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Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to celebrate love and romance with great music, as well as honor beautiful songwriting. This list of 10 rock love songs is a mix of classic hits and hidden gems that will surely make your heart flutter.
By Caroline Paone
There’s a crazy little thing called love. Sometimes it’s like oxygen; other times, it stinks, but hopefully, it’s endless.
If you look at the Romantic era of music, and the early bluegrass and blues visionaries, expressing these tales of the heart wrought with emotion is the true essence of great songwriting–both instrumentally and lyrically. Rockers also took the torch and ran with it, creating vividly epic tunes.
Whether it’s a life experience, concept, or landscape, the knack for wonderfully molding it into a touching art form is truly a gift. Imagine the early blues greats wailing away their heartbreak in tight, sweaty shacks down south or the sultry speakeasies of Chicago?
Then long-haired rockers playing the clubs of England and the States—backstage arenas, bus bunks, or slumped on studio couches—putting pen to paper, scribbling notes on napkins: jamming, revising, recording. Then unleashing songs to the masses for personal interpretation…
Hence, the love song. Ideally, love is forever. But when it’s “over and out,” a rock ballad is the perfect medicine. In alphabetical order, here’s a list of tunes for Valentine’s – or really anytime. So, turn up the volume, lose your head, and enjoy the ultimate rock love experience this Valentine’s Day!
An Exploration of Heartfelt Songwriting
“Are You Waiting” by John Corabi (2012)
Vocalist John Corabi (ex-Mötley Crüe, Union, The Scream) is a great songwriter who tells a story in his own talented way. Corabi made his solo debut in 2012 with the acoustic Unplugged album featuring five original tracks and seven re-recorded classic songs. “Are You Waiting” is a personal favorite and highlight of the mix. Corabi nails it with perfect vocals full of textural nuances and raspy grit.
Lyrically on point: He starts the song while looking out the window of a tour bus and ultimately sets the vibe: “Looking out the window of the bus that’s gonna take me to my home.” Doesn’t every person want their significant other thinking about them while on the road or away for a long time?
Like a daydream coming to life, he sings, “I missed her every minute I was out there on the road… thinking about her smile and all the times she made me feel so good.” The layered vocal harmonizing and added percussion pump up the feel-factor of this touching highway love song. A song that makes you feel sad if not in a relationship, but hopefully happy while waiting for a new one.
“Because the Night” by Patti Smith (1978)
Nighttime feels so good when Patti Smith is singing. “Because the Night” is a rock song written by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. Springsteen started it, but Smith transformed it into an FM radio hit. The Patti Smith Group first released the song in 1978 as a single from their album Easter. The version of this song climbed to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and turned the underground punk-art songstress into a household name.
Smith beautifully writes female-empowered verses with offbeat poetic elegance: “Desire is hunger is the fire I breathe/Love is a banquet on which we feed/Love is an angel disguised as lust.” Stark and passionate, “Because the Night” emboldens all the qualities of a powerful love tale.
An excerpt from Why Patti Smith Matters (By Caryn Rose, University of Texas Press – 2022) appeared in a Variety Magazine article and captures the essence of her brilliance:
“Patti’s performance of the song embodied an intense vulnerability and yearning, and the emotional delivery of the lyrics was frank and unapologetic…” Because the Night” was a grown woman singing about her wants and dreams, and there are no more perfect couplets than “love is a ring, the telephone,” no matter the decade in which you listen to it. How do those six words manage to perfectly encompass that feeling of elation and relief when the phone finally rings, and the right person is on the other end of it?”
“Forever” by KISS (1989)
“Forever” is a timeless power ballad setting the mood for romance since its release in 1989. Penned KISS’s “Star Child” by Paul Stanley, and the lovey-dovey Michael Bolton, this song has long been a staple of Valentine’s Day playlists. “Forever’s” music video perfectly captures the love-laced tune’s intimate feel with its soft lighting and sultry shadows.
Emotive vocals by Stanley, seductive basslines by Gene Simmons, passionate drumming by Eric Carr, and a touching guitar solo by Bruce Kulick (one of his best) match this masterpiece’s lush melody and soulful instrumentation. Indeed, “Forever” is a timeless masterpiece, a love-stricken classic, and will always be remembered for its beauty and lovely, flamenco-infused guitar solo. Can this song just last forever? Rest in peace, Eric Carr; your musical legacy lives on.
“Jet City Woman” by Queensrÿche (1990)
“Jet City Woman” is a powerhouse love song by the progressive metal band, Queensrÿche. From their critically acclaimed album Empire, this track packs a punch with its heavy sound and soulful lyrics. Geoff Tate’s compelling vocals soar to new heights, making this song a true standout. The electric guitar mimics the sound of a roaring Bowing 747, adding to the dynamic energy of the track.
Based on the real-life experiences of Tate’s wife, a flight attendant, “Jet City Woman” explores navigating a relationship through time and distance. The line, “There’s a part missing from my life,” speaks to the universal longing we all feel for the ones we love. This song is a must-listen for anyone looking to add some edge to their Valentine’s Day playlist.
“Lettres D’Amour” by Sweet (1978)
Some more glitter from Britain’s #1 glam band, Sweet. “Lettres D’Amour” flew under the radar for the ’70s glam rockers as “Love is Like Oxygen” was the bigger hit off their 1978 album Level Headed. But this melancholy tune fantastically tributes the “love letter,” pairing frontman Brian Connolly perfectly with longtime session singer Stevie Lange (also known as Stevie Vann, once married to mega-producer Mutt Lange).
