Valen-tunes for Valentine’s Day

Nine songs that capture the different shades of love


Graphic by Shivani Verma

Nine songs that capture the different shades of love

Sophia Chen and Shivani Verma

For when love hits you “like a sucker punch” 

Sucker Punch” by Sigrid

Sometimes love trickles in slowly without you realizing it; other times love drenches you all at once. It can be scary to suddenly feel something so big, and Sigrid captures this idea in “Sucker Punch.” Lyrics such as “So I don’t wanna be the one / To f—k this up, I swear, out of nowhere” and the song’s electric, bouncy tune convey the nervousness that can come with love. And yet Sigrid reminds us that as much as we resist love, we can’t control our feelings: “I’m freaking out ’cause I’m scared this might end bad / But I still come back for that / Sucker punch.” “Sucker Punch” encapsulates love’s uncertainty and anticipation — no matter how much we push love out, it’ll pull us back in.

For when you feel like running away with the people you love

Youth” by Troye Sivan

Initially, it can be hard to accept our feelings, but once we do, it’s exhilarating and all-encompassing. All the possibilities of new and exciting experiences absorb us, a feeling that Troye Sivan illustrates with the lyrics, “What if we’re speeding through red lights into paradise? / Cause we’ve no time for getting old / Mortal body; timeless souls / Cross your fingers, here we go.” However, in “Youth,” Sivan also portrays how love has made him eager to share his youth with someone else, singing, “A truth so loud you can’t ignore / My youth, my youth, my youth / My youth is yours.” The dizzying and powerful potential of love can lead us to give parts of ourselves to others without a second thought, but it’s important to keep some of our love for ourselves too.

For when you’re trying to practice self-love

OKAY OKAY” by Alessia Cara

An important, yet often forgotten form of love is self-love. Self-love and confidence doesn’t always come naturally, but one specific way to practice it is through self-affirmations, which are verbal acknowledgements of a person’s own worth and potential. According to Psychology Today, self-affirmation “lead[s] to positive outcomes in various areas such as psychological and physical health, education, prejudice, discrimination and social conflicts.” In “OKAY OKAY,” Alessia Cara hypes herself up by singing, “I’m a million trick pony / The number one and only / On scale of 1 to 10 I’m at 11” during the chorus. When self-love seems challenging, this song’s melodic and empowering lyrics can give you a boost.

For when you want to celebrate your memories with your loved ones

Our Song” by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift wrote “Our Song” as a freshman in high school when she realized that she and her then boyfriend didn’t have a song to associate with their relationship. We all associate certain things or memories with our relationships, things that nobody else will really understand — inside jokes that make you both burst into laughter, projects created together in childhood or secrets that only the two of you share. Swift creates a song out of those specific moments, singing, “Our song is the slamming screen door / Sneakin’ out late, / tapping on your window / When we’re on the phone and you talk real slow / ‘Cause it’s late and your mama don’t know.” The lyrics, along with the homey sound of the banjo in the background, make you feel warm thinking back on all the memories your relationships are built on. “Our Song” is a recognition of how each relationship is unique and meaningful because of the time you spend together.

For when you show your love by stepping back


Beyond the sunshine and rainbows, relationships are difficult at times. However, it’s not always anybody’s fault, as people may be in separate places of their lives and have their own personal hardships. Love is shown through support, and it’s enough to just be there for someone through the struggles, an idea that the band PRETTYMUCH sings in the chorus of “Phases”: “I’ll practice my patience / While you’re getting wasted / ‘Til fate brings you home / I’ll wait through your phases.” Although it may feel the need to fix your loved ones’ problems, everyone needs the freedom to learn and grow as an individual. Standing back to let others figure out their lives for themselves, being patient and offering support, are all aspects of love that frequently go unnoticed.

For when you’re nostalgic about love in the past

“에잇” (eight) by IU ft. SUGA

It’s easy to get caught up in the happy memories of the past, especially when you start thinking of relationships with people that ended abruptly or simply faded away. IU’s song “eight” starts with the lyrics, “So are you happy now? / Finally happy now?” contrasting the present and the past, and throughout the song, IU’s breathy and emotional vocals add melancholy to the upbeat tune. The song validates our feelings and helps us better understand them as we long for the ‘good old days.’ But the song also has a layer of trepidation with the lyrics, “Yeah, mm, forever young, the word ‘eternity’ is a sandcastle” — as happy as we were in the past, it’s not possible to remain there forever. The song “eight” also serves as a reminder for why anchoring yourself to past memories of loving relationships won’t help you grow. The future is uncertain, but it’s full of opportunity.

For when the romance gets to be too much

Crush Culture” by Conan Gray

Not everyone appreciates the chocolate, teddy bears and cutesy social media couples posts on Valentine’s Day; not only is American consumerism at its all-time high (with an estimated $22 billion expenditure in the U.S. for Valentine’s Day), but there’s the expectation that everyone must want a relationship if they’re single. Conan Gray encapsulates those sentiments with the song’s chorus lyrics, “Crush culture makes me wanna spill my guts out / I know what you’re doing tryna get me to pursue ya.” Valentine’s Day can make people lonely or uncomfortable. Even if it’s not about cynicism, the song validates people who are aromantic or asexual, giving them space to have their own feelings about the holiday. There are many types of love, and it’s perfectly okay to not have or want a romantic relationship.

For when you can finally see your friends after quarantine

Oath” by Cher Lloyd

Beyond the funny memories and good times, this upbeat song also emphasizes on the deep bonds of friendship that aren’t acknowledged as frequently on Valentine’s Day. The line, “And if you get low, just call me whenever / This is my oath to you” perfectly captures the predicament of the current pandemic, even though this song came out in 2011. Especially now, a time when keeping in touch gets harder day by day, and a lot of people are experiencing burnout, and the promise to stay in contact and the support “Oath” conveys become all the more valuable.

For when you feel love for where you came from

Mama Said” by Lukas Graham

As time passes by, the places and people we grew up with start to fade from our minds. And yet, there’s always a moment when nostalgia suddenly hits and we unearth a long-forgotten memory of a summer-camp best friend, or a kind teacher from our childhood. The new experiences we gain as we grow up are incredibly valuable, but what influenced us from the very beginning stays with us until the present, too. The chorus of “Mama Said” includes voices of children, reminding us of our own childhoods, and in the bridge of the song, Lukas Graham sings, “I know which place I’m from / I know my home / When I’m in doubt and struggling / That’s where I go / An old friend can give advice / When new friends only know a half story,” displaying the love felt towards family, biological or chosen, that shaped us.