By Erin Caine
Elm Staff Writer
When it comes to romance, there’s nothing quite like a soulful voice and some deep lyrics to put all those flowers and chocolates to shame. Romantic gems can be found in every era, from ‘50s jazz standards to mushy modern classics. Though style changes to suit the times, the best love songs are all alike in sentiment: personal and eloquent, steeped in intimacy without being alienating. Sufficient to say that when it comes to picking out the “classics” from the forgettable radio tunes, you know it when you feel it. Below is a list of just a few of those canonized romantic hits:
Ella Fitzgerald, “My Funny Valentine”: Originally a 1937 show tune from the musical “Babes in Arms,” the song became a popular jazz standard and has since been performed by over 600 different artists. Ella Fitzgerald’s satin-smooth rendition, however, is simply a cut above the rest. (Though a nod, of course, has to be given to Frank Sinatra for his version as well.) The playful lyrics are contrasted perfectly by the down-tempo instrumentation and Fitzgerald’s deep, velveteen vocals. Sung by any other, the lyrics “your looks are laughable, un-photographable” wouldn’t sound half as affectionate.
Frank Sinatra, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”: It would be a crime for “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself not to make this list, masterful as he is at crafting sweep-her-off-her-feet romantic songs. In truth, just about any of his songs could have been included, and yet there’s something about “Bewitched” that makes it a stand-out amongst Sinatra’s repertoire. Also originally a show tune, it reaches its true emotional high point during the final chorus, when the strings swell and Sinatra sings, “I’ll sing to her/Bring spring to her/And long for the day when I cling to her.”
Adele, “Make You Feel My Love”: There’s just no touching Bob Dylan’s songwriting, especially considering he’s the only lyricist to date to receive a Nobel Prize for Literature. Adele’s soulful cover of this song, however, is an incredibly popular “Make You Feel My Love” rendition for good reason. It’s stripped down and intimate, providing a perfect platform for Adele to put her pipes on display. Her vocals balance power and vulnerability, and with a performance like this it’s no mystery that she’s one of the most influential artists of the new millennium.
Alicia Keys, “No One”: A list of love songs without any contemporary R&B would undoubtedly be missing something essential. Alicia Keys’ popular 2007 song “No One” is as soulful and touchy-feely as they come, Keys belting out the chorus in an expressive, self-assured voice: “No one can get in the way of what I’m feeling.” Anyone who thinks that the modern romantic ballad is dead ought to take a listen to Keys’ discography. Other tender tracks include the piano-driven “If I Ain’t Got You” and the melancholy “Fallin’.”
Elvis Presley, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”: You might have seen this one coming. Practically a staple at any wedding (even though it’s been over half a century since its initial release), “Can’t Help Falling in Love” has a tranquil melody and easy-going tempo that holds aloft Presley’s distinctive sonorous vocals, the whole piece trembling with sincerity. Notable covers of this track include those by Twenty One Pilots (featuring a more stripped-down ukulele arrangement), Chris Isaak, U2, and Bob Dylan.