The 51 Best Love Songs of All Time, Ranked

50. “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional (2002)

Christopher Carraba MTV Unplugged Dashboard Confessional

 

“My hopes are so high/That your kiss might kill me/So won’t you kill me/So I die happy.”


Scott Gries/Getty Images

This essential emo/alt-rock love song was Dashboard Confessional’s first Billboard Top 10 hit, and rightfully so. “Hands Down” captures the youthful crush stage of love and lust with lyrics perfectly suited for an AIM away message.

Listen to “Hands Down” here.

49. “Hold You in My Arms” by Ray LaMontagne (2004)

Ray Lamontagne performs on stage at the 'From the Big Apple to the Big Easy' New York City's Benefit Concert for the Gulf Coast at Radio City Music Hall September 20, 2005 in New York City.

 

Ray LaMontagne performing in New York City in 2005.


Scott Gries/Getty Images

This ballad is a simple, sweet ode to lazy afternoons spent in the company of a loved one. “Hold You in My Arms” was one of Ray LaMontagne’s first breakout singles, and remains a staple heard at wedding venues around the country.

Listen to “Hold You in My Arms” here.

48. “Love On Top” by Beyoncé (2011)

Beyonce MTV 2011 performing Love On Top AP Images

 

Beyoncé performing “Love On Top” at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.


AP

Beyoncé is one of the greatest artists of our generation, with unrivaled vocal talent and a constantly evolving sound and style. “Love On Top” is Beyoncé at her most joyous, belting out lyrics in a way that lets you hear her smile through the words.

Go watch “Homecoming” on Netflix, and I dare you not to grin like maniac when “Love On Top” enters the set.

Listen to “Love On Top” here.

47. “Crazy for You” by Madonna (1985)

Madonna Crazy For You

 

Madonna is the queen of pop, and this is her best love song.

Vevo/Madonna

You probably don’t think much about “Vision Quest,” the movie for which this song was made, but “Crazy for You” is one of Madonna’s best love songs. It also earned Madonna her first of many Grammy Award nominations.

Listen to “Crazy For You” here.

46. “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees (1977)

Popular English vocal trio the Bee Gees

 

From left to right, brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb.


Sydney O’Meara/Getty Images

When you think Bee Gees, you probably think dance and disco. But along with “Emotions” (a fantastic break-up song), “How Deep is Your Love” is evidence of the Bee Gees’ ability to cut to the heart of a soulful connection between two people.

Listen to “How Deep is Your Love” here.

45. “Love Story” by Taylor Swift (2008)

taylor swift

 

Taylor Swift performing in 2007.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Taylor Swift cemented her role in pop culture with her heartfelt guitar ballads, and “Love Story” bridges the gap between her country roots and modern pop music. The song epitomizes the blissfully ignorant days of idyllic young love.

Listen to “Love Story” here.

44. “When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss (1995)

Alison Krauss When You Say Nothing At All

 

This song was originally performed by Keith Whitley, but Alison Krauss made it her own.

Vevo/Alison Krauss

This simple love ballad was sung gorgeously by country star Allison Krauss. “When You Say Nothing at All” captures the comfort and unspoken love language shared between partners with a timeless message of devotion.

Listen to “When You Say Nothing At All” here.

43. “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes (2005)

Musician Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes performs on stage during the Moveon.org Vote For Change Concert at the Wachovia Center October 1, 2004 in Philadelphia.

 

Conor Oberst performing in 2004.


Scott Gries/Getty Images

Simple, slightly sad, emotionally resonant. “First Day of My Life” is an emo/indie staple for a reason — Connor Oberst’s voice beautifully communicates the ache associated with finally meeting someone who makes you feel as if your world has just changed.

Listen to “First Day of My Life” here.

42. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler (1983)

Bonnie Tyler Total Eclipse of the Heart music video

 

Bonnie Tyler in the unforgettable music video for “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”


Bonnie Tyler/Vevo

It would be a list of love songs without a serious dose of ’80s melodrama, and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is everything we could want in a glam rock ballad that fits into our “pining but still a love song” category.

Listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” here.

41. “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson (1967)

Jackie Wilson Higher and Higher

 

We’d groove to this song every day if we could.


Amazon/X5 Music Group

We dare you not to start tapping your foot and grinning upon hearing Jackie Wilson’s number one R&B hit song “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” which has rightfully earned a place on any list of the happiest and catchiest love tunes.

