Greatest Love Songs

Sunday, February 04, 2018

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From Shakespeare to Voltaire, John Donne to Lord Byron, poetry has long celebrated love. And though these beautiful stanzas and verses have their place, over time the world has evolved to see pop stars as the new poets. Music has become the mainstay and of course the soundtrack to our lives… every generation loves and there's a song to inspire it. We've scoured the charts, our playlists and even took it all the way back to our CD and vinyl collections (yes, that's still a thing for some of us!). Indeed, if music be the food of love, play on…with the just-capped, Grammys in our-rear-view mirrors we're blasting (speakers and all) full speed ahead into the month of love as we recall some lyrics from the greatest love songs of all.


Baby Love - The Supremes

The incomparable trio of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson captured the imagination of lovers everywhere with this 1964 hit. This track cemented their status as the ultimate girl group putting their Motown label as the hit factory of the decade. Add to that the song's catchy lyrics punctuated by 'oohs' and 'ahhhs'…who'd have thought that unrequited love could be this fun!?


Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton

“Lovin' you is easy' cause you're beautiful…Stay with me while we grow old, and we will live each day in spring time ...”

Fantastic lyrics, an easy melody and that unforgettable whistle register make this one for the ages. Forty-five years after being first recorded, it still gives us the chills.


Unforgettable - Nat King Cole

“That's why, darling, it's incredible that someone so unforgettable thinks that I am unforgettable too!”

Though written and originally performed by Irving Gordon, it's Nat's version we cherish. Those smoky notes and easy jazz styling make it a Sunday evening classic. Some might even recall a reimagining of the track featuring a duet with his daughter, the late Natalie Cole.


When I Fall In Love - Doris Day

“In a restless world like this is, love as ended before it's begun, and too many moonlight kisses seem to cool in the warmth of the sun…”

Covered by singers aplenty, it's the classic 1930s version we love.


Come Fly With Me - Frank Sinatra

Give us smooth crooning à la 'Old Blue Eyes', a big band, a tempting offer to see the world with a lover by our side and it's easy to make magic: “Come fly with me, let's fly away, let's take off in the blue…Once I get you up there /I'll be holding you so near/You may hear angels cheer cause we're together.”


Killing Me Softly - Roberta Flack

From Sinatra to the Fugees to Zhavia — star-in-the-making 16-year-old recently spotted on The Four (Are you watching?) — this song has been performed in many genres but Flack's remains an oldie but goodie. Definitely not your typical love ballad, beautiful yet haunting with the right amount of sass.

“I heard he sang a good song, I heard he had a style

And so I came to see him, to listen for a while

And there he was this young boy, a stranger to my eyes ...”


The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack

“The first time ever I kissed your mouth, I felt the earth move in my hand.”

Known for her honey vocals, breathy notes and ethereal jazz-infused sounds, Flack achieved another one for the ages with this all-time favourite.


No Ordinary Love - Sade

“I gave you all that I have inside and you took my love, you took my love...

I keep crying

(I keep crying)

I keep trying... for you

There's nothing like you and I baby

This is no ordinary love no ordinary love.”

The verdict is still out on whether it's about love gone wrong or a lover yearning for more after falling truly, madly and deeply in love. That aside, it surely is a compelling song.


Crazy In Love - Beyoncé

The #Beyhive wasn't yet a thing when Beyoncé left her girl group behind to pursue a solo career. Her would-be hubby by her side, she captured the imagination of her generation with a catchy, upbeat ode to love:

“I look and stare so deep in your eyes,

I touch on you more and more every time,

When you leave I'm begging you not to go,

Call your name two or three times in a row,

Such a funny thing for me to try to explain,

How I'm feeling and my pride is the one to blame.

'Cuz I know I don't understand,

Just how your love can do what no one else can.”


Ribbon In The Sky - Stevie Wonder

Featured in the singer's greatest hits album Musiquarium I, this 1982 classic has become a wedding staple. Poetic and symbolic, it's been covered by top acts like Boys II Men, Diana Ross and Mary J Blige, to name a few. Here's our favourite verse:

“This is not a coincidence

And far more than a lucky chance

But what is that was always meant

Is our ribbon in the sky for our love”


Truly - Lionel Richie

Women everywhere swooned in 1982 as they imagined Lionel serenading them; this, too, like many of the singer's ballads has become a wedding staple. Its crescendos and bold declaration of being completely 'whipped' makes this one of the greats:

“Girl, tell me only this/ That I have your heart for always/And you want me by your side/Whispering the words I'll always love you”


Kiss From A Rose - Seal

Though written several years before (in 1987, to be exact), music lovers first were introduced to this track in 1994 with its inclusion on the Batman Forever soundtrack (1994). The song swept the Grammys of 1996 winning Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance — testament to its musicality and brilliant arrangement. We're not sure what exactly 'sealed'' the deal with Heidi Klum but perhaps it was these lines:

“You remain my power, my pleasure, my pain

Baby, to me, you're like a growing addiction that I can't deny

Won't you tell me, is that healthy, baby?

But did you know that when it snows

My eyes become large and the light that you shine can be seen?

Baby, I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the grey

Ooh, the more I get of you, the stranger it feels, yeah

Now that your rose is in bloom

A light hits the gloom on the grey.”


Beauty And The Beast - Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion

Written and produced by Disney maestros Howard Ashman and Alan Menken for the feature film of the same name, this was released as a pop single - a duet with stars of the day R&B singer Peabo Bryson and the vocal powerhouse herself Celine Dion. Charming, genteel and romantic, the song remains a classic with John Legend and Ariana Grande breathing new life into the track for the live-action version of the Disney story.

“Just a little change

Small to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast.”


That's The Way Love Goes - Janet Jackson

Michael's little sister was all grown and singing about boys! When she wasn't giving us Miss-Jackson-if-ya-nasty, she was the smooth pop star who floated over sexual innuendos. No doubt the backdrop of many a 90s love story:

“Like a moth to a flame

Burned by the fire

My love is blind

Can't you see my desire (that's the way, that's the way, that's the way love goes)”


The Power Of Love - Jennifer Rush

The original singer was Jennifer Rush with acts like Air Supply and Laura Branigan taking a stab, but it wasn't until Celine Dion laced the tune with her golden pipes that the track reached Billboard status. That said, the orginal remains an oldie but goodie with its soaring vocals, dramatic synths and affirmations of commitment.

“I hold on to your body

And feel each move you make

Your voice is warm and tender

A love that I could not forsake…

Sometimes I am frightened but I'm ready to learn 'bout the power of love.”


Making Love Out Of Nothing At All - Air Supply

The Australian duo were pleasantly surprised that Jamaicans knew all the words to their songs a few years back when they first performed on The Rock at the Jazz & Blues Festival. That said, this song remains an anthem in dancehall spaces aplenty, never mind its soft rock appeal. Still, it's a powerful 80s ballad that we just can't get enough of:

“I know just how to whisper

And I know just how to cry

I know just where to find the answers

And I know just how to lie

I know just how to fake it

And I know just how to scheme

I know just when to face the truth

And then I know just when to dream.”


Greatest Love Of All - Whitney Houston

Arguably a track that was ahead of its time (Were we talking about self-love in the 80s as we do today?), Houston received mainstream success as she willed little girls everywhere to dream, love themselves and embrace that they were enough. After all… 'learning to love yourself is the greatest love all.”


I Just Called To Say I Love You - Stevie Wonder

Getting the Oscar nod for Best Orginal Song from the film Woman In Red (1984) and the singer's best-selling track to date, this ballad is an enduring love song to those three words:

“No April rain

No flowers bloom

No wedding Saturday within the month of June

But what it is, is something true

Made up of these three words that I must say to you.”


Dreamlover - Mariah Carey

The queen of the whistle register, Carey followed her Vision Of Love success by channelling a damsel in distress. And what can we say — it's a formula that works for her to this day:

“Dreamlover come rescue me

Take me up, take me down

Take me anywhere you want to, baby, now

I need you so desperately

Won't you please come around

'Cause I wanna share forever with you, baby.”


Can't Help Fallin'In Love - Elvis Presley

The King of Rock 'n' Roll had women at his beck and call as he crooned this one. Released in 1962, the song has seen many incarnations but it's the original that remains our favourite:

“Wise men say

Only fools rush in

But I can't help falling in love with you

Shall I stay?

Would it be a sin

If I can't help falling in love with you?”


I Got You Babe - Sonny and Cher

“I got flowers in the spring

I got you to wear my ring

And when I'm sad, you're a clown

And if I get scared, you're always around.”

From the album Look At Us (1965), this song has earned its place among the pop greats having been featured in countless films, and television shows. It's also been heralded by Rolling Stones as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston

It may have been first penned and performed by Dolly Parton, but history favours the powerhouse. Enter Whitney Houston à la T he Bodyguard. She of the soaring vocals and emotive vibrato brought us to tears with every note as she reminisced on her lost love.

“I hope life treats you kind

And I hope you have all you've dreamed of

And I wish you joy and happiness

But above all this I wish you love ...”


I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing - Aerosmith

The soundtrack to Armageddon the movie, this poignant rock ballad gave the feels as Areosmith frontman Steven Tyler sang of sunrises and sweet surrenders.

“I could lie awake just to hear you breathing

Watch you smile while you are sleeping

While you're far away and dreaming

I could spend my life in this sweet surrender

I could stay lost in this moment forever

Where every moment spent with you is a moment I treasure”


To Sir, With Love - Lulu

From the film of the same name, To Sir, With Love tows a thin line between schoolgirl crush and platonic admiration. Add to that, powerful lyrics and even better still, race relations that would resonate with today's audience.

