I'm surprised by the lack of country songs on the list, considering that it's the first genre of music that I fell in love with growing up. But then, country is better known for (and better at) declarations of heartbreak than love, and the best ones make you want to drown your sorrows in a river of booze. Generally, I prefer intimate love songs with a clear narrative, a specific point of view and just a touch of sadness or desperation (lyrical, vocal or both) to grand romantic statements a la Whitney Houston's chest-thumping version of "I Will Always Love You." But sometimes nothing says, "I love you," like a heaping dose of red-hot bombast (see Nos. 9 and 17). After all, at its most powerful, love is unpredictable, unrestrained and just a little bit over the top.
- "All Because Of You" Karen Carpenter For those who consider Carpenters too sterile and anodyne, this one (listen), from Karen's delayed-until-well-after-her-death solo album, Lovelines (1996) is devastating in its stripped-down, country-tinged soulfulness.
- "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" Roberta Flack Often imitated, never duplicated or improved upon (see video below). My apologies to George Michael, who tried his best.
- "Heroes" David Bowie See "Lo Mejor de David Bowie". (listen)
- "I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night" Dusty Springfield The best of Dusty, the best of love. (listen)
- "If Only You Knew" Patti LaBelle I love how she starts slowly and surely, tenderly caressing the lyrics, building in emotion until she reaches the appropriately wailing climax. "I say you. don't. know. how. much I need you..." Actually, Patti, I think he does. (listen)
- "I'm Still In Love With You" Al Green I'm not sure where I was or what I was doing when I fell in love with Al Green, but I'm 100% certain I was listening to this. (listen)
- "(I've Been) Searching So Long" Chicago "Good things in life take a long time." Truer words have never been sung. (listen)
- "Knocks Me Off My Feet" Stevie Wonder Who rocked it more? Songwriter Stevie (who gets the credit here) or Luther Vandross? Does it matter? Take our pick (or choose both), sit back and feel the love.
- "Love Of A Lifetime" Firehouse Hair-metal love at its most grandiose, its most histrionic and its most dead accurate. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what it sounds like to be hair over heels. (listen)
- "Lovers Rock" Sade The last peep we heard from Sade, nearly nine years ago. A new CD will finally arrive on Nov. 24. Until then, stop, look, listen (below) and weep.
- "Lucky Man" The Verve I read somewhere that Richard Ashcroft wrote this one (see video below) about his wife, Kate. That lucky, lucky thing.
- "Mad About You" Belinda Carlisle Kudos to Belinda. Straight-up pop rarely gets love just right. But on her debut solo single, she nailed it. (listen)
- "The Makings Of You" Gladys Knight & The Pips Gladys's finest hour -- or rather, her finest two minutes and twenty-six seconds. (listen)
- "So Natural" Lisa Stansfield See the video at the end of the "A 'Natural' Beauty" post below and draw your own conclusions.
- "Somewhere Only We Know" Keane Epic and cinematic. (listen)
- "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" Kate Bush Love at its most fragile and vulnerable. (see video below)
- "The Reason" Celine Dion "In the middle of the night/ I'm going down 'cause I adore you." A song that (probably) launched a thousand blow jobs. (listen)
- "True Colors" Cyndia Lauper "Time After Time" might be more high-profile, but Cyndi's other No. 1 hit, features her best-ever vocal, delicate and haunting. On the flipside, there's "I Drove All Night," all sturdy and bold, which is just bubbling under my Top 21. (listen)
- "Untitled" R.E.M. "I stayed up late to hear your voice. This light is skewed to keep you warm. This song is skewed to keep you strong." Chills. (listen)
- "Would I Lie To You?" Charles & Eddie Love is a beautiful thing: a sentiment which, by the way, happens to be the title of the short-lived duo's second single, a non-hit, that somehow, miraculously, manages to be nearly as good as the first. (listen)
- "You And I" Rick James Sex and candy. Joy and pain. Love and happiness. You and I. They fit together like a glove on hand, that's right. (see video below)
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face": Roberta Flack
"Lucky Man": The Verve
"The Man With The Child In His Eyes": Kate Bush
"Lovers Rock": Sade
"You And I": Rick James