Niela Orr at The Believer:
The clichés of romantic ballads can be a comforting reprieve from the coldness of the world. Pop ballads are fugue states of feeling, offering reams of experience in three minutes or less. Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” is the ultimate alternate-universe lament, as if Russell translated the multiverse theory from the jargon of physics into lyrics. Semi-unofficially, Wikipedia says “A Song For You” has been covered over 217 times, on studio albums, live recordings, tours, and American Idol stages. It’s been recorded by musicians as diverse as Donny Hathaway, Aretha Franklin, Beyoncé, Bizzy Bone, Amy Winehouse, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo. Seriously unofficially, the song has been covered thousands more times, interpolated, sampled, and strummed at cafés, quoted in marriage vows, hummed at memorials, two-stepped to at ‘70s spring dances, and poignantly blared in two-person car concerts. Like every great ballad, the song’s lyrics lend themselves to an easy expression of intimacy. “A Song for You” is as blank-slate heart-rending as any song that’s been dedicated to a lover on a radio station’s dedication hour, when the lyrics are cherry-picked to pluck at heart-strings.