Set the Mood on With 20 of the Best Love Songs From This Century

From Frank Sinatra to The Beatles, Etta James to Celine Dion, love songs are practically a requirement for any artist hoping to deeply connect with listeners.

Who wants to hear about how wonderful someone thinks they are or bask in the bliss of being in love?

At some point, everyone.

But while the classics – “At Last,” “Something,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “I Will Always Love You,” “My Heart Will Go On” – remain as such, expressions of tenderness continue to evolve with each new voice behind them.

Since 2000, thousands of love songs have steamrolled playlists, popped up on mix CDs (remember, we’re going back to 2000!) and landed on many a wedding soundtrack.

So here, we humbly profess, are 20 of the most affecting love songs this century.

Keith Urban, ‘Making Memories of Us’ (2004)

Baked-in sincerity color so many of Urban’s love songs. He tells us he’s a man of his word over a strummy acoustic guitar, which is commendable, but rote. But then he continues: He’s interested in building trust, honoring parents, and making memories. Even a cringe-inducing simile – “I wanna steal your attention like a bad outlaw” – evokes a smile because Urban is so genuine.

Coldplay, ‘Fix You’ (2005)

As the ever-earnest Chris Martin reminds us, love isn’t just about holding hands and fluttering hearts. It’s about being there. Carrying someone’s heart when it sinks. Wanting to help, but sometimes feeling helpless. But as the gentle piano and organ build, on the back of chilling guitar notes, to a soaring U2-esque chorus, the song becomes the sound of unconditional love.

Bruno Mars, ‘Just the Way You Are’ (2010)

The debut single from the pop dynamo isn’t his most musically dynamic – that would come later when he injected some funk into his soul – but underneath the sappiness, it’s undeniably adorable. Billy Joel had a smash of the same name in 1977 that also professed a “don’t ever change” sentiment, and Mars’ aughts update inspired plenty of swooning.

Katy Perry, ‘Teenage Dream’ (2010)

Filled with Perry’s flirty vocals, the song is both a euphoric recollection of the loss of sexual innocence and recapturing that feeling as an adult (“I finally found you, my missing puzzle piece”). With its driving synthesizers wrapped in the signature slick production of pop wizards Max Martin and Benny Blanco, the title track of Perry’s 2010 album is pure saccharine – and still delectable.

Beyoncé, ‘Love On Top’ (2011)

Is there a more blissful sound than Beyoncé bopping through the finger-snapping intro? Actually, yes. Her ascending vocals – a magical escalation - that parallel her forthright claims that, “you’re the one that I love; you’re the one that I need; you’re the only one that I see.”

Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, ‘We Found Love’ (2011)

Between Rihanna’s airy vocals and Harris’ celebratory beat drop, it’s easy to digest this club banger as merely fun and frivolous. But the lyrics hint at something deeper – taking hopelessness and turning it into triumph, suffering through the bad to get to the good – underneath those relentlessly cheerful keyboard stabs.

Miguel, ‘Adorn’ (2012)

It’s a bit of a modern update of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Over a skittering electro-beat dipped in soul, Miguel ebbs and flows with vocal yelps as he professes adoration as well as his own prowess as he asserts, “Love ain’t never looked so good on ya.”

John Legend, ‘All of Me’ (2013)

No one will ever accuse the R&B hitmaker of generating unquenchable excitement, but when he’s in his wheelhouse – piano ballads laced with honesty – Legend is masterful. The song, still a wedding favorite, marks some of his best lyrical poetry as well, when he professes to love “your curves and all your edges.”

Adele, ‘Sweetest Devotion’ (2015)

Considering how much of Adele’s catalog is dedicated to heartbreak and emotional scarring, it’s a pleasure to hear her relishing unabashed happiness. Her joy is palpable on this gliding ballad when she soars through the lines, “You’re my light, you’re my darkness/You’re the right kind of madness/You’re my hope, you’re my despair/You’re my scope, everything, everywhere.”

