I Made You This Mix: Non-Mushy Love Songs

by: Hillary Tinerella 

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Welcome back to I Made You This Mix, where In Our Words writers make mixtapes for the world, this edition is a rollicking good romp through the unsentimental, brought to you by Hillary.  

Remember that scene from the early ‘90s Steve Martin/Rick Moranis opus Parenthood where Rick Moranis’s character walks into his estranged wife’s classroom and begins crooning “Close To You” by the Carpenters? If not, it was a totally heartwarming scene, but also extremely sappy.

Some of us are are in that “crush’” stage where confessions of “birds suddenly appear[ing] every time [they] are near” might be ill-received, or we have damaged little Grinch hearts (me!), or we want to express a more platonic type of love. Each of these songs suits at least one of the aforementioned needs. Most of these songs only use the second person and steer clear of gender-specific pronouns, but a couple of them are specifically directed towards women and are included simply because they are songs that rule very hard and fit the theme.


1. “Your Name Is Tattooed On My Heart” by Screeching Weasel

I’ll start this list off right with a song by perennial hometown faves Screeching Weasel. Tattoos are generally in the badass category (unless they are of Tweety bird). Thus, despite the affection laid so bare in this ditty, the (maybe impractical) notion of tattooing your love’s name on your heart is totally badass and NOT mushy.

2. “Special Brew” by Bad Manners

While this song explicitly states “I love you,” it does it in ska form. And as we all know, ska is so fun that nobody can take it as serious business. Play this for your crush and you’ll be too busy skankin’ to worry about feelings.

3. “Rebel Girl” by Bikini Kill

This is one of the two songs on this list directed towards women. The reason it is included is because it is awesome. It expresses a love that could be interpreted platonically or romantically, depending on your situation, without getting too deep. If you have a rebel grrrl in your life, you are a lucky person. Share your appreciation of your rebel grrrl’s badassery through song. Specifically, this song.

4. “I Live For That Look” by Dinosaur Jr.

In the early stages of “like,” furtive glances are special treasures that need to be tucked away in the cerebral cortex, like finding four leaf clovers and pressing them in your favorite book.

5. “It’s Only A Paper Moon” by Nat King Cole

This could border on sappy, but it’s so damn classy that it transcends mush territory. Throw this on Spotify, put on your best tuxedo t-shirt, and break out the Mogen David, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a romantic night.

6. “Cooking Wine” by Alkaline Trio


This one belongs in the “damaged love” category; Matt loves his object of affection and his booze equally. This is from back when Alkaline Trio was good enough that most of my friends either wanted to get the Alk3 logo tattooed on their bodies or actually did. And then sometime around/after Good Mourning, the latter category started looking up good cover-up artists.  

7. “From Here” by Nana Grizol

Nana Grizol is a now-defunct band from Georgia that deserves love because they express love in such an all-encompassing way. When they tell you that you are loved, you believe them.

8. “I Miss You” by Kimya Dawson

This song’s pretty twee, but Kimya is such a cool lady that it’s okay. I post this on Facebook about every six months and tag all my best friends in it. Sorry, guys. It’s not spam (or mushy!) when it comes from the heart and not from processed ham product.

9. “Skipping Stone” by Andrew Jackson Jihad

This song is about two people supporting each other through the good times and the bad. It’s a good one for singalongs with friends or to warble while clumsily strumming your acoustic guitar to a new lover.

10. “I Just Wanna Do It With You” by the Mr. T Experience

“I love you, and it’s not the Prozac talking.” Great line. It’s earnest, sweet pop-punk about hanging out despite long distance. It’s perfect for those of you in the farther-out ‘burbs with star-crossed city-dwelling lovers who don’t wanna pay for Metra rides often enough. This is in the vein of “I Just Want To Have Something To Do” by the Ramones, a far superior song that should already be on your playlist anyway.

11. “A Little Bit” by Lykke Li

Lykke Li is only a little bit in love with you. No more, no less.

12. “Trust” by 7Seconds

This is heartfelt ‘80s hardcore. It’s a song that I devote to my besties and to my partners alike. It’s good for when you want to share your feelings (your hardcore feelings) with hardcore punk to soften the mushiness.

13. “Delirious” by Luka Bloom

I’m a big fan of Irish music (I even took step-dancing lessons at the Old Town School when I was nine). This song is very accessible for those of you who don’t dig Irish music, though, as it’s not full of obscure Irish instruments and fiddly bits. It’s just an Irish guy whose adorable accent comes through quite a bit. Anyway, it’s about that dizzy feeling you get being around the person you like. Definitely a good “new crush” song.

14. “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” by Meatloaf

This is the second song on this list that’s directed specifically towards women, but I needed to include something from the best soundtrack of all time, and also the song is really directed towards rock’n’roll. So play it for when you want to say, “hey baby, I love you, but my true love is sweet, sweet rock’n’roll.”

15. “Evil Friend” by Deadboy and the Elephantmen

This song is so vague, it could be interpreted as not even being a love song at all. Its vagueness makes it perfect for those times when you want to play games with your potential lovers, you little devil you. Keep them guessing.

16. “Gallery Piece” by Of Montreal

This song is intense, but mushy it is not. This is about freaky, complicated love (“I want to show you off/I want to tell you lies/I want to write you books”) which most love is, in my humble yet all-knowing opinion. This is not a song you wanna play for someone on your first date, but once you have them hooked and wanna keep it mush-free you’re good to go.

17. “I Found A Reason” by The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground’s songs always strike a good balance between sentimental and cynical, and this song is a great example of that.

Bonus: “You Belong To Me” by Eddie Vedder and Cat Power
Haha, I punked you guys. This list is totally sappy. But this is SUCH A GOOD SONG.
And it was in The Jerk. Youtube the Jerk version for some sweet sax solo action. Also, might I point out that I started this article out with a Steve Martin reference and came around full-circle. Peace out!

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