Love & Sex

Love Song Yearbook: Ten Songs That Shaped My Idea of Love

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"I tried to convince him that music made you feel stuff, preferably stuff that would make him take his clothes off."

The music we like when we're young shapes us in a lot of ways. It might give you a lifelong disrespect for The Man, or it might make you a hopeless romantic. In Love Song Yearbook, we're interested in what songs shaped your idea of love at different ages. Want to submit your own Love Song Yearbook? Email with "Love Song Yearbook" in the subject line.

Age five – "Loving You," Minnie Riperton
My parents have never played a lot of music, so I don't feel like I've been influenced that much by them. However, one of the earliest memories I have was messing with the record player and putting on this record. (And what a great sleeve: Minnie Riperton holding a melting ice cream. I thought it was just sad at the time — the eroticism became apparent a great while later.) As a kid, I think I just really liked the birds tweeting in the background, but recently, I realized this shamelessly soppy song is one of the reasons I've got a persistent romantic streak.


Age nine – "One Way or Another," Blondie
I owe a large part of my musical education to the Muppets. At the age of nine, my Blondie obsession was further fuelled by a great video of Debbie Harry bouncing around The Muppet Show stage and opening lots of doors, only to be met by surprised/angry monsters. It took me a while to piece together that this song is basically an ode to the necessity of restraining orders — driving past someone's house in the middle of the night to check if they were there seemed like a plausible romantic premise when I was nine.


Age fourteen – "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," Aerosmith
My first boyfriend was French, and although that may sound very sophisticated, it just meant I didn't understand why it was such a good idea for him to stick his tongue down my throat. He was four years my senior, and at the ripe old age of eighteen, quite sexually experienced. He would talk of STD testing and miraculous erections, both of which I vowed never to get near to. We watched Armageddon, (in French and without my glasses, though I think I got the gist of it), and "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" really stuck with my melodramatic teenage self for a while, and was very applicable to many a crush back home in the Netherlands, but still mainly reminds me of that sweet little Frenchman.


Age sixteen – "Narcotic," Liquido
This one-hit wonder really took over the airwaves in the late '90s when I spent every summer in the south of France, trying to fit in. This song always triggers an immediate response of wanting to accommodate uninteresting people and drink rum and Cokes. I have a vivid memory of this this song blaring from the old Peugeot we drove as we pulled up to a huge cliff overlooking the river where I got drunk for the first time. I must have been sixteen; I remember the glassblower's son was tall, dreamy, and completely out of my league.


Age seventeen – "Stay," Lisa Loeb
Ethan Hawke fuelled the cultivation of my teenage angst in the '90s. His brooding and faux philosophizing made me think there was a nerdy, self-destructive soul out there for me. "Stay" became the soundtrack I played for days on end while thinking about the dark-haired, blue-eyed sixteen-year old I had decided was my soul mate. I stuck to that idea for four years, and the closest it came to reciprocation was when he called once to say he missed me. We did have a romp, years later; it was wildly mediocre.

Age twenty-two – "Expectations," Belle and Sebastian
Unrequited love was really my thing during college, and consequently, I had a dry spell that made me turn to twee. I spent an inordinate amount of time playing this song to my crush, poring over the lyrics, loving the Britishness of it, and trying to convince him that music made you feel stuff, preferably stuff that would make him take his clothes off. Interestingly, he has recently become a music buff, though he's also succumbed to the "Expectations" Stewart Murdoch describes by becoming a banker. We've always remained clothed in each other's presence.


Age twenty-five – "No Surprises," Radiohead
For a while I had a very annoying ringtone that freaked out my boyfriend (the siren sound from Kill Bill), so he asked me to change it to something I liked for when he called. This is what I came up with. "No Surprises" will always be etched in my memory, right next to my blonde physicist boyfriend. Our relationship was a disaster from start to finish, but we went through a lot together and those opening notes still make me think of him (and subsequently, break down).


Age twenty-seven, "Sweet Thing," Van Morrison
While at my cousin's wedding I decided he had chosen the wrong romantic Van The Man ballad for his opening dance — this one really takes the cake. I started listening to this on repeat right after the wedding and tried to convince the nice lawyer I was dating that it was the epitome of wonderful. He did not agree, but did sing a hilarious version of it, so I slept with him anyway and then decided to find a more romantic soul.


Age twenty-eight, "Blame Game," Kanye West
I still really like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. When it came out I liked walking to my internship, looking all-dolled up and laughing at the Chris Rock bit; a tall blonde in heels miming "Did you get it reupholstered?" It also struck a chord with the hip-hop enthusiast I moved in with, and whose place I quickly moved out of.


Age twenty-nine, "Be Good," Waxahatchee
Last week, it suddenly dawned on me that I've been hanging out way too much with this incredibly hot guy. I say "too much" because he really is just a hot mess. He would be disastrous boyfriend material. Every time we go out, he's mobbed by girls, most of whom flock right past me, apparently assuming I'm not even attractive enough to be his boyfriend. Like "Be Good" goes, "It's unclear now, what we intend / We're alone in our own world / You don't wanna be my boyfriend / And I don't wanna be your girl." It is a lot of fun to toy with the idea, though. Maybe I should change the song and give him a call.