The language of love can be translated in many ways, but the most universal? Music. Whether you’re adding some romantic tunes to your summer playlist, need something emotional to blast on your next road trip, are in search of an epic breakup song to help you nurse your heartache, or you’re in the mood to stream feel-good ballads that’ll remind you of your first crush, we curated a list of the best love songs of all time.
“Something” by The Beatles
Choosing a favorite Beatles love tune is impossible. But there’s just something about this 1969 classic. Sure, it put George Harrison on the A-side for the first time. But it’s real claim to fame is that it gets us in the mood…to slow dance like no other.
“Purple Rain” by Prince
Prince’s 11 minutes of pure passion about being with the one you love as the world comes to an end was originally supposed to be a collab with Stevie Nicks. No. 1 on the charts. Millions of copies sold. We think it turned out OK.
“If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
Some people want diamond rings, but we just want Alicia Keys to sing us the phone book. Inspired by the passing of fellow musician Aaliyah in 2001, Keys’ 2003 jewel of a love song is one that puts everything into perspective.
“Cuz I Love You” by Lizzo
Streaming through every earbud, Lizzo is having a monster year, with lead single “Juice” oozing into everyone’s summer anthem playlists. Might we recommend the title love track off her 2019 studio album to queue up next? Because. She. Can. Belt.
“Yellow” by Coldplay
The British rock band’s golden oldie (released in 2000, it’s almost 20 years old after all) is one sultry slow song.
“Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers
Doesn’t this 1965 Righteous Brothers song just make you want to dig your hands into some wet clay a la the epic romance Ghost and let whatever happens just happen? Same.
“The Story” by Brandi Carlile
Folk rocker Brandi Carlile (and one-fourth of the soon-to-be-huge country supergroup The Highwomen) shows off her range from beginning to middle to end in her 2007 song.
“By Your Side” by Sade
Not sure there’s anything more sensual than the delicate vocals of Sade Adu. Her soulful, sincere lovers’ ballad from 2000 sounds the way satin sheets feel. And who doesn’t want to wrap up in satin sheets?
“Untitled” by D’Angelo
You may not remember lyrics further than “How does it feel?” from the neo-soul singer’s chart-topper from 2000, but you definitely remember the provocative video of D’Angelo emoting in the nude in front of a camera. Not sure we need to say anything further.
“The Bones” by Maren Morris
Now that you’ve finally expelled “The Middle” from your brain, you have room for another single from country superstar Maren Morris. Released just this February on her Girl album, it is a soulful odyssey through love that you’ll feel in your bones.
“Faithfully” by Journey
Scribbled on a napkin and inspired by missing their loved ones while on the road, “Faithfully” (1983) isn’t just that one Journey song your mom used to play way too loud. It’s also one of the rock band’s most recognized and enduring hits.
“I’ll Stand by You” by The Pretenders
Depending on your birth year, your thoughts about The Pretenders’ 1994 uplifting track is either a) Love that song, especially in the pilot of Dawson’s Creek or b) haven’t heard that in ages! Do yourself a favor, and just hit play.
“I Don’t Know Much” by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville
Aaron Neville’s voice is like fine wine: You appreciate it even more as you age, and this 1989 Linda Ronstadt duet is no exception.
“Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
In the canon of greatest duets of all time, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s 1981 Motown classic, a love ballad that explains itself in its title, is tops. And that’s no hyperbole.
“Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison
There’s a reason Van Morrison’s hymn-like 1971 classic is on every wedding playlist. Its lyrics are sweet, its instrumentals are warm—it’s just the tune we want to spend life slow dancing to.
“Drunk in Love” by Beyoncé
Queen Bey gets fiercely sensual in this 2013 song that features her husband, Jay-Z. The couple offer a glimpse into their relationship as Beyoncé sings, raps, then hands the mic over to Jay.
“Like a Virgin” by Madonna
Madonna’s 1984 synth-pop megahit is not a sincere ballad. Rather it’s a celebration of female sexuality and comment on the politics of the time.
“You and Me” by Penny & the Quarters
Famous for soundtracking the relationship of a doomed couple in the devastating Blue Valentine, this beautiful R&B track was actually recorded, and shelved, in 1970 by Penny & the Quarters.
“I’m the Only One” by Melissa Etheridge
Love is lovely. Until it’s not. And Melissa Etheridge’s bluesy 1993 tune taps into the dark side of relationships, aka the breakup. It’s the perfect weapon for battling a broken heart.
“All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” by Heart
Written by super-producer Mutt Lange, Heart’s 1990 track about love at first hitchhike is both powerful and nostalgic. That is, if you don’t get caught up trying to make sense of the lyrics.
“I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos
Dreamy, even ambient, the Chicago quintet’s vintage classic has been lending its harmonized sha-bop’s to film (American Grafitti), band covers (Beck), and now our top love songs list.
“In Another’s Eyes” by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
Country stars and spouses Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood are #couplegoals, as is evidenced by the chemistry and fire in their powerful 1997 duet.
“Loving You Was Easier” by Willie Nelson
As a songwriter, Willie Nelson has penned hundreds of love songs, including Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” but one shouldn’t forget about his lesser-known Americana slow-dancer from 1979. A duet with Dyan Cannon, it’s simple, silky, stirring melody is featured in Honeysuckle Rose.
“Crazy” by Patsy Cline
Gone far too soon, Patsy Cline, a trailblazer with a solid-gold voice, recorded “Crazy” in 1961, and it remains one of the greatest love songs ever written or sung. Just ask your mother and your mother’s mother.
“Crazy He Calls Me” by Billie Holiday
Crazy and love. They go together like Billie Holiday and slow jazz. Now, there are probably enough songs written about folks being crazy in love to fill 40 playlists, but Holiday’s mid-century classic (1949) rises above the rest as a jazz standard.
“You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes
“Baby Love” is sweet, but we prefer The Supremes’ uptempo Motown jam from 1966. So did Phil Collins, when he re-recorded the classic sending it to No. 1 in the U.K. in the ‘80s.
“My Girl” by The Temptations
We could all use a little sunshine on a cloudy day. And who can forget the way Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky made us feel in 1991 with My Girl, which borrowed its title and part of its soundtrack from the Motown tune penned by Smokey Robinson for The Temptations in 1964.
“Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon
There are love songs you listen to. And then there are love songs you crank way up and belt out the lyrics like you’re the rock star holding the mic. REO Speedwagon’s power ballad is one of those songs.
“Careless Love” by Ray Charles
A blues standard, originally composed by Buddy Bolden in 1911, it was recorded by Charles in 1962 as a country arrangement.
“Crazy” by Aerosmith
Listening to Steven Tyler scream and rasp his way through Aerosmith’s 1992 essential is good and well. But watching it play out in the video starring a teenaged Alicia Silverstone is even better.
“Nobody” by Keith Sweat
Anything but a one-hit wonder, the sultan of smooth, Keith Sweat has a string of hits spanning four decades. This amorous R&B tune, a 1996 mainstay, was straight-up made for seduction. Now who can argue with that? No-bo-dy.
“Nobody Knows” by Tony Rich Project
Though Tony Rich, was never really heard from again after this one-hit wonder climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1996, it’s still worthy of rotation.
“Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
Classic soul from 1972, the Reverend Al Green lets loose in a song that’s often featured on the big screen, from beloved rom-coms (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) to game-changing cinema (Pulp Fiction). Talk about a mood setter. Amen.
“All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo
There wasn’t a single middle or high school dance that wrapped without playing the duo’s 1997 most-requested slow jam. Sure, the party was over in hours, but this one we’ll remember “all our lives.”
“I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men
The Motown Philly quartet was back again in 1994 belting out another R&B megahit with their very straightforward, quite declarative love-making anthem that deejays kept on heavy rotation.
“Cover Me Up” by Jason Isbell
Jason Isbell and his Southeastern album produced brilliant hit after brilliant hit, but none more triumphant than this 2013 Americana love ballad, “Cover Me Up,” penned for his wife, fiddler Amanda Shires.
“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were lightning in a bottle in Cooper’s A Star Is Born. The two revealed their chemistry in a 2018 duet, “Shallow,” written by Lady Gaga.
“I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
Though Whitney Houston may be the tonsils behind the more widely known recording, the original imprint, a 1974 slow country ballad, belongs to the timeless Miss Dolly Parton.
“My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion
It doesn’t take but a few notes of the pan flute to conjure memories of sitting in a dark theater for the third time watching James Cameron’s inescapable blockbuster., Titanic. Perhaps its greatest instrument? Céline Dion, who belts out the anthem of star-crossed lovers Jack and Rose. Also…there was room on that door.
“Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston had truly unbelieveable pipes, which are gloriously on display in this 1986 chart-topper. Though originally written and recorded by George Benson nine years earlier, Houston breathes magic into this ode to self-love.
“Soul on Fire” by LaVern Baker
The bluesy piano, the growling hook, and the bawdy lyrics (pretty raw stuff for 1953) make you want to find your love, lay the record needle down, and blow out the candles.
“To Love Somebody” by Bee Gees
Recorded in 1967, this tune from the Brothers Gibb, backed by brass, cello, and harp, delivers an intensely loving vocal crescendo.
“Your Song” by Elton John
The Rocketman Elton John’s gift is his song, and this one is for you. Having been covered by aritsts in every decade since its 1970 release, and featured in films like Moulin Rouge, “Your Song” is an ageless lovers’ delight.
“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge
Move over, Michael Bolton. Soul legend Percy Sledge is the original owner of this musical love letter, recorded in 1966. The legend doesn’t hold back, making it one of the peak melodies of deep soul.
“Making Love Out of Nothing at All” by Air Supply
A slow-burner that hits its stride in the second verse, Air Supply’s 1983 greatest hit is not made out of nothing at all: It blends genius lyrics, layered composition, and a monster climax to epic proportions.
“A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin brings her legendary vocal talents to a soul-stirring ballad of empowerment and gratitude. Just try not to feel shook listening to her power through “A Natural Woman.”
“I’d Rather Go Blind” by Etta James
Though her most famous song, “At Last,” is first-wedding-dance playbait, it’s Etta James’ 1967 “I’d Rather Go Blind” that best captures the selfless and blinded desperatation of the truly lovestruck.
“These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding
There are songs that strike a tuning fork in your soul, and perhaps no artist does this more often than Otis Redding. His 1962 soulful plea of intimacy is one of the likeliest contributors to the baby boom (wink wink).
“Bring It On Home to Me” by Sam Cooke
You could melt actual butter with Sam Cooke’s smooth vocals, and in this 1962 showstopper, Sam melted hearts everywhere he played. And who doesn’t love his signature call-and-response: Yeah? Yeah!
“God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys
This gift from Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys’ seminal 1966 album, is what Paul McCartney has called “the greatest song ever written.” It’s also the perfect tune to punctuate Love, Actually.