The 20 greatest love songs of all time

Average love songs are two-a-penny, but which ones make you feel all mushy inside?

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 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.

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.

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.

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. So that’s Alex’ beau told!

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.

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.”

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”.

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.

Dolly Parton, ‘I Will Always Love You’ (1974)

Though Whitney Houston’s belted-out cover of Dolly Parton’s biggest tearjerker is just as iconic, there’s a certain melancholy resignation to the country-tinged original – a song about saying goodbye to someone you love so that they can thrive without you.

Gooiest moment: The bittersweet spoken-word section: when Dolly wishes her ex joy and happiness, her voice wavers.

Stevie Wonder, ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ (1984)

With ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’, Stevie Wonder sacks off hugely elaborate romantic gestures or dramatic declarations of love – instead, it’s a song about picking up the phone on the most mundane, everyday occasion possible, and telling someone you love them for no reason at all.

Gooiest moment: It’s hard to find anything more sway-worthy than that chef’s-kiss double key change

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ (1967)

Later a hit for The Supremes’ Diana Ross, the original duet version was a game-changer for Motown Records – put simply, it’s the sort of pop-soul gold that makes your heart swell.

Gooiest moment: Offering to hike across infinitely wide rivers and unfathomably gigantic mountains in the name of love is pretty damn romantic.