Staff Picks: Unconventional Love Songs

By 
Bryan Parys
February 14, 2019

From the agony of young love to an ode to a boombox, the External Affairs team shares some of their favorite unexpected love songs.

Album art from the Valentine's Day playlist

There are plenty of ways to celebrate (or not celebrate) Valentine's Day, so this week, I polled my colleagues on the External Affairs team for their favorite love songs that may or may not actually be love songs—some of whom shared their thoughts on their selections (see below). The choices I received were "unconventional" in every sense of that word, from LL Cool J's "I Can't Live Without My Radio" to the line, "The book of love is long and boring," in the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love." Joss Stone's "Super Duper Love" sure sounds conventional, and given that it was submitted to a list about unconventional love songs, ends up sort of making it unconventional. Wait, what? I think I'm confused. Maybe just listen to the playlist.

1. "Love Interruption," Jack White

Chosen by Kimberly Mathews, director, Digital Strategy:

"You definitely won't find these lyrics on any Hallmark card ('I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around.') But it reminds me what it was to be in love when you're really young, and everything is agony and melodrama, and you can almost enjoy it because the stakes are so low."


2. "Somebody Else," The 1975

Chosen by Harshetha Girish, visual designer


3. "That's Love," Oddisee

Chosen by Margot Edwards, associate director, Media Relations


4. "Jupiter 4," Sharon Van Etten

Chosen by Bryan Parys, senior communications manager:

"If you just read the words, you might think this is a pretty standard love song, what with its refrain of 'I've been waiting, waiting, waiting / my whole life for someone like you.' But if you did the reverse and just listened to the music, you'd get a haunted, brooding, electronic mood. Put the two together, and Van Etten is able to pull off the many shades of love, from dark to light. Or, in her parting words, 'A love so real.'"


5. "Lola," The Kinks

Chosen by Michael Borgida, director, Marketing and External Affairs


6. "Don't Send Me Away," Dawes

Chosen by Bob Melvin, senior software architect and lead developer:

"Taylor Goldsmith perfectly captures one heart's plea for connection in a cruel and indifferent world. I feel like I've been on both sides of this song...not coincidentally, while living in L.A.—where apathetic disconnection is the norm."


7. "Meet Me on the Equinox," Death Cab for Cutie

Chosen by Kevin Levesque, associate director, Design Services


8. "Without You," Oh Wonder

Chosen by Michelle Parkos, lead graphic designer


9. "Baby," Ariel Pink

Chosen by Joanna Gammel, senior front-end developer/designer:

"I have no idea if this is unconventional or not. Is 1.6 million views too conventch??"


10. "Spit on a Stranger," Pavement

Chosen by Nick Balkin, director, Editorial Services:

"Rife with baffling nonsequiturs ('Honey I'm a prize and you're a catch and we're a perfect match / Like two bitter strangers'), the first track on Pavement’s 1999 swan song, Terror Twilight, is no traditional love song by any means. But with its sweet, hopeful melody and warm, sparkling production, it sure sounds like one."


11. "Shadowboxer," Fiona Apple

Chosen by Jeannie Greeley, production director, marketing media manager:

"A cautionary tale for lovers everywhere. Get your gloves on, kids. Love is a battlefield. I mean, come on. Just look at this juxtaposition of 'evil' and 'love:' 'But oh, it's so evil, my love, the way you've no / Reverence to my concern / So I'll be sure to stay wary of you, love / To save the pain of once my flame and twice my burn.' Classic burn."


12. "Answer Me, My Love," Swamp Dogg

Chosen by John Mirisola, communications manager:

"Swamp Dogg takes a classic love song (well, a love-loss song) that’s been performed by everyone from Nat King Cole to Joni Mitchell to Keith Jarrett and gives it the full 21st century weirdness treatment. It’s a tech-haunted transmission from an analog past."


13. "Me and Mrs. Jones," Billy Paul

Chosen by Pedro Verdugo, website developer:

"This song is unconventional in that it describes an extra-marital affair. It's clear that there's more there than just physical attraction, nonetheless they both know that it's wrong, yet despite that, meet every day and make plans for an unlikely future." [Editor's Note: See Amy Winehouse's "Me & Mr. Jones" for a role reversal of Paul's original.]


14. "I Can't Live Without My Radio," LL Cool J

Chosen by Colette Greenstein, publicist


15. "These Things," Edie Carey & Sarah Sample

Chosen by Jen Shanley, assistant director, Design Services


16. "Legend of the Wild Horse," Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton

Chosen by Kim Ashton, associate director of Editorial Services/Berklee Today editor:

"While all the lyrics may not apply, the line 'I swore I'll be your warrior' would speak to any long-coupled person, and the melody is gorgeous."


17. "Two in a Million," S Club 7

Chosen by Jonathan Foo, marketing manager, Berklee Presents:

"A throwback song I listened to as a kid thinking about love. Wishing everyone a happy Valentine's: congrats to couples on having each other, and all the best to singles (like me) on finding your one-in-a-million partner."


18. "The Book of Love," The Magnetic Fields

Chosen by Katie DePasquale, proofing services administrator/communications copy editor

Related categories: