For the single folks in the room, Valentine’s Day is just cruel. An entire day that rubs in the fact that you’re alone? No thank you. Take the mushy stuff elsewhere, this is not a playlist celebrating the wonder of love, of two people connecting on the most intimate level. More often than not, all that goes horribly wrong. Luckily, it’s inspired some enduring songs to help us commiserate the fact that love both hurts and sucks. Behold.
“Love Stinks” – J. Geils Band (1980)
Adam Sandler’s introduction of “Love Stinks” in The Wedding Singer sums it up: “Some of us will never, ever find true love… Apparently we have absolutely nothing to offer the opposite sex.” J. Geils Band’s 1980 hit has endured as the ultimate anthem for embittered singles navigating the choppy waters of romance.
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” – Bonnie Raitt (1991)
It’s such a simple concept yet so powerful: I can’t make you love me if you don’t. Sometimes in love, denial takes over, but there are moments of clarity when the futility of a situation becomes clear. Love is a fickle beast, and no amount of work can change that. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” captures such a universal sentiment, it’s no wonder it’s been covered by everyone from George Michael and Prince to Adele and Britney Spears.
“I’m Not In Love” – Talking Heads (1978)
Here’s one for all you nihilists out there. Talking Heads leader David Byrne is most likely suggesting that love doesn’t exist, it’s a fabricated concept he doesn’t buy into. If you’ve recently been burned by love, the idea of not believing in it altogether doesn’t sound half bad. As Byrne notes, “Why would I want to fall in love?”
“I’m Not In Love” – 10cc (1975)
The more popular song titled “I’m Not In Love” is probably even more complicated than the Talking Heads track. The narrator says that despite being in the midst of a fling, he’s not in love and it’s not serious. But the eerie song, which peaked at No. 2 in the U.S. and a No. 1 in the U.K., seems to be written as a declaration of quite the opposite. The in-denial narrator was actually quite in love and is now dealing with the fact that she left him. Any way you look at it, though, the situation is a terrible one for both parties involved and reminds us that love can be The Worst.
“Love Hurts” – Nazareth (1975)
When the Everly Brothers first sang “Love Hurts” in 1960, it was one of those rare upbeat songs cursing love. However, the song’s true angst came out in its many, many covers. Roy Orbison, Joan Jett, Cher, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, and hard rockers Nazareth, who led the song to the Top 10 in 1976, have released their own bitter takes on the Boudleaux Bryant-penned track.
“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” – Burt Bacharach & Hal David (1968)
“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” was one of the biggest songs written by ’60s songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, released by Ella Fitzgerald, Dionne Warwick, The Carpenters, Bobbie Gentry, Isaac Hayes and more. Even Bacharach and Elvis Costello performed the song in an Austin Powers film 31 years after its first release, showing that throwing in the towel on love is truly timeless.
“What’s Love Got To Do With It” – Tina Turner (1984)
Tina Turner’s biggest hit finds her empowered but cautious about love, which she writes off as a “second-hand emotion.” She’s opting for a strictly physical relationship, but along the way, she shows her hand. “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” – there’s no way Tina isn’t protecting herself because she’s been burned by love before.
“With or Without You” – U2 (1987)
Bono aces that whole brooding but still romantic thing on Joshua Tree single “With or Without You,” but most people seem to interpret the song as one that laments love’s frustrations rather than celebrates the mushy-gushy stuff. It goes to show you that even when you are in love, it still pretty much sucks.
“All By Myself” – Eric Carmen (1975)
Raspberries singer Eric Carmen scored his biggest hit with “All By Myself,” which really lays it bare emotionally. The biggest fear about love comes across loud and clear in “All By Myself”: What if I’m alone forever? And really, what person hasn’t felt like that at some point?
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler (1983)
While slightly dated in sound, Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 power ballad poses a timeless question: Is is better to have loved and lost, even if it guts you? Some may say no if asked immediately after hearing this No. 1 hit, which goes there with lines like, “Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (all of the time)/I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark.”