Alternative Valentines: 22 Love songs from across the world

To celebrate Valentine's Day 2021, we have made an eclectic selection of love songs from the Real World catalogue. Featured here are 22 songs which ruminate on this most universal of themes from a wide range of perspectives.

Listen to all 22 of the songs featured below on our Spotify playlist: Alternative Love Songs.

1. The Book of Love

Peter Gabriel (Originally by The Magnetic Fields)

Originally recorded by Peter some years ago, this song is a cult classic afforded the grand, cinematic treatment. One of the stand-outs from The Magnetic Fields’ three-disc opus 69 Love Songs, here deeply romantic strings remain unceasingly faithful to Stephin Merritt’s perceptive dissection of love’s simplicities.

I was introduced through a friend to the Magnetic Fields, and really fell in love with the song writing and the quirky way the band interpreted their material,” says Peter. “This wonderful lyric is deeply romantic and a little cynical at the same time, which opens it to an audience that wouldn’t buy slush.”

Taken from the album Scratch My Back (2010)

2. Laru Beya


Honduran musician and songwriter Aurelio Martinez  describes ‘Laru Beya’ as an upbeat love song chronicling the joy of romance on the beach. The title of the song translates as ‘by the beach’. As all Garifuna communities lie on the coast, the beach witnesses most first kisses, secret trysts, and passionate love affairs.

Taken from the album Laru Beya (2010)


3. Oudelali

Bab L’ Bluz

Bab L’ Bluz’s frontwoman Yousra Mansour sings in her local Moroccan Arabic dialect on this song which she says is ‘about true love — the kind that transcends us’.

“Can you explain to me what happened at first sight, my beloved?
Listen and try to read between the lines
You’re the one who stole my mind beyond my control, my beloved
Love flows from heaven drop by drop
Heals wounds and refreshes the air my beloved”

Taken from the album NAYDA! (2020)

4. Let It Calm you Down

The Breath

The Breath’s Ríoghnach Connolly says that the lyrics to this song came to her fully-formed whilst she was performing on stage one night at a music club in Manchester, upon seeing her lover enter at the back of the room.

Taken from the album Let the Cards Fall (2018)

5. Lamagit


George Mamua Telek’s songs and his hauntingly beautiful voice traverse many musical styles, capturing the spirit of the Tolai people of Papua New Guinea. Blending contemporary grooves with Melanesian rhythms, the music is enriched with island harmonies and textured environmental sounds. The lyrics of ‘Lamagit’ reflect a feeling of true love:

“This woman I love, for this woman I cry,
I wail I think about this for days I cry,
I wail out loud eeei tang tangi
For this woman”

Taken from the album Serious Tam (2000)

6. Song to the Siren

Sheila Chandra (Originally by Tim Buckley)

‘Song to the Siren’ was written by Tim Buckley and his writing partner Larry Beckett and was first released in 1970. The song’s reference to the sirens tempting sailors at sea stems from Greek mythology. It conveys the intoxicating nature of a lover’s attraction, and suggests that this can be a wonderful thing, but also potentially dangerous. Sheila Chandra recorded this version of the song especially for a Real World compilation album called Gifted: Women of the World.

Taken from the album Gifted (2000)

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7. Supernatural Love


‘Supernatural Love’ is the title track of Colombian band Sidestepper’s 2015 album. It’s a playful, uplifting song inspired by the otherworldly feeling of true love.

Taken from the album Supernatural Love (2015)

8. My Heart, My Life

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, primarily known for his outstanding vocal delivery of classical Sufi music, is also renowned for writing songs that can be interpreted as both romantic and spiritual. In this song, which was recorded for his album Night Song (a collaboration with Canadian producer/guitarist Michael Brook), the lyrics may refer to either the lover or the divine:

“You are my heart, you are my life, oh beloved, oh merciful
Sit right in front of me and I’ll keep looking at you all the time
You are my heart, you are my life, oh beloved, oh merciful”

Taken from the album NIGHT SONG (1996)

9. In Your Eyes

Peter Gabriel (feat. Youssou N’Dour)

‘In Your Eyes’ is the closing track of Peter’s classic 1986 album So. It has become synonymous with Cameron Crowe’s 1989 romantic comedy Say Anything on which it serves as a kind of anthem for the two main characters as they fall in love.

The song features guest vocals by Senegalese artist Youssou N’Dour, who sings a part at the end of the song translated into his native Wolof. The lyrics were inspired by an African tradition of ambiguity in song between romantic love and love of God.

Taken from the album SO (1986)

10. Casadh An tSúgáin

The Gloaming

A beautiful, poignant song in the Irish language in which a man looks back on his youth, remembering the love of his life who he sadly had to leave behind when he emigrated to another country.

“And if you’re with me, be with me, love of my heart,
And if you’re with me, be with me at my house’s threshold,
If you’re with me, every inch of your heart will be with me,
It gives me a thousand regrets that you won’t be with me Sunday as my wife”

Taken from the album The Gloaming 2 (2016)

11. I lOVE yOUR smILE

Charlie Winston

‘I Love Your Smile’ is a classic contemporary love song which features on Charlie’s popular 2009 album Hobo.

Taken from the album Hobo (2009)

12. Yol Bolsin

Sevara Nazarkhan

Sevara Nazarkhan is an Uzbek singer, songwriter and musician. Her instrument is the doutar – a 15th century, two-stringed, Central Asian lute that is plucked not strummed. On ‘Yol Bolsin’, Sevara capture the emotions of hopeful, purposeful – not arranged – love.

Taken from the album Yol Bolsin (2003)


13. Nostalgie


Separated by distance, two lovers send notes and letters on this, the title track of Tama’s debut album Nostalgie.  The lyrics are written in Malian vocalist Tom Diakité’s native language, Bambara.

“When you leave for Burkina, go and tell my lover
I received her letter joyfully
When you leave for Bamako, tell my lover
I received her photo and have eyes for nothing else.

Nostalgia for love. Nostalgia for a friend. Nostalgia for a wife.”

Taken from the album Nostalgie (1999)

14. Cariad Cyntaf


Welsh band 9Bach recorded this song for their debut, self-titled album in 2009. “It is a beautiful love story about first love and the beauty of a women,” says lead singer Lisa Jen Brown. “It is about that feeling you get in your belly when you fall in love for the first time.

Taken from the album 9Bach (2009)

15. Singing Bird

Iarla Ó Lionáird & Sinéad O’Connor

Sinéad O’Connor and Iarla duet on this Irish traditional folk song which uses the image of a singing bird to represent ‘the lover’.

Taken from the album I Could Read The Sky (2000)

16. Honey and the Moon

Joseph Arthur

‘Honey and the Moon’ is one of Joseph Arthur’s most famous songs. It became a cult phenomenon following its use in 2000s teen drama The O.C. 

Taken from the album Redemption’s Song (2002)

17. Dulce Embelezo

The Creole Choir of Cuba

This classic love song captures the possibilities and illusions symbolised by a tempting kiss. It is sung in Creole, Cuba’s second language, first created by slaves by fusing words from their different African languages with those from the Taíno language of Caribbean indigenous people, with French, Spanish and English. Creole was spoken by the choir’s parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

Taken from the album Tande-La (2010)

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18. Bucket of Love


‘Bucket of Love’ is taken from Austrian singer-songwriter Pina Kollars second album, Guess You Got It.

“Well I got hooked by my loving, I guess you got hooked too boy,
and on a cold and rainy night I wanna cuddle up with you.
Well I got hooked by my loving, I guess you got hooked too boy,
and everyday I see those lovely eyes I fall again in love with you.”

Taken from the album Guess You Got It (2005)

19. Persistence of Memory

Afro Celt Sound System

Featuring vocalist Iarla Ó Lionáird, ‘Persistence of Memory’ is one of the most beautiful moments on Afro Celt Sound System’s third album Further In Time. The video was the idea of director Jean Francois Julian, who travelled to over twenty countries and four continents covering Asia, North and South America, Africa, the Eastern Bloc, and Iceland in an amazing six-week period. The startling imagery makes ‘Persistence of Memory’ a truly memorable, and culturally vibrant visual experience.

Taken from the album Further In Time (2001)

20. T’Amo

Tenores Di Bitti

Tenores di Bitti are Sardinia’s celebrated masters of traditional ‘tenores’ singing, a tradition that dates back over a thousand years. They do not use written music – this precious musical tradition is handed down orally from father to son. Their singing is characterised by the sounds of the natural landscape and the singers stand one in front of the other, forming a circle; their singing is a symbol of the strength, of the social cohesion, which is felt inside.

“I love you because you’re gifted
But I don’t have a hold on loving you
Because I swore in front of the altar
My heart and life to another woman
But you force me
To love you, flowered palm
Because you’re an attractive magnet.”

Taken from the album S’amore ‘E Mama (1996)

21. Welcome Sailor

The Imagined Village

‘Welcome Sailor’ is a traditional English love song, given a contemporary re-working by Sheila Chandra and Chris Wood. It features on the 2007 album The Imagined Village: an ambitious reinvention of the English folk tradition, embracing modern-day culture in all its diversity.

Taken from the album The Imagined Village (2007)

22. Blood of Eden

Peter Gabriel (feat. Sinéad O’Connor)

Sinead O’Connor’s voice means that musically there is something to set it off – two emotional, needy voices, in a way. We actually had quite a lot of trouble with the song. Initially, Daniel Lanois wasn’t keen on this at all and it didn’t settle down. I couldn’t get the groove to work and it went through probably four or five different feels, and less became more in terms of the rhythm content because it verged on sounding trite. But there was also, in the central part of the song, musically and lyrically, a point of union, a breakthrough. So, emotionally, I feel close to this song.” — Peter Gabriel, 1992.

Taken from the album US (1992)

Alternative Love Songs

To celebrate Valentine’s Day 2021, we have made an eclectic selection of love songs from the Real World catalogue. Featured here are 22 songs which ruminate on this most universal of themes from a wide range of perspectives.

Listen on Spotify

By Oran Mullan

Main image: taken from the artwork for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook's 1996 album Night Song. Photo credit: Robert Leslie.

Published on Sat, 13 February 21

Further reading

South African cellist Abel Selaocoe pays tribute to Hukwe Zawose on new track ‘Zawose’

'Zawose' is taken from his forthcoming debut album on Warner Classics, Where Is Home (Hae Ke Kae).

Dennis Cahill (1954 – 2022)

We were saddened to learn of the death of Dennis Cahill, guitarist in The Gloaming, on 20 June 2022.

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A new remix of 'Gnawa Beat' by Italian DJs and producers Bayaka.

Track of the day: ‘Kurunba’ by Rokia Koné & Jacknife Lee

'Kurunba' is the second single from the forthcoming album BAMANAN.