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Sunday, February 12, 2017

What is Love? Songs about Healthy & Unhealthy Romantic Relationships

last updated June 1, 2021

posted by Catharine Hannay

This is the latest in the popular series of song playlists for values-based teaching, including compassion and gratitude.

Following up on last week's songs about love for family and friends, here are a variety of songs about love and about healthy or unhealthy romantic relationships. Some of the songs could apply to friends and family or to romantic relationships, so it's worth checking out both lists. 

Teachers, as always be sure to preview the full lyrics and video before deciding whether a particular song is appropriate to share with your class.  I'm careful about which songs and video to include, but some of the lyrics and images may not be appropriate for children or for more conservative contexts.  

You can scroll to the bottom of the post for questions to prompt reflection and discussion about the meaning of love.

All of Me, John Legend
lyricsvideo of John Legend, with Lindsay Stirling on violin (song ends 4:38); British sign language interpretation by Abbi Signs

"All of me loves all of you.  Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections... How many times do I have to tell you even when you're crying you're beautiful, too.  The world is beating you down, I'm around through every mood."

Angel, Shaggy (featuring Rayvon)
lyrics; video of live performance

"Life is one big party when you're still young, but who's gonna have your back when it's all done… Can't be a fool, son, what about the long run… She was there through my incarceration. I wanna show the nation my appreciation." 

Angel Street (Lovely Irene), Lucie Idlout
lyricsofficial video; song was written in honor of a friend who was a victim of domestic abuse
"Broken down on Angel Street. He pushed you down, made you unseen, Irene. High heels on a gravel road... You ain't crazy. How could you have known... You should have just walked away."

The Body of Love, Ben Lee
lyrics; official video featuring The Sound and the Furry puppeteering group
"Where there is loneliness let there be solitude.  Where there is pride, where we are strong, let us learn to break.  Where there is certainty let there be innocence. Where there is hurt, let there be an embrace."

Come Close, Common (featuring Mary J. Blige)
lyricsofficial video 
"I want to build a tribe with you.  Protect and provide for you... I'm tired of the fast lane.  I want you to have my last name."

Dark Love Song, Jeffrey Gaines
lyrics; video of live performance
"You've got to hold inside a certain amount of pride... 'Cause those who love themselves aren't enslaved to no one else... She's got bruises but she wears them for love. He's got a new disease but he bears it for love... Don't know what cupid was thinking of. So many of us just slaves for love."

From the Ground Up, Dan + Shay

lyricsofficial video

"Grandma and grandpa painted a picture of sixty-five year and one little house... Just take my hand and I'll be the man your dad hoped that I'd be.... For worse or for better... Beside you I'll stand through the good and the bad. We'll give all that we have. And we'll build this love from the ground up."


Girl in a Country Song, Maddie and Tae
lyrics; official video, showing girls in the typical sexy poses and outfits of country videos, then an amusing role reversal with guys in the same short shorts and low-cut tops; alternate video of acoustic performance
"How in the world did it go so wrong?  Like all we're good for is looking good for you and your friends on the weekend, nothing more.  We used to get a little respect.  Now we're lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep our mouth shut and ride along down some old dirt road we don't even wanna be on."

Grow Old With You
Adam Sandler and Tim Herlihy
video of ukulele cover by Patrick Carroll, with lyrics in video description
"I wanna make you smile whenever you're sad.  Carry you around when your arthritis is bad... I'll get your medicine when your tummy aches.  Build you a fire if the furnace breaks.  It could be so nice, growing old with you."

I Got You (I Feel Good)James Brown
lyrics; video of YoungArts TakeOne performance: a group of young musicians get together for the first time and record a song in one take--amazingly well, in this case!
“I feel nice, sugar and spice... When I hold you in my arms, I know that I can do no wrong.  And when I hold you in my arms, my love won't do you no harm.”

I’d Rather Have a Love, Joe
lyricsvideo (song starts :47)

"Momma told me what a real man should be.  She said son pick one, and treat her like me… I know if she saw this pimpin', she’d be ashamed.  But now I found this girl and I see things differently… I never thought that I’d be ready to settle down… but I found myself a love."

I Love You Will Still Sound the Same, Oh Honey
lyrics; official video

"Could you see yourself growing old with me, watchin' my head turn to grey? Could you live with me and my mistakes, and the ones I have yet to make? So when our eyes have seen their better days, and our hearing starts to fade, put your arms 'round my neck, and your heart on my chest. 'I Love You' will still sound the same."

Just the Way You Are, Billy Joel
lyrics; official video (audio with album cover); video of cover by Justin Vendette

"Don't go changing to try and please me.  You never let me down before. Don't imagine you're too familiar, and I don't see you anymore... I took the good times; I'll take the bad times. I'll take you just the way you are."

Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars 

lyrics; official videoASL video by Jason ListmanAuslan interpretation; BSL interpretation

"I know when I compliment her, she won't believe me.  And it's so sad to think that she doesn't see what I see.  But every time she asks me 'Do I look okay?' I say, When I see your face there's not a thing that I would change. 'Cause you're amazing just the way you are."

