Readers recommend playlist: songs that say what love is

A reader goes through your nominations seeking the meaning of love, with Roxy Music, New Order, Madness and Sade among those offering answers

Here is this week’s playlist – songs picked by a reader from your suggestions after last week’s callout. Thanks for taking part. Read more about how our weekly series works at the end of the piece.

Veteran rock band Foreigner sure want to know what love is. Instead of telling them to go off and Google it, let’s enlist the help of a selection of musicians and musical styles, their tunes all recommended by you, to find the answer.

The song referenced above seems to imply that love is a feminine thing. What does Sharon Van Etten, a woman, think? Oops! Best not listen, lads. She fears love, and her pain is almost overwhelming when she sings Your Love Is Killing Me. How about some beautiful jazz instead? Sadly, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman only know love through other people – but They Say It’s Wonderful.

Listen to the playlist on YouTube.

Luckily, Fessor Funk is knowledgeable and understands that Love Is Such a Good Thing – indeed “a many splendoured thing”. Well, that’s great, but his funky workout doesn’t define love. Maybe a suave Roxy Music approach is required? “Love Is the Drug – and I need a fix.” Some researchers say love’s euphoria is the equivalent of smoking crack cocaine. Hmm. You wouldn’t marry someone who was on crack, would you?

New Order’s Thieves Like Us is more informative: “Love is the cure for every evil / Love is the air that supports the ego.” But they add, brutally: “Love cuts your life like a broken knife.” Eurythmics affirm New Order’s view: “[Love]’s savage and it’s cruel / And it shines like destruction / It distorts and deranges / And you’re left like a zombie.” No wonder they think Love Is a Stranger. Foreigner, are you sure want to know love?

Perhaps we should solicit some left-field opinion. Venetian Snares intones: “My Love Is a Bulldozer in heaven / My dick feels so hard, it could break apart.” Wow. Is that the love that Foreigner, self-confessed “dirty white boys”, are seeking? Actually, maybe a ramrod, glitchy aural assault that sounds like a computer with a virus isn’t their thing. Gentler on the ears are Aberfeldy, who think “Love Is An Arrow, a virus, an addiction, a good way to lose a friend, an odd shape and a thing that I can’t describe.” Thanks for nothing.

How about some deep house from Lil Louis and Tammy? Tammy tells us Love Is … Afraid of the Dark: “Love is the glow you feel in your heart.” It’s a promising start, but then the song becomes a dance to heartbreak without a definitive answer.

What about asking a musical representative of the city of brotherly love? Alfie Davison asserts from Philadelphia that Love Is a Serious Business, but sadly leaves us short on detail. So, let’s try Common’s introspective rap – in which he proclaims that by loving another he is able to love himself, dropping his macho swagger to describe what Love Is ... I think he’s on to something; he’s a man to whom Sade could sing Your Love Is King.

Ah, finally, Foreigner, we have some answers: “Love is the best.” At least Madness say so in It Must Be Love. And Roy Noble and Al Bowlly declare Love is the Sweetest Thing. There you go, blokes – just find the best, sweetest thing. Except ... damn. They also croon: “Love is the strangest thing.” Does that mean love is the best, strangest, sweetest thing? I’m so confused.

Before we admit defeat, it’s worth paying a visit to My Little Airport. Bingo! “Love Is Not a Romantic Song, it’s just the thing you fear to give.” So, Foreigner, love was inside you all along. Seems only right to close our playlist with your I Want to Know What Love Is.

Not all songs appear on the Spotify playlist as some are unavailable on the service.

New theme: how to join in

The new theme will be announced at 8pm (BST) on Thursday 15 June. You have until 11pm on Monday 19 June to submit nominations.

Here is a reminder of some of the guidelines for readers recommend:

Paul Hayes

The GuardianTramp

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