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“If Only You Knew” by Patti Labelle
In this sweet tale of unrequited love, I imagine Ms. Patti Labelle doodling in her journal, trying to work up the courage to finally tell that person how much much she loves them. Her rich, soulful voice swells as the song progresses, growing increasingly frustrated that the object of her affection “could probably care less.”
“Can You Feel The Love Tonight” by Elton John
A heartwarming classic from The Lion King that will still bring tears to your eyes when you’re old and gray.
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley
There have been many renditions of this iconic song, from tge A*Teens cover in Disney’s Lilo & Stitch to Twenty-One Pilots’ version. But nothing beats the original.
“All My Life” by KC & JoJo
Is it really a wedsing if this KC & JoJo anthem isn’t on the playlist?
“I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James
Etta James neatly packages the hurt and the pain of watching the one you love love someone else in this three-minute masterpiece. Beyoncé gave it an update for the film Cadillac Records in 2008.
“Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé feat. JAY-Z
Bey and Jay have made a lot of music about their relationship both solo and collectively—Lemonade, Everything Is Love, “’03 Bonnie & Clyde”—but this is the collaboration that cemented their creative bond.
“Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves
Not all romance is like the furious first rush of love. Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” is about the gentler kind that illuminates everything—just like the day’s dawn and dusk.
“Favourite Colour” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen might use Canadian spelling in tbe Emotion closer “Favourite Colour” but anyone can relate to this ballad about being right next to the person you’re most into.
“Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey
Not only did Mimi write and record this 1990 hit, but she unwittingly inspired a whole generation of new singers, including Beyoncé, who cites “Vision of Love” as the reason she began doing vocal runs.
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince
The Purple One penned several love songs, but this R&B jam is a masterclass in trying to persuade someone to get romantic with you.
“Red” by Taylor Swift
Here’s one for those dwelling in the past: Taylor Swift’s “Red” isn’t about a current love affair, but one that’s come and gone. Still, it captures the exhilaration of falling headlong for someone: “Loving him was red.”
“Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
If you were in love in the late 2000s, you probably knew Karen O’s memorable plea—”They don’t love you like I love you”—by heart. The line is so good Beyoncé borrowed it for “Hold Up” almost two decades later.
“Someone Like You” by Adele
If it’s over but doesn’t feel like it, the mistress of heartbreak’s got you. Adele’s paean to former loves earned a Grammy and hit #1 in over 20 countries.
“God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys
A fun game to play at a wedding is “When Are They Going to Play ‘God Only Knows’?” That’s because this 1966 Beach Boys tune is as tender and celebratory as they come.
“Anyone Else But You” by The Moldy Peaches
Kooky, a little nonsensical, and sweet as can be, “Anyone Else But You” showed the soft side of indie rockers The Moldy Peaches. Is there another duet out there that references Nintendo games and MP3s? I can’t imagine there is.
“Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac’s catalog covers the full emotional gamut, from ecstatic adoration to sly recrimination. This Christine McVie composition is one of their most uncomplicated love songs, about the easy rush of falling for someone.
“Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean
Strange how the best love song of all time only came out in 2011! Hard to imagine having a crush before Frank Ocean’s bashful refrain—”Do you think about me still?”—pulled on our heartstrings last decade.
“Love on the Brain” by Rihanna
Did this song really come out in 2016? The raw soul-tinged vocals on this bold Rihanna belter sounds like it could have come out 60 years ago.
“A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell
Despite featuring just a couple of instruments and Joni Mitchell’s pensive vocal line, “A Case of You” packs a punch. Artists as varied as Prince, Tori Amos, and James Blake have covered the bittersweet folk song.
“Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez
I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’ not to think about you. It’s not working, though.
“No Ordinary Love” by Sade
Could The Shape of Water even exist without the “No Ordinary Love” video? Sade plays a hot mermaid in love with a human—and it doesn’t end well. Luckily, the song is amazing.
“A Woman in Love” by Barbra Streisand
If your love story feels like a gauzy, pastel-tinged 1980s power ballad and you want to tell the world about it, try bellowing along to this Barbra Streisand classic.
“Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens
Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name detailed the impassioned affair between Elio and Oliver in the north of Italy, and deserved a love song as delicate and lush as the film. Sufjan Stevens provided it with the wistful, Oscar-nominated “Mystery of Love.”
“Take My Breath Away” by Berlin
Top Gun wouldn’t have been the high-flying tale it was without this synthesizer dream. Younger fans will also remember the song played an important role in Charles and Liza’s first kiss.
“Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” by Sophie B. Hawkins
Love in the ’90s looked like Sophie B. Hawkins in sleeveless flannel and ripped-up jeans, wailing that she wished she was your lover (and your mother as well, which is a bit confusing).
“Right Here (Human Nature)” by SWV
You might be shocked to find out that not everyone in SWV loved the Teddy Riley remix of “Right Here” that stayed on the Billboard chart for a huge 54 weeks. I know, right?
“Love at First Sight” by Kylie Minogue
Find love in the club with dance-pop queen Kylie Minogue, whose irrepressible hit was nominated for a Best Dance Recording Grammy in 2003.
