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Best Love Songs Ever: 60 Timeless Tracks For Lifelong Lovers
List & Guides

Best Love Songs Ever: 60 Timeless Tracks For Lifelong Lovers

From lung-busting ballads to intimate sentiments, the best love songs can put into words the feelings we find it hardest to express.

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We all have songs that take us to a special place in our hearts. For many of us, the most sacred are the ones that make us feel all gooey and warm inside, giving us a goofy grin we just can’t shake – and the best love songs can elicit the most gooey feelings and the goofiest grins, whether you’re cooking a romantic meal or sitting on a cushion-covered, candle-lit floor, whispering sweet nothings to each other.

But love isn’t only that. The best love songs also engage with love’s complexities and deal with the flutters of uncertainty that give love its exquisite pain.

Need help saying how you feel, or want to get your loved-one up and dancing? Don’t say another word – we have you covered, thanks to the best love songs of all time.

Listen to our Love Songs playlist here, and check out our best love songs, below.

60: Carly Simon: The Right Thing To Do (1973)

“I start with words that are usually emotionally brought on,” Carly Simon said in 2017. Making its way into this list of the best love songs is a track that documents one of popular music’s most famous, if combustible pairings – Carly Simon and James Taylor. Written three months into their relationship, for Simon’s third album, No Secrets, the song features the classic opening line “There’s nothing you can do to turn me away”. This was meant literally by Simon, as Taylor had recently revealed to her his struggles with addiction, and Simon assured Taylor that she would stay with him. One of the best Carly Simon songs, The Right Thing To Do has been a classic of devotion and standing together through life’s challenges ever since.

59: Jason Mraz: I’m Yours (2008)

Few songs capture the joy of being head over heels in love as brilliantly as I’m Yours by Jason Mraz. Described by the songwriter as being “about finally giving into love and life’s possibilities”, it’s a reggae-tinged slice of summer romance that became a Top 10 hit in the US. Bouncy and upbeat, I’m Yours is one of the best love songs to speak of going with the flow of a relationship and not overthinking things. In this age of mindfulness apps and yoga retreats, it’s a message that’s more relevant than over.

58: James Blunt: You’re Beautiful (2004)

Eternally popular, James Blunt’s Grammy-winning hit from 2004, You’re Beautiful, is as inescapable as a besotted lover. Regularly played on commercial radio throughout the 2000s and selling more than four million copies worldwide, You’re Beautiful also stands as one of the best James Blunt songs. It was written about Blunt’s ex-girlfriend and boasted a catchy chorus that, even after all these years, remains stuck in your head. Though Blunt has denied the song’s romantic interpretation, there are many who would disagree, especially if its popularity as a wedding song is anything to go by…

57: Janelle Monáe: Make Me Feel (2018)

Many of the best Janelle Monáe songs celebrate love across boundaries and expectations. Via her ongoing multimedia Metropolis project, she explores human-android passion; and within other songs she explicitly celebrates being (in her own words) “a queer Black woman in America”. From Monáe’s 2018 album, Dirty Computer, Make Me Feel, with lyrics that get to the heart of how contrary love can feel (“I’m powerful with a little bit of tender”), is a wonderful track that believes true love starts with true self-acceptance. In the spirit of the lyrics, the song is accompanied by a video that revels in bisexuality: even the colours of the bisexual pride flag are coded into the clip’s lighting.

56: John Legend: All Of Me (2013)

With a whopping 1.9 billion streams on Spotify, John Legend’s 2013 piano ballad All Of Me is a heartwarming paean to loving someone, reminding us to love our partner’s imperfections every bit as much as their most captivating qualities. Written for his then fiancé (now wife), Chrissy Teigen, the single peaked at No.1 in the US and quickly become one of the 21st century’s best love songs – and for good reason. “The song is saying things that balance each other out,” Legend said in an interview with Fuse. “Even when I lose, I’m winning.” Anyone who’s in love can relate to that feeling.

