The 25 Greatest Love Songs of the 1980s

Your hair reminds us of a warm, safe place, where, as children, we'd hi-ee-ide.

By Nerve

Read this first! Bloggers, DJs, and critics helped us assemble this comprehensive list of great love songs. Before you tell us what we missed, a few notes. One, we excluded breakup songs and come-back-to-me songs and please-sleep-with-me songs. These are love songs — songs you could play to your current squeeze immediately after saying, "Steve/Miriam, this song explains my feelings for you, which may be nuanced but are ultimately positive," and not expect to sleep on the couch. Two, we limited it to one song per artist, with a couple of exceptions, like The Beatles, because they're The Beatles. Lastly, come back next week for the best love songs of the '90s, and click here for the best love songs of the '60s and the best love songs of the '70s. Okay, now you can tell us what we missed. Have fun! — The Nerve Editors

25. The Jam, "Precious" (1982)

When you listen to funk music, you're almost physically compelled to get freaky. The Jam must have realized that when they wrote this love song, and consequently strayed from their mod/punk roots to explore a funkier side. With eager, yet desperate lyrics like, "But I don't need to bleed you dry/Or take you over for the rest of your life/It's just that I need something solid in mine," "Precious" argues that lust is not necessarily always a physical sensation. Listen to that erratic, ecstatic drumbeat, that wailing trumpet, that bass line that crawls up your spine. Maybe love and lust aren't so different after all. — Maura Hehir

Listen: The Jam, "Precious"


24. The Pixies, "Gigantic" (1988)

"Gigantic" has been interpreted in a number of ways, graphic and otherwise. But the song's real joy doesn't need any deeper parsing: Kim Deal's insanely endearing vocal is by turns coy and impassioned, and the massive guitars at the song's end sound like a lover's swoon. — Alex Heigl

Listen: The Pixies, "Gigantic"


23. Billy Bragg, "The Milkman of Human Kindness" (1983)

The first track on Billy Bragg's first record is this promise of constancy and compassion. Delivered in the most endearingly rough voice imaginable, "The Milkman of Human Kindness" is as simple and sweet a dedication as has ever been put to tape. —Peter Smith

Listen: Billy Bragg, "The Milkman of Human Kindness"


22. Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill" (1985)

Kate Bush's intense love song finds the arty chanteuse longing for the ability to trade places with her partner, the better for them to know each other. It's at once a plea for understanding, and reassurance during a wincing push into deeper intimacy ("Do you want to know that it doesn't hurt me? It doesn't hurt me"). Sexy, right? — P.S.

Listen: Kate Bush, "Running Up That Hill"


21. Kool and the Gang, "Joanna" (1984)

"Joanna" is a simple song about a simple man simply loving a simple lady. Even the music video is simple: it's set in Joanna's Diner, where Kool and his Gang croon about how she makes them feel "nice" as she rustles up some eggs, over-easy. But sometimes, the simplest love is the best kind of love. — M.H.

Listen: Kool and the Gang, "Joanna"


20. Tom Waits, "Johnsburg, Illinois" (1983)

On an album of subterranean dwarf rock and unprovoked mule kicking, Tom Waits slipped in this tender ballad to the woman he'd just married. With its lilting melody and raw vocal performance, it seems to capture almost childlike disbelief that love could be so sweet. And this after years of insisting he was "better off without a wife." — P.S.

Listen: Tom Waits, "Johnsburg, Illinois"


19. Modern English, "I Melt With You" (1982)

With bubbly keyboards and a thin, jerky guitar line, "I Melt With You" makes everyone dance — usually in a dorky, euphoric manner, relying on a lot of spinning and jumping up and down. If that's not a commentary on love, I don't know what is. —Colette McIntyre

Listen: Modern English, "I Melt With You"


18. The Whispers, "It's a Love Thing" (1980)

If you're looking to score points on a roller disco date, look no further than "It's a Love Thing." Here, The Whispers don't hold anything back — not their gushing adoration, not the pounding in their hearts, and certainly not their infectious, boogie-worthy beats. — Kristin Hunt

Listen: The Whispers, "It's a Love Thing"


Commentarium (81 Comments)

Nov 14 11 - 1:27am
Spinner Mason

When I read this, I thought for sure I'd see "Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins or "The Promise" by When In Rome somewhere. Still, can't disagree with most of the picks.

