Skip To Content

Valentine’s Day Play List

With Valentine’s Day at hand, we’ve got all things love on the brain. Or perhaps it’s better to say love and love adjacent. While there is evidence that music is as old as our ancient ancestors, according to Liz Lambson, the serenade – typically associated with eager gentlemen performing romantic songs in open air for their lady loves – dates to Medieval times. With technological advances like audio recordings, creating a mixed tape for the object of one’s affections became a central way of communicating one’s amorous thoughts and feelings. But since this isn’t the 1980s and we now live in an age of digital music files, it’s easier than ever to use music to communicate just how you’re feeling to that special someone and we’re here to help! But since romantic relationships are complex entities featuring what Harvard Medical school experts describe as euphoric dopamine-highs and the most heart-breaking lows, we’ve been hard at work researching the unforgettable songs that speak to various dimensions and nuances of romantic love. Whether you’re preparing for a romantic night with your one-and-only, need help saying sorry, looking to get lucky, or trying to forget a terrible ex, we’ve got your covered. We’ve also covered a range of musical styles from 70s rock to R & B, hip-hop, reggae, and reggaeton. For the sake of clarity, in what follows we take you from the very bad behaviour tunes, to the sexy ones, and end with the hopelessly in love jams. You’re welcome!

The Booty-Call
If you think Valentine’s Day is about hooking up, not settling down, we recommend Daft Punk’s Get Lucky (2013), featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. In it, Williams sings “She’s up all night to the sun, I’m up all night to get some, she’s up all night for good fun, I’m up all night to get lucky”.

Taking you back to one of the 1990s sexiest R & B tracks, we also offer Ginuwine’s Pony (1996) which was transformed into pop culture magic in Magic Mike XXL (2015). In this can’t-miss scene Channing Tatum’s Mike (stripper with a heart-of-gold) is helpless to resist the sultry rhythms of his unforgettable stripper anthem. When the beat fills his workshop, let’s just say, Tatum’s dance moves turn welding and drilling into an orgasmic art form as Ginuwine sings,   “you’re horny, let’s do it, ride it, my pony, my saddle’s waiting, come and jump on it”. Ok then, point taken!

This ain’t no Love Song
Whether you’re looking to lament a disastrous love affair or to remind yourself about why your ex should remain in your rear view mirror, we’ve got you covered. George Michaels’ and Andrew Ridgeley’s Wham! was a standout international pop sensation for their fun-loving, carefree anthems like Wake me up before you Go-Go (1984). But they also defied pop music norms with hits like Everything she Wants (1984). In this chart-topper, Michaels laments, “Somebody told me, ‘boy, everything she wants is everything she sees’, I guess I must have loved you, because I said you were the perfect girl for me, baby, and now we’re six months older, and everything you want, and everything you see, is out of reach not good enough, I don’t know what the hell you want from me, oh”. Then the nail in the coffin, “Somebody tell me, oh, Won’t you tell me? Why I work so hard for you, give you money, work to give you money (oh).” Hmm, we’ve surmised that this woman was a gold-digger.

A decade before Wham was on its path to global dominance, a not-so little band called the Eagles was topping the charts with its unique blend of rock and country. Their hit Lyin’ Eyes (1975) paints the picture of a young woman stepping out on her unaffectionate partner. In it, Glenn Frey sings, “So she tells him she must go out for the evening, to comfort an old friend who’s feelin’ down, But he knows where she goin’ as she’s leavin’, She is headed for the cheatin’ side of town.” Now before you go assuming that she’s fully to blame, recall that the lyrics also make it clear that the man left behind at home was “cold as ice.”

Last but not least, we present you with a hip-hop classic which paired a funky, danceable beat with lamentable lyrics. We should have known something wasn’t quite right from the title of Fat Joe’s hit What’s Luv? (2002) featuring Ashanti and Ja Rule. (Fun fact, the female dancers in the video sport original purple NBA Toronto Raptors’ tops in the video). In it the talented Joe raps  “Yeah, slow down, baby, Let you know from the gate I don’t go down lady.” Excuse us? The reference is to cunnilingus of course and as the song continues, Fat Joe centres his own pleasure simultaneously assessing the woman’s desirability (you lookin’ good for the getting’) and dismissing her intellect (But you talk too much, man, you’re ruinin’ my high). The kicker? After the insults and an utter lack of interest in her pleasure, he proposes a three-some. Ah, hard pass!

Cheatin’ Cheaters
From bad to worse – there has been many a song that has captured the emotional complexity of cheating. Two unforgettable tracks from opposing sides of the narrative come from top 1990s R & B and hip-hop groups.

Consider Dru Hill’s In my Bed – So So Def Remix (1996) featuring Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat. In this catchy track, lead singer Mark “Sisqo”Andrews reveals his suspicions that another man is getting too close to his woman. The chorus confirms the worst, “Somebody’s sleeping in my bed, messing with my head, taking my place.”

Naughty by Nature burst onto the hip-hop scene in the early 1990s with their mega hit O.P.P. (1991) in which Treach, Vin Rock, and DJ Kay Gee rap about the underhanded behaviour of a woman who is stepping out on her man. Setting the scene, this music video took place in the fictitious Club Cheatin’. After playfully making it clear that the last “P” in the acronym could stand for male or female genitalia (or simply the word property), they go on to paint a scenario in which a man calls a woman he has just met and comes to find out the number, while not fake, is for her girlfriend’s or cousin’s house. (We’re talking pre-cell phones.) Why? Well, seems she’s sneaking around. As Treach then raps, “It’s O.P.P. time, other people’s, but you get it, there’s no room for relationships, there’s just room to hit it.”

Baby, I’m Sorry
Don’t panic if you’ve messed up. Perhaps we can help. Jamaican dancehall superstar Buju Banton’s song Who Say (1992) featuring Beres Hammond may be the perfect upbeat way to express your regret. In it Beres sings, “I used to take you for granted, you were the last name in my life, presently you’re the most wanted, at the top of my life”. After seeing his former lover walking with his best friend, Beres admits to his pain and sings, “now I’m falling in love all over again, how could I ever doubt that you were my friend”. And Buju’s part? With his signature raspy voice he raps, “Who say that big man don’t cry, you never miss di water, ‘Til yuh well run dry, could you find it inna yuh heart, To give me one more bly, I won’t abuse the situation, this time I won’t lie”.

In 1988, African American folk-pop musician Tracy Chapman got right to the point with Baby can I hold you, a tender song that recounts her lover’s apology. She begins, “Sorry, is all that you can say, years go by and still, the words don’t come easily, Like sorry, like sorry.” For an upbeat reggae take on this melancholy original, check out Foxy Brown’s fantastic cover renamed Sorry (1989). (Trust us everything can and has been remade into reggae!)

Kenny Lattimore’s Forgiveness (1996), delivers a poignant apology in the form of an R & B slow jam. First, he admits where he went wrong: “I made a mistake and I wanna know, can you ever forgive me or do we go, down in the flames of a broken love”. Then he tries to persuade, “If I ever really meant much to you, Then it wouldn’t make sense for you to, turn your back and walk away from us”. Then the beseeching chorus, “Can we find forgiveness, in the throws of our midst, understanding or do we fall apart, Can we find forgiveness, or do we go on like this, trying to cover up a broken heart.”

Finally, although the acclaimed British band UB40 has made a name covering popular reggae songs like Here I am (Come and take me) (1990), they’ve also released original hits like I Would Do for You (1988). The song begins with a confession, “I didn’t mean to be so late, it’s just that I got talking, had a drink with a couple of mates missed my bus and wound up walking, I tried to call and let you know, it was busy and I didn’t get through, Didn’t want to let you down, I know how much it hurts you.” Then comes the expression of commitment, “I would do for you, all you have me do, all you have to do, is ask me to, all you have to do, is tell me when, and I’ll come running back again.”

I’ll Change my Ways
Although we do not recommend fooling yourself into believing your love interest is something they’re not, we must concede that there are times when a person is motivated and determined to change their ways and reform their less than stellar behaviour. Here’s a couple of musical examples.

African American R & B in the 1990s was something to behold and the artist, simply named Joe, topped the charts with several hits from his All that I am (1997) album. One such hit was Don’t Wanna be a Player (1997), the sultry slow jam in which he explained “Don’t wanna be a player no more, I think I found someone I can live my life for.” Joe then gets into detail about what precisely he’s willing to give up like booty calls, ta ta bars, rolling with an entourage, and getting beeps from a la di da di. (You remember pagers, don’t you?) But while it’s all well and good for someone to say what they won’t do, it’s equally important to make one’s direction clear. To that end Joe sings, “All I need is one who’s really down, someone to turn this player’s life around, Girl I feel like you could be the one, to make a difference in my life, ‘Cause I’m tired of living trife.”

Known as the man with the golden voice (and once you hear him, you’ll understand why), Jamaican reggae superstar Sanchez’s hits include unforgettable songs like Missing You (1987) and I can’t Wait (1991). But it’s Rearrange my Life (1995) where we see a man bear his soul, showing vulnerability as he asks his beloved if he’s the one for her. In the chorus, Sanchez sings about the things he’s doing to win her love, “Things I used to do girl I do them no more (and let me tell you), places I used to go, I go there no more (baby), girl for you I rearrange my life (baby), won’t you just please just give it a smile.”