55: Ed Sheeran: Thinking Out Loud (2014)

As the first single ever to spend a whole year in the UK Top 40, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud wasted no time at all in becoming one of the best love songs of the 2010s – and one of the best Ed Sheeran songs to boot. Written in the kitchen with fellow-songwriter Amy Wadge, the melody is reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, but the lyrics jettison lasciviousness in favour of exploring everlasting love. After all, that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

54: Charli XCX: Party 4 U (2020)

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, Charli XCX created the album how i’m feeling now, of which Party 4 U is the undoubted highlight: hearing Charli sing over a hypnotic, almost elegiac beat about parties while everyone was in isolated units held its own poignancy. But what makes this one of the best love songs of its time is the underlying premise of the song. The party and all of Charli’s personal touches are solely for one person, and everything is in the service of her love – whether he appreciates it or not. It’s a subtle paean to a tenacious kind of love, one which may not be wholly unrequited, but is certainly lop-sided and has future heartbreak running through it.

53: Aerosmith: I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing (1998)

Included on the soundtrack to the 1998 disaster movie Armageddon, Aerosmith’s bombastic power ballad I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing is bigger than an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Written by songwriter Diane Warren, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing became Aerosmith’s most famous hit and peaked at No.1 in the US and No.2 in the UK, its lyrics evoking a pair of doomed lovers clinging together as the apocalypse looms into view (“I just want to stay with you in this moment forever”).

52: Céline Dion: My Heart Will Go On (1997)

Richly arranged by film composer James Horner, with lyrics by Will Jennings, Céline Dion’s iceberg-sized My Heart Will Go On will forever be associated with the 1997 movie Titanic, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Bringing the doomed romance of Jack and Rose to life – two soulmates ripped asunder as their ship sinks into the North Atlantic Ocean – My Heart Will Go On speaks of a love that will never die. It can melt even the iciest heart.

51: The Corrs: Runaway (1995)

Irish folk-pop group The Corrs scored a US hit right off the bat with their 1995 debut single, Runaway, a song about eloping with a lover, set to the delightful sound of Sharon Corr’s fiddle. Four years later, a remix by Tin Tin Out saw the song peak at No.2 in the UK, consolidating its place as The Corrs’ signature tune and one of the best love songs ever to emerge from Ireland.

50: De La Soul : Eye Know (1989)

“Hip-hop love, this is,” raps Posdnuos on Eye Know’s first verse, ushering in De La Soul’s playful yet profound offering of the heart. What makes it an even more delicious entry among the best love songs is that these gorgeous words are rapped over samples from two notoriously anti-love songs: Lee Dorsey’s Get Out Of My Life, Woman (the title speaks for itself) and Steely Dan’s cynical Peg. Eye Know’s promo video is full of perfect moments, too, from Posdnuos playing an imaginary trumpet, to Trugoy The Dove elbowing away a giant balloon. One to fall in love with again and again.

49: Foreigner: I Want To Know What Love Is (1984)

It can be hard to open up about your feelings, particularly when you’ve suffered from heartbreak in the past. “I’d been through a lot of relationships that eventually failed, and still searching for something that could really endure,” Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones later said of the inspiration behind one of the best Foreigner songs of all time. This resulted in the band’s 1984 single, I Want To Know What Love Is, a quintessential power ballad imbued with the majestic sweep of a gospel choir expressing Jones’ yearning to find lasting love. A year later, his wish came true: he met his wife Ann Dexter-Jones, and the couple remain married to this day.

48: Tina Turner: The Best (1989)

A true anthem in every sense of the word, Tina Turner’s hit single The Best , from her 1989 album, Foreign Affair, storms into our list of the best love songs with one of the most memorable lyrics in music history (“You’re simply the best/Better than all the rest”). Written by songwriters Mike Chapman and Holly Knight, it was originally recorded by Bonnie Tyler, but the “Queen Of Rock’n’Roll”’s version remains iconic. “It wasn’t written for her, but it was meant for her,” Knight told Dig! in an exclusive interview. “It was always meant for her… She shared her story with the world, and to be able to be victorious in the end, instead of a victim – this song captured that for her.” If you’re looking for love, find yourself someone who thinks you’re “the best” and you won’t go wrong.

