St Valentine’s Day. Like all good religious holidays, it has exploded as a marketing gimmick that ensures lovers around the world fork out for flowers/dinner/chocolates/soft toys/cards (but never, ever just a card, no matter what they tell you, do not fall for that trap). It is easy to feel cynical or, if you’re unlucky in love, dismiss the whole thing. Hell, there are plenty of rock songs that do just that as Wall of Sound explored previously.
But rockers are often sentimental at heart. Sure metalheads and punks might gravitate towards darker love stories but here are 15 tunes where bands wore their hearts on their sleeves and meant every word. If you play these for your Taylor Swift loving partner you still might get somewhere and can keep your rock cred doing it. There’s some suggestions for lyrics you might appropriate for a card should you lack the words to express your love.
Ozzy Osbourne – ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’
Ozzy loves a power ballad. Heavily inspired by The Beatles, he has often had songs built around piano and a soaring solo so he can stand there and wail. From his 1992 album No More Tears, ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ takes a line he’d use at the end of a tour when on the phone to Sharon, and orchestrates a tender lament to life on the road and having someone to return to. The relationship as described is actually a bit demented but there is some reality in that too, and Lemmy Kilmister helped Ozzy with the lyrics so it was never going to be totally straight.
Greeting Card Lyric: “I’ve seen your face a hundred times, everyday we’ve been apart.”
A Day to Remember – ‘You Had Me At Hello’
ADTR’s rabid following fills moshpits worldwide with their deathcore meets alt rock style. Sometimes though you just wanna let someone know you care without screaming in their face. ‘You Had Me At Hello’ takes the widely mocked Jerry Maguire line and makes it work in a sincere acoustic ballad that would make the more hardcore kids stop in their tracks and consider a tear tattoo. Slip it into your playlist after Folklore and it’ll go down a treat.
Greeting Card Lyric: “I’ve never seen a smile that can light a room like yours… would it be OK if I took your breath away?”
Killswitch Engage – ‘Always’
OK, this one is a bit morbid as Jesse Lyche pines for lost love over a slow grinding riff. The chorus though is a soulful and breathtaking singalong that would work for wedding vows if you got really stuck. And considering people use The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’ as a wedding song (it is clearly about stalking) then I am sure no one would object if you turned the lights low and broke out Boston’s finest to get down with. The video is more about familial love and is beautifully shot, but the song works for February 14 too.
Greeting Card Lyric: “I am with you always, From the darkness of night, Until the morning.”
Guns n Roses – ‘This I Love’
Chinese Democracy is widely mocked for its long gestation period and lack of Slash, Duff and Izzy. But amongst the chaos, Axl Rose birthed some seriously great rock songs. ‘This I Love’ is a brilliant GnR ballad, piano and synth strings accompany Axl’s vocals until three guitarists jump in and elevate this song to classic status. The fact the current lineup has Slash play the solo in his own style is a set highlight. Often unlucky in love, old Axl pours his heart into the passionate lyrics as he finally finds a soul mate. Every other bogan will have ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ playing, go with a deep cut.
Greeting Card Lyric: “There’s no one else could make me feel I’m so alive… I’ve searched the universe and found myself within her eyes”
Slash with Fergie – ‘Beautiful Dangerous’
You wanted Slash? Well take Slash with a great effects pedal and add Fergie, secret rock goddess. It’s damn sexy as Fergie rises to the occasion of accompanying rock royalty and she nails the vocal – bad attitude and all. After her misguided attempt to sex up the American National Anthem, she gets the vibe right here. I don’t know if a song can sound like leather and lace, but this one does. The video plays up the stalker vibe but the song itself captures the thrilling ride love can be.
Greeting Card Lyric: “I wanna jump deep into your cloud, ‘cause something tells me it’s gonna rain.”
The Vandals – ‘I Have a Date’
The Vandals once sang a hilarious song about a girl who was hot, until she spoke. But on their cover of The Simpletones’ ‘I Have a Date’ they are really sweet and quite sincere. This might be better suited to your pre-Valentine’s day warm up. It has a great 90s jamming punk riff and will get you pumped up for the evening ahead. It’ll remind you of being in Year 9 and getting giddy that someone smiled at you.
Greeting Card Lyric: “I have a date, with the cutest girl in town… and I’m the happiest boy around.”
Wednesday 13 – ‘Ghoul of My Dreams’
Not everyone wants cute dates like The Vandals. Wednesday 13 prefers them a little more undead. I mean it is gross, but still kind of nice. He really seems to like her. I’m not one to judge but if you’re down for it then Wednesday 13 could be your February 14 soundtrack. Certainly you’ve got to admire the commitment to go beyond until death do us part.
Greeting Card Lyric: “I know this sounds sick, I gotta bite you on the neck and make you mine.”
Volbeat – ‘I Only Wanna Be With You’
Volbeat added their hard rock stylings to this Dusty Springfield cover and it makes for a hefty serenade to the love of your life. The good thing is the vocal range probably suits most so you can put this on in the car and won’t sound totally tone deaf. Really nice climax too with a hell of a jam on the riff.
