We know our favorite songs sometimes contain not-so-romantic visions of romance. But it’s not all lyrical red flags out there. Many songs include elements of authentic love, like commitment, respect, and honesty. Here are some tracks that take a well-adjusted look at love.
“La Belle Fleur Sauvage” by Lord Huron
In this modern folk tune that borrows the melody of the Carter Family’s “Wildwood Flower,” songwriter Ben Schneider emphasizes that no love comes without effort, work, and sacrifice. The narrator is searching for his love personified in the beautiful wildflower (the title’s meaning in French) who “won’t be found easily” since she grows in a “sacred place” that not everyone can reach. And he’s looking for a real long-term commitment, too, singing that “when I die I want her lying by my side in my grave.” It’s a song about bearing pain and trials to get that precious chance with someone you love so much.
“Paper Rings” by Taylor Swift
On this track, Swift boldly proclaims that the comfort and good memories she has with her lover are what really matters, not “shiny things” or diamond rings. This is a love that accepts the good and the bad, “all the exes, fights, and flaws,” “your complications,” and “your dreary Mondays.” Simply getting to spend time with someone who treats you well can be a blessing.
“First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes
Even healthy relationships have their problems, but partners who truly love each other accept responsibility and decide to work on their problems together. This song describes what it’s like to fully see someone else, while also being seen. In the chorus, when Conor Oberst sings, “And so, I thought I’d let you know/that these things take forever / I especially am slow/ But I realize that I need you / and I wondered if I could come home,” he’s acknowledging all his mistakes and flaws and realizing why the other person might not want him. Strong relationships take work and might be slow going, but these kinds of honest conversations are crucial, and show that he respects the other person’s perspective. As the song says, “I’d rather be working for a paycheck / than waiting to win the lottery.” He sees all the work to develop their relationship intentionally as worth it.
“Burning” by Maggie Rogers
Much of Maggie Rogers’ debut album, Heard it in a Past Life (2019) was written about her sudden transition to viral stardom and the challenges of finding authenticity within this new life. The second-to-last track, “Burning,” explores a relationship with someone who helped her “get my old self back,” presumably after the whirlwind of fame began. A truly loving partner will encourage you to be your best self. And lines like, “And if you’re giving up, would you tell me?” emphasize the importance of communicating clearly with your partner.
“New Shoes” by Overcoats
This indie pop duo’s latest album The Fight (2020) provides perspective on a relationship that isn’t working. In this soft acoustic waltz accompanied by calming birdsong, Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell sing about what not to tolerate in a relationship. After lamenting a lover who “hasn’t called,” “won’t come,” and generally makes her feel like she’s wasting her life waiting around for him, the narrator realizes she deserves better: “I’m only yours if you’re gonna be / someone who’s good to me.” In a comment on the song’s YouTube video, the band said it’s about “loving someone and receiving apathy in return,” which is a painful experience. But out of that pain came this heart-breakingly beautiful reflection on accepting your self-worth without waiting for someone else to validate your existence.
When all forms of media seem to have no problem portraying love going wrong, it can be harder to identify the lyrics that get it right. Positive messages about healthy love might be subtler, but these five songs are just a sampling of authentic love that are important to recognize when we hear them.