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A successful relationship is a two-way street. For love to blossom, the two partners must love each other equally. If only one partner in a potential partnership has feelings for the other, this is referred to as “unrequited love.”
Songs about unrequited love will always be a fertile theme for composers and performers as long as people exist and love each other.
Here are some songs about unrequited love.
Songs About Unrequited Love
1. Not In That Way, Sam Smith
via SAM SMITH
“And I hate to say I love you
When it's so hard for me
And I hate to say I want you
When you make it so clear
You don't want me.”
In all of his songs, Sam Smith expresses his feelings passionately. His lyrics often elicit sentiments of loneliness, yearning, and nostalgia. On this track, he describes his affections for a companion. However, he believes the companion will respond, “I love you, but not in that way.” Sam Smith’s song is for those terrified of expressing their affection to those they care about.
2. Layla, Eric Clapton
via Eric Clapton
“Layla, you've got me on my knees
Layla, I'm begging, darling please
Layla, darling won't you ease my worried mind?”
Nizami Ganjavi's book, The Story of Layla and Majnun, was given to Eric Clapton. In the novel, Majnun falls in love with some girl named Layla. However, Layla's parents, marry her off to a man she doesn't love, and she ends up in an unhappy relationship. This drives Majnun insane. In his personal life, Clapton had a similar experience with George Harrison's wife, Pattie Boyd. This timeless ballad about unrequited love keeps the listener engrossed in the plot.
3. Hello, Lionel Richie
“I long to see the sunlight in your hair
And tell you time and time again how much I care
Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow.”
“Hello” was one of the most popular tracks of the 1980s. The protagonist of the song is a professor who is madly in love with a blind student. His feelings for her torment him, and he knows she has no idea how he feels about her. In his dreams, he imagines the two of them being together. In the video for the song, she sculpts an image of the professor, showing that perhaps his feelings weren’t unreciprocated after all.
4. You Belong With Me, Taylor Swift
via Taylor Swift
“But she wears short skirts; I wear T-shirts
She's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers
Dreamin’ ’bout the day when you wake up and find
That what you're looking for has been here the whole time.”
This terrific pop song about unrequited love is one of the best-selling tracks of all time. In the song, the narrator falls in love with their closest friend, but the best friend is unaware of the situation. They have amazing chemistry and spend a lot of time together, yet he is seeing someone else. Although unhappy in his relationship, the narrator doesn’t reveal her true feelings to him.
5. Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers
“Lonely rivers flow
To the sea, to the sea
To the open arms of the sea, yeah
Lonely rivers sigh
Wait for me, wait for me
I'll be coming home, wait for me.”
This is one of the most well-known songs about unrequited love. The film based on this song was released in 1965 and was a huge success. The song became even more popular in film “Ghost” that was released some 25 years later. The song was so successful that it nearly pushed the same band's song “You've Lost That Loving Feeling” off the top position. These two songs are revered as unrequited love ballads, and listeners link them with films in which they served as theme songs.
6. Jessie’s Girl, Rick Springfield
via Rick Springfield
“You know I wish that I had Jessie's girl
I wish that I had Jessie's girl
Where can I find a woman like that?”
Jessie's Girl was released in the 1980s. The narrator is in an embarrassing predicament since he is in love with his friend's girlfriend. When this happens, the issue becomes incredibly complicated. In the song, the narrator is unable to convey his feelings for Jessie's girl and his feelings remain unreciprocated.
7. Call Me Maybe, Carly Rea Jepsen
via Carly Rea Jepsen
“Hey, I just met you and this is crazy
But here's my number, so call me maybe
And all the other boys try to chase me
But here's my number, so call me maybe.”
Carly Rae Jepsen is infatuated with a man who is completely unaware of her existence. She falls in love with the guy at first sight, but the video and lyrics make it clear that the love is one-sided. She sings about her love and how it makes her feel, but there is no chance that they will ever be together. In to the song's video, the crush goes about his business unaffected by her unspoken love. This is a song for those who are unable to communicate their feelings for others.
8. Every Little Thing She Does, The Police
via The Police
“Though I've tried before to tell her
Of the feelings I have for her in my heart
Every time that I come near her
I just lose my nerve as I've done from the start.”
The Police write songs as if they are on the outside looking in. On this track, the narrator expresses his admiration for the beauty of a woman, only she is completely unaware of his existence. Regardless, everything she does appears to be magical to the guy. But he's had so many rejections that he's not ready to approach her.
9. Waiting in Vain, Bob Marley
via Bob Marley
“Oh girl, ooh girl, is it feasible?
I wanna know now, for I to knock some more
Ya see, in life I know there's lots of grief
But your love is my relief
Tears in my eyes burn, tears in my eyes burn
While I'm waiting, while I'm waiting for my turn
Bob Marley refuses to wait for a romance that will never come. It was love at first sight for him, but he realized he was at the bottom of the lady in question’s priority list, so he never pursued the relationship. Ultimately, Marley is sick of the situation and doesn't want to wait much longer. It's a song all those who have experienced unrequited love will relate to.
10. Grenade, Bruno Mars
via Bruno Mars
“Oh, oh, I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for ya, baby
But you won't do the same.”
We couldn’t compile a list of songs about unrequited love without featuring Bruno Mars. In this song, the artist will go to any length to impress a girl, even leap in front of a train. But she's not having any of it because she's with someone else. He is madly in love with the girl, but the emotion isn't reciprocated. In the video, Bruno carries a piano up a hill to serenade the girl. When he arrives at the girl's block, he notices her with another man through her house window. He's devastated, and that’s where the song ends.
11. Just a Friend to You, Meghan Trainor
via Meghan Trainor
“When you say I'm just a friend to you
’Cause friends don't do the things we do
Everybody knows you love me too
Tryna be careful with the words I use
I say it ’cause I'm dying to
I'm so much more than just a friend to you.”
“Just a Friend to You” is a song about unrequited love and a confession from one friend to another. It's a friendship commitment, but if you read between the lines, you could detect a hint of romance in the air. Meghan's lovely voice adds to the song’s appeal, even to people in the midst of heartache. Just like her other songs, it gets stuck in your head for days on end.
12. Teardrops On My Guitar, Taylor Swift
via Taylor Swift
“He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar
The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star
He's the song in the car I keep singing, don't know why I do.”
Swift's early songs were downbeat and depressing. You can see from the lyrics that she fell in love with someone who did not return her feelings. There is a breakup tale here, but the main theme is about loving someone who just doesn't feel the same way about you. We’ve all been there at one point or another,. Since then, Swift's music has matured and become more daring, but this song remains one of her greatest.
13. Stacy’s Mom, Fountains of Wayne
“I know it might be wrong but I'm in love with Stacy's mom.
Stacy's mom has got it goin’ on
Stacy's mom has got it goin’ on
Stacy do you remember when I mowed your lawn?”
In this song, the protagonist is madly in love with Stacy's mother. As Stacy's father is not around anymore, the narrator believes she can do with his presence. Like something out of an American Pie movie, we never find out how Stacy’s mom feels for him in return. Regardless, it’s a bittersweet love song that will bring a smile to everyone’s face.
14. Love Stinks, J. Geils Band
“You love her
But she loves him
And he loves somebody else
You just can't win.”
This song was released in the 1980s. One of the lines “that the one you love loves someone else,” says it all. Everyone needs someone to love, but that love is not always reciprocated. The singer concludes by remarking, “Love stinks.” Ultimately, there is no real resolution to the song. It is simply a caustic and humorous ode to the difficulties of unrequited love.
15. I Can’t Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt
“Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
’Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't.”
This song has been covered by a number of musicians, including Bon Iver and George Michael. The words are lovely, as is the tune. The narrator is in love with someone who doesn’t love her back. In the lyrics, the narrator tells of a physical encounter with the object of her desires, but she longs for an emotional connection. It's a song about the agony and trepidation of leaving somebody behind.
16. Everything You Want, Vertical Horizon
“He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
And you don't know why.”
The protagonist of the song meets someone who is ideal in every way. He describes his crush as “funny, witty, and intellectual,” and everything he has ever desired in a partner. But this individual means nothing to them, and he has no idea why. He's left standing there, appreciating how complete they are. Still, he can't have them.
The lyrics talk of someone who is continually looking for someone to love, but when the right person comes along, they are pushed away. They then begin to desire for another, but all they can do is sit back and watch the love pass them by, unrequited.
Final Thoughts About the Best Songs About Unrequited Love
Unrequited love inspires many artists around the world. A broken heart is a strong emotion, and it has been the inspiration being countless songs over the years. Our list of 16 songs about unrequited love is meant to inspire you to act on your feelings, and not to be afraid to express them. Be sure to click on the links and check each track out.
Finally, if you want to use these songs to make a lasting change to your life, then check out these 100 LIFE GOALS that can help you wake up each morning with a sense of enthusiasm about making progress toward what's important..