For the Record: The best love songs of all time

Audrey Morrison, Staff Reporter

record player
In For The Record, Audrey Morrison talks new albums, concerts, and more. (Graphic by Ellen Chadwick)

In this installment of music column For the Record, Lasso Writer Audrey Morrison gives her top 10 love songs of all time. 

10. “Crash Into Me” – Dave Matthews Band

I am just such a sucker for this song. I don’t know what it is about it. I never listen to the Dave Matthews Band (for obvious reasons – sorry), but “Crash Into Me” just hits different. Some people think that its lyrics are questionable (or sick and twisted) – which I’m not denying – but it’s just… so good. I don’t know what they put into this song to make it so addictive (it’s probably the bridge), but it just works. It’s so good that Greta Gerwig used it twice in her award-winning film “Ladybird.” I wish I had more to say about this song and I wish I could explain why I like it so much (it’s probably the bridge), but I am at an uncharacteristic loss for words. As George Knightly, the love interest in Jane Austen’s novel Emma, says, “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.”

9. “We’re Going to Be Friends” – Jack Johnson

The love that we most often take for granted: friendship. While I cannot claim to be an expert in love, I think I’m pretty well-versed in the art of companionship. While the song doesn’t really have anything poignant or abstract to say about friendship, I think it says everything about our adolescence. Almost everyone I know grew up on “Curious George” (for which this song was written). Even those who didn’t watch the show/movies have this song buried deep within their subconscious. Everyone knows it and everyone loves. It’s short and familiar, and it’s hearing it is like returning to an old best friend. 

8. “Cusco” – Allie Crow Buckley

“Cusco” by Allie Crow Buckley is the sound of desperation. When that first guitar strum reverberates, its emptiness settles in your gut. The echoing, pleading voice of Allie Crow Buckley carries insurmountable weight. Despite its sheer heaviness, this song is undoubtedly a love song. The lackadaisical indie folk chords and lyrics’ teasing philosophical allusions are only floes which float above the song’s true melancholy and ache. Allie Crow Buckley has drifted among many nondescript indie sad-girl artists for far too long. “Cusco” is a masterpiece.

7. “Layla” – Derek & The Dominos

What can I say that has not already been said about this song? The history behind “Layla” is the perfect display of the type of fantastical sensationalism which can only be borne from celebrity breakups. Pattie Boyd, a Twiggy-type model in the 60’s and bride of George Harrison, began an affair with Eric Clapton (of Derek & The Dominos). The story goes that the pair met at a secret apartment in London, where Eric played “Layla” to Pattie for the first time. Eric, a musical collaborator and companion of George Harrison, professed his “insane” love for his best friend’s wife and they were married a couple years later. Aside from the jealousy and taletelling intrigue, the song is incredibly musically powerful. The first riff is brash and self-assured (consequently one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock n’ roll history), but “Layla” also carries a very sweet and bare tone. Around the halfway mark, the song bears a completely different composition. The shape the song takes on is totally asymmetrical, but it flawlessly lays both sides of love: fervent and helpless.

6. “re: stacks” – Bon Iver

“re: stacks” might be the most romantic song Bon Iver has ever written. The entirety of his debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, is the painstaking promise of a dishonest man. It’s not romantically idyllic; there’s betrayal, a loss of trust. Where you’d expect the song to be loud and bitter, it is quiet and simple and true. He acknowledges his dishonesty, but he also accepts his immutability. He hasn’t grown and he hasn’t learned, but he still feels incredible love and a sense of protection over this person. It feels like a very true time testament to modern love.

“This is not the sound of a new man 

or a crispy realization

it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away    

your love will be

safe with me”

5. “I’m Not in Love” – 10cc

Another song which avoids maudlinism and all things mushy and gushy is “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc. Don’t get me wrong – I love sentimentalism – but you can get tired of hearing artists slather the same hackneyed isms onto every song about love. “I’m Not is Love ” is derisive, it’s self-effacing, it’s everything a song should be. I love everything about it: Eric Stewart’s sarcastic monologue, the drawling synth, the jangly guitars. “I’m Not in Love” is perfect.

4. “Don’t Delete the Kisses” – Wolf Alice

If you enjoy pining as much as I do, boy do I have a treat for you. If you haven’t already seen the music video for “Don’t Delete the Kisses” (which might be my favorite music video), please, please, do. The song is a hurried declaration of love, similar to “Thirteen” in its bumbling eagerness and sincerity. It’s an ode to pop and to high school sweethearts. It’s unrequited without being bitter or corny, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish when writing a song about being in love. 

3. “Moon Song” – Phoebe Bridgers

Arguably it can be said that every song by Phoebe Bridgers is the best love song, but “Moon Song” (very narrowly) tops them all. It’s completely unsuspecting, but it hits you like a ton of bricks. If you’ve been in any sort of relationship where you’ve given everything and received nothing in return: you’ll get it. Despite her partner’s infidelities, Phoebe says, “If I could give you the moon, I would give you the moon.” There’s that theme that always shows up in songs like these – the inevitable gravity of love. As if this song needed bonus sad points, some speculate that this song was written about Conor Oberst (a longtime friend and fellow musician of Bridgers). If you see any friends on Spotify listening to this song – check up on them. They’re probably not doing too well.

2. “Thirteen” – Big Star

Released in 1972 with Big Star’s aptly named album “#1 Record”, “Thirteen” has been named “one of rock’s most beautiful celebrations of adolescence” by the Rolling Stone Magazine. Rolling Stone has also put it at #406 out of #500 of the Greatest Songs of All Time, which honestly, is a heinous, heinous crime. It was timeless then, and it remains timeless now. Its beauty comes from its sincerity. “Thirteen” describes school dances, old-fashioned parents, and walks home from school – those which will always be eternal. The significance of being 13 for the first time, though embarrassing and trivial in retrospect, carries incredible weight and nostalgia. Instead of taking the easy road through tongue-in-cheek wistfulness, “Thirteen” celebrates the unique sincerity of youth.

1. “Romeo and Juliet” – Dire Straits

The best love song of all time, dare I say, the greatest song ever written. I’ve always had trouble picking favorites, but if I had to choose: it would be “Romeo and Juliet” by the Dire Straits. And I get it – Romeo and Juliet is super cliché. It’s the same story we’ve heard over and over again. Yet we always come back to it to describe “love” because there’s power in knowing what will absolutely and inescapably happen. In the same way that we know that Romeo and Juliet must and will fall in love, we also know that they must die. The song says, “the dice was loaded from the start.” For me, The Dire Straits possess the same power because I will always, always, love that song.

And finally… other contenders in no particular order (because making this list was extremely difficult)

1. “The Long and Winding Road” – The Beatles

2. “Call It Fate, Call it Karma” – The Strokes

3. “A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell

4. “True Love Waits” – Radiohead

5. “Terrence Love You” – Lana Del Rey

Here’s the playlist: