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The 25 Greatest Love Songs of the 2000s

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The 25 Greatest Love Songs of the 2000s

Home is wherever we're with you.

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 '60sthe best love songs of the '70sthe best love songs of the '80s, and the best love songs of the '90s. Okay, now you can tell us what we missed. Have fun! — The Nerve Editors

25. Coldplay, "Yellow" (2000)

Before you write your "Coldplay is on this list, argument is invalid!!1!" comment, just wait. I agree that Coldplay is safe, innocuous, and largely forgettable. But "Yellow," their first American single, is something different. The song is majestic and ethereal; the chords are shimmering, expanding, always on the brink of overwhelming you. Yet what really grabs me is the romance of the whole thing. It looks you in the face and says, "Yes. This is it. This is love, right here. I know it and it is spectacular." — Colette McIntyre

 

24. Avett Brothers, "January Wedding" (2009)

For all the hype that surrounded the Avett Brothers on their first ascent into the mainstream, they weren't really doing anything revolutionary: just gracing the bluegrass and folk sounds of their native North Carolina with plaintive, beautifully rendered melodies. "January Wedding" is as pure a love song as you could ever wish for: "True love is not the kind of thing you should turn down / Don't ever turn it down." — Alex Heigl

Listen: Avett Brothers, "January Wedding"

 

23. Corinne Bailey Rae, "Like a Star" (2006)

Corinne Bailey Rae knows her way around a love song. She may fight with her paramour, like, all the time, but she still finds it an honor to love someone whom she feels is "just like a star across my sky, just like an angel off the page." — Kristin Hunt

Listen: Corinne Bailey Rae, "Like a Star"

 

22. Justin Timberlake, "My Love" (2006)

Layering Justin Timberlake's Bee-Gee-grade falsetto with Timbaland's futuristic synthesizer chords, "My Love" certainly has a lot going on. Yet in its most essential form, it's a ballad — and a pretty charming one too. JT's love is humble and refreshingly cute, dreaming only of hand-holding and beach-walking. He may have brought sexy back, but he didn't forget to bring sweetness along for the ride.  C.M.

Listen: Justin Timberlake, "My Love"

 

21. AIR, "Playground Love" (2000)

Teens in lust are a common pop-song topic, but this haunting theme from The Virgin Suicides turns hormonal hot-bloodedness into cool, clear devotion. "Anytime, anywhere, you're my playground love," purrs Thomas Marz, years ahead of his wider fame with Phoenix. Blanketed by smooth, subtle horns, he sounds like he's swirling a brandy years later, reliving a moment of infatuation he's now certain was the truest love he'll ever know. — Jeff Klingman

Listen: AIR, "Playground Love"

 

20. White Stripes, "In the Cold Cold Night" (2003)

Although "In The Cold, Cold Night" doesn't sound like your typical love song, it does sound exactly like the type of love song Meg White would sing: simple, sexually charged, and kind of eerie. Perhaps it's her reputation for being a hermit that makes this straightforward declaration of love so uncanny. But strangely enough, her impassive delivery actually makes the song feel more passionate. — Maura Hehir

Listen: White Stripes, "In the Cold Cold Night"

 

19. Regina Spektor, "Us" (2004)

There are different interpretations of this song, but one feels particularly salient: it's about love. The lyric "they made a statue of us," coupled with the flooding of the piano and Spektor's proud, earnest vocals, speaks to a beautiful wish for permanence in love. And as for the melody, like Spektor says, "it's contagious." — M.H.

Listen: Regina Spektor, "Us"

 

18. Old 97's, "Question" (2001)

In simple terms, with perfectly chosen details ("She woke from a dream/ Her head was on fire/ Why was he so nervous?"), Rhett Miller sketches a man proposing to a woman. Then, the kicker, which must, must, tug on even the crankiest heart: "Maybe tonight, I've got a question for you." — Peter Smith

Listen: Old 97's, "Question"

 

17. Drake, "Best I Ever Had" (2009)

While most MCs come out the gate talking about their money, their gunshot wounds, or their sexual prowess, Drake's debut single distinguished the Canadian rapper from all the rest. He wasn't afraid to talk about his feelings or his lady. Sure, "Best I Ever Had" gets a little raunchy, but when Drake reaches the lines "Sweatpants, hair tied, chillin' with no makeup on/ That's when you're the prettiest, I hope that you don't take it wrong," you can bet that every girl listening squeals with delight.  C.M.

Listen: Drake, "Best I Ever Had"

 

16. Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars" (2006)

With a good love, everything else in life can seem better. With a great love, nothing else even matters. The Beatles may have said it with "All You Need Is Love," but "Chasing Cars" nails the desire for the other person to feel the same way. It's bursting with hope and potential. — Garrett Carey

Listen: Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars"

 

15. Iron & Wine, "Naked As We Came" (2004)

Either ghoulish or profound, "Naked As We Came" is a promise to whoever in a couple dies first to "spread our ashes round the yard" — a pledge of ultimate devotion, presented in quiet, almost domestic terms. Weirdly moving, it's a love song that also manages to cover life, death, and everything in between. — P.S.

Listen: Iron & Wine, "Naked As We Came"

 

14. Jay-Z, "'03 Bonnie and Clyde" (2002)

To hear Jay-Z, the man who once rapped, "Me, give my heart to a woman?/ Not for nothing, never happening/ I'll be forever mackin'," talk about how much he needs his girlfriend is heart-warming. (I'm a sucker for a bad-boy-gone-good story.) And as a bonus, Kanye West's production is impeccable, and Jay-Z's chemistry with Beyonce floods the track. Given his ridiculous level of fame, it's very sweet to hear that his relationship with B isn't just about "Timbs, aviator lens, 600 drops and Mercedes Benzes" but also about the times when they silently watch Sex and the City together.  C.M.