Greeting Card Lyric: “It doesn’t really matter what you say or do, I wanna spend each moment, any day with you.”
Ghost – ‘Cirice’
Maybe you like it a little more gothic? Not Type O Negative ‘Love You to Death’ gothic or even HIM ‘Buried Alive by Love’ gothic, but just enough doom and synth to put a little black eyeliner on? Well Ghost delivers that in spades. Most of their songs are about loving Satan but they can make you dance too. They actually won a Grammy for ‘Cirice’. Like most songs here we can overlook the creepy interpretation and go straight to the big melodic chorus that you will use to express your undying love to someone. I cannot recommend using the word ‘merge’ to romance someone outside of this context. A Nameless Ghoul totally nails the solo too.
Greeting Card Lyric: “Now there is nothing between us, From now our merge is eternal.”
Nine Inch Nails – ‘The Fragile’
Trent Reznor came to notoriety for winning a Grammy for saying “fist fuck” and breaking MTV because he wanted to “fuck you like an animal.” And then he did The Fragile, a two disc epic record that explored all matters of emotion. Amongst them was this little gem, the title track. It is a completely straight up vow to stand by someone despite your flaws, and accompanied by ‘We’re In This Together Now’, is a clear expression of love to a rose amongst thorns. You’ll both end up screaming the chorus by the end of the night, and then you’ll probably put on ‘Closer.’
Greeting Card Lyric: “she matters, when everything is meaningless…”
Here it is live at Soundwave Festival in Adelaide
Queens of the Stone Age – ‘Make It Wit Chu’
It is widely accepted that Josh Homme is sexy. Period. So when he crunes along to a groovy porno riff, the effect is intoxicating. If you put this on, you are very confident the night is ending well. The blues solo hits the spot just right, and you’ll find yourself hummy along well into the early hours of the morning.
Greeting Card Lyric: “If I told you that I knew about the sun and the moon, I’d be untrue. The only thing I know for sure, Is what I wanna do, Anytime anywhere.”
Skid Row – ‘I Remember You’
Skid Row are symbolic of a lot of late 80s or early 90s rock bands that release mega ballads that made ladies scream, only to be disappointed when the rest of the album was balls to the wall hard rock. ‘I Remember You’ is incredibly cheesy, but sung with Michael Bolton-as-Jack Sparrow levels of conviction. Sebastian Bach might not have gone onto greater heights, and neither has the band, but when they soar in the last chorus they are among the angels. Epic.
Greeting Card Lyric: “‘Cause you’ll always be my dream come true, oh my darling I love you.”
The Darkness – ‘ I Believe In a Thing Called Love’
I once went to a wedding that used this as their bridal exit for their ceremony. It was a phenomenal start to the party that saw everyone erupt in applause. The video, all silver jumpsuits on a spaceship with puppet aliens is iconic too. Delta Goodrem covered this as a piano ballad and totally missed the point. Love is fun, man. Embrace it, enjoy it and sing about it (in falsetto of course).
Greeting Card Lyric: “I wanna kiss you every minute, every hour, every day.”
Metallica – ‘Nothing Else Matters’
James Hetfield wrote the lyrics to a simple little riff he had been playing around with, a lament to life on the road while missing your loved one. He was actually ashamed to share it with his bandmates, lest they stop thinking of him as Mr ‘Seek & Destroy’, the ‘Master of Puppets’, enterer of Sandmen. But they got it, and producer Bob Rock pulled a great performance out of him. He likes to get a little aggressive when singing it live and the last solo totally wails, but it remains a tender love song at it’s heart. I suspect it’s enduring appeal is that it avoids cliches for the most part and keeps the message simple, captured by the title refrain. Sounds brilliant when accompanied by an orchestra too.
Greeting Card Lyric: “Forever trusting who we are, and nothing else matters.”
Blink 182 – ‘All the Small Things’
Blink 182 went from freshmen humour punks to senior emo over the course of four albums. In between they released one of the great rock songs, with a killer video, and let’s be honest – probably the sweetest lyrics ever committed to punk tape. I’m not 100 percent sure the lyrics aren’t about a psycho break up but love is many things: crazy, stupid and romantic – perfectly captured by the chorus.
Greeting Card Lyric: “Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na-na-na…”
In Case of Emergency Bonus Track: Buzzcocks – ‘Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)’
Hopefully your night has gone swimmingly and romance is alive and well. But look, if your date doesn’t work out then put on this Buzzcocks classic and let Pete Shelley do the work for you. Plenty more fish in the sea and all that…
Awkward Conversation Starter Lyric: “You spurn my natural emotions, You make me feel like dirt, and I’m hurt.”
Plenty More Fish in the Sea Bonus Track: Steel Panther – ‘All I Wanna Do is Fuck (Myself Tonight)’
Speaks for itself really.