Redbrick Music writers band together to write about their favourite love, break-up, and self-love songs

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Halima Ahad: Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u

Throughout Olivia Rodrigo’s three main singles from her album Sour, driver’s license, déjà vu, and good 4 u, we go on her journey towards self-love from a recent breakup. good 4 u takes us on the last journey of the breakup: the vengeful ex watching on as your former flame moves onto someone else without any hesitancy. The angsty, rock anthem is reminiscent of many 2000s legends including Avril Lavigne and Paramore. It would make anyone want to scream along and sing their heart out towards an ex or former flame they may have had (or an imaginary one if you were me). The music video shows Rodrigo as a high school cheerleader who is out for revenge from her ex and ends with her dancing in the flames of a fire. As Rodrigo told Rolling Stone, ‘I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into the ‘heartbreak ballad girl’ thing.’ We see how Rodrigo is expressing her true, authentic self whilst also sticking to her own sound through good 4 u. The sarcastic lyrics add to the sardonic tune, ‘You look happy and healthy, not me / If you ever cared to ask.’

Dylan Ferner-Rose: Cage The Elephant – Cigarette Daydreams 

My ex-girlfriend did not like ‘Cigarette Daydreams.’ She said she preferred rock songs which made her feel happy. I could not blame her. She was going through a hard time. After everything, I think the song meant more to me because it was mine and mine alone. Her apathy meant it never fell into the lethally transient ‘our song’ bracket. Much of the track is self-obsessed: ‘you can drive all night / Looking for the answers in the pouring rain,’ is an imagined scene for a lost lover. It is a lament for the heartbroken rather than the heartbreaker. The lyric speaks to that selfish little part of you that wonders if a lost loved one still spares you a thought, wherever the storms of life have taken the two of you. ‘Funny how it seems like yesterday / As I recall, you were looking out of place / Gathered up your things and slipped away.’ The perspective changes. I am back in my hall on her first visit to London, fumbling her luggage through my bedroom door. Time moves fast, yesterday became a lifetime ago. But I listen to ‘Cigarette Daydreams’ every now and then, and I remember.

Aimee Sargeant: Lana Del Rey – Lust for Life (feat. The Weeknd)

When I first came across ‘Lust for Life,’ I was enamoured by the contrast in the pairing of Lana Del Rey and The Weeknd. This collaboration was previously seen in The Weeknd’s album, Starboy, where Lana features on ‘Stargirl Interlude.’ The Weeknd described Lana as ‘the girl in my music, and I am the guy in her music,’ which adds to why this collaboration is so perfect. They compliment each other. ‘Lust for Life’ epitomises the Hollywood-esque tragic romances that we often see on screen. The Weeknd is known for sounding hedonistic in his lyrics, that persona does not change in this collaboration, the lyrics ‘take off, take off, take off all your clothes’ are typical of his vibe. The moody, vintage sound matches the Hollywood glamour of the track perfectly, it has a soft sensation that travels throughout the whole track. The lyrics resonate with a young romance, both are described as being ‘masters of our own fate,’ and ‘captains of our own souls,’ something that could easily be linked to a young, maybe naive romance. However, it is still one of my favourite romantic songs, Lana and The Weeknd will definitely always be one of the most surprising, but fantastic collaborations I have come across.

Charis Hawkley: Kitty Kallen – Little Things Mean a Lot 

My favourite love song is ‘Little Things Mean a Lot’ which was originally written in 1953 by Edith Lindeman and sang originally by Kitty Kallen. I believe that the song is a classic and I really love it as I adore music from earlier eras. I actually love the song so much that it was chosen as my wedding song when I got married last August. I think the song is so beautiful as it teaches that it is the smaller things in love that matter as you can keep them up, while big gestures come and go. It is such a sweet and relatable song, demonstrating that in the past, love was much simpler. I really relate to the song as I too believe that being there for each other and smaller gestures are so much more important. I love the vintage sound to the track and I believe that it really adds to the romantic atmosphere of the song. As the song says, ‘for now and forever little things mean a lot.’

Chelsie Henshaw: Baby Tate ft. Flo Milli – I Am

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, everyone is whipping out either soppy songs to represent their love for their partner, or sad songs demonising the single life. My top pick is a little different because it is about the love we often neglect during the run-up to Valentine’s: self-love. ‘I Am’ by Baby Tate ft. Flo Milli is the ultimate self-love song. If you are not feeling like the boss babe that you are, pop on the feel-good song and sing out the mantras that you need to hear. Although Valentine’s is traditionally presented as the day to express your love for a significant other (or be made to feel bad for not having one), take out a little time this year to make sure you are showing that same love to yourself too. With rhyming lyrics such as ‘I’m a Queen / I’m a dream,’ remind yourself that you are amazing and worthy of whatever you aspire to have or be. The refrain ‘I do what I wanna do / And I’m who I wanna be / ’Cause I am me’ is something we all need to start repeating to ourselves in the mirror.

Remember that you are ‘independent on [your] own’ and you do not need anyone to make you happy or someone to spend the 14th of February with (although if you do, great for you).

