Listening to a relatable song is cathartic to say the least, and few things get us more emotionally worked up than love does. If you’re struck with romantic bliss, anxiety, frustration or suffering, or even if you’re just looking to have some fun, envelop yourself in this playlist of some of 2017’s most engaging tracks on the theme of love.
1. “The Louvre” by Lorde
Opening the list is the prodigious Lorde, whose sophomore album was met with critical acclaim and earned the artist her first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 Chart. “Melodrama” is a portrait of a young love that is full of rich sound variation, a step up from “Pure Heroine” four years prior. Lorde expresses her ambivalence toward her past relationship wholly on her new album. While many of the tracks deal with themes of love, none recounts the joy and excitement of newfound intimacy like “The Louvre” does.
Burgeoning love is by no means a new theme in music, yet Lorde finds a fresh angle to tackle the complexity and size of emotion. The ballad is carried by a simple chord progression, which builds to a synthy, percussive pre-chorus. Lorde is at her finest as a songwriter on “The Louvre,” conveying infatuation in such concise, pristine poetry: “Well, summer slipped us underneath her tongue / Our days and nights are perfumed with obsession.”
The song is a guilty confession of a love compelling and absolute, a perfect addiction.
2. “Baybee” by Jay Som
Following Lorde is Jay Som, a musical project led by Melina Duterte, a songwriter who does it all, from vocals to instrumentals. Like Lorde, Duterte is a young artist at only twenty-two, whose sunny disposition shines in her music. Jay Som’s sound evokes a sense of intimate reverie—an existence where thoughts and feelings drift effortlessly, like clouds. Duterte’s music is full of warbling melodies and understated percussion, recorded in a lo-fi, shoegaze daydream.
“Baybee” is an adorable tune that glides from the opening beat into a twangy bass and synth melody. After the gentle opener, Duterte comes in crooning on the first verse: “You’re content with what you have / with your hands behind your back.” Her voice is pillowy and warm, which masks the speaker’s hidden discontent. Her baybee is being mischievous and passive, which frustrates Duterte, but her lover’s antics pull as much as they push: “If I leave you alone / when you don’t feel right / I know we’ll sink for sure / I’ll play your game once more.” She is begging for ease and commitment, yet can’t help falling for the same tricks.
“Baybee” encapsulates the frustration and desperation of an eclipsing honeymoon. For a dose of serenity when your sweetheart’s foibles become pesky instead of charming, play this track.
3. “Prom” by SZA
SZA is another young female artist, whose debut album “Ctrl” received critical acclaim. Much like Frank, SZA’s music is concerned with loving and longing and the difficulties that occur within a relationship. In contrast to the previous artists’ optimism, SZA carries a sensual, soulful energy that enhances the melancholy and struggle of romance, whether they be internal or external.
“Prom” is a track that deals with the painful task of admitting shortcomings, imagined or real, to a lover. Similar to both “The Louvre” and “Baybee,” the track is stripped-down and bare, emphasizing the narrative. Yet, “Prom” feels more like a declaration of boundaries, which requires decisiveness and clarity. Moreover, there’s an element of feebleness and disappointment: Promise to get a little / better as I get older / and you so patient / so sick of waiting.”
“Prom” is about the moment when you discover your significant other has surpassed you, and you’re insecure. SZA performs it like no other.
4. “Star Roving” by Slowdive
Pioneers of shoegaze, Slowdive has made a strong return after twenty-two years of silence, breaking back in with their self-titled album, which features “Star Roving” as a lead single. For those of you (like me) who discovered the subgenre two decades late, “Slowdive” brings all the elements of the original Slowdive sound while infusing them with contemporary style. More than anything, the album proves that revival doesn’t necessarily have to be corny or nostalgic—revival can bring back the best elements of the past.
“Star Roving” is the jubilant reintroduction of Slowdive, comprised of the same noisy, layered sounds. Broad strokes of guitar shave the body and cut the contours that shape the song. Shoegaze has never been defined by lyrics, but “Star Roving” crafts moments of simple, animate bliss: “In a flash of time / said she’s feeling love for everyone tonight / Smiling beautiful / she says I make the best for everyone tonight.” Slowdive conveys its message less directly than the other bands on this list, but that does not have to inhibit its expression of love.
“Star Roving” is a celebration of rediscovery, of finding the excitement in a relationship that had been withering.
5. “Fugaces” by Arca
Driving further into unconventional territory, Arca, real name Alejandro Ghersi, is the least pop, most avant-garde performer on the list so far. Arca’s work is industrial and experimental, defined by the metallic tones, screeches of engines and incoherent, dissonant speech. With these sounds, Arca delves into a world of dark agony inaccessible to other artists. Not all emotion can be ascribed a narrative, and Ghersi’s work is full of amorphous, ugly feeling.Listen here.
“Fugaces” (English: fleeting) is one of the gentler, softer tracks off Arca’s self-titled album released in the early spring of this year. Its structure is more traditional, progressing from verses to chorus, but the unaccustomed listener may need some time to adjust to the mechanical sonic motifs.
“Fugaces” is a trembling admission of heartbreak, sung from a sobbing voice: “Que desilusion / Que solo me quedan / recuerdos fugaces / tus ojos de luto” (What disillusionment / I only have / fleeting memories / your eyes of mourning).
While many of the other songs on this list could be described as dreamy, “Fugaces” is more like a waking nightmare. If you are intrigued by the foreignness of the music, listen to the entirety of the album for a fuller picture of Arca’s pain.
6. “Babygirl” by Charli XCX featuring Uffie
Rounding out the list is Charli XCX’s “Babygirl,” a pop song that is as standard as they come. While struggling with her label to release her album, Charlotte Aitchison decided to drop a mixtape, “Number 1 Angel,” to give her fans something to chew on. The mixtape is a confluence of pop, R&B and dance, which, when combined with Aitchison’s proclivity for bubblegum stylings, creates a spike of obtrusive, sexual, upbeat energy, less romantic than the other tracks on the list, and Aitchison swaggers on the beat. Love is cute, but only sex can be cool.
“Babygirl” is the finest example of a song that seeps with pop. Aitchison (she’s the one that penned the anthem, “I Love It”) beckons, in a low, sultry voice, “If you’re feeling real sad, just look on your wall / I’m your pin-up princess, yeah, you know who to call.” Her playful overtures for intimacy (or maybe just a hook-up) are standard in music; turn on any radio station and you can be sure to hear Selena Gomez, Rihanna or Tove Lo doing the same. What separates “Babygirl” is its purity. There is nothing of real concern, just two carefree girls and bouncy, playful synths.
“Babygirl” is a track to lighten the mood, to remind you of the fun of flirting, and is a certified dance song for the summer.