Friday, February 14, 2014

Ten Healthy Love Songs

I wrote a popular post a few months ago about the Ten Great Love Songs with Terrible Messages. So today, Valentine's Day, I thought I'd follow up with the Top Ten Healthy Love Songs. To make the list, the songs have to have to have a healthy message about love and be good musically.

So I present, in no particular order, my Top Ten Healthy Love Songs.

1. “When I'm 64,” The Beatles

First of all, this song is just fun to sing. As for the healthy message, the song focuses on the small things that we do for our partners that let them know we love them. That kind of connection builds love and affection between people over a lifetime. 

2. “Tell Him,” Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion.

Usually when two women are singing a love song as a duet, it is about competing for the same man. In this case, one woman is supporting the other as she tries to get the courage to be vulnerable and be honest about her love. It has two of the greatest voices of our time, and a fantastic line about love and self-actualization: “Love will be the gift you give yourself.”

3. “True Colors,” Cyndi Lauper

I have to confess that I'm a fan of Cyndi Lauper. (The song “Sally's Pigeons” makes me tear up, and I'm not afraid to admit it.) In “True Colors” she describes a love in which she can can see her partner for who they are:

And I see your true colors
shining through
I see your true colors
and that's why I love you...

True love recognizes exactly who the other person is, in shadow and in light. Just like in the song.

4. “You Can't Hurry Love,” The Supremes

Who doesn't love Motown and The Supremes?  Not only is the song a great example of the Motown sound, it is a rare love song for the single person. The vocals sung by Diana Ross describe wanting to be in a relationship to feel complete, and then remembering her mother's advice: “You can't hurry love... It's a game of give and take.” As the singer struggles with wanting to be in a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship, and uses her mother's advice to find the emotional strength to wait for healthy love. 

5. “Our Song,” Taylor Swift

This song is so Bubble-Gum Pop that you can taste it. But it's so much fun, and the lyrics talk about celebrating the early moments in relationships. When couples remember what it is that they have in common (something relationship expert John Gottman calls “creating shared meaning”) they strengthen their relationship. Way to go, Taylor.

BONUS: This male cover of “Our Song” performed by Tyler Ward is worth a listen, too. I do not know if Tyler Ward intended this song to be same-gender loving or not, but a male voice singing these lyrics gives the song a different perspective.

6. “Like a Prayer,” Madonna

Life is a mystery;
Everyone must stand alone.
I hear you call my name
And it feels like home.

That lyric all by itself is enough to have this song make the list. It is rare to find an accurate and poetic description of the state of being alone existentially, and yet finding comfort in a loving relationship. Madonna doesn't always strike the right tone for mental health ("Borderline", anyone?) but this song could be used as a healing affirmation for healthy boundaries in relationships.

As for this video... well, we could write a whole book about the portrayal of race in Madonna videos. Maybe that will be another entry in this blog someday. 

7. “A Whole New World,” Alan Menken and Tim Rice.

Yes, the song from the movie Aladdin. There is plenty to say about the movie—It's been rightly criticized for showing that the best way to win someone's heart is to pretend to be someone you are not. And let's not even get started on the images of Arabic people.

This song, though, describes healthy love. Yes, it is incredibly cheesy, but that kind of adds to its appeal. The lyrics speak of wanting to experience new things with a partner, and that is a great way to build a relationship.

8. “Greatest Love of All," Whitney Houston

Oh, you knew this would be on the list somewhere, right? It's a fantastic song--perfect for belting out in the shower or the car.Whitney Houston had a voice for the ages, and she was at the height of her talent in 1985.  And lyrics don't get any more emotionally healthy than "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all." 

Bonus! Did you know that this song is actually a remake? The original version was recorded in 1977 by George Benson for a biopic of Muhammad Ali called The Greatest.

9. “Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen

I tried my best but it wasn't much.
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch.
But I never lied, I didn't come here to fool you.
And even if it all goes wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
with nothing on my tongue but Hallalujah.

This song has beautiful lyrics that describe the ups and down of a relationship accurately without sacrificing the poetry. It's been covered by just about everyone, but my favorites are k.d. lang and Rufus Wainwright. I loves me some Leonard Cohen, and I highly recommend seeing him live in concert if you can, but I've chosen k.d. lang's version to embed here. If you want to hear Leonard Cohen's original, it is here

10. “”I Just Called to Say I Love You,” Stevie Wonder

This is how you keep love alive and relationships healthy—reach out to your partner, say you love them. Surprise them during the day with a call (or a text message) that says how you feel, for no other reason other than you're thinking of them.

For a special treat, here is the version done on The Cosby Show, in which Stevie sings with Phylicia Rashad (whom we have seem on this blog before!)  and the rest of the cast. As if the song wasn't 80s enough!

11. Honorable mention:

“The Sweater” Meryn Cadell

So the reason this is an honorable mention is that it is not technically a love song, and it describes unhealthy patterns. But this song makes the honorable mention list because it describes the vulnerabilities and mistakes that we make when learning how to be in a relationship. It's perhaps the best song about an adolescent crush ever written. Plus, it's got a killer beat and it's crazy fun.

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