The sound of a love letter
You know you love someone when you can write them a love letter and the words flow like a waterfall, feeling by feeling, an unrelenting avalanche of emotion for another. But life moves fast. Things happen so rapidly, so haphazardly, it’s hard to pin your feelings for others. Family, friends, lovers and exes, people who have brought us joy and drama, pleasure and pain. That ambiguous emotion in your stomach, is it love, hate, passion, fury, infatuation or worry?
If your love has no words, make them a playlist.
I have maybe-feelings for a maybe-someone, and their maybe-love-letter is “Sweet To Me” by Summer Salt, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston. Then there’s the one it was never going to work out with, who made me feel “Saw You In A Dream” by The Japanese House, “I Feel For You” by Chaka Khan, “Feel Like A Fool” by Kali Uchis. But it’s not always a romantic love letter that music can embody. There’s platonic love for my best friend, who I would tell the dumb excitement we share is encapsulated by “BOOGIE” by BROCKHAMPTON, “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, “Superheroes” by Daft Punk. And for my family, a love letter that only they would understand: “Friday” by Rebecca Black, “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey, “P.I.M.P.” by 50 Cent.
The songs just fall into place. It’s the sequence that so perfectly mirrors the wavelength of your heart.
Music evokes emotion, sometimes emotion more romantic than the classic written words of love on paper. To say, “You make me feel the way this song makes me feel” can be the most heartfelt sentiment (if the song is right). It can be a hard copy — a series of songs burned onto a CD, the titles scribbled on the disc in magic marker. Or it could be digital, a Spotify link at the end of a sweet text. All that matters is the music, the rhythm, the harmony and the pitch can capture the way that person makes you feel.
The love letter looks different for every writer, the songs that compose it different for every recipient. There are no words that can capture the writer’s feelings for everyone or that evoke all recipients’ feelings the same. A playlist to me with “Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners on it means something different to me if it comes from my childhood friend instead of my mom. A playlist from me with “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” by Panic At The Disco on it means something different to my cousin than it does to my first girlfriend. The music on a playlist — the words in a love letter — are unique for sender and receiver, an intimate covenant of understanding.
A playlist may not seem like a direct way to communicate love. But that’s only true from the outside looking in, for a playlist without the context of sender and receiver. For two people that share something — memories, experiences, a connection — the message in the music is all too clear. Music has a long history of millions and millions of songs. There’s no end to the precision with which to show warmth and fondness. Somewhere, on a record on a shelf at the back of the thrift store, in a cassette at the bottom of a box in the basement, on a still-kind-of-working iPod Shuffle in the closet, there are the songs that make your love letter.
— Dylan Yono, Daily Arts Writer
‘Tis the season of love! No, Valentine’s Day is still a ways away. Yes, “spooky season” doesn’t exactly spell romance. As for the cold weather “cuffing season,” there’s still time to prepare for cozy hibernation (Although I would argue that the in-between of summer flings and relationship-damning family holidays is the perfect time to find someone to shack up with). Despite this, this is the season of love not because capitalism or dead saints has deemed it so, but because any day is a good day for love.
And what screams love better than a love letter? Nothing. Except, maybe, a playlist of musical love letters. That’s right, here at the Daily, the perfect playlist of love letters has been handcrafted for your enjoyment. Whether it’s good, old-fashioned romance, platonic friendship or even a dose of self-appreciation (Hot Girl Fall, anyone?), this playlist has all the bases covered.
ABBA and Patsy Cline bring on the girl-power self-love with tracks like “Dancing Queen” and “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Both tracks celebrate finding yourself amidst the crowd; ABBA as an open letter to every dancing queen out there, and Patsy as an introspective serenade for her own lonely march down the road, “Searchin’ for me.” Elvis, Fats Waller, and The Black Crows (to name a few) add a traditional spin with their more literal love letters, thematically focusing on mourning lost love and lyrically recalling the format of a love letter. Edith Pilaf’s “La Vie en Rose,” Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California” and Atta Boy’s “Walden Pond” all focus on a passionate love for life, regardless of the trials and tribulations. This playlists balances the old with some touches of the contemporary (but the Oldies are Goodies) and captures the many sides of love.
No matter the decade, the genre or the artist, love can be found anywhere and everywhere. Indulge in some lovin’ (in a loveshack, if you can) and some plain, good music this week.
Signed with love,
[Return to Sender]
— Madeleine Virginia Gannon, Daily Arts Writer
This is an abridged history of songs I consider(ed) love letters
in approximately three parts. Part One: male songwriters who didn’t sound misogynistic. In eleventh grade, I wrote an essay about men who “get it.” A significant portion was about The Killers and how understood I felt by the lyrics of “When You Were Young,” but in retrospect, I don’t think it still registers as a love letter. I wanted it to be the love letter I would receive someday from a boy who “didn’t look a thing like Jesus, but talks like a gentleman,” like I imagined when I was young.
Flash forward to my senior year English class. As some sort of introductory activity for what I imagine must have been a study of ballads, we were asked to produce love songs. I picked “Casimir Pulaski Day” by Sufjan Stevens. While my (hip) teacher, who knew the song, questioned my choice, I think it brings us to Part Two of the history: (still) male songwriters, but ones who actually get it. Stevens, Death Cab and Iron & Wine all lured me into a less prescriptive, idealized, biblical, impossible image of love — I owe them each love letters for that fact.
Big Thief single-handedly ushers us into Part Three, where you can write letters to people you love, not just people with whom you’re in love, and account for all the complexity that comes with that. “Mythological Beauty,” Big Thief’s moving love letter to a complicated mother figure, opened the floodgates. Love letters could be addressed to mothers, to hookups who meant more than you intended, to platonic best friends. Oh, and they didn’t have to be piano-based or acoustic anymore, either.
Love letters aren’t just for the unrequited love of your life. In fact, your mom probably deserves many, many more love letters than classmate you’re unwisely crushing on. If you don’t believe me, listen for yourself:
— Julianna Morano, Daily Arts Writer
“They say you measure a man by how much he loves.” — Sturgill Simpson
This playlist is a collection of love letters. Some of the songs are literally structured as letters; some just function as such. I admit that some of them are a bit of a stretch if you’re going to be strict about what constitutes a love letter, but I tried to keep them epistolary to a certain extent: expressions of love addressed directly to the object of their affection.
While “love letters” are typically assumed to be expressions of romantic love, those in the playlist encompass love in its many forms. From the generative, paternal “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” to the playful, platonic “A Postcard to Nina,” to the fragile yet roaring “When You Sleep,” this collection of songs is an hour-and-twenty-three-minute-long tribute to the range of emotions that love can comprise.
— Jonah Mendelson, Daily Arts Writer