The 50 best love songs ever made

Are you ready to fall head over heels with the best love songs of all time? Cupid has you in his sights, people.

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30
“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

“When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge

Percy Sledge’s R&B (and wedding-soundtrack) staple might be one of the most romantic-sounding songs of all time, but the 1966 hit’s lyrics basically boil down to this: Love fucks everything up—your judgment, your pride, your friendships, your bank account, the roof over your head. It can be a powerful, fickle bitch, in other words. Oh, also: When you’re under its spell, it’s the absolute greatest thing in the world.—Tim Lowery

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29
“Into My Arms” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

“Into My Arms” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

“I don’t believe in an interventionist God,” sings Nick Cave in one of the most magnificently awkward first lines in any love song. “But I know, darlin’, that you do.” Taken from 1997’s The Boatman’s Call, “Into My Arms” stands head and shoulders above so many other songs of devotion because it feels thoroughly honest; a negotiation of a down-to-earth worldview with the celestial stirrings of the heart. Cave lists the things he can’t put faith in, and then acknowledges simply, “But I believe in love, and I know darlin’, that you do too.” Further note: Cave performed this song at the funeral of Michael Hutchence, his friend, requesting it not be recorded as he sang.—Sophie Harris

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28
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack

There are some people whose sheer grace can bring quiet to a roomful of noisy people; “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” achieves the same effect. Based on the 1957 folk song Ewan MacColl wrote for his soon-to-be wife, singer Peggy Seeger, the tune gains exquisite serenity in this 1972 reworking, which became a hit after soundtracking Play Misty for Me. The backing is barely there: a double bass, a piano, Spanish guitar. Roberta Flack’s voice starts hushed, almost like she’s singing you to sleep, then soars to its full, clear capacity, passionately paralleling the love she’s recollecting. In a word: astonishing.—Sophie Harris

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27
“There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” by the Smiths

Written by lead singer Morrissey and guitarist John Marr, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” originally appeared on the Smiths’ transcendent third album, 1986’s The Queen Is Dead, but wasn’t released as a single until 1992—five years after the Smiths had disbanded. Brimming with desperation and devotion, the tune gripped the hearts of critics and fans alike—Marr himself remarked in a 1993 interview for Select magazine, “I didn’t realize that ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ was going to be an anthem, but when we first played it, I thought it was the best song I’d ever heard.”—Kristen Zwicker

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26
“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS

“Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS

We all have those moments when our lives play out like the last five minutes of a CW season finale (before the shocking cliff-hanger, natch). You’re in a plaza or maybe a café, and the object of your affections enters the frame. Time slows down, all other noises fade. You exchange glances. Your heart flutters. The synthesized strings kick in (it was 1988, after all). And Michael Hutchence, Australia’s answer to Jim Morrison, starts to sing: “I was standing.… You were there.… Two worlds collided.… And they could never, ever, tear us apart.” And then—that pause.—Michael Chen

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25
“Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac

“Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac

Oh, you thought chillwave was some blogger invention of 2009? Take a dip in Tango in the Night; Buckingham, Nicks and McVie invented—no, perfected—the sound in 1987. McVie stacks and stacks her blissful sighs atop darting, shimmering Buckingham arpeggios and a breezy drum gallop. Eat your heart out, Beach House.—Brent DiCrescenzo

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24
“Cherish” by Madonna

“Cherish” by Madonna

Pop’s ultimate chameleon, Madonna offered this unabashedly cheery romp in 1989, between releases of the controversial “Like a Prayer” (our No. 1 dance-party song), the brazen “Express Yourself,” the classically cool “Vogue” and the smokin’ sex odyssey “Justify My Love.” Here, 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, love-struck Madonna—she’s one of our faves.—Michael Chen

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23
“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson

“The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson

Remember when Michael Jackson released single after single from Bad, and each one was amazing and went to No. 1? And remember how you felt the first time you heard 1987’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”—among the sexiest and most febrile tracks Jackson ever cut, and the exuberant counterpart to brooding “Billie Jean”? It’s the kind of song that just gets you, even if you are only nine years old and the video’s a little creepy. C’mon, girl!—Sophie Harris

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22
“Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan

“Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus & Chaka Khan

Quincy Jones almost nabbed this slice of loved-up electrofunk for Michael Jackson, but it ended up becoming a signature tune for R&B diva Khan when she sang it with her old band Rufus in 1983. When Frankie Knuckles gave it a piano house remix in 1989, a new generation went crazy for the song: now artists ranging from Mary J. Blige to KT Tunstall have recorded versions, but none of them reach the thrilling heights of Chaka as she hits the final chorus.—James Manning

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21
“Love Hangover” by Diana Ross

“Love Hangover” by Diana Ross

Before she was coming out and wanting the world to know, Diana first staked a claim on disco by virtue of this supreme 1975 Motown cut. Thanks to a mellow-into-groovin’ tempo change, she lays down the love law in style by sending away any doctors boasting a cure for her sweet hangover.—Oliver Keens

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Users say

2 comments
Kitty K
Kitty K

I don't know how the Association "Never My Love" did not make the list, but Kanye did. 

Matt W
Matt W

How in the world did Kanye West make the top 50? I almost ditched the entire list after seeing that on the first page, I feel sorry for whatever woman falls in love with the man who thought a song with lyrics like "I wanna f**k you hard on da sink, then I wanna give ya somethin ta drink" is even remotely romantic. Why no country songs? Just off the top of my head, I cross my heart, by George Strait comes to mind and there are literally hundreds of other country songs that are MUCH better than Kanye's drug induced rabble, this is a disgrace.