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February 14, 2020

Cry Us a River—The 14 Most Romantic Songs about Water

As you probably know, we’re sort of obsessed with water around here. Two years ago, we shared a little bit of this obsession with a simple playlist full of songs about water, and it’s become one of our most popular blog posts ever.

This year, for Valentine’s Day, we’ve decided to create a new playlist focused exclusively on water-themed love songs. Put on your headphones and grab some tissues—the waterworks will soon be open!

  1. Cry Me a River, Justin Timberlake. You know that moment when your ex calls you back and you’re sort of over them but not really so part of you is glad they’re hurting, too? Justin’s been there, and this 2002 Grammy-winner helped establish him as a bona fide star.
  2. Cry Me a River, Ella Fitzgerald. Different song, different era, same sentiment. This 1953 Arthur Hamilton composition has been covered by numerous male and female singers, but no one could top this version by the immortal Ella Fitzgerald.
  3. Blue Bayou, Linda Ronstadt. Homesickness and lost love swirl together in this 1977 country rock hit, with her incomparable sweetness, power and range giving it the mournful edge over Roy Orbison’s 1961 original.
  4. Down by the River, Neil Young. Can you love someone too much? With its violent chorus and extended, distorted guitar solos, this 1969 jam might not fit your definition of “romantic”—or (depending on your relationship status) it might be exactly what you had in mind.
  5. Beyond the Sea—Bobby Darin. If you found the Neil Young a little dark for your tastes, this late-era swing classic from 1959 will get your heart bouncing again.
  6. Little Surfer Girl, The Beach Boys. There isn’t much water imagery in this 1963 single, but somehow you can feel the wash of the waves driving the harmonies. Plus, check out the cover art.
  7. River of Love, George Strait. Country love songs are usually about roads, but when you’re George Strait you can find romance anywhere you want. This one found its way to #1 on the country charts in 2009.
  8. Take Me to the River, Al Green. The Talking Heads’ version is more famous, but Green’s 1974 original is far more romantic—as long as you don’t mind having your money and your cigarettes stolen.
  9. Up on Cripple Creek, The Band. No one’s really sure where Cripple Creek is, but to the drunken miner in this 1969 tune, it’s where he’ll find his dream lover when his working days are done.
  10. Dry River, Dave Alvin. Alvin is a fringe legend in rock history, co-founder of the Blasters and a frequent Los Lobos collaborator. This folky 1991 solo doesn’t sound romantic at all until the last verse, when you realize “someday it’s gonna rain” is the song every hopeful heart yearns to sing.
  11. River Deep—Mountain High, Ike & Tina Turner. Love songs don’t get any further over the top than this 1966 soul-pop hybrid. How did any mere recording studio contain Tina Turner?
  12. The Tide is High, Blondie. Love is goofy—and so is this 1980 cover of the Paragons’ 1967 Jamaican hit—but Deborah Harry makes you feel every tug of that Caribbean tide, doesn’t she?
  13. Brandy (You're a Fine Girl), Looking Glass. Poor Brandy! All the sailors want to marry her, but the man she loves tells her “my life, my love, and my lady is the sea.” This 1972 #1 hit is the pinnacle of early 70s soul-pop.
  14. Sea of Love, Phil Phillips. This all-time make-out classic—Phillips’ only Top-40 song—peaked at #2 in 1959, then became a hit for the Honeydrippers in 1984. It doesn’t need any water imagery beyond the word “sea,” because the atmosphere is deep and sweet enough to drown in.

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