Valentine’s Day has something to offer for everyone – romance, love, pink and red fantasies, and chocolates. Whether you’re spending this V-Day in the company of your significant other, gal pals, family, and/or yourself (go queen/king!), you’ll need the right tunes to set the mood.
tattooed heart – live, Ariana Grande
One of my favorite performances of all time is Ariana Grande singing “Tattooed Heart” at the 2013 American Music Awards. Seven years later, she still channels the dewy-eyed romanticism from that performance on her live album k bye for now (swt live) from her hit Sweetener World Tour. This version is top tier for so many reasons (like her stellar vocals), but the electric atmosphere of the recording elevates the song’s dulcet lyrics to a new level.
For: drive-in movie dates, sharing a milkshake at the local diner, swinging your legs while sitting next to your crush
Raveena’s “Heartbeat” is soft like cashmere with a slight bass line that invites listeners to sway to her enchanting vocals. She knows that the moment between her partner and her will vanish at the end of the night, but she immerses herself in the present and urges her partner to enjoy the ephemerality before it fades. With “Heartbeat,” Raveena creates a space for positive love stories for queer women of color like herself in a world where LGBTQ+ stories are told as tragedies.
For: moonlit conversations, sensing the electricity between you and your partner, late night rendezvous
To Me, Alina Baraz
Written in the aftermath of a dead-end relationship, “To Me” is Alina Baraz’s triumphant declaration of self-love. She faces some hard truths about her past loves, but she toasts to a brighter, more confident future. Baraz’s enchanting open letter is an important mantra for maturity and self-discovery as we all embark on our tumultuous 20s.
For: candle-lit spa days, rainy mornings, having a drink after a long day
La dot, Aya Nakamura
“La dot,” or “the dowry” in French, is one of Aya Nakamura’s more romantic cuts from her debut album, NAKAMURA. As she establishes throughout the album, Nakamura is a bold and confident woman, which makes her even more surprised when she madly falls in love with her new beau on “La dot.” Although she sees a future with kids and marriage with this man, Nakamura doesn’t let him forget that she is a prize with allure and power of her own.
For: an afternoon yachting on the Mediterranean, sunlight warming your skin, staring into the eyes of your new love
Body – Live, Summer Walker
As seen in her debut album Over It, Summer Walker is a master at bringing the 90s R&B into the present and that’s ever so present in “Body.” Walker’s mind, body, and heart are going in different directions, but her smooth vocals do the job of enrapturing her partner for yet another night. This live version is exceptionally potent as it sees Walker at her melodic best against a lush arrangement (that! second! verse!).
For: drunk haziness, silk-laden nights, an aura of Tom Ford’s Black Orchid
telepatía, Kali Uchis
Afraid of being in a long-distance relationship? Kali Uchis is here to quell your fears with “telepatía,” a dreamy synth masterpiece sung in both Spanish and English. The lyrics are a delight on this track as Uchis playfully sings “La luna está llena, y mi cama vacía” (the moon is full, but my bed is empty). Equating long-distance love to making love by telepathy speaks to Uchis’ vivid perspective through which love is a delight.
For: FaceTiming your ___ (I’m not going to define your relationship), dipping your feet in the pool on a hot summer day, the tartness of a cherry
Sheikh El Shabab, Nancy Ajram
Nancy Ajram is a, if not the, queen of Arabic pop music. You can quote me on that. “Sheikh El Shabab,” which is roughly translated to “Casanova,” is Ajram’s testament to a starry-eyed love/infatuation that bounces right off of the classic pop instrumental reminiscent of her other hits “Mashy Haddy” and “Ya Tabtab Wa Dallaa.” Ajram captures the feeling of being equally delighted and nervous at the prospect of love and all the feelings that come with it, making “Sheikh El Shabab” a universal letter to first loves.
For: making accidental eye contact with your crush, butterflies from your stomach to your toes, uncontrollable giggles
ringtone (remix) [feat. Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito, Rico Nasty], 100 gecs
Hyperpop experimentalists 100 gecs don’t really make Valentine’s Day music, but this remix of “ringtone” nudges their music towards the middle ground between hyperpop and futuristic pop. Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito, and Rico Nasty exchange verses about their dreamy crushes with a high-school-clique-like flair that’s infectious as the song’s glitchy production. The future of pop and love is here.
For: glittery lip glosses, pursuing the school’s quarterback, gossiping with your friends about your ____ (again, not defining)