“Show Me Love” by Robyn
Before she became the queen of self-love with “Dancing on My Own,” Swedish pop star Robyn first hit the US charts with this demand to “Show me love and what it’s all about, all right.”
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
Houston had fans wishing for her talent—and a bodyguard who looked like Kevin Costner—with this epic ballad from the film The Bodyguard.
“Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry
You don’t need to be an adolescent to thrill to the “no regrets, just love” sunniness of this track. Combining airy optimism with perfect bubblegum vibes, Katy Perry scored a win with this DGAF anthem.
“Crazy for You” by Madonna
After the success of “Like a Virgin,” Madonna cemented her place as pop queen with this romantic slow jam, which became her second-ever #1.
“Save the Best for Last” by Vanessa Williams
No, this song isn’t about dessert. It’s about someone finally coming to their senses and realizing you were right there all along.
“Islands in the Stream” by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
This country duet is the musical equivalent of the “Smiling Face With Three Hearts” emoji.
“Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” by Selena
The title of this cumbia-flavored Selena Quintanilla hit is a reference to the sound your heart makes when it’s beating super fast—extremely apt for hanging with your boo.
“I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher
Real life lovers Sonny and Cher supplied the ultimate 1960s hippie love song. Notable versions that followed included a duet between UB40 and Chrissie Hynde and, um, Cher with Beavis and Butthead.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
If your emotions have Game of Thrones–level endurance—no wind, no rain, no GD mountain can get in your way—Diana Ross’ slower cover of the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell soul standard is just the oath you need.
“My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion
Titanic. Leonardo DiCaprio. Kate Winslet. The key changes. The door (it was definitely big enough for both of them!!!!!!). Anyway. This is a perfect song.
“No One” by Alicia Keys
No one (sorry) does raw passion like Alicia Keys, and this stripped-back ballad is the best example of her ability to go full voice as well as full heart.
“1 Thing” by Amerie
Breathless, irrepressible, memorable: “1 Thing” has chops. This noughties track is a bonafide whirlwind, fuelled by a funk sample and Amerie’s buoyant patter.
“Do I Love You” by The Ronettes
The Ronettes had more famous songs, but “Do I Love You” features some of the prettiest harmonies and most delightful flirtations ever recorded by the mid-century girl group.
“The Fall” by Rhye
Is it hot in here? Rhye’s Mike Milosh has the one of the smoothest soul croons of the modern day, and this track from debut album Woman is as suited to after-5 romancing as it is to morning-after chilling.
“I Belong in Your Arms” by Chairlift
Indie pop duo Chairlift made the perfect track for waltzing down the street hand in hand, updating the classic Americana phrase “Crimson and clover” for the 2010s: that’s “crystal and clover” to you.
“Lovesong” by The Cure
For the morose among us (guilty!), a gothy lullaby originally written by Cure frontman Robert Smith as a wedding present for his fiancée in the late ’80s.
“Heartbeats” by José González
Some might be surprised to hear that this gentle guitar ballad is a cover of a raucous electro-pop jam, because since 2003 it’s been making you cry—even in ads for TVs.
“Lovefool” by The Cardigans
Romeo and Juliet contained plenty of heartbreak and miserable tunes to match, but Swedish pop group The Cardigans added a little sugar to the soundtrack with the bouncy, unforgettable “Lovefool.”
“Fell in Love With a Girl” by The White Stripes
For everyone who loves Lego! JK. This riotous rock song wasn’t The White Stripes’ first single by any means, but it is the one that introduced a wider audience to the eternal question: Were Jack and Meg White siblings or married?
“Everlong” by Foo Fighters
Make an older millennial cry with this alt-rock dazzler from Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters. Jagged guitars never sounded so sweet.
“Head Over Feet” by Alanis Morissette
Ignore people who tell you “head over feet” isn’t a thing. It is since Alanis Morissette wrote this joyful lil’ ditty.
“I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
Only one song is allowed to refer to someone’s “daddy” in an ambiguous (parental? or sexual?) sense, and it’s this three-and-a-half-minute smolder by Jersey rock star Springsteen.
“Adorn” by Miguel
A list of love songs wouldn’t be complete without the incorrigibly smooth sounds of R&B king Miguel. Hey, if he wants to let his love adorn me, that’s his choice.
“Hyperballad” by Björk
Truly the best (or only) song ever written about throwing trash off the side of a mountain so you can appreciate being safe at home with your person.
“Boo’d Up” by Ella Mai
“Parentheses” by The Blow
“When you’re holding me / We make a pair of parentheses.” It’s a comforting image of unconditional support that both grammar and math nerds can relate to. Or anyone!
“Fantasize” by Liz Phair
Indie singer-songwriter Liz Phair is most known for her caustic takes on heartbreak and romantic skepticism, but in this short and sweet Whitechocolatespaceegg track, she goes the more tender route.
“Closer” by Tegan and Sara
Twins Tegan and Sara want you to come closer—but not just in the physical sense. They want your heart, your soul, your mind, and your emotions, too.
“Simply the Best” by Tina Turner
Weird how this song actually just seems to confirm that Tina Turner herself is the best. Oh well!
“Dig Me Out” by Sleater-Kinney
The course of love never did run smooth. Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker’s wail conveys the hectic and temporary drama of infatuation: “You got me / For now.”