Not a member? Sign up now
The 25 Greatest Love Songs of the 1990s
When everything's made to be broken, we just want you to know who we... am.
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 '00s, and click here for the best love songs of the '60s, the best love songs of the '70s, and the best love songs of the '80s. Okay, now you can tell us what we missed. Have fun! — The Nerve Editors
25. The Jesus & Mary Chain with Hope Sandoval, "Sometimes Always" (1994)
"Sometimes Always" is the perfect reconciliation song, sung sweetly by Hope Sandoval and written by then-boyfriend William Reid. Despite its jangly popness, the song feels intimate and full of love, though these days I have to wonder about the wisdom of falling back into a relationship with a guy who says, "I always knew you'd take me back." But, you know, when you're young and idealistic, the makeup sex that goes along with refrains like these is heady and full of flowers. — Linda Park, of SXSW
Listen: The Jesus & Mary Chain with Hope Sandoval, "Sometimes Always"
24. Jawbreaker, "Chesterfield King" (1991)
Blake Schwarzenbach was the Charles Bukowski of early '90s alternative. Gruff-voiced but tender, he was unashamed to sing of "Killin' cops and readin' Kerouac" and his feelings side by side. "Chesterfield King" is the best view of this dichotomy: it's a downright touching account of suburban love, the kind that seemingly happens every fall night across the country, delivered in a boozy four minutes. Buk would have been proud. — Alex Heigl
Listen: Jawbreaker, "Chesterfield King"
23. D'Angelo, "Higher" (1995)
D'Angelo's sanctified organ elevates his multi-tracked choir of sweet soul vocals in the album closer from Brown Sugar. Anchored by the band's impossibly deep groove, "Higher" shows why gospel and R&B are as inextricably linked as church and sex: they're both transcendent, but firmly in the here and now — exactly how you want falling in love to be. — A.H.
Listen: D'Angelo, "Higher"
22. Smashing Pumpkins, "Luna" (1993)
For suburban kids hitting their stride during the Clinton years, there weren't very many love songs to choose from. There was plenty of raging against the machine and Pavement-style irony to go around, but romance was generally the subject of mockery. In order to break through the era's postmodern glaze, you either had to be an outcast, or be too comically self-indulgent to notice the world around you. Billy Corgan, at least for a time, was both. Siamese Dream was one of the few pop-rock albums of that time to express love and emotional vulnerability in a straightforward way; the beautiful closer, "Luna," with that naked final refrain ("I'm in love with you") became the private soundtrack to many a school-bus love affair. — Michael Edison Hayden
Listen: Smashing Pumpkins, "Luna"
21. REM, "At My Most Beautiful" (1999)
Most of REM's perceived love songs ("The One I Love," "Losing My Religion"), well, aren't. But "At My Most Beautiful" speaks to love in as unmistakable and unambiguous terms as Michael Stipe ever used. The simplicity pays off. Stipe confessing that he "reads bad poetry into your machine" over a delicate Beach Boys homage might also make this the most beautiful moment in the REM catalogue. — Jonathan Keefe, of Slant Magazine
Listen: REM, "At My Most Beautiful"
20. Wilco, "I Got You (At The End Of The Century)"(1996)
When it comes to love, Jeff Tweedy takes the long view. He doesn't fall for someone for a few months, or even a few years. He loves for centuries. This rare heartache-free Wilco track is also undeniable proof that all great love songs must include at least eight bars of oohing. — Delia Pless
Listen: Wilco, "I Got You (At The End Of The Century)"
19. Mariah Carey, "Emotions" (1991)
Mariah Carey hits a dizzying number of love-song cliches — feeling like you're in a dream, flying high, never feeling so satisfied — in the space of four minutes. Yet, thanks to her soaring, rapturous voice, the song plays like a work of genuine, unadulterated joy, when it could've just been the credits soundtrack to some godawful rom-com. — Kristin Hunt
Listen: Mariah Carey, "Emotions"
18. Bjork, "Possibly Maybe"
This bittersweet song from Bjork deftly explains the process of falling in (and possibly out) of love. It all starts with the right person breaking through your defenses, followed by the excitement and anxiety of what might come next. Love is unpredictable and presents plenty of opportunities for doubt, but Bjork makes the hoping for it sound worthwhile. — Carlos Cabrera
Listen: Bjork, "Possibly Maybe"
17. Extreme, "More Than Words" (1990)
The men of Extreme have on thing in common with writing teachers the world over: they're big believers in show, don't tell. On "More Than Words," Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt yearn for something more than a simple "I love you." Especially given that "More Than Words" comes from an album called Pornograffiti, Extreme turns out to be surprisingly insightful about the non-verbal rewards of love. — K.H.
Listen: Extreme, "More Than Words"