Zenna Hussain: Halsey – Ya’aburnee

At the end of If I can’t Have Love, I’ll Have Power, an album hugely based on Halsey’s inability to love, the thirteenth and final track ‘Ya’aburnee’ is a refreshing change as the celebration of life and love. Halsey brazenly tells her lover ‘And if we don’t live forever Maybe one day, we’ll trade places / Darling, you will bury me / Before I bury you.’ ‘Yaaburnee’ is a tender exploration of their love for both her partner, screenwriter Alev Aydin, and their new baby Ender Ridley. The Arabic phrase translates literally to ‘you bury me,’ though it relates more to a desire to die before those you love and to not exist in a world without them. Beautiful and haunting lyricism and storytelling like ‘The longing needs the leaving / And the loving needs the bleedingand Love is just a currency explores the many vectors of love through Halsey’s journey to motherhood.  Reminiscent of a long poem, the backing music is only a stripped-down guitar track, which only serves to heighten the visceral, strong emotions of Halsey’s overwhelmingly mortal and fragile love.

Ben Oakden: Carole King – It’s Too Late

Although Valentine’s Day may be time for new love, there is no song that better represents the latter stages of a relationship than Carole King’s ‘It’s Too Late.’ It is not a breakup song based on bitterness, regret, or name-calling; instead, King and her songwriting partner Toni Stern take the song in a more mature and emotional direction. The relationship is portrayed as one that ends not with the partners at each other’s throats, but with the gradual acceptance that their time together has run its course. The minor key and mellow instrumentals create a feeling of melancholy, which is juxtaposed by the blameless tone of the lyrics to perfectly capture the emotions of a necessary end to a relationship with somebody you cared for. It may not be the side of love you are looking for out of a Valentine’s Day song, but as an expression of the kind of protracted, but respectful, breakup that ends most real relationships, ‘It’s Too Late’ makes for essential listening.

Jasmine Sandhar: Frank Ocean – Ivy

Although Valentine’s day is typically used as moment to celebrate love and romance, for many it can be a painful reminder of the trials and tribulations endured through past relationships. If you are single, like myself, and happen to fall into this category, then ‘Ivy’ by Frank Ocean is the song you should have on repeat for February 14th. Undeniably, any track from Blonde (Ocean’s last-released studio album) could be considered the ultimate heartbreak song with a rollercoaster of themes explored, ranging from rejection to loss to vulnerability, that listeners can ride along to. However, I would argue that the second song, ‘Ivy’, is a universal anthem that somehow manages to combine the countless shades and tones of love into one multicoloured kaleidoscope. This is captured in the very first lines – ‘I thought that I was dreaming when you said you love me / The start of nothing’ – which describe the paradox of romantic relationships being simultaneously hopeful and hopeless. These blurred boundaries in the lyrics extend to the instrumental as well with a distorted guitar riff consistently being plucked throughout that engenders a haze of enigmatic sound. The only thing able to pierce through this blanket of confusion is Ocean’s melody line; his autotuned tenor vocals soar higher and higher over until they reach their climax at the very end with him screaming ‘dreaming’ in frustation. This passion the continues in the outro with him smashing up the studio equipment surrounding him – an act which truly embodies the traumatic agony of love.

Josie Scott-Taylor: Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete the Kisses

‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ by Wolf Alice is, for me, the ultimate love song. Filled with shoegaze-esque guitar riffs and soft vocals, the singer spends the first part of the track wondering whether or not she is meant for love. This age-old question echoes throughout the majority of the song, complemented perfectly by the intimate, first-person narrative of how it feels to give yourself completely to somebody, and the existential question suddenly transitions to the confident knowledge that the singer and her lover were, in fact, meant to be together. Each line is delivered in a dreamy, delicate way, adding to the song’s vulnerability and the depiction of how it feels to fall deeply in love. ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ reminds me of what it was like to feel myself falling in love for the first time, and Wolf Alice perfectly capture what it is like to finally understand all of the clichés that you spent so long waiting to feel.

Hannah Vernon: Fleetwood Mac – You Make Loving Fun

This Valentine’s Day, you might not be feeling reciprocative of love’s miracles. Christine McVie’s belief in the ways of magic might not put me in a particularly loving mood, but Fleetwood Mac’s ‘You Make Loving Fun’ always casts some kind of spell on me. It is not necessary to be in love to enjoy this song. It is a carefree tune that I can sing along to without trying to remember the lyrics, and not sentimental enough to make me remotely melancholy about spending the 14th February alone. This year by all means play this song to a partner if a certain feeling follows you wherever you go. Do not hesitate to play this , however, if you do not believe in that kind of miracle. The song is so readily upbeat and easy listening that I feel no hesitation bellowing about the spellbinding magic of love.

James West: Richard and Linda Thompson – Dimming of the Day 

’Dimming of the Day’ is one of my favourite love songs because of its elegant simplicity. Musically, the song relies mainly on the soft pickings of Richard Thompson’s acoustic guitar which gives the piece a soft and almost melancholic tone which is perfectly suited to Linda Thompson’s vocals. Her vocals throughout the song are tinged with longing, best emphasised in the repetition of ‘I need you at the dimming of the day.’ I particularly love the bridges in this song with both Richard and Linda on vocals as it gives this unique perspective on the love they share as both of them seem to be directing the lyrics at each other. The lyrics in this song are rich with imagery, exemplified with ‘you pull me like the moon pulls on the tide’ and my personal favourite, ‘why don’t you come and ease your mind with me? / I’m living for the night we steal away.’ To conclude this is a great love song due to its musical and lyrical simplicity which allows the depth of the love that the couple share to be conveyed easily with the listener.


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