47: The Real Thing: You To Me Are Everything (1976)

Peaking at No.1 in the UK, You To Me Are Everything, the debut single by The Real Thing, helped the British soul group break big in April 1976. Written by songwriters Ken Gold and Michael Denne, the song remains a joyous outburst of dedication and is arguably the greatest soul single ever recorded by a UK act. Not only one of the best love songs of the 70s, You To Me Are Everything re-entered the UK singles chart in 1986, in a remixed form which took it to No.5 – proof that the song’s sentiment will always ring true.

46: Simply Red: Stars (1991)

As one of the best Simply Red songs, the 1991 single Stars – a UK Top 10 hit from the album of the same name – found Mick Hucknall wearing his heart on his sleeve. With his voice rising from a lower octave to a soaring falsetto, it’s a song about needing the love of another to keep your feet on the ground (“I wanna fall from the stars/Straight into your arms”). If you’re in a relationship with someone who constantly has their head in the clouds, Stars can be a romantic reminder for them to come back down to earth.

45: Goo Goo Dolls: Iris (1998)

Included on the soundtrack of the 1998 movie City Of Angels, Iris’ lyrics took inspiration from the film’s story about an immortal angel (played by Nicolas Cage) who falls in love with a woman (Meg Ryan) and wishes to become human. “What an amazing thing it must be like to love someone so much that you give up everything to be with them,” Goo Goo Dolls’ frontman, John Rzeznik, told Songfacts. Unsurprisingly, Iris has achieved its own kind of immortality, constantly re-entering the charts more than a decade after its initial release. It’s amazing what love can do.

44: Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra: Somethin’ Stupid (1967)

As the only father-daughter duet ever to reach No.1 in the US, Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra’s 1967 single, Somethin’ Stupid, toys around with the foolishness of saying “I love you” too early in a relationship. We can all relate to a time when our hearts are saying one thing but our minds are saying another, so in this respect Somethin’ Stupid will be relevant as long as courtship still exists. Just try not to be the one who spoils it!

43: Spandau Ballet: True (1983)

As one of the 80s’ best love songs, True launched Spandau Ballet onto MTV and scored the group a US hit. A hushed ballad inspired by 70s soul and written about Altered Images frontwoman Claire Grogan, True was described by guitarist Gary Kemp as “a song about trying to write a love song to someone who didn’t know your true thoughts, but how difficult it is to spell out your feelings without seeming too foolish”. Everyone can relate to that.

42: David Bowie: Letter To Hermione (1969)

Hermione was a real person, and the emotions David Bowie spills in this song, released on his 1969 self-titled album, are incredibly personal. “I was in love with her, and it took me months to get over it,” Bowie has said. “She walked out on me, and I suppose that was what hurt as much as anything else, that feeling of rejection.” Bowie rarely wrote straightforward songs about any subject, so the relatively candid approach to love in Letter To Hermoine makes it something to treasure among the best David Bowie songs, as well as earning it a place among of the best love songs of all time.

41: Pretenders: I’ll Stand By You (1994)

Ditching their punky attitude on the sincerest of love songs, Pretenders’ 1994 hit I’ll Stand By You is a profound and heartfelt celebration of faithfulness as the bedrock of any relationship. A highlight from the group’s Last Of The Independents album, the song finds singer Chrissie Hynde promising to support her lover in their darkest hour, with the rising emotion in her voice giving us not only one of the best Pretenders songs but also the best love songs of the modern era.

40: Years & Years: Real (2014)

Written by Olly Alexander about experiences with an ex-boyfriend (he really had to go to the hospital on the night they met, inspiring the line “Broke my bones playing games with you”), Real was the first single from Years & Years’ debut album, Communion. Alexander has said, “It was important for me to get some male pronouns in some of the songs,” making Real an LGBTQ+ anthem about the specific experience of being a gay man in love. Not only one of the best love songs ever, it’s a pivotal moment of queer representation in mainstream pop music.

39: Dolly Parton: I Will Always Love You (1973)

Endlessly covered – most famously by Whitney Houston, in 1992 – the 1973 country ballad I Will Always Love You was Dolly Parton’s fond farewell to her former creative partner Porter Wagoner, with whom she shared a platonic relationship. Despite not being directly about a romantic pairing, I Will Always Love You is regarded as one of the best love songs of all time, with lyrics that remind us to treat each love interest we meet with respect, even if things don’t work out (“I wish you happiness/But above all this/I wish you love”).