Listen to “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” here.

40. “Best of My Love” by The Emotions (1977)

The Emotions Best of Hits

 

This disco era love song is perfection.


SBME/Amazon

Keeping in our uptempo, groovy streak, “Best of My Love” is a classic found on movie and TV soundtracks across the decades for good reason. You’ll be humming “Oh-o-oho, you’ve got the best of my love” all day after revisiting this track.

Listen to “Best of My Love” here.

39. “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding (1967)

Otis Redding 1967

 

Otis Redding in 1967.


AP

Sliding into the category of “love advice,” this Otis Redding track needs no introduction. It was already considered a classic, and was solidified in pop culture history when Donkey belted it out in “Shrek” and then sampled for Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Otis.”

Listen to “Try A Little Tenderness” here.

38. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen (1980)

Queen Freddie Mercury 1982

 

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, in 1982.


Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Queen’s discography is chock-full of classic hits, but none fits best on the “love song” category than this tune. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is an uptempo, genre-bending single that stands the test of time.

Listen to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” here.

37. “If You’re Not the One” by Daniel Bedingfield (2002)

Singer Daniel Bedingfield performs at 102.7 KIIS-FM's 6th Annual 'Wango Tango - The Ultimate Reality Show' at the Rose Bowl on May 17, 2003 in Pasadena, California.

 

Daniel Bedingfield performing in 2003.


Kevin Winter/Getty Images

We know this veers more into heartache territory, but Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not the One” is the dance/electro-pop ballad we never knew we needed until it was 2002 and you couldn’t turn on a radio station without hearing it.

Listen to “If You’re Not the One” here.

36. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley (1961)

Elvis_presley

 

Elvis Presley sings during a 1973 concert.

Hulton Archive/Getty

Elvis Presley’s original will always remain the most beloved among many cover versions, from UB40 to Ingrid Michaelson and more.

Listen to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” here.

36. “The Best” by Tina Turner (1989)

tina-turner

 

Tina Turner is the goddess of ballads.

AP Photo / Michael Euler

You might now associate Tina Turner’s “The Best” with Pepsi or Applebee’s thanks to its commercial appeal, but this song is the ultimate statement of devotion and deserves to be remembered as such.

Listen to “The Best” here. 

33. “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo (1997)

Singers K-Ci and JoJo Hailey in 2003

 

K-Ci and JoJo attend the BET Walk of Fame award show in 2002.


Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images

K-Ci & JoJo probably didn’t realize they were recording a song that would soon become a school dance staple, providing the soundtrack to awkwardly adorable PG slow dances everywhere. “All My Life” is the ultimate mix-CD track, movie score pick, and karaoke jam, and it’s more than earned its spot on this list.

Listen to “All My Life” here.

32. “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin (1986)

Top Gun

 

Tom Cruise in “Top Gun.”

Paramount Pictures

Both “Top Gun” and the world of pop love songs wouldn’t be the same without “Take My Breath Away.” We loved Jessica Simpson’s faithful cover version, but nothing can touch the original ballad.

Listen to “Take My Breath Away” here.

31. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles

the beatles at the plaza hotel

 

The Beatles’ legacy of songwriting will live on for centuries to come.


AP

The simple pleasures of finding love are perfectly expressed in this Beatles song. To be able to just reach out and hold the hand of a person you love is really all one needs, right?

Listen to “I Want to Hold Your Hand” here.

30. “I Would Die 4 U” by Prince (1984)

Prince

 

Prince performing at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida.

Jeff Kravitz / Getty Images

Prince’s greatest hits are peppered with a joyous and infectious sense of love, but perhaps none more than the devoted single “I Would Die 4 U.” The extra inflection Prince added for the line “darlin’ if you want me to” is pure starlight energy.

Listen to “I Would Die 4 U” here.

29. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths (1986)

Morrissey of the smiths

 

Morrissey, the frontman of The Smiths, is a rock music god.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Like others on our list, The Smiths are music legends. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” is a beloved bittersweet song that stands the test of time thanks to the before-its-time emo message delivered with an English rock vibe.

Listen to “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” here.

28. “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

cyndi lauper

 

“If you’re lost you can look and you will find me, time after time.”