Nov 14 11 - 5:17pm

God! Tom Waits sucks!!!!!!!! How does anybody like that shit?

Nov 14 11 - 6:50pm

Tom Waits is brilliant. There is something for "b" go ahead and turn up your Paula Abdul music.

Nov 15 11 - 6:32am
Tango Turner

Snap! This whole list could be Tom Waits, cuz there's about 24 other songs of his that express the emotion more eloquently. Ruby's Arms, Fish and Bird, Coney Island Baby, Little Trip to Heaven, etc., etc., etc.

Nov 15 11 - 11:23pm
Haircut 1000


Nov 21 11 - 11:00pm
Annie B

Love Plus One!

Nov 14 11 - 2:29am

Not so much a fan of 80s love songs as I am of the 60s and 70s (despite being an 80s child). On the pop tip, I would have had Hall & Oates on the list. They're about as 80s as can be, and a song like "Kiss On My List' is undeniably awesome (or even "You Make My Dreams" [as evidenced in 500 Days Of Summer]). Come to think of it, I'm not a huge fan, but the Pet Shop Boys possibly deserved a spot (perhaps "Rent"?) Also, not to be a pedantic 80s geek, but a minor correction: Roland Orzabal (the bro with the awesome mullet) sung lead on "Head Over Heels" not Curt Smith.

Nov 15 11 - 11:24pm
Haircut 1000

Hallelujah bro.

Nov 14 11 - 2:33am
oh hell

Faithfully or Open Arms by Journey. Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. Is This Love by Whitesnake.

Nov 14 11 - 1:19pm
Alex Heigl

I fought for "Faithfully." I fought so hard.

Nov 14 11 - 2:00pm
Hipster Hustle

No Journey is a sin.

Nov 14 11 - 7:13pm

"No, Journey is a sin."

Nov 15 11 - 4:31pm

Shouldn't it be a semicolon?

Nov 18 11 - 1:37am
Pedro Dias

I'm thinking quadruple exclamation point.

Nov 20 11 - 5:05pm

Open Arms, definitely. Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation -- Journey outdid themselves.

Haters gonna hate.

Nov 14 11 - 2:59am

"There Is A Light..." the apex of The Smiths catalog? Put the crack pipe down and walk away.

Nov 14 11 - 7:28am

Where is the hard rock love songs?

Nov 14 11 - 9:03am

No Eternal Flame?

Nov 14 11 - 10:23am

Faithfully will forever hold a place in my heart. and I have to say this, because others may not- the 80's were kind of horrible, in a way.

Nov 14 11 - 10:27am
Jean Paul Funky can you possibly leave out Madonna?!? Seriously.....Queen of the 80s pop scene aside, people STILL love Crazy for You and Like a Prayer. Leaving out Madonna completely in the 80s portion of the countdown is like rejecting pop culture. No exagerration.

Nov 15 11 - 11:25pm
JP Fucky

Because this is just a random list compiled by a bored author. Enjoy it for what it is... meaningless.

Nov 18 11 - 5:28pm
Jean Paul Funky

Ok......but did you have to fuck with my screen name? No pun intended.

Nov 14 11 - 11:13am

Where's all the smooth R&B like Luther Vandross and Gregory Abbott? And no Phil Collins?! How can you have an 80's list without "A Groovy Kind of Love?"

Nov 14 11 - 6:47pm

Because Phil Collins s**ks, er, not good.

Nov 14 11 - 8:13pm

Actually, yeah. "Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott should definitely have been here.

Nov 18 11 - 5:31pm
Jean Paul Funky

I actually second "Groovy Kind of Love". Phil Collins may be a joke, but that song gets me all misty......down there.

Nov 14 11 - 12:19pm

Extreme: "More Than Words" was released in 1990. I got nothing else.

Nov 14 11 - 10:10pm

Isn't the point of this song basically "just fuck me already, so we can dispense with this 'I love you' bullshit?" It's like a song sung by a douche to a girl who's not too bright.

Nov 17 11 - 1:40pm

I have to agree with J - we used to call this the "blowjob song" - "you wouldn't have to say you loved me - I'd already know..." - Hope the 90s list realizes this...

