Love is like a box of chocolates: you keep looking for the one you really want, and leave the shit for some other poor sap. Luckily, these artists opened their hearts to pen songs about love that capture the rush of romance more poetically than we ever could. A truly great love song is a like an adrenaline hit to your heart and soul, evoking feelings of nostalgia, heartache and the euphoria of the best of times with that special someone. Now, before we make ourselves sick, here are the 30 greatest love songs ever recorded – as chosen by team NME.
Bright Eyes, ‘First Day Of My Life’, 2005
Quite a lovely sentiment to this acoustic ditty: the first day you met that special someone, that was when your life truly began.
Gooiest moment: “I think maybe this time it’s different, I mean I really think you like me.”
David Bowie, ‘Heroes’, 1977
Bowie’s most-streamed track after his death, this is an epic paean to the redemptive qualities of romantic love, which can make superheroes of us all. It appeared on the album of same name, part of the star’s legendary Berlin trilogy. Gooiest moment: everything past the three-and-and-half minute mark, when your boy really lets the vocals rip.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, ‘Home’, 2009
A love-up indie-folk duet between singers Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos, who were in a relationship at the time, this features the unforgettable line, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” Gooiest moment: the spoken-word tale of a trip to A&E. No, really.
Elvis Costello, ‘Alison’, 1977
The lyrics suggest the narrator is contemplating an ex – the source of some very bittersweet memories – who’s moved on and married. Costello’s said the song was inspired by a striking woman he saw working in a supermarket and whose life story he imagined. Gooiest moment: “I heard you let that little friend of mine take off your party dress.”
Oasis, ‘She’s Electric’, 1995
Boy meets girl, they fall in love, he quite fancies her mother. Gooiest moment: “I’ll be you and you’ll be me / There’s lots and lots for us to see.”
Pulp, ‘Disco 2000’, 1995
Jarvis serenades the childhood friend he secretly longed for. It was written about MBE-award-winning mental health worker Deborah Bone (they really did grow up together) and he sang the song at her 50th birthday party, a year before she sadly died. Gooiest moment: the swooning victory lap of the final chorus.
Beach Boys, ‘God Only Knows’, 1966
Written by Brian Wilson when the rest of the band were on tour in Japan, this was released as a B-side in the US as some radio stations and record stores were wary of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Gooiest moment: when all eight vocals overlap majestically at the end.
The Beatles, ‘Yesterday’, 1965
The saddest love song The Fab Four ever recorded, as Macca gets remorseful. Sounds like he put his foot in it, though – “I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday”. Gooiest moment: Macca’s heartfelt and wishful hopes for reconciliation. Sorry pal, it’s over.
White Stripes, ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’, 2001
The euphoric rush of teenage hormones, of seeing someone you’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with – it’s all in this giddy garage rock belter, which is like a shot of E-numbers to the heart. Gooiest moment: drummer Meg White’s scuzzy “Ahh-ah-ah-ahhhh” backing vocals over that rollicking riff.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, ‘Maps’, 2003
Singer Karen O cries in the video and later said the tears were real, telling NME: “My boyfriend [Angus Andrew of Liars] at the time was supposed to come to the shoot – he was three hours late and I was just about to leave for tour.” Gooiest moment: “Wait… they don’t love you like I love you.”
Arctic Monkeys ‘Mardy Bum’, 2006
‘Mardy’ is a Yorkshire-ism for someone (usually a child) who is sulky and makes a fuss over nothing. Gooiest moment: Northern wordsmith Alex Turner’s description of pre-relationship courting is heart-warming to say the least: “Remember cuddles in kitchen / Yeah, to get things off the ground.”
Kate Bush, ‘Hounds of Love’, 1985
Love: quite a good thing, quite a scary thing. Like, it’s a bit of a risk to commit all your feelings to one person, right? That’s what Kate Bush had in mind when she portrayed love as a muscular beast capable of maiming you. Gooiest moment: the terse violin strings closing in throughout.
The Smiths, ‘Hand In Glove’, 1983
Remember your first relationship? Very “us versus the world”, wasn’t it? That spirit is bottled by this song, which Moz and Marr wrote after their second gig as The Smiths. Gooiest moment: “Hand in glove I’ll stake my claim / I’ll fight to my last breath.”
Adele, ‘Someone Like You’, 2011
Perhaps the ultimate break-up song for jilted lovers out there. Gooiest moment: “I’d hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded / That for me it isn’t over.” Real tearjerker, that one.
Amy Winehouse, ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, 2006
Left by then-boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil, Winehouse used a gambling metaphor throughout this bleak beauty to highlight the man’s duplicity. It won the 2008 Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically And Lyrically. Gooiest moment: wounded couplet “Self-professed, profound / ‘Til the chips were down.”
