Something odd has been happening to me as of late, no, I haven’t managed to achieve those 6-pack abs I have always dreamed of. Instead, I have been especially inclined to romantic music – pumping away on the treadmill, with Dolly Parton quietly playing on my Ipod. Now before you turn your nose up at me, let me profess that I might be the victim of an especially profound ‘crush,’ which is the motivation behind my newfound fixation with all things maudlin.
To commemorate this event, I thought it would be fitting to rundown some of the most ‘moving’ songs out there…ones that will break your heart, others that will help mend it, and one or two that might just help you win the affections of that unrequited love of yours.
Please do leave your own suggestions in the comments section, and rest assured, projectile vomiting is permitted, so long as you don’t expect me to clean up the mess afterward.
Everybody Here Wants You by Jeff Buckley
There is something transcendental about this song, one of Buckley’s posthumous releases. His voice builds from a simmer and reaches towards the brink of climax, only to return to a hushed silence. His performance is intrinsic to the quiet longing of an unrequited love. Indeed, he professes, “everybody here thinks they want you,” “thinks they need you,” “but I will be waiting right here to show you,” “how our love can rise just like embers.”
Although bold lyrically, the listener is aware from Buckley’s tentative vocals that he has yet to muster the courage to tell that woman just how much he ‘wants’ her – little does he realize that he may very well have missed his chance. Get the MP3: Everybody Here Wants You (Album Version) By Jeff Buckley
This Woman’s Work by Maxwell
This poignant tune originally recorded by British singer Kate Bush, and re-released by Maxwell after an MTV Unplugged session has always been a moving piece of music for me personally. Originally recorded for the John Hughes’ motion picture, She’s Having a Baby the song is about confronting the reality of adulthood, during a time of crisis. Hughes used the tune during the film’s dramatic climax when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife (Elizabeth McGowan), and their unborn child are in danger – playing over a melancholic montage of the couple rejoicing during happier times.
In the late 90s, Maxwell reclaimed the ballad, imbuing it with his signature falsetto, and despairing stage performance. The words “I should be crying but I just can’t let it show,” “I should be hoping, but I can’t stop thinking,” “All the things I should have given, but I didn’t,” take on a newfound resonance now that they are being performed by a male performer.
The song becomes about confronting emotions — sadness, longing, desire, which men are often forced to bury beneath the surface. Maxwell’s recording tackles this stigma, acting as a source of redemption, and comfort for a man, who is now truly able to ‘feel’ for his woman. Get the MP3: This Woman’s Work by Maxwell
At Last by Nat King Cole/Etta James
Snow Patrol’s lead singer, Gary Lightbody once noted that ‘At Last’ was one of his favorite songs of all time – divulging how it had the power to both mend and break one’s heart in the very same instance. Most recently, Beyonce performed the song for President Obama and his wife to have their first post-inauguration dance to. To put it simply, this song, which first made waves in 1941 is still as prescient, romantic and heartbreaking today as it ever has been. Personally, my favorite renditions are that of Nat King Cole, whose husky and restrained vocals echo a quiet anguish behind his romantic portrait. In the end of course, it is Etta James’ recording that we most frequently return to. With its measured, soulful execution — it is perhaps, one of the greatest moments in musical history. Get the MP3: At Last by Etta James
I’ll Be There by the Jackson Five/Mariah Carey & Trey Lorenz
The most popular single of Motown’s “Detroit Era,” I’ll Be There is one of the most resounding romantic classics. Undoubtedly, it is also the song, which solidified the Jackson 5’s career, revealing a maturity that extended beyond bubblegum pop. Like many of you, in the wake of Jackson’s untimely death, I have been revisiting his back catalog — piecing together fragments of my childhood, hoping that Jackson’s music will perpetuate hope. Of all of these, this song stays with me the most because it is about self-sacrifice, and devoting oneself whole-heartedly to loving another person. Re-released as a duet in the early 90s, the Carey and Lorenz adult retelling helps bring the piece up to date, acting as a source of reconciliation for friends and lovers. Get the MP3: I’ll Be There by Jackson 5
Killing Me Softly With His Song by The Fugees
Despite, its understated feminine associations, 1996 saw The Fugees infuse this sleeper hit with hip-hop rhymes, Jazz, R&B, and a psychedelic soul sample. Melding the sounds of the contemporary epoch with the past, this version could be heard on the tips of every one’s tongues in the mid nineties. In particular, it offered hard-ass men an acceptable outlet to vent their torment – displaying that hip-hop was as tender, as it was rebellious and aggressive.
The tune has become so infamous in popular culture in fact that recently the Irish football club, Shelbourne F.C. used the song as a mantra during one of its games. Utilizing a dreamy musical landscape, this is a song to be played, while sitting contemplatively on a window ledge or patio, during a hot summer’s day. Get the Mp3: Killing Me Softly With His Song by The Fugees