Shakespeare wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.” A song — a truly great song — can deepen our emotions and speak to us in a way that is hard to put into words. And songs about love — the most profound feeling we humans can have — can touch us in places we didn’t know existed, reaching the very corners of our soul.

“You have to be drawn into the performance in such a way that [you feel like] you’re part of the story. It’s got to have that sincerity and emotional investment about something that’s intangible, like love.

Eric Teel

Program director, WFAE

eric teel headshot

The best love songs express sentiments of romance, passion, and heartbreak, and do so effortlessly. When we hear one, we may be overcome with the urge to sing along and, if we’re really feeling the groove, move our bodies in seductive ways, hoping Marvin Gaye’s or Otis Redding’s ability to turn a phrase will set the mood. But what actually makes a good love song?

It’s more than just clever words, according to Eric Teel, program director at WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina. “There needs to be truth in the messaging [and] authenticity in the lyrics,” he says. The song also must encourage an emotional investment on the part of the listener. According to Teel, a great love song is more than sunshine and rainbows — it must convey what love really feels like. “It needs to be a true sharing of what love actually is. Love manifests in so many ways that simplifying it to ‘Baby, I will love you always’ or ‘You’re the one’ is insufficient.”

A great love song is not a greeting card gushing hackneyed phrases and platitudes; it’s a subtle declaration of deep emotion that all of us feel to our very core. Whether it’s romantic or platonic love, we all experience it, and a great love song expresses those feelings when we’re unable to.

Ingredients of a great love song

The three key components of an exceptional love song, Teel says, are lyrics, melody, and performance. A well-crafted love song lyrically depicts an accurate representation of what love is. “Love is imperfect, yet it’s perfect at the same time,” Teel explains. “It comes with faults, a demand for attention, and with a demand for maintenance. It’s not just freely given; you have to work at it.” Finding that poignant message in what is essentially a 3½-minute poem is a challenging task, but songwriters have succeeded at it for decades.

The song also needs to have a beautiful melody, one that will stay with the listener and evoke feelings. “It needs a buildup of tension and release in the chord progression. Those are those moments of awe that the song provides because they build and they build until there’s finally that release,” Teel says.

best love songs record with hearts

The final, and perhaps most challenging, piece is the performance. A song may boast poetic lyrics and an ear-catching melody, but without a passionate, heartfelt rendition, it won’t rise above the ordinary. “You have to be drawn into the performance in such a way that [you feel like] you’re part of the story,” Teel says. “It’s got to have that sincerity and emotional investment about something that’s intangible, like love.”

Our 50 favorite love songs

With those ingredients in mind, we have collected 50 of our favorite love songs for Valentine’s Day. Pop these on when the festivities are getting started and see where the night takes you.

1. “Maybe I’m Amazed” by Paul McCartney

2. “Something” by The Beatles

3. “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes

4. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton

5. “Sea of Love” by Cat Power

6. “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates

7. “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure

8. “At Last” by Etta James

9. “Your Song” by Elton John

10. “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper

11. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley

12. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

13. “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel

14. “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys

15. “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele

16. “Woman” by Mumford & Sons

17. “Work Song” by Hozier

18. “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová

19. “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit

20. “A Love Song” by Loggins & Messina

21. “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson

22. “How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees

23. “Crazy” by Patsy Cline

24. “You’re Still the One” by Shania Twain

25. “January Wedding” by The Avett Brothers

Music-themed gift ideas for Valentine’s Day

26. “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton

27. “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows

28. “Beyond” by Leon Bridges

29. “With or Without You” by U2

30. “One and Only” by Adele

31. “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads

32. “All of Me” by John Legend

33. “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac

34. “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green

35. “You’re the One” by Tracy Chapman

36. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli

37. “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke

38. “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” by Ella Fitzgerald

39. “I Get a Kick Out of You” by Frank Sinatra

40. “Turn Me On” by Norah Jones

41. “La Vie en rose” by Édith Piaf

42. “You Go to My Head” by Billie Holiday

43. “L-O-V-E” by Nat King Cole

44. “Just the Two of Us” by Bill Withers

45. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

46. “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz

47. “That’s Where I Am” by Maggie Rogers

48. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

49. “These Arms of Mine” by Otis Redding

50. “Just the Same” by Barnaby Bright


Autumn Micketti is the SEO & Content Coordinator for 1-800-Flowers. When she's not writing about Oregold® Peaches or love songs, you can find her exploring mountains, listening to the latest album release of her current musical obsession, or spending time with her extended family.

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