Arcade Fire, ‘Crown of Love’, 2004
A standout from the band’s debut album ‘Funeral’, this track saw frontman Win Butler’s have a go at writing an optimistic love song amidst an otherwise blissfully bleak album. Gooiest moment: Er, tricky one. How about, “My love keeps growin’ still the same / Just like a cancer / And you won’t give me a straight answer”? Swoon!
Coldplay, ‘Yellow’, 2000
Coldplay’s first massive hit is, on the one hand, a straightforward love song. On the other – why’s it called ‘Yellow’? Chris Martin once said: “What’s it about? Fuck knows. I’ve got no idea!” Gooiest moment: when the backing vocals go “Ahhh” and the guitar gets all arpeggiated at the mid-point.
Elliot Smith, ‘Say Yes’, 1997
Perhaps Smith’s best-known track was also his soppiest: ‘Say Yes’ could soundtrack any scene in any teen movie ever, such is its relatable beauty. Gooiest moment: “I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a girl / Who’s still around the morning after.” I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Elvis Presley, ‘Suspicious Minds’, 1968
Written by singer Mark James, this was Elvis’ final number one hit. James has said that when he wrote the song, he had feelings for his childhood sweetheart – feelings his wife suspected. Gooiest moment: when the chorus returns after that weird fake fade-out towards the end.
Justin Timberlake, ‘Mirrors’, 2013
Part emo power ballad and part funk-tinged R&B track, this eight-minute love fest was inspired by the marriage of Timberlake’s own grandparents. Gooiest moment: after the strings, ‘Mirrors’ breaks into repetitive rap-come-chanting of the ultimate declaration “You are the love of my life.”
Queens Of The Stone Age, ‘Make It Wit Chu’, 2007
A song about undivided devotion – like all good love songs – but with a rock’n’roll twist, this is by far the most thrillingly sleazy entry on the list. Gooiest moment: Homme’s falsetto reach in the chorus is a heart-melter.
Queen ‘You’re My Best Friend’, 1975
One of few hit songs written by bassist John Deacon, this tender ballad is a love letter to Veronica, his wife of 41 years. Gooiest moment: Freddie Mercury’s ecstatic, loved-up wail of closing line “You’re my best friend”.
Sinead O’Connor, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, 1990
This weepy was written by Prince but, as camp X Factor would say, Sinead totally made it her own. She smashed it. It earned her a Grammy and remains her most famous tune. Gooiest moment: “I could put my arms around every boy I see / But they’d only remind me of you.”
The Cure, ‘Friday I’m Love’, 1992
This is a straight-up, sunny pop song, at odds with of the Cure’s more typically dark material. Singer Robert Smith has said: “It’s a really good chord progression, I couldn’t believe no-one else had used it… [I thought] “I can’t possibly have come up with this.” Gooiest moment: Smith’s joyous little squeal at the three-minute mark.
Magnetic Fields, ‘Love Is Like A Bottle Of Gin’, 1999
This minimalist track, taken from the band’s epic 69 Love Songs – the album does what it says on the tin – runs through the many qualities love shares with a big bottle of mothers’ ruin. Gooiest moment: “It makes the sun shine, makes it rain.”
U2, ‘With Or Without You’, 1987
The Brian Eno-produced track was the first to feature the ‘Infinite Guitar’ prototype device, which makes musical notes echo and was notoriously unsafe, giving U2 roadies electric shocks on tour. Gooiest moment: Bono’s mid-song descent into classic ’80s “woahhhs”. Oh, and the grizzly ponytail he sports in the video deserves a mention too.
Paul McCartney, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, 1970
Macca feeling sentimental again – this time it’s a heartwarming ode to then-wife Linda McCartney. Awww. Gooiest moment: the powerful piano climb halfway through the first verse will get you choked up every time.
Lana Del Rey, ‘Video Games’, 2010
Del Rey’s debut was the buzziest internet video of its time – a kaleidoscopic reel of retro movie clips. The music is a lushly orchestrated, melancholy tale of a failing relationship that later won an Ivor Novello for Best Contemporary Song. Gooiest moment: the demurely crooned line, “Heaven is a place on earth with you.”
The Maccabees, ‘Toothpaste Kisses’, 2007
This has ‘ditty’ written all over it. The delivery is so intimate it sounds like it’s recorded inside frontman Orlando Weeks’ actual mouth, which would be appropriate given the cutesy relationship tale it’s telling. Gooiest moment: the whistling solo is twee as fuck, and we love it.
Wolfman ft. Pete Doherty, ‘For Lovers’, 2004
Possibly Pete’s most romantic moment, this (sadly now quite overlooked) indie love song is a wistful, heartbreaking ode to co-writer Wolfman’s broken marriage. Gooiest moment: that jagged, early-Coldplay-esque guitar in the final refrain.