It seems like nearly every song, in some way, is about love—but that doesn’t mean that every track gets it right. Whether they're about pure devotion or heated lust, longtime romances or first-time crushes, these are the songs that convey love best.
“I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
With one of the most iconic high notes at its center, “I Will Always Love You” is a heartbreaking surrender to love and the end of something special.
“Something” by The Beatles
“Something” finds The Beatles at their romantic best: sweet, simple, and punctuated by a wailing guitar.
“Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey
“Always be My Baby” is a breakup song cloaked in just enough jingles and bells to pass as something a bit sweeter. Mariah Carey’s 1995 cut is always a bop, regardless of circumstances.
“Nothing Even Matters” by Lauryn Hill feat. D’Angelo
A gorgeously succinct neo-soul classic about the way love can seemingly dissolve any stress, no matter the size.
“At Your Best (You Are Love)” by Aaliyah
Aaliyah’s ethereal vocals quietly attest to love on one of her first-ever tracks.
“You Got Me” by The Roots feat. Erykah Badu
The lead single from the Roots’ iconic Things Fall Apart album, “You Got Me” is an homage to the group’s sound storytelling and influential sound, pushed forward by am unforgettably smooth Erykah Badu chorus.
“Baby Love” by the Supremes
Like a trio of angels, The Supremes float softly on this Motown classic.
“Maps” by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
“Maps” is Karen O’s bone-chillingly controlled plea for a lover to stay, but it quickly morphs into a roaring desperate plea by the song’s close.
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince
Lead by Prince’s inimitable falsetto, “I Wanna Be Your Love” is a love song that keeps its funk throughout the romanticism.
“Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye
“Sexual Healing” is one of the most iconic, sexual tracks of its time. With the opening line, “I’m hot just like an oven,” Marvin Gaye made it clear where he was going with this one.
“My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion
At the epicenter of one of Hollywood’s most heart-wrenching classic films is Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” the only song grandiose enough to encapsulate Jack and Rose’s love story.
“Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
“Try a Little Tenderness” is the world’s most satisfying slow-burner, as it peak hits with nearly only a minute left on the song, exiting at its own climax.
“I’ll Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie
There’s something macabre about the idea of love in the afterlife, yet “I’ll Follow You into the Dark" takes the concept to its most ethereal corners, delicately and gently reassuring something decidedly eternal.
“Fly Me to the Moon” by Bobby Womack
In 1966, Frank Sinatra recorded “Fly Me to the Moon,” an incredibly well-polished jazz cut that would become one of countless tracks that would lead to his enduring legacy. But three years later, Bobby Womack took a shot at the staple and exploded it, reinterpreting and opening up the desperation and raw emotions in its lyrics, making it feel a bit more appropriately unhinged and uninhibited.
“My Girl” by The Temptations
“My Girl” builds up to its crescendo, offering a litany of honey-sweet compliments to the person and source of the happiness at the center of it all.
“I Put a Spell on You” by Nina Simone
Nina Simone’s strength is in her rasp—a powerful, unrelenting force that's juxtaposed by a few spare, dazzling piano keys on “I Put A Spell On You,” a downright mystical love song.
“A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
Immortalized as the ultimate early 2000s pop-love anthem via an iconic Terry Crews scene in the cult classic White Chicks, “A Thousand Miles” is a piano-laden cut dedicated to the unrelenting lengths we’d (quite literally) go to for love.
“Love Train” by The O’Jays
Divisiveness seems to be ubiquitous in today’s social climate, and while this 1972 jam isn’t going to solve any political conflicts, it does offer a soothing break from the chaos with the fantasy of a worldwide hand-holding chain led by The O’Jays.
“Everywhere” by Michelle Branch
“Because you’re everywhere to me” is a chorus to end all choruses. Michelle Branch crafted what is one of the most simple and iconic hooks of any pop song, all in the name of love.
“Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” by The Four Tops
“Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got” skips no hyperbole. Running through a list of what would be otherwise trite offerings, The Four Tops lay out a convincingly sweet ode to the woman of their dreams.
“Lovefool” by The Cardigans
Considering all of the male-lead narratives and power dynamics in love and its cultural retellings—across all mediums—“Lovefool” is concretely satisfying with its airy, female pop vocals (despite its concerning, and admittedly foolish, desperation).
“First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes
Claiming life is obsolete until a soulmate strolls in is a theory that rides the fine line of chaotic good. Yet, Bright Eyes makes it sound so sweet.
“A Case of You” by Joni Mitchell
With an effortless vibrato and a slow, steadily-paced strum, folk music’s everlasting mother Joni Mitchell delivers in “Case of You.”
“Prototype” by Outkast
This is an extraterrestrial-esque love song for the ages—an acceptance of a potential end, and an acknowledgement of a potential future.
“God Only Knows” by Beach Boys
“I may not always love you / But long as there are stars above you / You never need to doubt it,” Brian Wilson offers on “God Only Knows,” a song with lyrics as dramatic, hectic, and sometimes confusing (but mostly sweet) as love itself.
“Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor
A heartbreaking ode to the end of an incomparable relationship.
“Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summer
Donna Summer’s 1975 track is disco’s sexiest cut, and in 2019, “Love to Love You Baby” still sounds scandalous.
“Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean
Despite its (intentionally) nonsense verses, Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You” seemed to hit an immediate chord with the vast general public the moment it dropped—a testament to Frank’s pipes and the universal feeling of a mentally inescapable crush.
“A Long Walk” by Jill Scott
Jill Scott offers a litany of possible hangout activities, all while knowing that it’s a lot less about actual activity, and a lot more about time spent together.
“Your Song” by Elton John
Elton John runs through all of the ways he could materialize his love in something physical on “Your Song,” before coming to terms with the fact that a personalized Elton John song as a gift is more than enough.
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney
“Maybe I’m Amazed” is a swelling, roaring McCartney vocal performance that finds the Beatles member trying to fathom how he landed a love so strong and so present.
“So High” by John Legend
With an almost hilariously literal flight-themed video, John Legend takes it to the heavens on “So High.”
“In Love With You” by Erykah Badu feat. Stephen Marley
An effortless fusion of all of R&B and reggae’s best elements, Erykah Badu and Stephen Marley come together for one of the smoothest exchanges of affirmations.
“Untitled (How Does It Feel)” by D’Angelo
A slow-burning, zoomed-in, and raw one-take video of a shirtless D’Angelo was the center of widespread mania when “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” initially dropped. But just as much attention should be given to the track itself—a burning, impactful offering from the neo-soul king himself.
“Number One” by Pharrell feat. Kanye West
A song that’s literally just Pharrell and Kanye West throwing out compliments for four minutes.
“This Old Heart of Mine” by The Isley Brothers
“This Old Heart Of Mine” is just upbeat enough that its somewhat-sad central story can get a bit lost, as The Isley Brothers declare unrelenting love, despite a relationship that’s been broken off more than once.
“Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge
The Jagged Edge boys make the ultimate anti-fear-of-commitment anthem.
“Like I Love You” by Justin Timberlake feat. Clipse
For a love song that’s a little less flower-y than some of its counterparts, “Like I Love You” is a Neptunes-produced, dance-ready track from what was Justin Timberlake’s newly minted solo career.
“Dream a Little Dream of Me” by The Mamas and Papas
The Mamas and Papas’ take on “Dream a Little Dream of Me” fully leans into the group’s California breeziness, giving the classic a folkier feel.
“I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men
For when you’re trying to lay it on thick, “I’ll Make Love to You” is the quintessential, not-so-subtle mood setter.
“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Michael Bolton
“When a Man Loves a Woman” is for those unafraid of laying their feelings bare.
“Last Dance” by Donna Summer
“Last Dance” starts out as a glittering, delicate ballad, but once it kicks in, the disco track is a full-fledged, last-call reminder for romance.
“Little Bit” by Lykke Li
“I think I’m a little bit in love with you / But only if you’re a little bit in love too,” is the mantra at the center of this shy lover’s anthem.
“Retrograde” by James Blake
“Retrograde” is hauntingly serene, a winter hymnal of reassurance.
“Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service
Technology doesn’t get the best rep when it comes to emoting. Yet on “Such Great Heights,” The Postal Service fully succumbed to a techno-beat, and still managed to pull off a lullaby-like love song.
“U Got It Bad” by Usher
“U Got It Bad” is the sonic coming to terms with the ending of your wild single phase.
“Ribbon in the Sky” by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder delivers his usual magic on “Ribbon in the Sky,” an otherworldly piano-laced love song.
“I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin
As Aretha Franklin goes about her day, she mentally pauses to send a little telepathic love to her man, hoping he hears it and gives her a little something back.
“Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones
Keith Richards wrote “Wild Horses” as a lullaby to his son, as he struggled with leaving him as he shipped off to tour.
“Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure
Kings of the post-punk / new-wave movement, The Cure deliver “Friday I’m In Love”—an out-of-character yet delightfully well-constructed pop song from the otherwise dark group.
“Chasing Pavements” by Adele
“Chasing Pavements” was the general public’s first exposure to the ultimate Queen of Heartbreak as she struggles to give up an unrequited love.
“I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher
With lyrics about holding hands, paired with jangling kazoo-sounding instrumentals, there’s something elementary and endearing about “I Got You Babe,” the world’s most famous hippie love duet.
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Complete with an implied corny dance to go along with it, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is more than just a wedding and family party staple; it’s one of motown’s shining gems.
“03’ Bonnie and Clyde” by Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z
A partner-in-crime theme song for the ages, Jay-Z and Beyoncé come together for a little mischief-inspired cut.
“You’re the First, The Last, My Everything” by Barry White
Nothing signifies setting the mood like Barry White’s baritone.
“Always on Time” by JaRule feat. Ashanti
“Always On Time” is early 2000s hip-hop at its best, as Ashanti keeps things very realistic: Love is still love, even if you’re not always great at answering your phone.
“White Dress” by Kanye West
“Even though I met you in the club in a tight dress, at first sight I could picture you in a white dress,” Kanye explains, all the while promising a jet-setting love life.
“How Deep Is Your Love” by Bee Gees
The Bee Gees hit peak blended vocals on “How Deep Is Your Love,” the often-sampled 1977 classic.
“A Sunday Kind of Love” by Etta James
Real love is when it pushes past Saturday night’s drunken hookup, a notion that feels just as timely and modern as when Etta James suggested it in 1960.
“If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys
“If I Ain’t Got You” is one of the greatest love songs of all time, as well as one of the best songs to sing at the top of your lungs when you have the house to yourself for the weekend. Alicia Keys’s staggering vocals build as the track progresses, and then quietly and sweetly descend before she exits completely.
“Some Unholy War” by Amy Winehouse
“Some Unholy War” finds Winehouse singing with an unfaltering devotion that, in part, led to her own demise. But it’s also this unwavering loyalty that made Amy a beautiful, strong, tragic, and tender centerpiece of the early 2000s, and forevermore.
“At Last” by Etta James
There’s a history and personal growth that comes with “At Last” that makes it a relatable celebration of patience, and the reward that may come with it.
“Love on Top” by Beyoncé
With its key changes alone, “Love on Top” is a wildly impressive vocal performance. But it’s the song’s breeziness (seemingly inspired by some of the iconic R&B and soul selections on this list) that make it one of Beyonce’s best odes to husband Jay-Z.
“You Make Me Feel So Young” by Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra can make anything sound incredibly romantic.
“Best Part” by Daniel Caesar ft. H.E.R.
This gospel-infused token of appreciation is elegant and simple, with comparisons and similes that might be corny if they were coming from any other crooner, but with Caesar and H.E.R., it’s a ballad done incredibly right.
“(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin
“Natural Woman” is the combination of complimenting a partner, as well as embracing yourself, which is arguably the best gift of all.
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
The chorus of this Frankie Valli track is a sonic representation of the overflowing insane excitement that comes with declaring love loudly.
“BMO” by Ari Lennox
Romance is fine and good, but there’s nothing like cutting to the chase. Ari Lennox spares no euphemisms and lets us know what she’s here for right from the beginning. "BMO" is an iconic display of power and presence over prim politeness.
“Living For the Love of You” by the Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers, whose members once included a young Jimi Hendrix, have one of the most notably lasting imprints on music of all time, and this song proves it.
“How Sweet It Is” by Marvin Gaye
On “How Sweet It Is,” the title speaks for the song. It’s gorgeous and light, with Gaye’s high-pitched falsettos highlighted by all of Motown’s best touches—female vocalists, a jangle-y piano riff, and a delicate chord progression.
Listen to all of our romantic faves in the playlist below, and follow Harper's BAZAAR on Spotify. Follow
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