For being the only month with less than 30 days, February sure has a lot going on – Chinese New Year, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and it’s Black History Month. On a personal note, the 9th of February is my mom’s birthday. Happy B-day, Mom! The shortest month isn’t coming up short on songs either. In continuing with our tradition of month-themed playlists, I’ve compiled 10 great “February” songs.
These songs skew more recent than in my previous month playlists. The oldest tune is from 1989, and half of them are from the aughts or later. So, contemporary music fans, you ought to find something to like here. As usual, there’s a wide variety of genres represented. Another thing unique to this list is it has two instrumental jazz tunes. Please drop us a line if you know a great “February” tune we left out!
Lou Reed – “Xmas in February”
Songwriter: Lou Reed
On “Xmas in February,” a track from the hugely successful New York album, Lou Reed tells of a veteran named Sam who lost his arm in the Vietnam War, and “if he didn’t have that opium to smoke, the pain would never ever stop.” Sam returned home to find his wife and kid had left him and he can’t find a job. Reed doesn’t sing but rather recites the bleak anti-war lyrics.
Goo Goo Dolls – “Two Days in February”
Songwriters: John Rzeznik, Robby Takac, and George Tutuska
A deep cut from the Goo Goo Dolls’ third album Hold Me Up, the ballad “Two Days in February” was recorded outside and you can hear cars passing by. The song is about an ex-lover who now lives across the country. The singer tries to play it off like he’s over that person, yet he hung their picture on the wall. The Goo Goo Dolls would blow up five years later with “Name,” which topped the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Dar Williams – “February”
Songwriter: Dar Williams
Singer-songwriter Dar Williams was a fixture on the contemporary folk scene in the 1990s. On “February,” a cut from her acclaimed album Mortal City, Williams sings about how the last month of winter can symbolize the end of a relationship. I threw your keys in the water, I looked back/They’d frozen halfway down in the ice/They froze up so quickly, the keys and their owners
Foo Fighters – “February Stars”
Songwriters: Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, and Pat Smear
Genre: Alternative rock
“February Stars” is mellow for three minutes before The Foos crank up the distorted guitars. Frontman Dave Grohl described The Colour and The Shape album track as, “Just a song about hanging on by the tips of your fingers and hoping you don’t slip and fall.” The video below is a passionate performance from the 2006 live acoustic album Skin and Bones.
Regina Carter – “Forever February”
Songwriter: Regina Carter
The first-ever instrumental tune on a month playlist comes courtesy of Detroit-born violinist Regina Carter. I listen to a lot of jazz, but I must confess, I’ve never really listened to a jazz violinist. This lovely song is a glimpse of what I’ve been missing. “Forever February” is an original composition from Carter’s 2000 album Motor City Moments, which JazzTimes called in a rave review “a soulful shout-out to her stylistically diverse Detroit hometown.”
The Chills – “February”
Songwriter: Martin Phillipps
Genre: Indie rock
New Zealand rock band The Chills have been at it since the ‘80s, during which they were a significant part of the Dunedin sound. Music journalist Matthew Bannister describes this music created by bands from Dunedin, New Zealand as “marked by the use of droning or jangling guitars, indistinct vocals and often copious quantities of reverberation.” I was only familiar with the group’s outstanding 1990 album Submarine Bells. However, “February,” a cut from their 2004 EP Stand By, makes me want to check out their more recent stuff.
Josh Groban – “February Song”
Songwriters: Josh Groban, Marius de Vries, and John Ondrasik
Genre: Operatic pop
The last single from Josh Groban’s third studio album Awake, “February Song” peaked at #13 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. Groban said in an interview that “February Song” is about one February when things were changing for him. He’d wrapped up touring and broken up with his girlfriend, so he wanted to write a song about it.
Marcus Miller – “February”
Songwriter: Marcus Miller
Another instrumental jazz tune! This one comes from bass god Marcus Miller. On this number from his ninth solo album Renaissance, Miller’s thumping bass is forward in the mix, as is proper. By the way, if you have SiriusXM, be sure to tune in to Miller Time with Marcus Miller on the Real Jazz channel. Miller plays a wide range of fusion, bebop, hip-hop, swing, R&B and more while providing insightful commentary between songs.
The Avett Brothers – “February Seven”
Songwriter: The Avett Brothers
Genre: Folk rock
The Avett Brothers are an indie folk band from Concord, North Carolina. “February Seven,” a single from their seventh studio album The Carpenter, peaked at #10 on the Adult Alternative Airplay chart. Songwriter Scott Avett said in an interview that the song is about a lesson he learned on Feb. 7 but left it at that. Many interpret the song to be about adultery.
Charli XCX – “February 2017” (feat. Clairo and Yaeji)
Songwriters: Charlotte Aitchison, Katherine Yaeji Lee, Claire Cottrill, Charles Teiller, Caroline Beatrix Maurin, Alexandre Teiller, and Alexander Guy Cook
“February 2017” is from pop star Charli XCX’s acclaimed third studio album, Charli. The song features singer-producer Yaeji and singer-songwriter Clairo. “This song is basically about me being a shitty person and doing something really hurtful to someone so brilliant and amazing in February 2017,” Charli XCX said. “This song is about asking for forgiveness.”
Last year during SXSW, we previewed Charli’s documentary Alone Together. We also sat in on her SXSW-exclusive commentary and Q&A session.