Life is Better with You, Michael Franti and Spearhead
lyricsofficial lyrics video 
"Every day's not Valentine's, but you make me feel it most of the time... And when I think about the things that we've been through, I know just one thing is true.  Life is better with you."

Locked Away, Rock City (featuring Adam Levine)
lyricsofficial videoalternate video (just shows album cover)

"If I got locked away, and we lost it all today.  Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?  If I showed you my flaws, if I couldn't be strong.  Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?"

Loneliness for Love, lovelytheband

"I'm tryna find myself inside someone. Anything at all not to feel alone. Anything at all just to feel whole. 'Cause I keep mistaking loneliness for love."

Love Song, Sara Bareilles
lyrics; video of live performance
"Convinced me to please you.  Made me think that I need this too.  I'm trying to let you hear me as I am.  I'm not gonna write you a love song 'cause you ask for it... If your heart is nowhere in it, I don't want it for a minute."


Love's RecoveryIndigo Girls 
lyrics; video (audio with album cover)

"There I am in younger days, star gazing, painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be... Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together left each other one by one along the road of fairer weather... These are ghosts and mirages, all these thoughts of fairer weather."

One Call Away, Charlie Puth
lyricsofficial video
"Call me, baby, if you need a friend.  I just wanna give you love...  No matter where you go, you know you're not alone.  I'm only one call away.  I'll be there to save the day.  Superman got nothing on me.  I'm only one call away."

Opposites Attract, Paula Abdul
lyrics; video of ASL performance by Rosa Lee Timm and Russell Harvard

"Our friends are sayin' we ain't gonna last.  'Cuz I move slowly. / And baby I'm fast. / I like it quiet. / And I love to shout. But when we get together it just all works out."

The Rose, Bette Midler
lyrics; official video by Westlife showing friends and family celebrating a young couple's wedding
"It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance... It's the one who won't be taken who cannot seem to give, and the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.  Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow lies the seed that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes the rose."

Shut Up and Fish, Maddie and Tae
lyrics; official video: a country girl invites a city boy to go fishing, but he has a different agenda...
"Oh, I was fishing.  He was wishing we were kissing... Saying I'm pretty.  Saying he's in love, and how it don't get any better than this. I said, 'Yeah, it could, boy, if you would shut up and fish.' For a little while he calmed down and let up, but then he went right back to pushing his luck."

Thank You for Loving Me, Bon Jovi
lyrics; video of live performance

"Thank you for loving me. For being my eyes when I couldn't see. For parting my lips when I couldn't breathe... You pick me up when I fall down. You ring the bell before they count me out.  If I was drowning you would part the sea, and risk your own life to rescue me."


Thing Called Love, NF
lyrics; video (album cover + audio)
"Love, it can consume you, turn you into something else.  Bury the real you so deep that you can't even find yourself...You find that right person, and everything that you thought that wasn't becomes worth it."

This, Darius Rucker
lyricsofficial video
"I don't really know how I got here, but I'm so glad that I did... Maybe it didn't turn out like I planned... Every stoplight I didn't make.  Every chance I did or I didn't take... All the girls that broke my heart... Thank God for all I missed.  'Cause it led me here to this."

The Way I Am, Ingrid Michaelson
lyrics; video of cover by Mree
"If you are chilly, here take my sweater.  Your head is aching, I'll make it better... I'll buy you Rogaine when you start losing all your hair.  Sew on patches to all you tear.  'Cause I love you more than I could ever promise.  And you take me the way I am."

What Do You Think of? Lauren Alaina and Lukas Graham

lyrics; official video

"Do you think of February? So in love it was scary... Or is it the kitchen when we forgot how to listen? At the end of July, you were mad, I was crying... What do you think of when you think of me? When you look back on us what do you see? Is it the good times? Is it the bad times? Is it somewhere in between?" 

What is Love, V. Bozeman
lyrics; official video 
"What is love if you're not here with me?  What is love if it's not guaranteed?  What is love if it just ups and leaves?  What is love if you're not here no more?  What is love if you're not really sure?"

What is Love, Howard Jones

lyrics; original video from 1984; video of cover by Lauren Hoffman
"Can anybody love anyone so much that they will never fear?... The answer is they cannot love this much. Nobody can... What is love, anyway?  Maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be... To love when circumstance may lead someone away from you...  Does anybody love anybody anyway?"

What You Don't Do, Lianne La Havas
lyrics; official video
"I know what I got and I know where we're going.  You don't need to show it, I already know it all.  It's what you don't do, it's what you don't say... It's what you don't do, the games you don't play.  I know you love me, I don't need proof."

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

Teachers, as always with personal topics please respect your students boundaries about how much personal information they choose to share with you or the group.

  • Do any of these songs remind you of someone you love?
  • Do any of these songs make you wish you had a similar relationship?
  • What seems to be the definition of 'love' in many popular songs and movies? Do you agree with this definition? Why or why not?
  • Is it possible for love to harm someone?
  • How is love for a partner similar to love for our friends and family?
  • How does romantic love change as we get older? 


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