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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.
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"