‘Sing Street’ soundtrack, ‘Up’ (2016)

Actor-singer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, the protagonist of this charmer of a movie, handles vocals on the melodic masterpiece. The song dips and soars as he sings, completely besotted, about the girl “running magical circles around my head.” But of course, love and doubt are constant companions, a feeling underscored in the line, “what if everything beautiful's fiction and this reality’s just pretend?”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, ‘If We Were Vampires’ (2017)

Always one with sharp insights, heartbreaking or otherwise, Isbell looks at love in the most realistic way – with the clock always ticking. “Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone … maybe we’ll get 40 years together,” he sings, while wife Amanda Shires’ harmony vocals add melancholic poignancy. His wish, of course, is that “if we were vampires,” life would be eternal. But since it isn’t, he views time running out as a gift and promises, “I’ll work hard ‘til the end of my shift.”

Taylor Swift, ‘New Year’s Day’ (2017)

An underappreciated gem from her “Reputation” album, the sparse ballad – with piano and acoustic guitar its primary pulse – spotlights Swift’s gift for crafting vivid lyrics (“squeeze my hand three times in the back of a taxi”). But amid the “glitter on the floor after the party” and the candle wax clumped on the hardwood floor, Swift emerges from the scene with a simple realization: “You and me forever more.”

Lady Gaga, ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ (2018)

A heartbreaker from the end of “A Star is Born,” Gaga utilizes her gorgeous voice much as Whitney Houston did on her most stirring ballads, rising and dipping as she unfurls laments, memories and devotion that will never diminish. Gaga struggling to hold back tears while singing “Don’t want to feel another touch, don’t want to start another fire, don’t want to know another kiss …” will break even the iciest heart.

Ed Sheeran, ‘The Joker and The Queen’ (2021)

The British ginger has already ensconced himself in first dance territory with “Perfect” and “Thinking Out Loud,” but this unjustly undervalued beauty from his “Equals” album combines all of Sheeran’s strengths in about three minutes. Tender piano backs his warm vocals (Taylor Swift features on a duet version) as he unspools clever lyrics that parallel love with face cards and suits: “I know you could fall for a thousand kings/and hearts that could give you a diamond ring/when I fold, you see the best in me.”

Lauv, ‘All 4 Nothing (I’m So in Love)’ (2021)

Known for previous hits “I Like Me Better” and “I’m So Tired …” with Troye Sivan, Lauv (aka Ari Leff) isn’t redrawing any blueprints with this foot tapper. But sometimes all you need is a mellifluous chorus, an insinuating hook and naked vulnerability to be effective.

Brandi Carlile, ‘You and Me on the Rock’ (2021)

Take a bit of Joni Mitchell, a dash of Amy Grant and Carlile’s natural ability to spin lyrical poignancy and you’ve got a sweet ditty about appreciating the mundane (“Me out in my garden and you out on your walk”) and commitment to safeguarding love (“It’s a big sea, but it can’t touch you and me”).

Maren Morris, ‘The Furthest Thing’ (2022)

A standout from her “Humble Quest” album, the country maven coos over a softly pumping bass drum about the unlikeliest of pairings that “fit so perfectly” and the challenges of long-distance. Morris co-wrote the ballad with husband Ryan Hurd, a collaboration that sparks instant legitimacy.

Michael Bublé, ‘I’ll Never Not Love You’ (2022)

A master of the swoon, Bublé tops even his previous notable efforts (“Home,” “Haven’t Met You Yet”) with this melodically rich, gently chugging proclamation of dedication. It’s classic “you’re all I need, baby,” stuff, but Bublé infuses all of his songs with such authenticity that when he says he’ll never run, leave you behind or make you cry, you don’t need much convincing.

James Bay, ‘Brilliant Still’ (2022)

The English singer-songwriter produced many standouts on his “Leap” album, but this combination of emotional uplift and touching plea to shirk insecurities is a tonic for those who can’t get out of their own heads. “When you can’t look in the mirror, heart’s ready to spill, I just want to tell you that you’re brilliant still,” he sings, with utterly convincing force.

Harry Styles, ‘Late Night Talking’ (2022)

Numerous selections from Styles’ expanding oeuvre could apply, including 2019’s “Adore You.” But with so much of his Grammy-winning “Harry’s House” written during his relationship with Olivia Wilde, this is the musical definition of smitten.


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