1. Beyoncé, “XO”
It probably helps that this video is freaking adorable, but “XO” might be one of Beyoncé’s best love songs. It’s not complicated, and it’s delivered with such joy and affection, you can just feel the love in her voice. And the way the song swells during the chorus is enough to make your heart feel like it’s about to burst, in the best way possible. “Baby, love me lights out” is the new “I love you.”
Honorable mention: “Drunk In Love”
Swoon-worthy lyric: “In the darkest night hour / I’ll search through the crowd / Your face is all that I see / I’ll give you everything / Baby love me lights out”
2. Kanye West, “Bound 2”
“Bound 2” almost sounds like it belongs on a different album. After more than 30 minutes of aggressive, pounding, icy production on Yeezus, it feels like the heavens open up when that first Ponderosa Twins Plus One sample kicks in. “Bound 2” is a throwback to classic ‘Ye production, soulful and warm, and the fact that it allows us to see him vulnerable and in love makes it all the better. The lyrics aren’t traditionally poetic, but that kind makes it more affecting, from talking about a love that’s like that teenage “don’t-tell-your-mom shit” to wondering out loud that, “Maybe we could still make it to the church steps.”
Swoon-worthy lyric: “And hey, ayo, we made it: Thanksgiving / So, hey, maybe we can make it to Christmas”
3. Ariana Grande, “Honeymoon Avenue”
This song is a killer. It’s about everything we want to do to try to get things back on track when a relationship goes awry. “Let’s just go back to the way it was” is such a simply phrased sentiment, but it cuts to the core feeling of wondering how the hell things got so messed up in the first place. And Grande delivers it beautifully.
Gut-wrenching lyric: “I feel like my heart is stuck in bumper to bumper traffic / I’m under pressure / ‘cause I can’t have you the way that I want / Let’s just go back to the way it was”
4. Rhye, “Open”
Rhye’s Mike Milosh has one of the most beautiful, sensuous voices out right now, and this song is silky, tender, and seductive in all the right ways. Best listened to on a long drive at night or with some candles lit at home. Trust me.
Honorable mention: “The Fall,” which was released as a single last year.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs / I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs / I’m a fool for your belly / I’m a fool for your love”
5. Charles Bradley, “Let Love Stand A Chance”
I’m really not sure how anyone could turn down Charles Bradley’s pleas to “give love a chance.” The soul singer belts a monster of a ballad, filled with emotion, regret, and longing.
Gut-wrenching lyric: “I’ve been thinking what to say / If you walked through that door / All the walls we build around us / Let them fall to the floor”
6. Ciara, “Body Party”
“Body Party” had thousands of people body-rolling and grinding in 2013, and for good reason: It’s a deliciously sexy song that works both in the the club and the bedroom. And if you’re as obsessed with Ciara and Future’s relationship as I am, then you’ll probably love the remix featuring the rapper and B.o.B., too.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “The things I wanna do to you / My body’s calling you / I’m having so much fun with you / Now it’s just me and you / Your body’s my party, let’s get it started”
Miley’s voice has a richness and a maturity that’s pretty remarkable for someone her age, and nowhere is her heart more open and her voice more strong than on “Adore You.”
Swoon-worthy lyric: “When you say you love me / know I love you more / When you say you need me / know I need you more / Boy, I adore you”
8. Mary Lambert, “She Keeps Me Warm”
Mary Lambert was undoubtedly the best part of Macklemore’s “Same Love,” and the full version of “She Keeps Me Warm” is even better. It’s a sweet, tender song about the deep comfort of being with someone you love, no matter your sexual orientation. The music video is also bound to melt your heart, and maybe even make you shed some happy tears.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “She says I smell like safety and home / I named both of her eyes ‘Forever’ and ‘Please don’t go’”
9. Paramore, “Still Into You”
There are plenty of love songs about new love and flirtation, but long-term relationships? Not so much. Paramore’s “Still Into You” acknowledges the natural ups and downs of a steady relationship, and how even after everything you’ve been through, you can still feel those butterflies that brought you together in the first place — maybe even stronger than before.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “It’s not a walk in the park / to love each other / But when our fingers interlock / Can’t deny, can’t deny you’re worth it / ‘Cause after all this time I’m still into you”
10. Lorde, “400 Lux”
Lorde may be only 17, but she’s got a really mature, nuanced view of love that’s so refreshing in pop music. Maybe you don’t want a Romeo or a prince to come and “save you” — maybe you just want someone who will warm up the car for you when it’s cold outside and buy you orange juice. It’s the little things.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “Now we’re wearing long sleeves and the heating comes on / You buy me orange juice / We’re getting good at this”
11. Justin Timberlake, “Pusher Love Girl”
The 20/20 Experience is actually filled with quite a few romantic songs, which makes sense given Timberlake’s newlywed status. But of them all, “Pusher Love Girl” is the most fun — an old-school soul song wherein JT compares his love to drug addiction.
