calls them) but in my experience, the smugger the married couple, the worse the actual relationship is. Most people I know just seem to utilize V-Day as a chance to reiterate how much they love their partner(s), and I say, go for it, the world can use more love. Not that I don’t understand those who abhor said day of love: it can be stressful whether in or out of a relationship. And yes, greeting cards definitely make a tidy profit during this time of year. But regardless of your feelings about social norms and Hallmark conspiracies, I would counter that there is some form of Valentine that works for all of us. Whether you take a huge stance like Eve Ensler and turn “valentine” into “vagina” and initiate a political movement for women’s rights, or if you dig Chaucer (the man credited for introducing romantic love into St. Valentine’s celebration) you, too, can feel the love today. And so I dedicate my first Top 5 playlist, 5 Songs for 5 Types of Love, to the martyred Saint Valentine, the inspiring Eve Ensler, and to you, dear reader. Happy V-Day.
1.) Love for your family: Sister Sledge – We Are Family
Disco? Really? And not just that, but overplayed disco? Yes, dear reader. Though this song can easily be thrown into the “Sweet cheezus, no more!” bin along with “Macarena” and Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” I would ask you to give it one more listen. This song has real meaning, and the lyrics talk about having faith in yourself and love for your family. Keep in mind that when I say family I mean your family, be it the one that you were born into or the one that you’ve made for yourself. This is a love song to the people who love and support you no matter what, and hopefully everyone has at least one person like that in their lives. Personally this song always brings to mind the opening of The Birdcage, and I especially love this song in the context of drag queens. Some classics are just that for a reason.
2.) Love for yourself: Madonna – Vogue
I knew exactly where to look when I was searching for a song about loving yourself and taking shit from no one: Madonna. My mother once said that Madonna is the female version of Elvis, and that analogy has always stuck with me. I do love The King, but had Elvis survived into old age, how successful would he have been? We can’t be sure, but something tells me he wouldn’t have had half the staying power of Madge. She’s an artist I can listen to in pretty much any mood, at any time, because she has such a wide variety of songs. Perhaps, dear reader, you feel that Madonna reminds you of too many middle school slumber parties, and that she is no longer relevant. Maybe you think, as I used to, that “Vogue” is simply too overplayed. Well, take another listen. This song is not only quintessential Madonna, it’s quintessential badass. How many other artists are willing to stop singing about their own broken hearts, their family issues, or their bling long enough to proclaim, “You’re a superstar, yes that’s what you are.” Madonna goes through the media fire and emerges victorious in order that we might have an anthem. And of all Madonna songs, this is the anthem of anthems. Listen to her words, let them soak into your bones. (On my last listen with my younger sister we both began vogueing while in a compact car going 70 mph down the highway, which is quite a feat! That is the power of Madonna.)
3.) New Love: Class Actress – Let Me Take You Out
A funny thing happened as I was browsing the internet one night: somehow I came across this delightfully dreamy song called “Let Me Take You Out” by Elizabeth Harper. I bought it and then proceeded to listen to it on repeat, loving its bouncy pep and sweet lyrics. Fast forward to watching The Vampire Diaries one night and lo, it’s that same song! But it says it’s by “Class Actress,” who the heck is that? It turns out that Class Actress is Elizabeth Harper, just with some extra electronics thrown in. So I found the EP “Journal of Ardency,” and that has been one of my best musical purchases of 2010. It’s 80s-tinged and dancey and dark and so, so excellent. I can’t recommend those five songs enough. But for now, start with this little jewel. This is a daydream of a song that calls to mind the nervous excitement of a crush combined with the mellow ease of watching an entire city flash by from a cab window.
4.) True Love: KaiserCartel – Favorite Song
This song, and in fact this darling couple (Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel) sound like an idealized version of NYC, like the Brooklyn you see in quirky indie films, not the dirty, over-crowded reality that is Times Square. Their album “March Forth” is excellent folksy listening on those days when you have the windows down and you’re reading a book while a cool breeze sends shivers down your spine, yet it also warms you up during the long cold winter months. This song in particular is effortless, the perfect song for the matching bookend in your life, whoever or whatever that might be. Those who are prone to wooing, take note: this song is nearly guaranteed to melt hearts. Learn it on guitar or piano, warble it softly off-key, or better yet, hold up a boombox Lloyd Dobler -style and pipe it into your beloved’s window. No need to thank me, just name your first shared pet “Miss Pink” and we’ll call it even.
5.) Overall Song o’ the Day: OutKast – Happy Valentine’s Day
This song pretty much speaks for itself. It’s got a great beat, and the lyrics play both sides of the fence, moving from “Love will rule supreme!” to “F**k that Valentine’s Day!” by the end. It’s got something for everyone, and that’s what I’ve been trying to get at all along: no one wants to be excluded, which seems to be the main problem with Valentine’s Day. Other holidays fall victim to that as well (I’m lookin’ at you, Christmas!) but if we can disregard the social pressures to mate and reproduce, I think that deep down few, if any, would have real issues with a day set aside to honor love in all its forms. And if André 3000 is Cupid, I’m on board with making “every day the fourteenth.”