Your guide to the perfect Valentine’s Day playlist

Photo by Josephine Trueblood | Get inspired by the ‘80s mixtape.

From The Seeds to Caroline Polachek, these love songs are the perfect addition to any mix.

One of the most special and affordable Valentine’s Day gifts is a thoughtfully-curated playlist. Honoring the ‘80s cassette mixtape, complete with a well-designed cover, a shareable playlist is a timeless way to convey a loving message to a friend or partner. Here is your step-by-step guide to creating the perfect Valentine’s mix. 

Consider setting the tone with a prominent title, as this will be the first song the recipient sees. Songs like Father John Misty’s sweet and happy “Real Love Baby,” Caroline Polachek’s poppy “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings” or Mitski’s floating and emotional “Valentine, Texas” are all fantastic because of their defined messages. 

Alternatively, a zinger at the end is another good way to tie a playlist together, especially if you pick lots of your favorite songs with off-topic titles. Wolf Alice’s beautiful “Don’t Delete The Kisses” or INXS’ power-ballad “Never Tear Us Apart” are a few classics to end with. No matter what you do, make sure to double check the lyrics, as songs like Fiona Apple’s “Valentine” may send a sadder message than intended. 

Every good playlist needs at least one deep cut, throwback song to add a sense of timeless nostalgia. ‘60s girl groups like The Ronettes are full of loving songs, like their hit “Be My Baby,” but many standards from that era, like Dusty Springfield’s cover of “The Look of Love” or “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and The Shondells are also great options. If you’re looking for a more upbeat, garage rock tune for your Valentine, “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” is the perfect obscure love song for you. Look at some of your favorite artists from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, because they will definitely have at least one love song no matter their genre, like The Beach Boys’ “All I Wanna Do.”

It is absolutely critical to have a few songs that your listener can relax into, making a nice balance of more upbeat love songs and slower ballads. Beach House’s “Space Song” or Radiohead’s “All I Need” are great slow songs to add an interlude to your mix. Most of Slowdive’s discography along with Galaxie 500 and other dream pop bands always have some good-vibes staples.

If romantic love songs aren’t your thing, consider making an anti-Valentine’s day playlist, chock-full of My Bloody Valentine’s complex hits and the vicious and loud “Valentine” by Snail Mail. The broken heart playlist is also greatly appreciated on this holiday, songs like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” by Nancy and Lee pair well with all your cry-your-eyes-out favorites.

General playlist-gifting tips include being cautious about the length: it is important to give your Valentine a listenable playlist, not a five-hour behemoth or two songs thrown together. A last-minute listen-through is also a must, as the flow of a playlist is just as important as the songs on it. Further, don’t forget a poignant title! No matter if your mix is sweet or sour this Valentine’s Day, enjoy the process and listen to your favorite love song on repeat.

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