Alone Time is Sexy Time
Bob Marley’s songbook included transcendent dance tracks like Exodus and Jammin’ (both 1977), revolutionary anthems like War (1976), and upbeat melodies like Three little Birds (1977). But the legendary Marley was also a romantic who created timeless love songs like Turn your lights down low (1977). Released on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Exodus album (1977), this tender love song begins with an entreaty for privacy and connection, “Turn your lights down low, And pull your window curtains, Oh, let Jah moon come shining in, Into our life again.” Bob then explains why the mood has to be set, “I want to give you some love, I want to give you some good, good loving.”

American duo Hall and Oates also sang about the importance of alone time in their pop hit One on One (1982). Hall first sets the stage by explaining what’s missing in a relationship in which he feels that face time is sorely lacking. Using sports metaphors, the lyrics include references to playing on a team and wanting a time out. Hall then cements his request singing, “One on one I want to play that game tonight, One on one I know I want to play that, One on one I want to play that game tonight, one on one so slow.”

Another romantic reggae track that drives home this message came from the talented black British singer Estelle and the Jamaican dancehall powerhouse, Sean Paul. In Come Over (2008), Estelle sings, “If I was to tell you just how much I need you, would you come tonight, Would you not believe me cause a love that easy never turns out right, I’m trying to change the rules you deserve something good in your life, We’ve waited for far too long, so come get your blessing tonight baby.” And Paul’s response, between his signature  “booli bang bang bang bangs,” he sings, “Girl I’ve been waiting for the longest time just to run come and give you this love, yeah yeah, cause you know that you’ve been on my mind can’t sleep at night and such, baby girl, now that you have shown me the sign to press gas and don’t bother with the clutch, baby girl, I’m gonna give you lovin’ all night long so strong that you won’t forget my touch.”

Joe deserves consideration in this category too. Why? Well, his romantic R & B song Love Scene (1997) literally paints the picture of a night of lovemaking that challenges the stigmatizing precedent of Fat Joe’s What’s Luv? (discussed above). In it, Joe sets the stage with filmic “takes” laying out the night as it unfolds. “(Take one) Baby lyin’ on the bed, Exotic fantasies goin’ through her head, (Take two) I jump into my SL6, I gotta make my way to the crib now quick, (Take three) I see my baby as I step inside, She’s staring at me with those bedroom eyes, (Take four), Honey sippin’ on some Chardonnay, The sex is even better when she’s feeling that way.” Then the chorus, “Let’s make a love scene, steamy and blue, Erotic memories for an audience of two, And we’ll make a love scene, let the foreplay begin, And replay this moment again and again and again.” Joe’s song is not just about a night of passion. It is clear that he is motivated by love, as he sings about making a love scene and loving her down. But unlike Fat Joe’s rap hit, Joe’s ballad focuses on mutual pleasure and sexual fulfillment, he sings, “Girl I’m down to take a sip from your cup, If you drink from my fountain of love (Oh ho)…‘69 was a very good year (Do you remember girl), If you know what I mean, my dear (Ooh baby).”  Thank you Joe!

What happened when Puerto Rican reggaeton super duo Wisin and Yandel teamed up with the celebrated Dominican-American lead singer of bachata super group Aventura, Anthony Santos, well Noche de Sexo (2005), that’s what. And yes, that translates into English as Night of Sex. In his silky voice over a driving reggaeton beat, Santos sings, “¿Hola, que tal?, Soy el chico de las poesías, Tu fiel admirador, Y aunque no me conocías, Hoy es noche de sexo, Voy a devorarte, nena linda, Hoy es noche de sexoY voy a cumplir tus fantasias.” Then the rap comes in, “Quiero arrancarte la tela, con cautela, Mi piel canela enseguida pela, Ella es la protagonista de mi novela, Mi Cinderella conmigo es que vuela, Póngase romántica, please, Dame un kiss, no cometa un desliz, Ella combina la calle con la moda de Paris, La miss, sigue matando en el país.” If you don’t speak Spanish, check out the English lyrics, but trust us, it’s sexy!

Next, legendary African American record producer Quincy Jones’ Secret Garden (featuring El Debarge, James Ingram, Al B. Sure, and Barry White) (1990)… enough said!

Truth is, sometimes love can feel like an illness, hence the phrase lovesick. If you’re in that phase, have we got some tunes for you. One of the ways that singers have expressed this angst is through the narrative of a doctor ordering treatment for the lovesick patient. Carol Douglas’ disco hit, Doctor’s Orders (1975) starts with a ringing phone before she tells a man on the line how much she misses him. She then sings, “Doctor’s orders say there’s only one thing for me, nothing he can do cause only you can cure me, says in my condition love’s the best physician, he’s prescribed a potion full of warm emotion every day, a lovin’ spoonful to be taken, it’s the only way to stop this empty, heart of mine from breakin’.”

