Whenever Valentine’s Day rolls around, I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way to tell a partner how we feel, a friend how special they are, a secret love how we cherish them from afar, than with flowers, candy or a card.
How about sharing a song?
We can press play when we’re out for a drive, slip a pair of headphones over the ears of our beloved, serenade the unsuspecting before dinner, or compile a playlist of the songs that say it best. I’d never turn away a dozen roses, but let’s face it: Flowers die. Music doesn’t.
Songwriter/producer Darrell Brown, who was a recent VIP guest in a class I teach, said it best when he told my students that there are three hard and fast ways we look at love when expressing it in song: you either have it, lost it, or want it.
This made me smile. I never thought about it that way!
Another colleague — “songwriting whisperer” Marty Dodson — has observed in his online Songtown Newsletter that, “In many ways, love is the simplest and yet [most] profound human emotion or feeling. From the love we first feel for our mother as an infant to the love that first breaks our heart and beyond, the story of love is the one we all chase in the pursuit of a hit song.”
Even though I write ’em, I listen to them (and for them) too, and as I listener I seek a story that describes the feelings I’ve experienced in love or loss so that I feel understood. There are a spectacular range of classic examples to choose from. The magnificent “At Last” and the poignant “Song For You” have been serenaded and danced to at weddings for decades. Then there are more obscure ballads like Katie Melua’s “The Closest Thing To Crazy,” in which the singer becomes aware that she’s acting more like a teenager than her age in being unable to control her romantic feelings. I discovered this beauty while on eternal hold with an airline. True, it played over and over again because the wait was so long, but it was actually the very first listen-through that caught my heart off-guard. And despite the frustration of that endless call, it was the only song I listened to for weeks.
The sweet thing about sharing a song that’s new to the palate is that it tells someone that your feelings for them are also unique — not just words that have been sung to thousands of brides. Or grooms.
One of the most stellar three-minute confessions I’ve heard recently is Gary Barlow’s “This Is My Time.” From the title, one might think the song is a narcissistic brag about reaching stardom or fame but it is anything but. In the stunning lyric, Mr. Barlow confides that if he is to be done in by love, then it’s his time to perish, to die by the sword, to drink the poison.
Your choice of share doesn’t necessarily even need to have words as long as the music does its job. Take Santo And Jonny’s whimsical “Sleep Walk.” My husband (then boyfriend) won my heart when he strummed it into my answering machine (there was no such thing as voice mail in those days) so that when I came home from the world’s frazzled pace, I’d feel his love.
Whether it’s unrequited, undecided or misguided — even if you don’t know if someone could ever love you back — a song-share can be a most charming, flirty, clandestine, brave moment of truth.
Or, as Indie artist Hotel Mira once said, “Dig deep and pinpoint something beautiful, ask a hard question, take a stand.” So put it out there. Start a fire. And if you feel certain the object of your affection truly is the one you would take a bullet for, I don’t see how you can miss with the gift of some music that has deep meaning to you.
Happy Valentine’s Day, lovebirds. If you’re a bird who doesn’t currently have a love, I hope that you find a song that brings you closer to it.