The lonesome lyrics recall Connolly’s sometimes tragic life, especially during his later years. Luckily, the tune soars on silver platform boots much like Sweets’ Top of the Pops heyday. After a few listens, it marinates on your soul. This a great song for a dance with your date after a decadent French pastry!
“Lettres d’amour de France/All that I need is love and romance…”
“Love to Love” by UFO (1977)
When singer Phil Mogg sings, “Misty green and blue. Love to love to love you,” that could soften the hardest of hearts. Lights Out is the sixth studio album by the acclaimed British rock band UFO. Producer Ron Nevison brought in Alan McMillan to handle the string and horn arrangements on the album. “Love to Love” famously featured orchestral touches and was the first to include Paul Raymond on keyboards and rhythm guitar.
The 7-minute-plus Mogg/Michael Schenker composition is the sort of thing that makes kids dream of becoming rock stars. Wonderful time signatures and top instrumental technique catapulted this song into the rock stratosphere. Lights out! That’s a lot to love.
“To be Something, to be near you…”
“Over and Out” by Britny Fox (1991)
Philly’s Britny Fox brought a storm of riffs and style to the ’80s with their unique brand of glam rock led by dynamic frontman Dean Davidson. In 1991, they toned down the ruffles but struck a new chord with the addition of lead singer Tommy Paris, replacing the departed Davidson. “Over and Out” is a moving tribute to the challenges of life on the road.
With its catchy and heart-wrenching lyrics, the song is paired with Michael Kelly Smith’s powerful guitar riffs, making “Over and Out” a standout track among Britny Fox’s catalog. The introspective storytelling about “love gone wrong” is enhanced by Tommy Paris’s high, raspy vocals, creating a timeless feel.
As the song builds, the lyrics, paired with Smith’s soaring guitar work, create an unforgettable first-love experience. The guitar solo is a true work of art, making the listener feel as if they’re right there, feeling every note. This Valentine’s Day, let’s raise a glass to Britny Fox, whose music has recently been re-released to great success, including the vinyl reissue of Bite Down Hard.
“Chasin’ one more endless night/To another place in time where we all meet…”
“Paradise” by Tesla (1989)
Tesla is the long-held contender of heartfelt wedding and prom songs. Who hasn’t heard of “Love Song”? While being a timeless classic, “Paradise” is also essential listening on any love-oriented playlist. When Rolling Stone Magazine reviewed The Great Radio Controversy in 1989, journalist Kim Neely wrote: “These songs aren’t homogenized, hurriedly constructed power ballads. They were obviously written carefully and lovingly.” Indeed, decades later, the band still draws a crowd.
“Paradise” has a special lyrical and climbing quality that ranks high on the list of amazing soulful tunes. The piano parts, coupled with wailing guitars and Jeff Keith’s authentic vocals, go to extremes. The swirling guitars have a primo effect and rock out like none other.
Big props to Tesla’s guitar duo at the time: Tommy Skeoch and Frank Hannon. “Paradise” brings a heavy dose of break-up, make-up, and get-back-together vibes. Untamed guitar playing takes the proverbial Valentine’s cupcake on this one. Sweet paradise, yeah.
“Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company ft. Janis Joplin (1968)
Ah, Janis Joplin–a misunderstood, mystical rock and blues singer who left the planet way too soon. Are you ready to feel the power of heartbreak and defiance in one explosive song? Then look no further than Janis Joplin’s rendition of “Piece of My Heart.”
Originally recorded by Erma Franklin, Joplin – accompanied by Big Brother and the Holding company – grabs the torch, delivering a powerhouse performance that perfectly balances heartache, vulnerability, and resilience. With her soulful voice, Joplin ponders the ultimate question: how much can you take?
“Babe, I cry all the time. But each time, I tell myself that I, well, I can’t stand the pain. But when you hold me in your arms, I’ll sing it once again.”
Along with guitarist Sam Andrew’s psychedelic solos, this classic break-up song will have you feeling all the emotions. So, sit back, put on your headphones, and let Joplin’s pipes take you on a journey of raw, unapologetic emotion.
“Seasons of Wither” by Aerosmith (1974)
“Seasons of Wither,” which came to us by way of Aerosmith’s sophomore affair, Get Your Wings, is as raw as it gets from an emotional standpoint. What’s more, it could be considered an early example of what would later be known as a “power ballad.”
Written by agape-mouthed singer Steven Tyler, it’s five minutes and thirty-eight seconds of Aerosmith doing what they do best. “Seasons of Wither” takes flight (pun intended) lyrically and instrumentally, inspiring a host of visuals and feelings.
In retrospect, Tyler has talked about writing the song based on one of his many relationships and also said that he used the New England landscape, where he made his home in the wintertime, as inspiration. The metaphor of nature and subject matter is a haunting backdrop for this melancholy but rocking song.
You can picture the stark trees and hear the howling wind with the moonlight above or feel the cold dawn just outside your window. All you need is a roaring fire and some romantic candlelight or time alone to evaluate what happened with your love life. Many bands have covered this one; dig around for a listen.
“Take the wind right out of your sail…”
- “Where Are You Now” by Nazareth
- “More Than a Feeling” by Boston (1976)
- “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey (1981)/”Faithfully” by Journey (1983)
- “Alone Again” by Dokken (1985)
- “Love Me Like Music” by Heart (1976)
- “Is This Love” by Whitesnake (1987)
- “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison (1988)
- “Heaven” by Warrant (1989)
– Caroline Paone (@CarolineRex) is a contributor for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org