Somewhere, right now, an American teenager is purchasing his first acoustic guitar, dedicated to achieving one dream: getting a girlfriend.
You’ve seen them before. In coffee shops, on college campuses, crouched in the corner, playing some familiar song about love and loss. Sometimes they’re staring down at their guitars, as if the pain of the world is too great to even face. Other times, they’re gazing longingly into the distance, as if searching for some redemption in this hollow existence.
The message is always clear, though. These are sensitive, poetic young men, expressing their anguish through the power of music. Sure, they’re relying on other people’s poetry and other people’s music, but, like, songwriting is really, really hard, you guys.
These are the songs they learn so that they can share their beautiful vision with the world and also maybe convince that cute girl from psych class to go on a date with them.
1. “Screaming Infidelities” – Dashboard Confessional
The soundtrack to too many teenage heartbreaks to count, Dashboard Confessional’s breakout hit sent a generation scrambling to learn guitar, eager to take the stage at the local open mic night and prove to the girls in the audience that they had, like, “feelings and sh*t.”
2. “You’re Beautiful” – James Blunt
Fact: Even if you hit all the right notes, you’re technically not playing this song correctly until you master the trick of allowing a single tear to slide down your face during the final verse.
3. “Iris” – Goo Goo Dolls
This is the tune so epic in its raw emotion that it convinced all of us to take the movie “City Of Angels” seriously. You know, the one where Nicholas Cage plays an angel who falls in love with Meg Ryan. That one.
4. “Crash Into Me” – Dave Matthews Band
Ignore the fact that the lyrics sound like something detectives would find scrawled in a serial killer’s notebook. In the tradition of “Every Breath You Take,” this stalker anthem’s combo of gentle chords and sensitive crooning has fooled some listeners into assuming it’s actually a beautiful love song.
5. “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” – Death Cab For Cutie
Can we just admit that Ben Gibbard’s entire career has actually been a secret effort to help geeks lose their virginities?
6. “Flake” – Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson took the basic acoustic love song formula and mellowed it out for the marijuana crowd. Playing this proves that, while you may be heartbroken, you can still chill.
7. “More Than Words” – Extreme
Confession: Every roommate I’ve ever lived with has, at some point, had the displeasure of walking in on me practicing this tune. In my defense, it’s a fun song to play.
8. “I’m Yours” – Jason Mraz
Such a perfect little love song that we all gave Jason Mraz a pass on that terrible hat he always wore. Dudes all over America mark the first warm day of the winter semester by leading sing-a-longs of “I’m Yours” on the quad. It’s just tradition at this point.
9. “Your Body Is A Wonderland” – John Mayer
Listen, you have to respect the fact that John Mayer is a talented guitarist. His skill allowed all of us to overlook the fact that these lyrics belong in a seminar on sexual harassment.
10. “Glycerine” – Bush
Hey, Gavin Rossdale was married to Gwen Stefani. Must’ve done something right. And it doesn’t hurt that this is quite possibly the easiest song to play on guitar, ever.
11. “Hey There Delilah” – Plain White T’s
All together now: “Ohhhhhhhh, it’s what you do to me…”
Not every guitar guy at a college party will be impressive enough to distract the room from beer pong and doing shots. When that happens, you have to go with a song everyone will start to sing along to.
12. “Fix You” – Coldplay
A few minor tweaks to the arrangement, and this is perfect for acoustic guitar. Now you just have to hit those Chris Martin notes. Good luck!
13. “New Slang” – The Shins
Thanks a lot, “Garden State.” If Zach Braff never made it big in Hollywood, he’d be out there on his, like, ninth year of college, toting his guitar to parties and telling women, “You have to hear this song; it’ll change your life.”
14. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” – Green Day
So, it has nothing to do with love. But it is the first song you learned to play on guitar. Even if you learned to play guitar before the song was written, it still is. Which also makes it the first song you played to impress a girl.
15. “Wonderful Tonight” – Eric Clapton
It’s a classic for a reason, and acoustic arrangements of it are gorgeous. Just make sure no one in your audience knows that Clapton actually wrote it because he was annoyed with his wife for not being able to make up her mind about what she wanted to wear to a party.
16. “Wherever You Will Go” – The Calling
For all you non-guitarists out there, I’ll let you in on a little secret: This entire song is based around the four chords you learn to play during your very first lesson. It’s the “sensitive guitar guy” version of training wheels.
17. “Patience” – Guns N’ Roses
For when your audience consists of people who are actually excited about seeing Guns N’ Roses perform again.
18. “Blackbird” – The Beatles
The typical, easy-to-play Beatles song for dudes trying to get the girl. Just ignore the fact that it’s actually about racism.
19. “Everlong” – Foo Fighters
C’mon, Dave Grohl even recorded an acoustic version just to save you the trouble of changing the arrangement yourself. Of course you learned this one.
20. “I’ll Be” – Edwin McCain
Damn, this song. Is “I’ll be the greatest fan of your life” a perfect lyric or an embarrassingly terrible one? It’s impossible to honestly answer that when you’re too busy crying.
21. “Wonderwall” – Oasis
"Wonderwall." I don’t know what one is, you don’t know what one is, Liam Gallagher barely knows what one is.
What we do know is that this Oasis classic has been helping college dudes get laid for two decades (OH MY GOD REALLY?) now.
It’s just perfect. The strumming pattern is repetitive, the chord changes are simple enough that a beginner can master them in no time, and the lyrics are the kind of vaguely-emotional nonsense that can be applied to any situation or relationship.
Just don’t ask any guitar instructors to teach you how to play it. They’re so damn tired of this song.