Love is without any doubt the most inspriring feeling for all the arts, having a particular visceral empathy with cinema, and music. Saint Valentine’s Day is usually considered the celebration of the most obvious, mutual and happy side of a feeling that actually has way more facetings that are still intense and pure, but which may include desperation, sorrow or just misunderstandings; giving birth to very genuine music pieces and lyrics sometimes permeated by heartache, pain, rejection or nostalgia for a lost love, but also nihilism or skeptciism.
This list contains 10 discouraging songs about love, exploring it in in an opposite way of its joyous stereotypes.
Radiohead “True Love Waits” (A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016)
The song is basically a tormented soft ballad accompanied by hypnotic synths in the case of the studio version and acoustic guitar in the case of the recorded live version, both are undoubtely great and intimate, but maybe the dreamy and abstract feeling of this one fits in a more interesting way with the lyrics. The main topic of the song is remaining young and trying to not grow to keep a loved one and consequently the pureness of the feeling. The main refrain “don’t leave, don’t leave” shows a strong fragility and a real need of someone’s company, while the verses “i’m not living, i’m just killing” are the clear rapresentation of a self-destructive abandonment sometimes relatable to a desperate love.
Princess Chelsea “I Love My Boyfriend” (The Loneliest Girl, 2018)
Probably most known for her super catchy song Cigarette Duet, Princess Chelsea from New Zealand is surely one of the most interesting names of modern art pop around today.
I Love My Boyfriend is a baroque ballad with some incredibly addictive melodies, especially the ones played by the harp on the chours and the heavenly vocals singing on it; probably this is not intentionally a discouraged song about love, but through its story illustrates a really more than common scenario present in many long time relationships, which demolish the “eternal mutual love” tale we have always heard about.
The song is about a girl in a 10 year relationship feeling something special for another guy, but too confused to admit it. Even if it’s obvious she really wants the other, she tries to convince herself that her boyfriend is the only one she loves. That’s very interesting how the verses where she convince herself that her boyfriend is the one she really loves don’t describe any feeling and they simply remark the fact that “he’s a good man” and “takes care of her” while the ones about the other guy are clearly showing a romantic interest (“everytime he looks at me I get electric shocks, In my brain and in my heart”).
The naive way the narrator denies her feelings to herself is surely spontaneous, but so confuse to show immediately their real nature to the listener, and that’s essentially what makes this song’s lyrics so well crafted.
Hatchie “Bad Guy” (Sugar & Spice, 2018)
Taken from her wonderful debut EP Sugar & Spice, this is the highest moment of the whole record. Starting with a beautiful and touching guitar arpeggio the song soon evolves into an ethereal and nostalgic ballad with Cocteau Twins-ish angelic vocal melodies and ends by reaching the loudest and most emotional point in its finale. If it’s not already obvious, Hatchie from Australia, takes inspiration from 90’s british dream pop with a very delicate touch of shoegaze.
This song may have several meanings, but it is essentially about a complicated relationship (not clear if it’s a broken one or not), with the narrator feeling bad and blaming herself for being so much into someone who has clearily made her suffer multiple times.
These lyrics shows in a very mellow way all the frustration of being not understanded by someone you care abuot more than you should.
Deafheaven “Unrequited” (Roads to Judah, 2011)
Before confimring theirself as one of the most acclaimed bands of the last decade in the world of extreme and alternative music, in 2011 Deafheaven have released this debut album through Deathwish Inc.
The californian ensemble shows immediately a very strong emotional and melancholic touch in their shoegaze-y black metal formula made of very long post-rock overtures and aggressive sections with neverending blast beats, high pitch shrieks and razor distorions.
In terms of sound and lyrics this 9 minutes song describes exactly the tormenting feeling of loving someone who dosen’t respond to your feelings. The deep and desperate feelings expressed in this poetical lyrics are absolutely real and touching, describing a persistent thought impossible to earase (“I feel so worn, quartered, and torn. Hung from the post where my brothers once sung. Cut from the tie where my sanity binds. Stuck in Winter’s Hell, with just you in mind.”), a thought that makes everything else impossible to be done (“I can’t move on, because I can’t shed the weight of myself. There is no such thing as the past, present, or future. There just is, and it never goes away.”), and a lacerating sense of grief accompanied by self blaming thoughts for being unable to stop it (“I thought about you for the rest of the day. Catching my head turning to find you again. I hated myself for it.”)
Carly Raep Jepsen “Your Type” (Emotion, 2015)
Yes, she’s the same girl behind the addictive summer hit Call Me Maybe we’ve been hearing all day long back in 2012. Althought the undoubtely mainstream pop nature of her music, is always fun to mention that due to a positive review on the versatile music channel theneedledrop, her third album Emotion has started to be surprisingly appreciated by people from completely different musical backgrounds ending up with Swans and Death Grips fans enjoying listening to Carly’s record even if it’s still pure pop.
Beside that funny story, it’s worth to mention that this song is a really honest and well working 80’s inspired track in the same line with the whole album, gathering extremely catchy songs oftenly layered with electro pop synths and pleasant melodies.
Your Type is probably the best track from the album showing a really cheerful and somehow happy atmosphere even if the lyrics are about the hurtful feeling of being in love with someone that consider you just a friend.
The consequences of the situation on the narrator includes self-blaming thoughts for having no control on her feelings (“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I love you, I didn’t mean to say what I said
I miss you, I mean it, I tried not to feel it, But I can’t get you out of my head”) and also an annoyed complain toward her crush’s behaviour for ignoring her love and living normally his relationship (“I bet she acts so perfectly, You probably eat up every word she says, And if you ever think of me, I bet I’m just a flicker in your head”), but in hamrony with the musical aspect there is no negativity and she’s seems to accept in a rational way the situation.