38: Sixpence None The Richer: Kiss Me (1997)

Anyone who’s tried writing love poetry should appreciate this song. Inspired by the poems of Dylan Thomas, the lyrics to Kiss Me, by Sixpence None The Richer, are richly picturesque and full of imagery, depicting a couple dressed up to the nines and smooching under the moonlight (“Strike up the band and make the fireflies dance/Silver moon’s sparkling”). Famous for being featured on US TV show Dawson’s Creek, Kiss Me is unapologetically romantic and one of the best love songs of the 90s.

37: Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse Of The Heart (1983)

A power ballad written by Jim Steinman with Meat Loaf in mind, Total Eclipse Of The Heart was eventually offered to Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, who took it to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Combining the operatic fervour of Tyler’s gruff-voiced pleas (“And I need you now tonight/And I need you more than ever”), the song remains a karaoke favourite to this day, and is one of the best love songs to ever express the haunting and terrifying reality of desire.

36: Tracy Chapman: Baby Can I Hold You (1988)

Simply saying “I love you” can somehow be both a blessing and a curse. Say it too much and it loses all meaning; say it too little and there’s a risk romance will dwindle. That’s ultimately what Tracy Chapman’s 1988 single Baby Can I Hold You is all about. With lyrics that reflect on phrases her lover uses to win her affection, the song sensitively explores the importance of communication in any relationship (“I love you/Is all that you can’t say/Years gone by and still/Words don’t come easily”). It can be hard to find the words to express how we feel, but this standout among the best Tracy Chapman songs does wonders in showing us a way through.

35: Carpenters: (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970)

Written by songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it wasn’t until singer Karen Carpenter and her brother, Richard, covered it that (They Long To Be) Close To You emerged as one of the best love songs of modern times. A gentle piano ballad that brings out the best in Karen’s golden voice, it’s a true classic that captures the butterflies of love fluttering in our stomachs and sets them free to words of pure-hearted gratitude (“On the day that you were born the angels got together/And decided to create a dream come true”).

34: Luther Vandross: Never Too Much (1981)

His voice as smooth as velvet, Luther Vandross embarked on a solo career with the release of his debut single, Never Too Much, in October 1981. Speaking in 1982, Vandross reflected on the treatment of love in his songs, and credited vocalists such as Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross as his inspiration. “As a result of having a lot of female singers as my idols, my sensitivity level is much different than a lot of other guys singing,” he said. “That’s what I think people hear when they hear me singing.” With a gyrating post-disco groove and words that linger on the singer’s lips (“A thousand kisses from you is never too much”), Never Too Much is easily one of the best love songs of the 80s, and it saw Vandross explode into the mainstream as an instant R&B legend.

33: Joni Mitchell: My Old Man (1971)

Blue, the album from which My Old Man is drawn, is a record suffused with loss, regret, self-destruction and melancholy. Yet within it is, perhaps, the most tender song Joni Mitchell ever wrote. Her old man, she sings, keeps away her blues, and is “the warmest chord I ever heard”. “I remember leaving the house to give her space to finish My Old Man,” said Graham Nash, the romantic partner that inspired the song. “She’s an amazing woman. I’m proud to have been part of her life.”

32: Seal: Kiss From A Rose (1994)

In many ways, love can be like an addiction, and nowhere is this better expressed than on Seal’s 1994 single Kiss From A Rose, a beautifully orchestrated love ballad produced by Trevor Horn. While the violin and alto saxophone backing elevated Seal’s vocals to unsurpassable heights and made him a household name, its cryptic lyrics (“To me you’re like a growing addiction that I can’t deny”) were left open to interpretation. The song’s indefinable nature is, in fact, much like love itself – it means much more than words can express.

31: Madonna: Crazy For You (1985)

Given Madonna’s notoriety as 80s pop’s most prominent provocateur, songwriters John Bettis and Jon Lind were surprised when they were urged to offer her their heartfelt tune Crazy For You. At that time, Madonna was mostly known for upbeat, dance-oriented hits, but the “Queen Of Pop” was daring enough to embrace this powerful romantic ballad, and scored the second of her astounding run of US No.1 singles as a result. Full of innuendos and simmering with sexual desire, Crazy For You not only showcased Madonna’s growing virtuosity as a singer, but it also paved the way for her to flirt with brave lyrical touches.

