Valentine’s Day is approaching, which means it’s time to set the mood and get their heart racing. Don’t worry — we’ve got your perfect soundtrack. Building from smooth and sensual to wild and crazy, these songs are guaranteed to spice things up.
Before the Weeknd cut his hair and became a Starboy, he was a mysterious weirdo from Canada putting out hard-to-classify R&B music on a different level of sexy. “What You Need” opens with an unauthorized Aaliyah sample before sliding right into a predawn come-hither sultriness. His vocal is filtered out a bit, low in the mix, making his late night creep lyrics sound like a phone call. It’s somehow both melancholic and braggadocious, with promises of satisfaction if she’s down to make the trip over.
What’s more essential than air, especially when you’re in the throes of passion?
There’s nothing like a little synth country jam, complete with Bruce’s falsetto on the outro, to set the mood.
This 1972 single by Syreeta and her then-husband, Stevie Wonder, sounds like an omen of relationship troubles to come (the couple divorced later that same year). When the strings come in, furtive tension bubbles over. But the lyrics’ sunny affection keeps this firmly in “she loves me” territory. Relationships are complicated, and no one’s is always rosy. More love songs should reflect that.
The mid-20th century spike in birthrates had nothing to do with Baby Boomers, postwar optimism or economic growth. No, you can blame ballads like “The Very Thought of You” for that. Seriously, Garland’s measured lyrical right hand on the keys is practically beckoning you to the boudoir. There are no words. I’m done. Still works 62 years later.
This is pillow talk in song form: wonder at new sensations, hesitation about the future, declarations of commitment in spite of it all. It’s one of the most intimate songs I know.
“One Love,” the 1990 follow-up single to the Stone Roses’ wildly successful 1989 eponymous debut, was kind of a dud. But this slow burning B-side just oozed cool. To this day, I’m convinced that the song has magical powers! During the early ’90s, it worked its bewitching spell on my post-adolescent love life. I had the single nestled in my car’s multi-disc CD changer and would hit the shuffle button whenever I was on a date. During these situations, it seemed like every time we let this song play in its near eight-minute-long entirety, presto — I had a new girlfriend!
Let’s just get it out of the way now: yes, I’m a total dork. But a partner who’s down to lock lips to prog is worth keeping around.
I’ve been way into all strains of psychedelic dub for late night listening. This song is super trippy and abstract, laid back, rhythmic, hypnotic and, yeah, kinda sexy. Other recommended and equally potent psych-dub: African Head Charge, Creation Rebel, Bud Alzir, New Age Steppers, Extramadura, Centry.
In 2001, my friend Jon and I went to SXSW. After enjoying a White Stripes set, two women sat down at our picnic table and began insulting us. “Where you from?” one of them asked. Jon said, “San Francisco.” They laughed before the other shouted in a raspy voice, “We’re from Detroit, Rock City!” They both chain-smoked, had feathered hair and dressed in filthy white denim outfits. The raspy one said we were probably into “a bunch of stupid-ass sweater music.” I replied that we had enjoyed the previous set by Jack White and his big sister Meg. She slapped my mouth and pushed me off the picnic table. From the muddy ground, I looked up to see her cackling. Then the other one yelled “KISS ARMY!” and punched Jon in the face before high-fiving her friend, both of them pointing at us and laughing uncontrollably. Jon and I looked at each other in disbelief and I asked, “Well, what music do you like?” The one who slapped me shouted, “MC5!” I rolled up my sleeve to reveal my MC5 tattoo. Unimpressed, she pulled my shirt over my head and punched my face while her friend laughed. Coincidentally, the venue’s DJ then started spinning “Down on the Street.” Both women jumped on the table, dancing while kicking and beating us up some more. One of them tried to dance with me and I thought maybe I had fallen in love. Then she kicked me in the groin and slapped my face twice. The other flicked her cigarette at Jon and they walked away, laughing at us. Jon and I thought they were crazy. But back then, we knew nothing of Motor City mating rituals.
You can’t have a “love” playlist without some eighties hair metal, right? I’ve selected this tender ballad by the band W.A.S.P., off of their 1984 self-titled debut album. OK, I’ll admit that the thunderous and lascivious “L.O.V.E. Machine” isn’t a ballad, nor is it remotely tender. But calm down, Tipper Gore — at least I didn’t pick a certain other track from the same record by these shock rockers!
I’ve always had a thing for metal girls. Lucky for me, I married someone who made us walk out of Slim’s in San Francisco when Swedish hard rock band Graveyard were playing because she thought they were “weak.” On the way out, she stopped across the street and scored a sixer of Miller, and we drank beers in her parked car while listening to High on Fire’s album Blessed Black Wings. When this song came on, I went in for the smooch.