Listen Here: The Ups and Downs of Love

Listen Here is a monthly playlist picked and curated by members of the Deadshirt staff around a certain theme. This month’s theme is “The Ups and Downs of Love,” with a playlist selected by several Deadshirt staffers and curated by music editor Julian Ames.


Now that it’s February, people are either gearing up or hunkering down for Valentine’s Day. Plenty of people enjoy the holiday and relish the opportunity to shower their significant others with affection and gifts for a whole day without it seeming over-the-top. On the other hand, there are people who don’t like the holiday; either they find it too commercial, or they don’t have a significant other of their own. The staff at Deadshirt wanted to make a playlist that represented both sides of the issue, so we created “The Ups and Downs of Love” playlist: 15 songs, picked by Mike Duquette, Dominic Griffin, Haley Winters, Max Robinson, David Lebovitz, Joe Stando, and Julian Ames, half of which represent love and half of which represent heartbreak, breakups, and just general anti-love sentiments. Here’s hoping you enjoy the playlist, and that at least one of the halves hits your sweet spot. (Editor’s note: I had to break my artist-once-per-playlist rule because of Max Robinson’s perfect Prince choices. Thanks, Max.)

The Ups:

“I’m Into Something Good” – Herman’s Hermits
A cute little song about blossoming love. (Also possibly a song about justifying a one-night stand.) It’s a fun song, indicative of that early sixties sound when seemingly every song was a simple, cheery love song. I honestly could have picked any number of British Invasion songs for this, but this gets the edge entirely because it was in The Naked Gun. This song doesn’t just remind me of young love, it reminds me of Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley accidentally clotheslining people. Either way, it’ll put a smile on your face. – David Lebovitz

“Message To My Girl” – Split Enz
Love is some scary shit. Putting yourself out there to a person isn’t as hard as you’d think, but taking that step—going all out and telling someone that you want to take it to the next level—is terrifying and thrilling. Singer/songwriter Neil Finn penned “Message To My Girl,” a scared but hopeful declaration of love released on Split Enz’s second-to-last album, Conflicting Emotions, in 1983. The band was about to fall apart, having lost longtime leader Tim Finn (Neil’s older brother) to a solo career, but Neil, who’d reach even greater heights as a songwriter and leader of Crowded House in the eighties and nineties, struck gold by pinning his heart on his sleeve and saying what so many of us are sometimes too scared to say. (Even better: Finn’s still married to the woman for whom he wrote the tune.) – Mike Duquette

“All the Way” – Keb’ Mo’
A lot of musicians focus on love, but it’s not always that true romance is part of the picture. Enter Keb’ Mo’ for all your swooning, crooning needs. Relax on the wave of Keb’s warm, smoky vocals, and be transported to a land of good feels and sweet kisses, where smooth jazz meets light funk and a smattering of gospel. It might be cheesy, but it’s a gooey, melty cheese that’s just so totally what you need right now. – Haley Winters

“Pink Cashmere” – Prince
Apparently originally written as a birthday present to a girlfriend, this is just about the perfect love song. Or, rather, the perfect song about the feeling of being in love. I’ve always thought the song’s metaphor, the gift of a comfortable sweater as shorthand for the warmth you feel with a new relationship, was really inspired. As with the best Prince love songs, there’s a pronounced vulnerability to what’s happening; he’s excited but wary, overjoyed but scared from past experiences (Ooh, the cycle never ends / You just pray you don’t get burned). The six minute track’s excellent string and electric guitar finale carries home that tender, manic uncertainty. – Max Robinson

“U Got It Bad” – Usher
I used to love when this song would come on the radio while I was doing my homework. I loved the way then-newcomer Usher sang, and would try to sing along even though I didn’t know or understand the words. Much later, I looked up the lyrics and realized this is a pretty serious song about love. And it’s not even a love song to anyone in particular, it’s a “how you know you’re in love and what to do about it” song. At one point, Usher even appeals to the ladies and fellas listening to the song to admit that they got it bad. – Julian Ames

“Sweet Talk” – Jessie Ware
While Ms. Ware’s catalog is largely populated by smoldering, smokey lidded slow burners, “Sweet Talk” is effervescence personified. It’s a bubbly, pastel shaded slice of synth pop, characterized by an infectious vibrancy that marries well to Jessie’s brassy, earthy vocals. It’s that moment after a first date when you look down at your phone and see a lovely missive in your inbox. It’s the heart eyes emoji in eighties romcom theme form, and I dare you to listen to it only once. – Dominic Griffin

“Happy” – Best Coast
For my money, Best Coast is one of the most honest bands out there. Between the idiosyncratic lyrics (they often sound like ad-libs or repurposed conversations, which I love) and the low-fi sound, Best Coast is unabashed in sounding real over sounding fancy. Crazy for You had a lot of songs about love and romance, but more often than not they were a little frustrated or forlorn in tone and subject matter. But for a cute, quick pick-me-up, “Happy” is great. Some of the best parts of relationships aren’t the grand gestures or getaways together, but the small comfortable moments in between. A track about being lazy and laying around together is exactly the kind of love I want. – Joe Stando

The Downs:

“Sad Girls” – Big Troubles
I am about to be 25 for 25 in Valentine’s Days spent as a single guy, so I don’t really get the hype of the holiday. Maybe being single amongst the abundance of love and couples has soured me into a holiday villain the likes of Scrooge or the Grinch, or maybe not and I am mostly normal. Either way, around this time of year I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment relayed by the band Big Troubles in the chorus of their song, “Sad Girls:” “Love is in the air, but I don’t care / ‘cause I don’t want to love anymore / and if I hear the word again / I think I’ll drill a hole in my head.” – Julian Ames

“You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette
There’s plenty of writing about Morissette’s extremely over-the-top jilted ex song out there on the internet, so I won’t spill a ton of ink on it. It’s absurd and occasionally comical. It’s also raw and passionate and probably my favorite of her work. Like Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, it’s something I appreciate with equal portions of irony and sincerity. So while it’s great to laugh at Liz Lemon drunkenly scream-singing it into a voicemail message, it’s definitely a useful outlet if you’re feeling hurt, betrayed, or just generally enraged. – Joe Stando

“The Wire” – Haim
The coolest track of 2013 will never get old, and what could possibly be a better song for the romantic dumping ground that is February? This isn’t a song about breaking up so much as it is a song about liberation, self-awareness, and the importance of just doing you. No matter your Valentine’s relationship status, this is a good one to have on repeat. – Haley Winters

“When You Were Mine” – Prince
If you’ve ever wondered what a Prince version of a doo wop teen tragedy ballad would sound like, here you go. Only instead of a deadly motorcycle accident, Our Man In Minnesota mourns lost intimacy. With backing vocals from, uh, several versions of himself and a pseudo-organ synthesizer, Prince’s “When You Were Mine” beautifully captures the shittiness of heartbreak from within and without. Regret and hurt are obvious in the lyrics. (“You were kinda sorta my best friend” is killer.) But what I like about this song is what it, knowingly or unknowingly, reveals about the narrator’s own failings. Breakups can bring out the worst in us, and Prince’s laundry list of passive-aggressive grievances with his ex (basically breaking down to “I can’t BELIEVE how nice I was”) are probably more familiar than we’d like to admit. Even the title is uncomfortably possessive. As we ponder the song’s spiteful refrain, “Love you more than when you were mine,” we’re reminded that love is petty, mean, and selfish sometimes. – Max Robinson

“Cornerstone” – Arctic Monkeys
Arctics frontman Alex Turner has always had a penchant for clever lyricism and affecting storytelling, so it’s no surprise that “Cornerstone” is a witty little tale spun around the listless wandering of heartbreak and nostalgia. Turner sings as a young man looking for his past everywhere he goes, praying for the respite of a rerun in every new episode he fumbles through. There’s a sadness to it, with the imagery of Turner riding around in a cab because it smells like an old flame, but the humorous names of the bar locations in each verse, and the tongue-in-cheek tone keep it from being too weepy. – Dominic Griffin

“One More Minute” – “Weird Al” Yankovic
Even Weird Al isn’t immune from heartbreak, but the way he deals with it is funnier than yours. In typical Al fashion, “One More Minute” is hilariously exaggerated, but in this case, I’d be surprised if didn’t somehow resonate with you. The bit where he “burns down the malt shop where we used to go just because it reminds me of you” is comically extreme, but be honest, who here hasn’t felt like doing something akin to that after a breakup? The degree of sincerity in this song apparently comes from a real place: the picture he tears up in the song’s excellent video is of the girl who inspired this song. It’s a damn good breakup song (lord knows I’ve used it as one), but still hilarious in an evergreen way. Also, shoutout to the masturbation joke that went way over my head when I was younger. Weird Al’s the best. – David Lebovitz

“Here’s Looking At You, Kid” – The Gaslight Anthem
This is my go-to song immediately after getting dumped. First, the somber cowboy chords and blue lead guitar line always resonate with me, and match my mood exactly at that moment. Second, this song captures that delusional notion we all get that eventually the people that have left us will come asking after us again, and we need to tell them we’re better off, I guess to make them regret their decision or something. But the singer admits that those better scenarios are just lies, and eventually just opts to wish those girls good luck. – Julian Ames

“Song For The Dumped” – Ben Folds Five
We all do some stupid, stupid shit when relationships end. None of my worst decisions ever crossed over into brilliant—sorry, soul patch I tried to grow when my college girlfriend and I split—but the geek punks of Ben Folds Five came close with “Song For The Dumped,” a snot-nosed piano-pop broadside written after drummer Darren Jessee found himself single. The astoundingly petty lyrics (“Give me my money back you bitch…and don’t forget to give me back my black t-shirt”) mesh well with the trio’s distinctive high intensity/lo-fi sound. Robert Sledge’s fuzzed-out bass, Jessee’s jazz-from-hell snare beats, and the delicate piano beating of Ben Folds (a man who’s been married and divorced four times) make this an all-time breakup song for a generation of millennial nerds. – Mike Duquette

That’s Deadshirt’s hand-picked The Ups and Downs of Love playlist – now, you tell us what songs you like to listen to on Valentine’s Day. Comment below or hit us up on Facebook!

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