30: Salt-N-Pepa: Whatta Man (with En Vogue) (1993)

A true groove among the best love songs, Whatta Man celebrates both glorious attraction and the incredible staying power of true love. It’s not only about “a body like Arnold with a Denzel face”, but also about being chilled with friends, spending time with the kids, and “heavy conversation for the mind”. The seven goddesses that are En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa are at the absolute top of their game here, oozing passion in every single note.

29: Marvin Gaye: Sexual Healing (1982)

No stranger to seductive ballads, Marvin Gaye’s 1982 single, Sexual Healing, saw him dabble in 80s synths to unashamedly convey the soul-stirring promise of love-making. With Gaye’s silky voice praising a lover for her healing powers in the bedroom, it’s a dazzling and magical recording that saw the Let’s Get It On songwriter sonically reinvent himself for a new decade, winning Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Instrumental Performance at the 1983 Grammy Awards in the process. Sadly, two years later, the 44-year-old Gaye was fatally shot to death by his father, making Sexual Healing his enduring swansong.

28: Cyndi Lauper: Time After Time (1984)

An 80s pop ode to commitment, Cyndi Lauper’s moving ballad perfectly captures the spirit of devotion. Painting a vivid picture of a relationship whose old memories temporarily unmoor us before the unconditional love of another brings us back from the brink, Time After Time is a genuinely romantic song. Sung as a duet with the song’s co-writer, Rob Hyman (The Hooters), it points out the importance of shared history in any loving relationship (“If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me, time after time”).

27: Stevie Nicks: Rooms On Fire (1989)

Not all love is forever, and Stevie Nicks’ blistering Rooms On Fire captures all the intensity of something that burns white-hot and leaves nothing behind but scorches and memories. Written for her then producer, Rupert Hine, and reflective of how thoroughly she fell in love with him, Nicks said the song was meant to “document this incredible adventure”. The Nicks-Hine relationship didn’t last, but this track has endured among the best love songs ever written.

26: Rufus And Chaka Khan: Ain’t Nobody (1983)

With a sexy synth-funk groove, Chaka Khan scored her breakout hit with a song that oozed sensuality. Not only was Ain’t Nobody sonically inventive for its time, but it’s also a lasting evocation of deeply-felt desire, whether that be spiritual or physical. Boasting a bravura vocal performance from Khan, Ain’t Nobody was one of the best love songs of the 80s, and it went on to be sampled by artists such as rap icon LL Cool J and pop group Liberty X.

25: Stevie Wonder: Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (1970)

Arriving like a special delivery, Motown’s greatest prodigy, Stevie Wonder, popped this jaunty soul stomper into the mailbox for us all to discover. Joyous and celebratory, Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours was a love letter that landed at No.3 in the US in 1970 and still deserves to be gratefully received by any lover who wishes to make their feelings clear.

24: Prince: Adore (1987)

Prince was no stranger to love songs, from My Love Is Forever, on his debut album, For You, to the 1994 UK chart-topper The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. But there’s something particularly devotional and hypnotic about Adore. It closes the Sign O’ The Times album, which tackles difficult and expansive themes, and to have a love song as that album’s climax feels especially therapeutic. “Always cry for love, never cry for pain,” as Prince sang on another classic track, the Parade album’s equally heartfelt ballad, Sometimes It Snows In April.

23: Ray Charles: Hallelujah I Love Her So (1956)

Bringing a euphoric gospel flavour to his uplifting take on rhythm’n’blues, Ray Charles’ peppy piano tune Hallelujah I Love Her So is a joy. Strutting like a smitten puppy wagging its tail, this trumpet-blasting proto-soul classic from 1956 is all about being in love with the girl next door. If you have someone who you rely on to bring you coffee in your favourite cup, we’re sure you will relate!