“If you wanted the sky I would write across the sky in letters

That would soar a thousand feet high 'To Sir, With Love”


Because You Loved Me - Celine Dion

Inspirational, sappy and a complete hit, the Canadian singer struck a chord (literally) with those in the market for love. The soundtrack to the film Up Close And Personal (1996), the song has now become an anthem for Mother's Day, weddings and even church!

“You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn't speak

You were my eyes when I couldn't see

You saw the best there was in me.”


Endless Love - Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

The chemistry between this duo was almost palpable. Its smooth and enchanting quality allows it to still find relevance in contemporary music… long after its 1981 release artistes like Shania Twain, Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey have recorded versions.

“And your eyes, they tell me how much you care… You will always be my endless love.”


From This Moment On - Shania Twain

Breakout country crossover star Shania had a mainstream hit with this track. Karaoke bars across the world have this one as a nightly staple.

“From this moment life has begun

From this moment you are the one

Right beside you is where I belong

From this moment on.”


Ordinary People - John Legend

Love happens in real life; sometimes not in the best of circumstances. Ivory tickler John Legend burst onto the music scene in the 2000s with this tune that explored the many facets of affection:

“Girl, I'm in love with you

This ain't the honeymoon

Past the infatuation phase

Right in the thick of love

At times we get sick of love

It seems like we argue every day.”


We Found Love - Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris

It's a tad ironic that love is lurking in a 'hopeless place' but that's where the Barbadian singer found it. A fun ode to love and one of the biggest hits of her career, its pop sensibilities doesn't automatic force to listen to its lyrics:

“Shine a light through an open door

Love and life I will divide

Turn away 'cause I need you more

Feel the heartbeat in my mind.”


Hero - Enrique Iglesias

The Latin Lover released the song just eight days before the September 11 bombings in 2001. Naturally, it resonated with New Yorkers since themes of heroism and self-sacrifice were evident in its lyrics:

“Would you tremble if I touched your lips?

Or would you laugh? Oh, please tell me this

Now would you die for the one you love?

Oh, hold me in your arms tonight.”


All I Ask - Adele

Written by consummate hit-maker Bruno Mars, this lesser known Adele song captures the sentiment of wanting the moment to last forever. It's a beautiful and fitting ode to how relationships unravel:

“If this is my last night with you

Hold me like I'm more than just a friend

Give me a memory I can use

Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do

It matters how this ends

'Cause what if I never love again?”


You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift

'Swifties' everywhere know the power of their leader. She's not the best vocally, but we've got to give 'T-Swift' credit for her masterful song-writing abilities. It's a track that explores unrequited love with the object of her affection having no clue about her feelings:

“She wears short skirts

I wear T-shirts

She's cheer captain

And I'm on the bleachers…

If you can see I'm the one who understands you

Been here all along so why can't you see

You belong with me.”


The Heart Wants What It Wants - Selena Gomez

Rumoured to be a song inspired by her tumultous relationship with The Beibz, the song explores yearning for the right kind of love from the wrong person:

“There's a million reasons why I should give you up

But the heart wants what it wants

The heart wants what it wants.”


That's What I Like - Bruno Mars

Grenade was a huge track, but this one is perhaps the biggest of his career. It's 24 Karat Magic indeed with this crazy-sexy-cool track that recently got the Grammy nod for Song of the Year:

“Jump in the Cadillac, girl, let's put some miles on it

Anything you want, just to put a smile on it

You deserve, it baby, you deserve it all

And I'm gonna give it to you.”


Say You Won't Let Go - James Arthur

The British are coming, indeed! This former X-Factor winner struck gold in 2017 with this ballad that spoke to maturing through different stages of love. From meeting at a party to growing old together… it's a song that dares lovers everywhere to dream:

“I met you in the dark, you lit me up

You made me feel as though I was enough

We danced the night away, we drank too much

I held your hair back when

You were throwing up...”


Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran

Who says 20-somethings don't know what love is? Well, the ginger-haired Brit schooled naysayers who might be thinking that millennials are emotionally void and unable to produce a brilliant song:

“And, darling, I will be loving you 'til we're 70

And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23

And I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways

Maybe just the touch of a hand

Oh, me, I fall in love with you every single day

And I just wanna tell you I am.”


Tennessee Whiskey - Chris Stapleton

Blue-eyed soul gone country! That's what we call Chris Stapleton's warm, husky tone as he compares his woman to a mellow, full-bodied whiskey. Check it out:

“I've looked for love in all the same old places

Found the bottom of a bottle always dry

But when you poured out your heart I didn't waste it

'Cause there's nothing like your love to get me high.”



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