Nov 14 11 - 12:29pm

Uh, Gigantic isn't a true love song. She's in lust with someone based of of his, eh, physical characteristics. You guys definitely left a lot of groove out of here.

Nov 15 11 - 11:26pm

Nah, it's just a random list of shit the author likes. Why do you all get so worked up about it?

Nov 14 11 - 12:48pm

Move Closer, move your body real close until we, feel like we're really making love...

Nov 14 11 - 1:34pm

Agree with only half these tunes. Where's the whole soundtrack to Dirty Dancing?

Nov 14 11 - 1:57pm
Hipster Hustle

Those first four songs are some of my favorites in the world, great list despite all the criticism! :D

Nov 14 11 - 2:02pm
Saratoga Slim

Compared to the other lists (and having cut my teeth in the 80s), this list depresses the hell out of me. I guess I came to appreciate more unique forms of expression.

Nov 14 11 - 5:55pm

Thank you for remembering "Adore" by Prince. That song made me believe in pure romantic devotion.

Nov 14 11 - 6:01pm

Growing up in the 80s I can tell you that this list is pretty lame and very subjective.

Nov 14 11 - 9:29pm

Yeah, I think it's the weakest so far of these love song lists.

Nov 15 11 - 11:26pm

As above. Lame (max).

Nov 14 11 - 6:46pm

Great list! BUT, I am going to be one of those annoying readers that says "you should have included...". So, you should have included something from Bryan Ferry's - Bete Noir or Boys and Girls? Otherwise, thanks for the lovely stroll down 80's memory lane.

Nov 14 11 - 7:02pm

I'd like to grind Mr Bragg on my pubic mound. Thanks for his mention.

Nov 15 11 - 11:27pm

Beautiful. Thanks for chiming in. I fantasize that your pubic mound is in need of a vast trimming.

Nov 14 11 - 7:06pm

"This Must Be The Place" is one of the best songs of all time.

Nov 14 11 - 7:07pm

No Fine Young Cannibals?

Nov 14 11 - 9:06pm

"All this love" Debarge. If you aren't feeling that song, you're dead. May be a bit...over the top earnest, but I listen to it once and a while anyhow. :)

Nov 14 11 - 10:25pm

If you ever do that list of breakup songs, John Waite's "Missing You" has to be on the 80s list. All it takes is the first few bars, and I'm 15 again and getting my heart broken by a guy who was more interested in his BMX.

Nov 14 11 - 10:45pm

No "Power of Love" by Huey Lewis? D:

Nov 14 11 - 11:06pm

Where is Foreigner with "I Want to Know What Love Is"?! You forget to add Gary More's ballads (i.e. "Always Gonna Love You") and Leonard Cohen's (i.e. "I'm Your Man"). A-ha's "Take on Me" should be there as well and "Love is a Shield" from The Camouflage. The great finale: "Hallelujah" by Rufus Wainwright - lack of it (dispite the above) is just enough itself to call this list a bullshit. Wast of time and I won't revisit next week for '90. It is a shame that you used such promesing title - I hoped for some nice memmories, especially when you try to focuse only on positive ones.

Nov 15 11 - 2:46pm

Rufus Wainwright's first album came out in 1998, first of all. Second of all, "Hallelujah" is a breakup song. I'm not going to criticize your numerous spelling and syntax errors, since it appears that English might be your second language, but I can't let that one go.

Nov 15 11 - 11:29pm

I'm not going to criticise your egregious grammatical error, faulknersaysrelax, since it appears that English may be a lost art to you, but I can't let go of the fact that you're a knobbler.

Nov 14 11 - 11:52pm

You picked the wrong Cyndi Lauper song: "All Through the Night" is a much better song.

Nov 15 11 - 1:38am

So where is Dire Straits? Romeo and Juliet, Espresso Love, Tunnel of Love, Brothers in Arms?
"Oh Juliet when we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above
You said "I'd love you till I die"

Nov 15 11 - 11:40am

Those are all breakup songs! And Brothers in Arms is about war...

Nov 15 11 - 3:17am

This seems like a list of more indie type artist sprinkled with a bit of mainstream favorites. I'd say something like Stephen Bishop's "It Might Be You" or Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby".

Nov 15 11 - 11:16am
Rutherford B. Hayes

Downtown Train.