22: Elton John: Your Song (1970)

Arguably the greatest-ever love song written by lyricist Bernie Taupin and songwriter Elton John, it’s easy to see why Your Song is a wedding favourite. Pondering on which trade might be most helpful for expressing his love, from sculptor to potion-maker, Elton settles on what he knows best to win over the one he loves: “My gift is my song, and this one’s for you”. Thanks, Elton; after all, this is our gift, too. Your Song is for everybody with love in their hearts.

21: Dusty Springfield: Breakfast In Bed (1969)

Dusty Springfield’s first No.1 single was You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me – a deeply sad song that suggested her love was unconditional, yet fated never to be returned. Released on 1969’s Dusty In Memphis album, Breakfast In Bed is the same scenario (even quoting the lyrics to the earlier hit), taking place several years later, with the narrator’s love as strong as ever – while her lover uses that knowledge to their advantage. An adult, sexually ambiguous, almost masochistic entry among the best love songs, Breakfast In Bed is about the steadfastness of unrequited love, and the fleeting moments of joy it brings among the pain.

20: Otis Reading: These Arms Of Mine (1962)

Marking the arrival of one of the best soul singers of all time, Otis Redding’s breakthrough hit, These Arms Of Mine, has all the warmth of a loving embrace. Showcasing both the “King Of Soul”’s incomparable voice and his intuitive sense of heart-wrenching emotion, the lead single from his debut album, Pain In My Heart, is the perfect song to slow dance to. Still one of the best Otis Redding songs, These Arms Of Mine continued to find new audiences well into the 80s, thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack to the box-office smash Dirty Dancing.

19: Sam Cooke: Cupid (1961)

Set to a hip-swaying rhythm and regal orchestration, expressions of unrequited love are given wings on Cupid. With a melody soaring well above the clouds, it’s one of soul music’s best love songs, and it remains as timeless and dreamy as a lullaby. With a voice like an angel, Sam Cooke took his aim and made sure Cupid’s arrow would never miss.

18: The Righteous Brothers: Unchained Melody (1965)

With their dreamy cover version of Unchained Melody, The Righteous Brothers saw singers Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley score themselves a timeless classic. Set to a delectable Wurlitzer piano backing, the lyrics for Unchained Melody positively ache with romantic hunger, culminating in Hatfield’s spine-tingling falsetto (“I need your love”). Initially soaring to No.4 on the US Hot 100 in 1965, the song would later re-enter the charts following its inclusion in the 1990 movie Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, after which it finally reached No.1, staying there for seven weeks.

17: Nina Simone: My Baby Just Cares For Me (1959)

Originally a jazz tune written for the 1930 comedy movie Whoopee!, My Baby Just Cares For Me was covered by Nina Simone for her 1959 album Little Girl Blue. After Simone’s version soundtracked a 1987 advert for No.5 Chanel, the song rocketed to No.5 in the UK, becoming one of Simone’s biggest hits. Not only that, it earns its place among the best love songs for its jaunty expression of being wowed by a lover’s steadfast and single-minded devotion. We could all learn from that.

16: Roberta Flack: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1972)

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was originally written as a folk song by Ewan MacColl, who was an artist more used to political screeds that romantic expression. But it became his most famous work and, in a sensual version by Roberta Flack, recorded for her debut album, First Take, the song found its ultimate form. Emotional and understated, it’s undoubtedly one of the best songs ever recorded about love at first sight. It was included in the 1971 film Play Misty For Me precisely because of these qualities: director Clint Eastwood chose the track because it represented “absolute love”.

15: Percy Sledge: When A Man Loves A Woman (1966)

Giving voice to the perils of male obsession, 60s soul sensation Percy Sledge turns in an electrifying vocal performance on When A Man Loves a Woman. Stirring and deeply insightful, anyone who wants to know how love can transform a man – for better and for worse – should pay attention to these lyrics (“He’d give up all his comforts/And sleep out in the rain/If she said that’s the way/It ought to be”). In Sledge’s world, love is both a blessing and a curse – it’s up to the listener to decide what to make of it.