Honorable mentions: “That Girl,” “Mirrors,” “Blue Ocean Floor”
Swoon-worthy lyric: “‘Cause I can always see the farthest stars when I’m on you / I don’t wanna ever come down from this cloud of loving you”
12. Janelle Monaé, featuring Miguel, “PrimeTime”
Janelle Monaé and Miguel together? There’s nothing quite like it. There’s also nothing quite like feeling that some greater force is rooting for your love.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “‘Cause baby it’s a primetime for our love / Ain’t nobody peekin’ but the stars above / It’s a primetime for our love / And heaven is bettin’ on us”
13. Lana Del Rey, “Young and Beautiful”
I like that Lana answers her own question, confidently: Will you still love me when I’m old and wrinkly? Yes. The answer is yes.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “Will you still love me / When I’m no longer young and beautiful? / Will you still love me / When I got nothing but my aching soul? / I know you will, I know you will”
14. Tegan and Sara, “Closer”
Tegan and Sara hit the nail on the head when it comes to the anticipation of getting with your crush. The bouncy beat and chorus make for the perfect song to skip down the street to — or for the shyer among us, to blast inside your house and sing along with at the top of your lungs.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “I want you close, I want you / I won’t treat you like you’re typical”
15. Drake, featuring Majid Jordan, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
This song is just all kinds of right, from the soulful, disco-tinged sound to Drake professing his love and desire to care for his special someone. It’s also a reminder that home is — yes — where the heart is.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “I can’t get over you / You left your mark on me / I want your hot love and emotion endlessly”
16. Mariah Carey, featuring Miguel, “#Beautiful”
Who doesn’t want to feel this carefree and light? Mimi and Miguel sound so smitten in this breezy, throwback R&B jam, and when she sings, “I don’t care / take me anywhere,” it perfectly captures those first feelings of really falling for someone.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “‘Cause it’s beautiful, oh you make me feel invincible / And I can’t pretend that that doesn’t mean a thing to me”
17. Lil Wayne, featuring Chance The Rapper, “You Song”
Chance The Rapper gets all kinds of mushy on Lil Wayne’s “You Song” off his Dedication 5 mixtape. He daydreams about sweet things he wants to do with his girl, and it’s all the little gestures that feel the most romantic (like eating broccoli even though he doesn’t like it). “This is not a love song,” Chance croons. “It’s a you song. I just happen to love you.” Awww.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “I’mma buy a summer house, with a rec room / And a car with no backseat and some leg room / And some strawberries and some chocolate / And a fridge and some broccoli / ‘Cause I know you like vegetables even though I don’t / I won’t say I won’t eat it if you chef it”
18. Quadron, “Sea Salt”
“Sea Salt” is a song that so many people can relate to — it’s about that love you keep coming back to, even when you know it might not be right.
Gut-wrenching lyric: “And you still, I still can’t find my feelings / So I turn to you, look the other way / So I won’t see you kill this face / Couldn’t help falling in again”
19. K. Michelle, “V.S.O.P.”
A classic, feel-good R&B song, sung by the awesome K. Michelle, all about being so excited about the person who gives you butterflies, and everything feeling “very special,” indeed.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “You know this ain’t an ordinary love / We got so much history in the stories about us / So come on over baby”
20. Sevyn Streeter, “It Won’t Stop”
If you think that Sevyn Streeter sounds a little bit like Aaliyah, you’re not wrong; she name-checks the late singer on “It Won’t Stop,” and is clearly inspired by her subtle, sweet tones. The song is about undying love and devotion, and being able to trust yourself and someone else enough to let yourself go.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “Every little thing you do got me feeling some type of way / When you give me that thunder you make my summer rain”
21. Kacey Musgraves, “My House”
“My House” is a simple, sweet song about the things that really matter in life: the company you keep. Fancy houses and vacations are fine and good, but as long as you’re with the person you love, you’re home.
Swoon-worthy lyric: “Any KOA is A-OK as long as I’m with you / So come on hitch your wagon / to the living room I’m draggin’ / If I can’t bring you to my house / I’ll bring my house to you”
22. Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man”
Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” is what you’d want your ex to realize: You’re the best damn thing s/he ever had and s/he made the biggest mistake in letting you go. The song is a beautiful capsule of all those feelings of regret and pain, and maybe a lesson to some people out there to cherish their boy/girlfriends. Buy them flowers. Take them to the party. Appreciate them.
Gut-wrenching lyric: “It all just sounds like, oooh… / Too young, too dumb to realize / That I should’ve bought you flowers / and held your hand / Should’ve gave you all my hours / when I had the chance / Take you to every party / ‘cause all you wanted to do was dance / Now my baby’s dancing / But she’s dancing with another man”