Songs for Valentine's Day: Five Expert Opinions

Valentine's Day wouldn't be complete without a soundtrack, but finding the right love songs can be a chore. After all, love is messy and complicated and different for every person; it stands to reason that finding love songs would be just as perilous and unpredictable. So, in the hopes of turning up something for every romantic playlist, five experts in the world of public radio offer their opinions on some of the best Valentine's Day songs in circulation.

Elena See of 'Folk Alley'

hide captionElena See of 'Folk Alley'

Valentine's Day is about roses and, among other things, romantic songs with sweet lyrics. But those without lovers or flowers or chocolates don't have their own song. Or do they? This Feb. 14, if you're spending the evening at home alone, as you try desperately not to pick up the phone and dial a once-familiar, now-forbidden phone number, put on Ollabelle's "Blue Northern Lights." As soon as it begins, you may actually cheer up and remember what many forget: It's better to lack love on Valentine's Day than it is to beg someone to love you. Elena See is a host for WKSU's FolkAlley.com and the Music Director of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

John Aielli of KUT

hide captionJohn Aielli of KUT

Carrie Rodriguez' "Big Kiss" is pure chocolate cheesecake. Written by longtime collaborator Chip Taylor — with whom she's recorded three duet albums — the song fits her warm voice like a velvet glove. Bill Frisell's masterful guitar work, along with the pedal and lap steel of Greg Leisz, provides a luxurious bed to lounge in for this sweetly intimate song. John Aielli hosts Eklektikos at NPR member station KUT in Austin, Tex.

Sheila Anderson of WBGO

hide captionSheila Anderson of WBGO

"A Time for Love," written by Johnny Mandel with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, stands as one of the greatest love songs of all time, and Abbey Lincoln's version is the best of them all. The song's haunting melody and beautiful words are powerful enough to intensify the emotions of those in love. As Lincoln celebrates "a time for rainbow-colored weather" — "I've known a time for spring / a time for fall / but best of all / a time for love" — it becomes abundantly clear that this is as clear and pure as love songs get. Sheila Anderson hosts Late Night Jazz at NPR station WBGO in Newark, N.J.

Nick Morrison of KPLU

hide captionNick Morrison of KPLU

A blues classic — and one of Muddy Waters' greatest recordings, which is saying something — "I Just Want To Make Love To You" cuts to the chase. Or, more to the point, it cuts to the end of the chase. After all, on Valentine's Day, after all the hearts and flowers and vows of devotion, what's left? As anyone who's ever worked in fundraising knows, you're more likely to get what you need if you ask for it specifically, and Waters states his case pretty straightforwardly. It may not be a conventional Valentine's Day love song, but that's just because its amorous message is communicated with such breathtaking efficiency. Nick Morrison is a host, contributor and former music director at KPLU in Tacoma, Wash.

Joshua Jackson of WBGO

hide captionJoshua Jackson of WBGO

Love is beguiling, mysterious and sometimes unrequited. Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim was arguably the master of love songs: Peel away his simple melodies and his remarkable sense of harmony, and what's left is pure poetry. The Jobim experience is a potent combination of verse and musical storytelling at its best. The titular character in "Luiza" is a charmer, a "rosa louca" — a wild and fickle rose with a ray of light in her hair — while the protagonist is a "pitiful amateur," an apprentice to her love. He tells her to listen to the song he has written to forget her, but he can't forget her. Her desire is his, always. A kiss alone would release him, but does he get one? Jobim wrote many portraits of women, and "Luiza" was a jewelry designer, as well as the main character in the telenovella Brilhantes, a Brazilian soap opera. Much to Jobim's despair, her hair was short. Joshua Jackson is Special Projects Producer at NPR station WBGO in Newark, N.J.

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