14. k.d. lang: Constant Craving (1992)

“I just wrote it from the perspective of desire and longing,” k.d. lang said of Constant Craving, in 2017. One of the best k.d. lang songs, it was composed the year that lang came out as gay in The Advocate magazine. She has said, “At the time there weren’t really any other pop stars who had properly come out, especially female. I was on the cusp of being really famous, so there was a lot to lose.” This context, so rare at the time, has made Constant Craving particularly matchless as a modern classic among the best love songs.

13: Etta James: At Last (1960)

Set to the swell of orchestral strings and a bravura vocal turn from Etta James, At Last perfectly captures the billowing air of romance that comes with finding true love (“At last, my love has come along/My lonely days are over and life is like a song”). As an old jazz standard dating back to 1942, it fell to the matriarch of R&B, Etta James, to breathe new life back into the song, which she took to No.47 on the US Hot 100, ensuring its status as a favourite at wedding ceremonies to this day. At Last was even performed by Beyoncé at former US President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, in 2009, during which Obama danced on stage with his wife, Michelle. Both monumental and historic, At Last will last forever.

12: Roxette; Listen To Your Heart (1988)

Roxette’s Per Gessle was very conscious of the power of Listen To Your Heart. He called it the “The Big Bad Ballad” and claimed that, in the writing process, he was “trying to recreate that overblown American FM-rock sound to the point where it almost becomes absurd. We really wanted to see how far we could take it.” One of the best Roxette songs, Listen To Your Heart had stylised origins, but the true emotion at its core – inspired by a friend of Gessle who was embroiled in romantic turmoil – was undeniable. Included on the band’s 1988 album, Look Sharp!, and brought out by the powerful vocals of Marie Fredriksson, Listen To Your Heart remains one of the best love songs of all time.

11: Method Man: I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By (featuring Mary J Blige) (1995)

The subgenre “thug-love” is usually hip-hop or trap-based, and often has an unspoken message that to love is to be brave: it requires pushing against peer pressure to be tough, promiscuous or uncaring. There have been some truly beautiful examples, from LL Cool J’s early work to Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen, but this duet between Mary J Blige and Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man is the greatest of all thug-love tracks. The expectation to remain hardcore in hip-hop circles, rather than to make what was seen as “softer” R&B at the time, meant that Method Man has admitted he was “scared” to release the track. “I didn’t even want to put the record out,” he said in 2023. “I knew what it would do. I just didn’t want to be put in that R&B light. Remember, we had a problem with that…”

10: Fleetwood Mac: Everywhere (1987)

The wave of spiralling 80s synths and airy harmonies on Everywhere gifted Fleetwood Mac yet another lovelorn pop hit, peaking at No.4 in the UK and No.14 in the US. One of the best Fleetwood Mac songs, it was released in November 1987, as the fourth single from the group’s Tango In The Night album, and was penned by the angelic-voiced songstress Christine McVie. Presumed to be about keyboardist Eduardo Quintela, whom she had married the previous year, Everywhere basks in a honeymooner afterglow, spelling out McVie’s longing to be by her lover’s side, wherever he may be, and shining a light on the warmth of companionship we all long for.

9: Ben E King: Stand By Me (1961)

Pitching an a cappella idea with songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller around the piano, Ben E King sought to bless Stand By Me with his gospel leanings, aiming to transform the words of a biblical psalm into a love song for his partner, Betty Nelson. With words that convey the power of enduring love as he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with his lover as mountains crumble into the sea, Stand By Me is an epic achievement among the best love songs, peaking at No.4 in the US and later re-entering the charts in 1986, following its inclusion in Rob Reiner’s movie of the same name.

8: Al Green: Let’s Stay Together (1971)

The mellow R&B classic Let’s Stay Together owes a lot of its success to Al Green’s undeniably passionate vocal performance, and the song quickly became his signature hit after peaking at No.8 in the US in February 1972. Lurking beneath the surface of its lyrics are not-so-subtle hints of sexual tension, as Green masterfully imbues words of undying loyalty into palpable sensuality (“You make me feel so brand new, and I want to spend my life with you”). Easily one of the best love songs ever recorded, Let’s Stay Together is one of the dreamiest soul ballads you’ll ever hear.

