The pressure for someone named Dr. Love on Valentine’s day is significant. This is especially the case when considering what gesture or gift best captures the spirit of the day. This is why I like the Valentine’s Day playlist. It takes time and thought. It reveals something of how you feel about your valentine and says something about you as well. Most guys crumble under the pressure of a playlist. They either go too big or fail to realize that this is not simply a collection of your favorite songs, songs guys would like. Too big=too much Luther Vandross. Too guy=My Sharona or all of your Jimmy Buffett or Led Zeppelin faves.
So, as a public service, I offer my 2013 Valentine’s Day playlist.
1. That’s How Strong My Love Is–Otis Redding. If you don’t start a playlist with Al Green or Bill Withers or Otis Redding, frankly there’s not much hope for you. You better have a lot of other good qualities.
2. Night and Day–Ray Charles. Keeping the classic R&B vibe going and signaling your intention that if it comes to dancing, you’re up for it.
3. I Found You–Alabama Shakes. It’s an easy transition from Ray Charles to Alabama Shakes. But look at what you did–you went contemporary and now she’s looking at you and asking, “who is this?” And you get to say, “Alabama Shakes,” like you’ve always known about them. And she wonders what other surprises there might be if she got to know you better.
4. I’m On Your Side–Keb Mo. Hardly anything sexier that a bluesy love song. And you want Keb Mo putting words in your mouth.
5. Your Touch–The Black Keys. This song is not chocolate and roses, but you want a little desire thrown in there. You’ll get to the chocolate and roses later. This one is for you.
6. Bleed to Love Her–Fleetwood Mac. Speaking of chocolate and roses. Bleed to Love Her. Enough said.
7. Love Minus Zero/No Limit–Jackson Browne. This is a cover of Bob Dylan. You’ve got to have Dylan somewhere, but you don’t want to scare her with the voice, so Jackson Browne. Great lyrics.
8. February Seven–The Avett Brothers. These guys are grown ups and they sing about love in grown up ways. And their voices are full of trustworthy intentions and earnestness. And you want at least one song that says you’re a grown-up.
9. Dance Me to the End of Love–The Civil Wars. I don’t think there’s anything more sensual than the way these two sing together. The harmonies are incredible, and the lilting, throbbing way they deliver a song is built for V-day. And great lyrics.
10. Stick With Me Baby–Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. She likes that you have some Allison Krauss. You like that he was lead singer for Zepp. She’s thinking you’re sensitive. You’re thinking “Whole Lotta Love.” Win, win.
11. You and Me–Dave Matthews Band. You have to have one DMB song on any V-day playlist. This song may have the best bridge of any song ever written. “Right now it’s you and me forever girl…you and me, we can do anything.” I’ll let you decide how to use the longish gap between the end of the lyrics and the sax tag that appears at the end of the song. Be wise, my friend.
12. Baby I Love You–Aretha. Going out the way you came in. Soul. Rhythm. Love. You’re not trusting some new fly-by-night love song. You’ve gone big with the Queen of Soul.
13. Love and Happiness–Al Green. The Rev. Green is your pastor of love. She’s in good hands. When the organ music comes in and the horns are blowing and Al is singing, you know you’re safely home on Valentine’s Day.