V-Day Hit List

This Feb. 14, close the door and drop the expectations.

Those of you who pay attention to the words of songs you put on your Valentine's Day play-list—and anyone with "Crash" or "Every Breath You Take" in their mix isn't listening—know good and well that American love songs are largely a record of dysfunction, resentment, and mental illness. "You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn't hurt at all. So if I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all." How's that for some fucked-up logic? There's no limit to the amount of abuse you could justify with that line of thinking.

Country music in particular is a genre of broken things and broken people. I fall to pieces. I'm crazy. Hello, walls. One country love song that routinely tops all-time-greatest lists is the magnificently twisted "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones. It's about a guy who moped over some woman for decades, then died. And hence stopped loving her. The subtext is "Now that bitch'll finally realize what an asshole she was not to appreciate this sad sack."

Lovers in country songs spend more time drinking and waiting for the day your cheating heart will pine some day and crave the love it threw away than they do engaging in actual love. Where's the love? More to the point for Valentine's Day, where's the fucking?

As much as I love country music, for Valentine's Day mood-setting, I'm inclined to go with the tried-and-true: '70s soul. Cliché? Maybe. In a perfect world I might choose "Warm Valley," Duke Ellington's instrumental hymn to the vagina. In the real world, it's a little too subtle for the occasion.

Though it's no good to be too spot-on (no "Let's Get It On" or "Erotic City"), you can't go wrong with Teddy Pendergrass' "Close the Door." No neuroses, no self-doubt, no impossible ideals to impose on your partner. Just a tender, confident man on his knees for his woman's pleasure: "Close the door/Let me give you what you've been waiting for/Baby, I got so much love to give/I wanna give it all to you."

Closing the door, opening the wine, and getting down in that sweet groove for some serious love service. There shouldn't be any more to it than that.

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