7: The Cure: Lovesong (1989)

Though you might not think it from The Cure’s predisposition for depressive soundscapes, songwriter Robert Smith is a true romantic at heart. He met his wife, Mary Poole, at age 14, and wrote Lovesong for her as a wedding gift before it found its way onto The Cure’s 1989 album, Disintegration. “It’s the most upfront, true, frank and honest thing I’ve ever sung,” Smith said of Lovesong while talking to Select magazine in 1991. “It’s about love, but also the inability to ever really know someone.” Upon hearing it for the first time, Smith claimed that Mary smothered him with kisses, and they pair are still married to this day. That’s the power the best love songs can have!

6: Talking Heads: This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (1983)

A 1983 single by Talking Heads, This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) saw frontman David Byrne attempt to write his first love song, for his then partner, Adelle Lutz, whom he would later marry in 1988. Appearing on Talking Heads’ Speaking In Tongues album, the song was warmly embraced by fans for its honesty and sincerity, yet it remained as unconventional as the best Talking Heads songs had always been. “I intentionally, when I wrote it, wanted to make a love song that didn’t trade in the kind of normal cliché lyrics,” Byrne explained in an interview, “and all that kind of stuff that we’ve all heard a million times.” By equating being in love with a sense of homeliness and belonging, This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) skilfully avoids all the traps of corniness many love songs fall into, and deserves to be considered one of the best love songs of the 80s.

5: The Ronettes: Be My Baby (1963)

The Ronettes – Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley – were the kind of women to make anyone instantly surrender their hearts. Ronnie’s fervent delivery was anything but passive, and it more than met producer Phil Spector’s enormous “Wall Of Sound” production technique. In fact, Be My Baby, their breakthrough single, proved so impactful that it almost caused Beach Boy Brian Wilson to crash his car after hearing it on the radio. “I had to pull off the road, I couldn’t believe it,” Wilson told Q magazine. “The choruses blew me away; the strings are the melody of love. It has the promise to make the world better.”

4: The Beatles: Something (1969)

A highlight from The Beatles’ 1969 album, Abbey Road, Something was a triumphant love ballad penned by self-described “dark horse” George Harrison in order to serenade his then wife, Pattie Boyd. Scoring the band yet another No.1 hit and proving Harrison’s emergence as a songwriter of note, Something was even praised by Frank Sinatra as “the greatest love song of the past 50 years”.

3: Aretha Franklin: I Say A Little Prayer (1967)

After becoming a hit for Dionne Warwick in 1967, I Say A Little Prayer was given a makeover by Aretha Franklin, who transformed Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s gospel-tinged wonder into a bona fide masterpiece. “It’s a better record than the record we made,” Bacharach admitted in a radio interview. Reaching No.4 in the UK and No.10 in the US in October 1968, Franklin’s soaring and spiritual rendition of I Say A Little Prayer ranked at No.117 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, standing the test of time as one of the best love songs ever made.

2: The Beach Boys: God Only Knows (1966)

A lush ode to romantic infatuation from the mind of Beach Boys supremo Brian Wilson, with help from lyricist Tony Asher, God Only Knows will put its arm around your shoulder as you gaze at the night’s sky and muse on everlasting love. “As long as there are stars above you/You never need to doubt it/I’ll make you so sure about it” Wilson’s youngest brother, Carl, sings with a voice as heavenly as any celestial being.

1: Kate Bush: Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (1985)

Re-entering the charts in 2022, thanks to its inclusion in Stranger Things, Kate Bush’s 1985 hit Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) is one of the most enduring love songs ever recorded. “It’s about a relationship between a man and a woman,” Bush said at the time of the song’s release, as the lead single from her landmark Hounds Of Love album. “They love each other very much, and the power of the relationship is something that gets in the way.” With lyrics that muse on what might happen if the two lovers could swap bodies, and how they might understand each other better as a result, Running Up That Hill is a sweeping romantic epic set to thunderous drums and biblical synths. Few songs dissect the dilemma of interpersonal dynamics as cleverly as this, and that’s why this standout among the best Kate Bush songs also tops our list of the best love songs of all time.

Looking to take things to the next level? Check out the best songs about sex.

Original post: 6 February 2021

Updated: 3 February 2022, 1 February 2023. Words: Luke Edwards | 3 February 2024. Word: Jeanette Leech

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