This playlist will take you through all the emotional stages of love.
Little is known of Saint Valentine himself—“he” even might have been two men whose legacies were combined by the Catholic Church and memorialized on February 14. “Valentine” is derived from the Latin term, valens, which means “worthy, strong, powerful”—all qualities necessary for dealing with the potential impact of exposing your heart to anyone.
As legend has it, the holiday we now celebrate was created in the 18th century when two antiquarians wanted to usurp the pagan holiday, Lupercalia, which is based on a Roman festival that purified the city through health and fertility. Given that birds pair in mid-February and that Saint Valentine is associated with courtly love, the conditions for an annual celebration came into place.
Though in recent times the mechanisms of capitalism have shadowed the day, we don’t have to purchase a thing to remind those we love of their importance in our lives. Remember, there is a direct correlation between money spent on a wedding and divorce rate: Couples that spend less than $1,000 experience lower-than-average rates of divorce, while those over $20,000 are most likely to fail.
The science of love
Love is good for us. Research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive and functional decline, and even early death in adults over age 60. Another study shows that loneliness among the elderly is associated with poor health status, depression and decreased mobility. Group fitness is dependent upon relationships, which help the individual survive and even thrive.
That’s because humans are social creatures. The poets know romantic love isn’t the only relevant strain. Brotherly love, familial love and love of friends and tribe are all relevant factors for optimal health.
Marriage is certainly meaningful. A 2013 study at the University of Missouri discovered that happily married couples experience better physical and mental health than unmarried peers. As assistant professor Christine Proulx says, “We often think about the aging process as something we can treat medically with a pill or more exercise, but working on your marriage also might benefit your health as you age. Engaging with your spouse is not going to cure cancer, but building stronger relationships can improve both people’s spirits and well-being and lower their stress.”
Love, as you’re aware, requires commitment. While a degree of skepticism is always healthy, Simona Sciara and Giuseppe Pantaleo, both of Italy’s Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, wanted to know if the possibility of a breakup made it more likely a couple would separate. Their research, published in the journal “Motivation and Emotion” verified that it does.
As Pantaleo notes, “Reduced relationship commitment, for instance, leads to dissolution considerations and, thereby, to actual relationship breakup. Relationship breakup, in turn, plays a critical role in the onset of depression, psychological distress and reduced life satisfaction.”
Point being: Focus on the goal and try not to get bogged down in the mundane. Once the wash of chemicals subsides and the everyday grind kicks in, it’s up to you to maintain an outlook that will survive the long stretch of a relationship, if that’s what you’re looking for.
A soundtrack of love
We love love songs. We also love breakup songs. The entire range of emotional experiences are best expressed through music. Fortunately, there’s plenty of music celebrating every aspect of love. I considered this vast range for this month’s playlist.
For courtship rituals, you won’t find sweeter than Anderson Paak’s “Room in Here”—though classics by Bob Marley and Marvin Gaye set the stage for artists like Paak to appear. Of course, there’s also seduction, at which Jose James is masterful; the NxWorries track is another invitation for love, while A Tribe Called Quest lays down one of their greatest grooves with “Electric Relaxation.”
A love soundtrack isn’t complete without Sade. The Cottonbelly remix of “By Your Side” is simply beautiful, while later on Layla Hathaway honors the Nigerian-British singer with a cover of “Cherish the Day.” Sweetness abounds in tracks by Portishead, D’Angelo, Jamiroquai and Jordan Rakei.
I couldn’t possibly make such a playlist without Jeff Buckley. While he covered nearly every emotion in his short career, “Everybody Here Wants You” is arguably his most gorgeous ode to the romantic chase imaginable.
“Massage My Mind” is a track I wrote after a divorce as a reminder to keep my eyes on what’s important; Marti Nikko does a brilliant job translating those lyrics into reality. One of the greatest love poets of my generation, Fiona Apple, has a knack for uncovering the darker, deeper aspects of love. “To Your Love” is just one example in her catalog. Nicole Willis offers an equally compelling argument for the complexities of relationships in “No One’s Gonna Love You.”
The mix ends instrumentally, though no one ever accused John Coltrane of not speaking volumes. His saxophone created a language of its own. “Naima” is a tribute to the great love of his life. The man who never stopped reaching attempting to express the impossible, to pin down his heart with song, a futile quest, yet one we’ll never stop attempting. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Photo credit: Anthony Delanoix, Unsplash