For a reggae-matic spin on this theme, you need only look to the master, Jamaica’s Beres Hammond’s Doctor’s Orders (1996), in which he opens the song with, “Give me a break baby, I need to be with you, the Doctor’s orders.” He then goes on to describe his symptoms and his self-diagnosis, “I feel a shiver, I’m feeling down and out, I’m a true believer, I know what it’s all about, I know it’s not the flu, it’s all because of you, I feel a trembling when I wake, come back and give another break.”

What happens when you match Harlem rapper Mace and R & B superstar Brian McKnight? Well, back in 1997, we got the hit You Should be Mine (Don’t waste your time). McKnight gets right to the point, “Can’t understand, how he can treat you the way that he does, Give me a chance to show you baby, You’re better off with me.” Then continuing with the direct approach in the chorus, “If he don’t love you right, don’t waste your time, If he don’t treat you like he should, Then you should be mine.” Final point “You don’t believe a man can love you for the rest of your life…I want to love you like you need to be loved.”

Finally, to a classic from the Spinners, one of the most beloved R & B groups and a Rock and Roll Hall of fame inductee. In their #1 hit, I’ll be around (1973), lead vocalist Bobby Smith sings about the impasse that has led him to “bow out gracefully.” But it’s clear that the man is still in love and certainly not leaving of his own volition. The lyrics continue, “Whenever you call me, I’ll be there, Whenever you want me, I’ll be there, Whenever you need me, I’ll be there, I’ll be around.”

Truly, Madly, Deeply
For those who are in love and looking for a song to sum up their emotions, we’ve got your back! In her sultry, grown up, R & B ballad, He Loves Me (Lyzel in E Flat) (2000), the soulful Jill Scott celebrates her man by letting him know what an exceptional job he’s doing of making her feel seen and loved. Poetic and emotional she sings “You love me, especially, different every time, you keep me on my feet, happily, excited, by your cologne, your hands, your smile, your intelligence.” Powerfully she notes “you love me” and  “you like me.” Grown folks know these two things are not the same and both are needed to sustain love.

K-Ci and JoJo’s hit All my Life (1998) topped the US Billboard top 100 for three weeks. In it, the soulful duo explains, “I will never find another lover sweeter than you…you are the only one, my everything, and for you this song I sing, all my life, I prayed for someone like you, and I thank God that I, that I finally found .” Amen!

Years earlier, DeBarge released All this Love (1982), a sweet R & B gem in which the lead singer El sang about his problem. Singing to his beloved, he explains how his leap of faith, at her behest (You told me to take a chance, And learn the ways of love, my baby) has allowed him to give his love to her. As they sing in the chorus, “And all this love is waiting for you (my baby, my sugar), and all, all my love is waiting for you.”

When Mary J. Blige teamed up with Lauryn Hill on All that I can Say (1999) they made soulful magic. In this R & B ballad, a woman sings to her beloved, expressing her reverence and gratitude for the depth of their love. Mary sings “Loving you is wonderful, Something like a miracle, rest assured I feel the same way you do,” and later at the bridge “Knowing him, loving him, showing him that I’m all in, Living and, forgiving and, I would do it all again, genuine, seraphim, sweeter than cinnamon, Heaven-sent gentleman, synonyms for loving him.”

Marriage is Sexy
In their hit song Chapel of Love, the three-person, African American, female group the Dixie Cups sang with expectation about their upcoming nuptials. Starting with the chorus they harmonized, “Goin’ to the chapel and we’re, gonna get married…Goin’ to the chapel of love.” But verse two set the scene with, “Bells will ring, the sun will shine, whoa, I’ll be his and he’ll be mine, We’ll love until the end of time, And we’ll never be lonely anymore.” Although the idea of marriage to stave off loneliness seems less than ideal today, it’s best to meet this song on its own turf, 1964.

When the three man R & B group Next came out with their hit Wifey (2000), music videos had not yet become the spectacle of half-naked, gyrating females that are common today. Therefore, it’s definitely refreshing to watch this handsome trio singing about how much they love their wives. This upbeat jam starts with the chorus, “You never try me, Always stood right by me, Make living lively highly, Spoken of, my only love, the only one, You’re my wifey, Make my life complete, Sweet – but you know when you flip the street, Freak – but only when it comes to me, See – that’s why you’re my wifey.” As the lyrics make clear, this love transcends the surface considerations of hairstyle and clothing. Not only is she beautiful to him, but essential to his life (crucial). Wedding bands are to be celebrated, as is the way she makes him feel.