10 Love Songs for New and Old Love

Photo by Kleigh Balugo

By Ryland McGinniss

Listen to the playlist here

What is love? I don’t think there’s a clear answer, mostly because there isn’t a definitive meaning of love. Love can look like those cheesy rom-coms or cliche tropes from the novels of your childhood. But, it can also be your best friends on a double date dragging you along as a third wheel.

But where do all of these different feelings of love meet in the middle? Love songs.

You might be thinking, love songs? Isn’t that a cliche? Love songs are successful in how they help explain love, especially in the post- pandemic digital age. We recognize that songs have a way of being timeless and concrete, but also ever-present and breathing at the same time.

This list will consist of two types of love songs: ones that elicit feelings of new love and ones for the feelings of established love. The feeling of falling in love, the adrenaline, the unknown, the feeling that everything you previously knew is slipping away. (In a good way)

Hopefully, this playlist will resonate with you for similar reasons to mine or maybe you’ll find your own reasons to love these songs. Above all, I hope they make you feel warm and fuzzy.

New Love

1. “Overdrive” by Conan Gray

      Two words. Adrenaline rush. It’s that feeling when you just meet someone and you’re fantasizing about exploring the world with them. That’s the feeling of “Overdrive” by Conan Gray. This song feels like a sugar high from your childhood. This standalone single, features Gray as a writer, with lyrics like, “I know you’re a stranger but I’m liking the danger of the I don’t know and just trust the night… ” Through its lyrics and beat, “Overdrive” swings for the fences. So next time you need reassurance before just going for it, give this song a listen.

      2. “Pancakes for Dinner” by Lizzy McAlpine

      This song is about secretly longing to start a new stage in a relationship that was once purely platonic. The pacing in “Pancakes for Dinner” lends itself to the unknown that comes with catching feelings. Especially in the case of new love, if it’s only ever been strictly platonic, a romantic relationship can be a very new and delicate thing. Through the lyrics, McAlpine mixes the feelings of not wanting to lose everything but still willing to risk it. “Pancakes for Dinner” may have a personal significance to McAlpine, but everyone can feel the universal nostalgia. This is one of the few times I haven’t felt attacked by a sappy love song.

      3. “Cinema” by Harry Styles

      This song has a pop appeal, but not in the traditional radio-friendly way. It gives off a funky intergalactic vibe, and the metaphorization of the word cinema is an unexpected touch. This song, along with just being experimental with repetition, details the way a new relationship becomes repetitive in your head. The verses are slower and show the hesitation of exploring new ventures. But by the end of the song, there is a sense of deeper comfortability. New love can be stubborn sometimes. “Cinema” also plays with typical sexist tropes regarding stubbornness. Instead of a woman being portrayed as stubborn and unwilling to be in the relationship, Styles flips this. If you want to hear a pop song that has a subliminal conversation around love and autonomy, listen to “Cinema.”

      4. “pov” by Ariana Grande

      “pov” by Ariana Grande is another song that captures the essence of new love, but with a simultaneous familiarity. The lyrics indicate that Grande knows this relationship is new, but she knows she’s safe. It’s unexpected, because good love is hard to find. This song is in Grande’s higher register, and the slower pace allows for her range to be showcased seamlessly. This song also inverts the male gaze trope. Rather than Grande being objectified by a male point of view, she is seen as a person, not just as an object of desire.

      5. “don’t miss me” by Claire Rosinkranz

      “don’t miss me (i’m not good at relationships)” is a song that describes the idea of not being good at love. This is a feeling we’ve all had at some point, when we don’t know how to interpret the words “I love you.” Maybe it’s because we’re not that good at loving ourselves. Rosinkranz sings about the fact that she’s scared of someone missing her, because she doesn’t want to screw it up. Especially with new love, a common theme is fear. It seems easier to cut someone off or ghost them to avoid getting hurt. This song reminds me that it’s okay to wallow in that space and that taking a leap of faith to a deeper space shouldn’t be the choice that we feel forced to take.

      Established Love

      These next five songs help to describe the feelings that we express when we establish love, sometimes forever.

      6. “Paper Rings” by Taylor Swift

      Swift, through her wonderful lyricism in semi-serious subject matter, juxtaposed with a bubblegum poppy beat, captures love perfectly. This song, off the Lover album, describes that when a love is so deep, obstacles wouldn’t stop it. This song is bonding two people for infinity, similar to marriage vows. It reminisces about their past journey to get to this place and then optimistically imagines their future. It also rejects the self-centric notion of a ring and in broader terms, material objects. Even though certain objects may be nice, these objects don’t quantify love.

      7. “Temporary Love” by Ben Platt

      The chorus of this song opens with an assertion that the love Platt knows is not temporary. Platt is reassuring this person that amidst all the possible risks or fears of falling in love, that this is an unbreakable bond in all its truth. This musical theater-esque ballad may seem overly dramatic, but shouldn’t you be dramatic for the person you love? I want the dramatic proclaimed love like that of a musician and even though I might envy love songs like this sometimes, they help me engage in my fantastical worlds; which might not be healthy, but hey, it’s fun sometimes.

      8. “I Hate Love Songs” by Kelsea Ballerini

      This song by country-pop superstar Kelsea Ballerini might seem like an anti-love song and while it kinda is, the lyricists Ballerini, Rosen and McAnally employ a love-centric twist at the end. Ballerini sings about hating the typical tropes of everything from Cupid to blue violets. She even dismantles the idea of your heart skipping a beat. But still, it’s a great fit for this list because Kelsea describes that even though she hates the typical definitiveness of love, she has found her person.This plays into the fluidity of love, rather than the rigidity we are used to.

      9. “Older” by 5SOS

      “Older” is about envisioning forever with someone. This song is a duet between Luke Hemmings and his partner Sierra Deaton in which they declare that they won’t get older without each other. This ballad featuring rock-esque instrumentals is one of the most sappy songs in 5SOS’s discography. While it does directly lend itself to the heteronormative ideals of marriage, it breaks away from the inherent stereotypes and defines its own values of love. “Older” features lyrics about envisioning a cocaine colored wedding dress, a wicked smile, and emotions of sadness and cynicism. This song somehow winds up being a sappy love duet, but doesn’t feel overly simplistic or disingenuous.

      10. “The 30th” by Billie Eilish

      The last song on my list touches on the strength of platonic love. This song is inspired by one of Eilish’s friends who got in a car crash on the 30th. Written by Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell, this ballad is dedicated to the overwhelming feeling when you lose someone. This song illustrates the love you can discover when you’re least expecting it. It doesn’t have to be explicit all the time, or even romantic, but it’s true love. If you want a good cry or need to process some hard emotions, this song will make a good listen.


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