LowCityRain “You Are Everyone, You Are Everywhere” (LowCityRain, 2013)
After the release of three incredible albums with his main post-metal output Lantlos, in 2013 the german multi instrumentalist Markus Siegenhort decided to released an album with a new solo project named LowCityRain.
The intent is exploring a completely different musical dimension and the result is an absolutely impressive post-punk record with elements of electronic pop, shoegaze and dreamy atmospheres.
You Are Everyone, You Are Everywhere is the opening track of the album and despite the very short lenght it’s incredibly intese, touching and moving; It starts with one of the best guitar lines written in the last decade, clearly The Smiths inspired, and it’s accompanied by a strong rhythmyc and leaded by angelic female vocals.
Lyrics seems to be about a desperate and unreachable love, impossible to remove from your mind even if you’re losing yourself across the monotony of growing grey urban landscapes.
Carcass “No Love Lost” (Heartwork, 1994)
Formed in Liverpool during the 80’s by Jeff Walker and Bill Steer, Carcass are, alongside their friends Napalm Death the undisputed fathers of grindcore, a genre created mixing wisely devasting metal riffs with hardcore punk elements and insanely fast passages.
After two albums of pure grindcore the band introduced the swedish guitarist Michael Amott from Carnage, with which started to incorporate an impressive amount of melody in its sound borrowed from swedish death metal and classic heavy metal. The monumental album Heartwork is probably the perfect synthesis of this formula, showing a unique massive sound and an amazingly perfect songwriting. No Love Lost is for sure one of the most acclaimed and memorable tracks off this record.
Behind the sour poetry of the words in the lyrics there seems to be a strong scepticism regarding the feeling of love, usually overrated by people, involving theirselves in emotionless relationships made of fake feelings and fake illusions (“The low cost of loving, Amorous travesty, Human frailties and weakness are easy prey, How your poor heart will bleed”), trying to follow an ideal romantic cliche that dosen’t really exist (“Without emotion, your heartstrings break, Snapped and severed to the tune of a tragic, sad cliche, No love lost, When all is said and done, There’s no love lost”).
The Cure “Pictures of You” (Disintegration, 1989)
There’s no better song to describe nostalgia than this, with its soft melodies and beautiful atmospheres accompanied by a deeply suggestive vocal performance.
Even if it sounds a bit obvious it is worth to mention that The Cure symbolizes the essence of gothic rock and dark music in general, with their melancholic and sad inner poetry, the band leaded by Robert Smith have painted the portrait of a generation who lived its tormented youth during the end of the 70’s and throughout the 80’s.
Disintegration (1989) closes The Cure’s golden decaded and it’s an absolute masterpiece and an iconic record that all of us should have listen at least one time. If there is a central theme on the whole album, that theme is nostalgia, from the missed “kiss of treachery, The shameless kiss of vanity” and “The soft and the black and the velvety up tight against the side of me” of Disintegration to the harsh memories and the heartbreaking regret of what has gone wrong (“If only I’d thought of the right words I could have held on to your heart”) while contemplating those Pictures of You.
This song is about that sad, but in the same time beautiful sensation of remembering something that will never return, a specific moment, a feeling or whatever related to a lost love. the lyric’s verses are hurtful and sad, and they show a really touched and still vivid love toward someone that even if it’s not anymore in your life, will be never forgotten till the end.
“There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you.”
The Darkness “Love is Only a Feeling” (Permission to Land, 2003)
The band that more than anyone else has brought back calssic rock at the top of the charts at the beginning of the 2000’s: The four piece ensemble from London leaded by Justin Hawkins takes inspiration from giants such as Led Zeppelin, Queen and Def Leppard and they’re probably the last successful band that intended rock’n’roll attitude in its purest form, but with a unique energy and an irresistible sense of humor.
This song off their most acclaimed album Permission to Land is about nothing more than its title: love is certainly overwhelming and incredibly powerful (“The state of elation that this unison of hearts achieved, I had seen, I had touched, I had tasted and I truly believed”), but it’s really nothing more than just a feeling.
This interpretation of the song is clearly described by Justin Hawkins in a 2003 interview: “”When we wrote that one, I was thinking, ‘People always say that it’s more than a feeling.’ It really isn’t. It’s just that: it’s a feeling”.
Have a Nice Life “I Don’t Love” (Deathconsciousness, 2008)
Released in 2008, Deathconsciousness is the debut album of the Connecticut based duo Have a Nice Life, It is a deep travel across human subconscious, melancholy, nihilism and tragedy spreaded on a musical tapestry made of gothic rock, post-punk and drone layers.
It’s very interesting how the album gained a strong popularity among the underground alternative community, becoming a cult record still very acclaimed after more than 10 years. Of course it’s not the kind of album you immeidately get into, especially if you’re not in the right mood; it is described by the the band theirself as “the most depressing album in the history of music”.
The song I Don’t Love is probably much more than its title; love is the feeling that moves our exisences more than any other: loving means living and refusing love means refusing life, indeed behind a clear delusion toward love’s condition (“I don’t want to do this anymore, but there’s nothing else to take. I don’t love”) there is a global sense of dissatisfaction and abandonment (“I don’t want to live like this, Lord. I don’t want to live at all”) permeated by a persistent nihilism (“I don’t feel anything where this love should be”).
Musically speaking the atmosphere has a beautiful and calm overall mood that makes the sense of abandonment evocated through the lyrics a sweet experience. The vocal lines are pretty much addictive, it’s impossible to not sing them along after a few listens and their lo-fi sounds fits very well with the fuzzy guitars and the enthralling melodic bass in the background.