Feeling crazy in love this Valentine's Day? Well, that mix CD you're making your significant other better include some great love songs.
Been recently dumped? Then you're probably listening to some heartbreak songs to help you wallow in your miserable heartache.
And the rest of us? The ones who know whom we love, but just can't let him or her know how we feel for whatever reason? That's what the tortuous, painful, find-a-hole-to-crawl-into torch song is for.
Here's a helping hand if you're having trouble defining which one you need for your playlist this weekend.
THE LOVE SONG
What's it about: Falling in love or being just plain happy in love.
When to listen: The first six months of any good relationship. After that, the love song just serves as a reminder of what you thought you'd have, and you'll unfairly take that frustration out on your partner.
Examples: "Unchained Melody" (The Righteous Brothers) and "My Girl" (The Temptations) might just be the two greatest love songs of all time. Also: "God Only Knows" (The Beach Boys); "Just Like a Woman" (Bob Dylan); "Lovesong" (The Cure); "Time After Time" (Cyndi Lauper); "Chasing Cars" (Snow Patrol); and the most frightening love song ever recorded, "I Will Follow You Into the Dark" (Death Cab for Cutie).
Note: The love song also generally includes all name songs, such as "Michelle" (The Beatles), "Amanda" (Boston), "Beth" (Kiss) and "Alison" (Elvis Costello).
THE HEARTBREAK SONG
What's it about: The painful loss of love by break-up or, worse, death.
When to listen: After your true love's told you s/he loves you, but isn't in love with you. Or if you're the narrator of "Last Kiss" (J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers or Pearl Jam), and you just killed your girlfriend by accidentally crashing your car into a tree.
Examples: "I Fall to Pieces" (Patsy Cline) remains the most enduring heartbreak song. Also: "The Tears of a Clown" (Smokey Robinson); "I Will Always Love You" (Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston); "Love Hurts" (Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris); "Only the Lonely" (Roy Orbison); and, yes, even "My Heart Will Go On" (Celine Dion).
THE TORCH SONG
What it's about: The universal experience of unrequited love; the singer laments about someone who doesn't know they exist or who has, since their relationship, moved onto someone else. Torch songs also tend to be a bit tragic in that "wow, that's so pathetic it's tragic" kind of way.
When to listen: Never. Writing a torch song is one thing, recording one is another; these serve emotional and commercial purposes for the artists. Listening, however, is no different than a week-long drinking binge. No good will ever come of it.
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Examples: "Against All Odds" (Phil Collins) first and foremost. Also: "I Can't Make You Love Me" (Bonnie Raitt); "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (Dusty Springfield); "You're Beautiful" (James Blunt); and, well, if Diana Krall or Billie Holiday recorded it, it's probably a torch song.
*THE POWER BALLAD
What it's about: Note the asterisk. The power ballad is not a type of song about love, but a way of singing a love, heartbreak or torch song. It also used to be a way for harder rock bands to sell out for quick, chart-topping hits and greater radio and MTV play.
Examples: Without question, the greatest romantic power ballad ever recorded is "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" (Poison). A close runner-up would be Nazareth's cover of "Love Hurts." Also: "To Be With You" (Mr. Big); "More Than Words" (Extreme); "Love Bites" (Def Leppard); and "Here I Go Again" (Whitesnake).