The 50 best love songs of all time

Say hello to your new sexy-time playlist – it's Time Out's pick of the best love songs ever made



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The business of writing a love song – one that’s not cheesy or clichéd – is a challenge that the greatest songwriters have wrestled with since the first caveman grunted a serenade to his beloved. After painstaking research and several rock-paper-scissor fights, Time Out's music team has arrived at what we believe to be the 50 best love songs ever recorded. From tear-jerkers to wail-along pop belters, sensual sounds to toe-tappin' classics, our mixed bag of romantic rhythms is bursting with enough love to turn even the stoniest of hearts into pink mush.

Did we miss out your favourite tender tune? Let us know in the comments box below or tweet us at @TimeOutMusic.

Count down our 50 favourite love songs: 50–41

“Cherish” by Madonna

'Cherish' – Madonna

Pop’s ultimate chameleon, Madonna offered this unabashedly cheery romp from 1989 between releases of the controversial ‘Like a Prayer’, the brazen ‘Express Yourself’, the classically cool ‘Vogue’ and the smokin’ sex odyssey ‘Justify My Love’. Taking a breather from boundary-pushing, Madge testifies to a sweet romance that would put those novices Romeo and Juliet to shame. We like a lot of the Madonnas we’ve seen over the years, but the rarely seen giddy, lovestruck Madonna – she’s one of our faves. Michael Chen

Watch 'Cherish' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“Wild Thing” by The Troggs

'Wild Thing' – The Troggs

Written by songwriter Chip Taylor and originally recorded by The Wild Ones in 1965, ‘Wild Thing’ finally made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1966 when covered by English band The Troggs. It’s a love song for anyone with a weakness for party girls, bad boys, rebels without a cause, and um, ocarinas. Because nothing says ‘I think I love you’ like an ocarina solo. Kate Wertheimer

Watch 'Wild Thing' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“Countdown” by Beyoncé

'Countdown' – Beyoncé

There was debate over the merits of this 2011 track versus those of Queen Bey’s first chart topper, ‘Crazy in Love’. But it’s a no brainer. ‘Crazy’ is not love, it’s the first blush. It’s a crush, and the music, accordingly, is giddy and one-dimensional. But ‘Countdown’? That’s some real shit. It’s 'Crazy in Love' years later, after the domesticity, after you stop bothering to close the bathroom door. And the tune, the arrangement, is complex, fluttering and diving, able to create a rush from routine. This is the one that will make Blue Ivy weep ages from now. Brent DiCrescenzo

Watch 'Countdown' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“Vision of Love” by Mariah Carey

'Vision of Love' – Mariah Carey

Though we could have put many a Mimi song on this list, her 1990 smash single made the cut for its classically-Carey assurance that come what may, love will triumph. Plus, the slow-dance-ready ballad basically launched American Idol-type melismatic singing, and stars like Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera cite the track as a key influence – so we basically have the diva to thank for Mrs. Carter’s ‘Drunk in Love’, too. Marley Lynch

Watch 'Vision of Love' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“Temptation” by New Order

'Temptation' – New Order

Kelly Macdonald sits on Ewan McGregor’s bed, cooing, ‘Oh, you’ve got green eyes, oh, you’ve got blue eyes, oh, you’ve got grey eyes,’ as he sweats through cold turkey hallucinations. Can’t hear this refrain without thinking of that scene in ‘Trainspotting’. Bernard Sumner’s daffy lyrical abstractions often stumbled upon genius, as he does here. ‘Temptation’ encapsulates being too pissed-off to notice or remember anything but some lovely person’s irises. It is the inarticulate poetry of clubbing adolescents. Or, an ode to David Bowie. Either way, nailed it. Brent DiCrescenzo

Watch 'Temptation' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“Heroes” by David Bowie

'Heroes' – David Bowie

Ronald Reagan gets all the credit. In 1987, he stood at the Brandenburg Gate and demanded ‘Tear down this wall!’ Thing is, the first metaphorical sledgehammer was swung into the Wall ten years prior, with this title track off Bowie’s only true Berlin album. Two lovers kiss by the graffiti and razor wire. Bowie, dreaming of escape so hard he wishes to be a porpoise, wails against a romantic wall of sound. Some songs are about being in love. This krautrock cannonball is testimony to the awesome, world-shaking power of love itself. Brent DiCrescenzo

Watch 'Heroes' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by The Ramones

'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend' – Ramones

‘Do you love me babe? What do you say?’ Romance, Ramones-style, isn’t an especially complicated thing. Joey Ramone & Co. don’t want to know if you want to get married, and they’re not interested in overwrought gestures of love. They simply want to know if the girl in question does, in fact, want to be paired up – and the tune’s simplicity is why it’s so affecting. Amy Plitt

Listen to 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend' on Youtube  |  Buy this song on iTunes

“Bound 2” by Kanye West

'Bound 2' – Kanye West

We know what you’re thinking: ‘Nothing says “true love” like a tacky music video and the lyric ‘“Step back, can’t get spunk on the mink”.’ Well, bear with us, because ‘Bound 2’ – Kanye’s tribute to Kim Kardashian – is one of the most heartwarming love songs of the last decade. Brilliantly honest and plain-spoken (‘Okay, I don’t remember where we first met’), it rejects romantic clichés to paint an intimate picture of Ye and Kim’s relationship. Punning on the world ‘bound’, it addresses both the nagging fear and the thrill of commitment. And despite the very NSFW bits in the lyrics, the line that really sticks in your head is about fierce romantic devotion: ‘One good girl is worth a thousand bitches.’ Amen, K. James Manning

Watch 'Bound 2' video | Buy this song on iTunes

“You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates

'You Make My Dreams' – Hall & Oates

When you and your boo are newly in love and your idiot happiness is annoying the crap out of all your friends, this 1981 single from ‘Voices’ is the soundtrack to your lives. ‘(500) Days of Summer’ pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one – enjoy it while it lasts, lovebirds. Kate Wertheimer

Watch 'You Make My Dreams Come True' video | Buy this song on iTunes


'Angels' – The xx

Moody indie types need love too, y’know. Downbeat as it is, ‘Angels’ doesn’t so much tug at your heartstrings as threaten to yank your entire cardiac system right out of your chest. All with just a few quavering guitar notes, sparse drums and Romy Madley Croft’s ever-ghostly vocals. In fact, the only thing about this song not steeped in beauty is the fact that it was used as Vodafone’s hold music. It says a lot that even when you’re silently raging about your phone bill, you still can’t help but melt a little inside when you hear that voice revealing its love for you. Tristan Parker

Watch 'Angels' video | Buy this song on iTunes

  1. 50–41
  2. 40–31
  3. 30–21
  4. 20–11
  5. 10–1

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