Nov 15 11 - 2:48pm

I fucking love that song, but I think "Johnsburg" is much more of a "pure " love song.

Nov 15 11 - 11:29pm


Nov 15 11 - 11:58am

Sinead O'Conner "Nothing Compares to You"?

And what about Chris Deburgh(sp?) "Lady in Red"?

OMG!! Or Right Said Fred "I'm Too Sexy"?

Or at the very least Meatloaf's 'Paradise by the Dashboard Lights"? Or was that 70's?

Human League "Don't You Want me Baby?".

Just about anything by OMD...

Geez, I could go on forever....

Nov 15 11 - 11:30pm
The Snake

Please do.

Nov 17 11 - 5:53am

This is sarcastic, right? This was made in full knowledge that all of these songs are awful?

Nov 19 11 - 3:37am

Well, "Nothing Compares 2U" is good, but it's about someone getting dumped.

"I'm Too Sexy" is from the 90's and not at all a love song.

"paradise by the dashboard lights" is originally from 1977 and then was re-released in the 90's, and it's not really a love song either.

"Don't you want me baby"- NOT A LOVE SONG EITHER (this is obvious from the title).

Nov 19 11 - 3:38am

Also! "Nothing Compares 2u" was released in the 90's, not the 80's.

Nov 15 11 - 11:59am
Zero Zero

Depeche Mode's "Somebody".

"I want somebody to share, share the rest of my life, share my innermost thoughts, know my intimate details...."

"And when I must leave, I want somebody, who will put their arms around me kiss me tenderly".

Nov 15 11 - 2:20pm

Its a nice list of good songs. i like to listen "Running Up That Hill" of Kate Bush very much.

Nov 15 11 - 6:26pm

This Must Be the Place and Time after Time are fine choices for the top 5. But...

Your Love by the Outfield is one of the best love songs ever. How can you miss that? And maybe even Bizarre Love Triangle could go on here.

Nov 16 11 - 3:51pm

Your Love is awesome. But it's about cheating on your girlfriend. "Josie's on vacation." And it doesn't sound like he's that attached to the fling, either: "I just want to use your love tonight."

Nov 15 11 - 8:53pm

Wow. The 80s were a tough, sucky decade.

Nov 16 11 - 8:02am

Green Eyes by Husker Du

Nov 18 11 - 9:53am

Ok first of all, if you were going to pick a U2 love song, "All I Want is You" or "Bad" would have been better options than "With or Without You." Just my humble opinion.

Also, "Sweet Child O' Mine" in the top 10, really? Guns n Roses doesn't belong in the top 10 of anything.

Nov 18 11 - 9:48pm
Wake Up

Marvin Gaye: "Sexual Healing." 1982. End of list.

Nov 19 11 - 3:42am

The theme is "Love Songs!" Pay attention! Yeesh.

Nov 21 11 - 2:03pm
Could be wrong but

I'm partial to the Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl"

Nov 23 11 - 9:32am
NooZild aka Godzone

It's one thing to complain about songs not there, but it's another to have a song from a band there that isn't even their best love song. Crowded House's When You Come is light years better than D.D.I.O.

Nov 28 11 - 7:24pm

"Athena" by The Who is a fantastic love song, great lyrics written about Pete being smitten with one of the sexiest women of the 80s Theressa Russell.

"Take my Breath Away" by Berlin, so beyond 80s iconic, it's really hard to leave off a list.

Dec 23 11 - 11:02am
b hater

b, turn down the crap ironic 80's music and listen the the genius TOM WAITS.

You been served b

Dec 26 11 - 12:09am

Not a bad list, you knew you'd get backlash.
Just off the top of my head:
"Love Will Tear Us Apart"
Joy Division

Dec 26 11 - 1:16pm

..."Eyes without a Face"
Billy Idol

Jan 03 12 - 10:44pm

Van Morrison 'Have I Told You Lately"

Feb 23 12 - 2:34pm
V is sharin'

Some of the songs on the CD do not represent the 80's.

Mar 26 12 - 2:51pm

I actually made a tattoo with the phrase Sweet child of mine after I broke up, so, yes, this is fairly a solid recognition for my one and only love! until the next one that sees it...if any, if ever... :(

Jul 24 12 - 12:48am

talk talk is the big band missing here I think.......