Listen: Jay-Z, "'03 Bonnie and Clyde"

 

13. Sufjan Stevens, "Rake" (2000)

While it's open to interpretation, I think "Rake" is about the security you can find in another person. Sufjan's strange lyrics convey the need for someone you don't have to front for — someone you can take solace with when the outside world becomes too much. While "the rock" invokes stability, the titular "rake" can be that which removes you from a bad situation. — Carlos Cabrera

Listen: Sufjan Stevens, "Rake"

 

12. Common, "The Light" (2000)

Let's be clear: Common is not the type to walk around with matchin' shirts. But he will be by your side, be the one to make you the happiest, and, most importantly, he won't call you his bitch. That's true love. —K.H.

Listen: Common, "The Light"

 

11. The Swell Season, "In These Arms" (2009)

Basically every song by The Swell Season is sincere, granted, but "In These Arms" must be the apex. Saying you were born to hold someone in your arms can easily skew cheesy, but Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's earnest suggestion feels like the genuine article. — K.H.

Listen: The Swell Season, "In These Arms"

 

10. Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me" (2002)

Now that it's won eight Grammies and sold exactly one bazillion copies, it's hard to remember how anachronistically fresh Come Away With Me sounded in 2002. The smoky, elegant title track turns a simple entreaty into a world unto itself — one you can take someone's hand and escape into. — A.H.

Listen: Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me"

 

9. Ben Folds, "The Luckiest" (2001)

"The Luckiest" is for all those awkward beta-males who don't quite know how they found love. We won't dare question how, but just appreciate the fact that it's happened. Although it may not seem like a big deal to all the charmers out there, to a man who plays a keytar, it's a big deal. — C.C.

Listen: Ben Folds, "The Luckiest"

 

8. Bright Eyes, "First Day Of My Life" (2005)

Conor Oberst has an instantly recognizable voice. It quivers like Eddie Vedder's, but without that deep, throaty confidence; for some, it's too fragile, too "emo," and too weak. But paired with the simple melody and honest lyrics of "First Day Of My Life," that voice works perfectly. — Confusion, of Pigeons and Planes

Listen: Bright Eyes, "First Day Of My Life"

 

7. Beyonce, "Crazy In Love" (2003)

There aren't too many love songs that can shift a dance party into overdrive. "Crazy in Love," powered by a dangerously buoyant Chi-Lites sample, is capable of doing just that, and when you can get an entire dance floor moving to a song about how much you love your (eventual) husband, you know you've struck gold. — A.H.

Listen: Beyonce, "Crazy In Love"

 

6. No Doubt, "Underneath It All" (2001)

In the '90s, No Doubt's love-themed songs were usually about heartbreak, or betrayal, or faking feelings, or waiting, or unrequited devotion, or general malaise regarding the almighty emotion. But on their final album to date, Gwen Stefani offered a significantly less angsty track that actually had something positive to say about love. The slow reggae sound and ska riffs provide a perfect backdrop for Stefani's uncharacteristically gentle crooning, and her lyrics are tender with (still) just a hint of the bittersweet: "You've used up all your coupons/ And all you've got left is me/ And somehow I'm full of forgiveness/ I guess it's meant to be." — M.H.

Listen: No Doubt, "Underneath It All"

 

5. Alicia Keys, "Fallin'" (2002)

"Fallin'" is one of the most honest love songs out there. It's a kind of relationship gospel, if you'll permit me. Keys recognizes that love isn't love all the time — sometimes you can't stand being around the person, but other times you simply can't stand being away. "Fallin'" is a song that you surrender to. There's no point in putting up a fight. It's sad, yes, but it's also ecstatic. It's worth the fall. — C.M.

Listen: Alicia Keys, "Fallin'"

 

4. Erykah Badu, "In Love With You" (2000)

When you listen to Erykah Badu's duet with Stephen Marley, you can't help but feel like you're eavesdropping on the tender whisperings of an infatuated couple. The song is effortlessly sensual; by the end, you're left with goosebumps.  C.M.

Listen: Erykah Badu, "In Love With You"

 

3. The Postal Service, "Such Great Heights" (2003)

With its irresistible keyboard blips and ambient synth lines, "Such Great Heights" will probably stick to your ribs before frontman Ben Gibbard even begins to sing. But the lyrics are great too, especially if you're still secretly waiting for a kiss that feels "perfectly aligned."  C.M.

Listen: The Postal Service, "Such Great Heights"

 

2. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Home" (2009)

Despite its omnipresence, "Home" still makes you smile. It's big and jaunty and sweet, and before you know it, you feel at home too. And if the song doesn't make you smile? Well then, keep your bad mojo to yourself, because I'm too busy letting love in. — C.M.

Listen: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Home"

 

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps" (2003)

You might mistake Karen O's sweet ode to Liars frontman Angus Andrew for a brokenhearted ex's lament. It isn't. Titled with a thematically appropriate acronym of "My Angus Please Stay," it serves as the bittersweet flipside to every "life on the road" epic of the rock-n'-roll era. "Wait, they don't love you like I love you" — forget the cheering crowds and snuggle up with me. Before this track, Yeah Yeah Yeahs were pegged as sloppy, stompy, post-punk noiseniks. "Maps" revealed them as the decade's most unexpected romantics. — Jeff Klingman

Listen: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Maps"