Search The Line of Best Fit
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Field Day 2015 Sunday Atmosphere 4

Best Love Songs Ever: 20 Songs For The Hopeless Romantic

14 February 2022, 12:00

The best love songs aren't always the biggest and brightest (although they're great too), and sometimes it's a potent moment of tenderness that makes you miss a breath.

Some songs have a power to knock you into a romance-addled haze, lost in fantasy or memory with hearts in your eyes - and we're talking full-on love here, not lust. Others make you wanna pick up the phone to call your S.O. immediately, or spill your guts to a fresh flame. Others sound like they were written for you and your beau (they probably weren't), or speak directly to your soul. Music is the universal language of lurve, and like manipulative marionette master tugging at your heartstrings, it can make you bawl or beam or float through the air like (the now surely cancelled) Pepé Le Pew.

A staggering amount of music concerns love in one form or another - we've not done the maths but it's surely most music, right? - and while some is utter dross, there's plenty to rave about. In fact, there are a lot of brilliant love songs to rave about and it's no simple feat to whittle the mammoth pile into a succinct collection - but we've done it. We've waded in and battered our brains for the bestest best ones that make us feel all gooey inside - the ones that ignite proper butterfly moments and make you too dizzy to stand.

"Pulp - Disco 2000"

Frontman Jarvis Cocker sings of one-sided love, infinite possibility, and the hope that a belief in destiny brings - the optimism is unrivalled on this track, but it's arguably the most tragic love song on this list. "Disco 2000"'s backstory and lyrics belie the upbeat tones of the chorus and the endless energy in the floorfilling beat. Cocker based the song on his relationship (and lack thereof) with Deborah Bone MBE, a childhood friend and eventual mental health nurse and campaigner, who lost her battle with bone marrow cancer in 2014.

The lyric to break you: "We were friends but that was as far as it went / I used to walk you home sometimes but it meant, oh it meant nothing to you..."

Mazzy Star - "Fade Into You"

Fuzzed-out guitars and waltzing beats congeal during this opiate rush of a track. It's warm and frothy and, to be incredibly passé, hygge-y with its fireside charm. The track, written by vocalist Hope Sandoval and composer David Roback, is a remarkable piece of songwriting that feels content and at ease - but the lyrics paint a different picture, nodding to the all-too-familiar heartache of unrequited love.

The lyric to break you: "I want to hold the hand inside you / I want to take a breath that's true..."

Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris - "We Found Love"

A hopeless place is arguably the best place to find love, and it’s hard not to feel as uplifted as Rihanna herself when this stratospheric banger hits its chorus. Music snobs be damned, Calvin Harris knows how to produce a pop song, and you’d be hard-pushed to find another that so effortlessly captures the heady rush of young love.

The lyric to break you: "And we're standing side by side / as your shadow crosses mine..."

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - "Into My Arms"

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds' pared-back ballad is four-and-a-bit minutes of music that makes time stand still. Cave's superb vocal display is paired with a naked piano melody and nothing else - it's grazed-knee raw and beautifully intimate. It's private and personal, and we're lucky that the Australian artist could share something like this with the world - it's among his best and lovers around the world are better off for its existence.

Journalist and critic Toby Creswell believes the lyrics are inspired by Cave's breakups with Viviane Carneiro and PJ Harvey - whether that's true or not remains to be seen, but it's certainly a powerful ode and one that Cave says he is proudest of.

The lyric to break you: "And I don't believe in the existence of angels / but looking at you I wonder if that's true..."

The Smiths - "Hand In Glove"

The Smiths introduced themselves to the world via "Hand In Glove" in 1983 - despite not charting on its initial debut, the song has gone on to be one of the seminal indie troupe's most loved, and even Morrissey has called it their "most special" release. It's got the Manchester legends' trademark jangles and wit - from the off Moz is at his blunt, silver-tongued best and although its pretty bleak in places, there's an unmistakeable romantic quality. You can't ignore the just-the-two-of-us-against-the-world sentiments - even if you're luckless, broke, and a social pariah, there's still someone who will love you.

The lyric to break you: "Yes, we may be hidden by rags / but we've something they'll never have..."

Bloc Party - "This Modern Love"

A heart-bursting ode from the indie stalwarts' seminal Silent Alarm - eschewing the angular post-punk vibes, Kele Okereke & Co. nodded to their glistening, dance-dappled future with an affecting number about falling head-over-heels for a new beau. With its ever-panning intro and intimate guitar twinkles, this is one for a pair of headphones - a soundtrack to the fluttering butterflies before a big date, perhaps.

The lyric to break you: "And you told me you wanted to eat up my sadness / well jump on, enjoy, you can gorge away..."

David Bowie - ""Heroes""

""Heroes"" is one of the most influential songs of the modern era - it's an empowering, fist-pumping call to arms with love and triumph at its core. It's brought down barriers (in more ways than one), and even if the love concerned isn't a flourishing romance, it's still eternal. The actual inspiration for the track is a little less wholesome (Bowie saw the married Tony Visconti, his producer, canoodling with not-wife backing vocalist Antonia Maaß underneath the Berlin wall) but Bowie manages to transform a picturesque tryst into sonic magic that's sure to stand the test of time.

The lyric to break you: "We can be heroes, just for one day / we can be us, just for one day..."

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Maps"

With "Maps", Yeah Yeah Yeahs set a precedent for guitar-pop that has spanned far beyond the track's audience, influencing The Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé, and Kelly Clarkson, amongst many others. The cultural heft of this track no doubt stems from its (at the time) unique musicality, but it’s the simple, heart-wrenching lyrics and Karen O’s understated delivery on the chorus that make it a love song worthy of this list, conveying more heartbroken longing than most songwriters manage across an entire career.

If the track alone fails to move you, there’s the oft-cited story behind the music video, which features Karen O crying real tears after having been stood up by her then-boyfriend. In the last shot of her face, she puffs out a tiny, tragic sigh that will have your tear ducts brimming.

The lyric to break you: "Wait, they don’t love you like I love you..."

The Cure - "Just Like Heaven"

"The song is about hyperventilating - kissing and fainting to the floor…" says bandleader Robert Smith, who also cites a trip to England's Beachy Head with then-future wife Mary Poole as the song's chief inspiration. The goth-turned-pop icons have a lot of superb songs about love, but it's the rush of pure joy of "Just Like Heaven" that's their finest on the matter, with cascading riffs, waves of '80s synths, and hurtling drums all mirroring the sensation of leaping headlong into love. Just like heaven, indeed.

The lyric to break you: "And you told me you wanted to eat up my sadness / well jump on, enjoy, you can gorge away..."

Magnetic Fields - "The Book Of Love"

"The Book Of Love" is the greatest love song of all time. It's certainly the most famous track from Stephin Merritt & Co.'s gigantic 69 Love Songs collection, and with nothing more than a threadbare guitar and rich male voice they leave you breathless. It's not an ostentatious from-the-rooftops kind of declaration - this is a decidedly un-Hollywood paean to the greatest emotion that hits home hard. It's intimate, with no frills attached and a rare sincerity in every word, and although it's got bittersweetness in spades, it's not sad... it's calm and content. The Magnetic Fields capture the precious little moments on "The Book Of Love".

The lyric to break you: "The book of love has music in it / in fact that's where music comes from / some of it is just transcendental / some of it is just really dumb..."

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