Portrait

Yet another ’80s classic to grace our list, “Time After Time” is the sweetly nostalgia-driven pop song that’s a karaoke classic (even for “The Office’s” Kelly Kapoor).

Listen to “Time After Time” here.

27. “For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder (1967)

Stevie Wonder

 

The song was originally written and released in the earlier ’60s as a slow ballad, but Stevie Wonder’s version is a great and timeless improvement.

Reuters

Let’s face it — a dozen Stevie Wonder songs could be on this list. But the joyous tempo and simple romantic message of “For Once in My Life” helps put it over the edge of other Stevie classics.

Listen to “For Once In My Life” here.

26. “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men (1994)

Boyz II Men attend the 20th Anniversary celebration of BET

 

Boyz II Men attend the 20th Anniversary celebration of BET in 2000.


Chris Weeks/Getty Images

This follow-up hit to “End of the Road” is the perfect ode to doting upon a loved one. Blending the romantic and physical aspects of love, this sexy “Boyz II Men” ’90s jam belongs on every love playlist.

Listen to “I’ll Make Love To You” here.

25. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor (1990)

Sinead O'Connor, Nothing Compares 2 U

 

“I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant, but nothing — I said nothing — can take away these blues.”


YouTube screencap

No, Sinead (and Prince), nothing compares to this song. Both versions are commendable and stunning in their own right, but Sinead O’Connor’s holds a special place in the legacy of heartache-fueled artistry.

Listen to “Nothing Compares 2 U” here.

24. “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal (1994)

seal grammys 1996

 

Need we say more?

AP Photo

No one can belt out a great “baby!” like Seal. People of all ages can likely sing along to most of this romantic ballad thanks to its use in movies and TV across the decades.

Listen to “Kiss From A Rose” here.

23. “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure (1987)

the cure concert

 

“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick.”


Flickr / Taylor Ramos

No other song can sweep you up faster into daydreams about frenzied and absorbing love the way “Just Like Heaven” does. The Cure is ’80s alt-rock at its finest, and this song is one of their best.

Listen to “Just Like Heaven” here.

22. “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis (1996)

Donna Lewis I Love You Always Forever music video

 

This track was from Lewis’ debut album.

Vevo/Donna Lewis

When the beat kicks into “I Love You Always Forever,” you realize what a true bop this ’90s pop single truly is. Lewis seems to channel Cindy Lauper’s magic, just a decade later and with slightly more pizzazz.

Listen to “I Love You Always Forever” here.

21. “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams (1991)

bryan adams

 

“Look into my eyes/You will see/What you mean to me.”

AP photo/Adrian Dennis

The art of parenthetical song titles has truly been lost. Candian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams crafted the love song to end all love songs with “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” and we’ll never forget him for it.

Listen to “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” here.

20. “My Love” by Justin Timberlake (2006)

Justin Timberlake My Love FutureSex:LoveSounds

 

This is one of Timberlake’s greatest songs.

Vevo/Justin Timberlake

Pop icon Justin Timberlake broke the mold with “FutureSex/Lovesounds,” and “My Love” epitomized his blend of dance/R&B/pop/hip-hop with Timbaland’s unrivaled production talents and a smooth, memorable, catchy chorus.

Listen to “My Love” here.

19. “Come What May” by Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (2001)

moulin rouge

 

Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sold the heck out of this song.

Twentieth Century Fox

Feel what you must about Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” — this narratively significant love song is one of the best ballads featured in a movie. Ever. And if you had dared to forget this fact, Canadian figure skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir reminded the world of its magic at this past year’s Olympics.

Listen to “Come What May” here. 

17. “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service (2003)

The Postal Service Such Great Heights

 

“I am thinking it’s a sign/That the freckles in our eyes/Are mirror images/And when we kiss they’re perfectly aligned.”

The Postal Service

This synth-based electro-pop single captures a special period of time in pop culture, and remains blissfully timeless despite the changing landscape of modern music over the last 15 years.

Listen to “Such Great Heights” here.

2. “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Earth Wind and Fire September Music Video

 

“Do you remember the 21st night of September?”

Earth Wind and Fire

Funk group Earth, Wind, and Fire crafted one of the best songs of the century in “September,” and the bonus for us is that it’s a delightful love song to boot. Half the song is simple, joyful belting of “Ba de ya,” and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Listen to “September” here.

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