Journey – “Faithfully”
One of the most famous rock bands of all time, Journey brought stadium rock roaring into the mainstream in the late 1970’s. Their eighth studio album, Frontiers went six times platinum in 1983 and is considered a rock n’ roll classic. Of the many fantastic cuts on the album is the grade school dance anthem of the early 80’s, “Faithfully.”
Rumored to have been written on a paper napkin while riding in a tour bus, the track chronicles the struggles of being on the road and leaving a significant other at home. The lyrics are simple, but well written but it’s Steve Perry’s iconic lead vocal and the anthemic instrumentation that makes the track what it is. It’s one of the most singable rock songs of all time and an undeniable classic.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – “If We Were Vampires”
Leave it to Jason Isbell to take something like love and use it to make us all sad. “If We Were Vampires,” comes from his third and best studio album with his 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound. He’s joined by his wife and fellow americana songwriter, Amanda Shires, on harmony and Jason’s simple guitar is the song’s only instrumentation.
Lyrically, the track is a brilliant exploration of love as an idea, what it means, and what gives it that meaning. He speaks on the sadness of knowing that his life will one day end, as will his wife’s, and yet he understands that it is this very fact, that of having an end in sight, that gives love its meaning. Jason has chosen to spend what limited time he has here loving his wife. It’s one of the best pieces of lyricism of all time and a starkly beautiful message on the meaning of love.
Adam Sandler – “Grow Old with You”
In contrast to the unique and nuanced lyricism of many tracks on this list, “Grow Old with You,” is nothing if not simple. The musical climax of Sandler’s 1998 rom-com classic, the short and sweet track features only an acoustic guitar and Sandler’s surprisingly heartfelt vocals. In the movie, the song is sung to Drew Barrymore on a plane and features an enjoyable cameo from Billy Idol, but much of the appeal of the song comes from its universality.
At its core, the song is meant to be a promise of a good life. One by one, Adam Sandler rattles off all the little things he can do to make a life spent with him even better, from “let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink,” to “even let you hold the remote control.” Its simple but meaningful in the sense that it recognizes something about love that other songs don’t. While tracks like Journey’s “Faithfully,” wax poetic about the power of love, “Grow Old with You,” understands that a relationship is a collection of little moments and it sweetly promises to make each one of those little moments joyful.
Extreme – “More Than Words”
One of the most underrated bands of the early 1990’s, Extreme is traditionally a hard rock/hair metal band from Boston. While the entirety of their early catalog is excellent, their 1990 sophomore release, Pornographiti is an absolute classic. In the center of a glamorous, thrashing record, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt switches to an acoustic guitar and out comes the band’s biggest hit, “More Than Words.”
The song is fairly simple, focusing on the inability of the classic three words to express the complexities of love itself. Instead, our protagonist asks his love to express her feelings physically rather than through words alone. While the concept is rather cliche’d, it’s the smooth performance from vocalist Gary Cherone and Bettencourt’s incredible guitar abilities that set this song apart and make it one of my favorite love songs of all time.
Cast of Moulin Rouge – “Your Song”
A massive hit from Elton John’s self-titled second album, “Your Song,” was already engrained in American culture as a great love song when it was chosen as a centerpiece track for Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 jukebox musical, Moulin Rouge. Elton’s version is a classic as is, but for my personal taste, I think the Moulin Rouge ensemble adds a certain breadth to what was a very stripped back song in the beginning.
The full orchestra backing this version helps quite bit as the string section is plays sweetly and gently and the overwhelming power of a full orchestra is able to bring the track to an almost overwhelming climax. Over this very impressive instrumental, Ewan McGregor give a shockingly powerful performance with his lack of musical experience aiding him in finding a clean and very technical sound which expresses his character quite well. Ultimately, Moulin Rouge is a wonderfully indulgent film and this track is one of it’s most enjoyable moments.