35 Best Songs About Unrequited Love

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Unrequited love – a universally shared sting that's as timeless as music itself. It's the kind of heartache that can relentlessly tug at the soul, finding solace only in the echoing words of poignant ballads and soul-stirring melodies.

Welcome to a post for emotional playlist seekers and hopeless romantics alike: “35 Best Songs About Unrequited Love.”

We've all been there, right?

Admiring someone from afar, longing for an affection that remains just out of reach. Whether it's through the strumming chords of Eric Clapton's “Layla” or the yearning verses of Adele's “Chasing Pavements,” these tracks resonate deeply because they articulate something we sometimes have trouble expressing ourselves.

From the bittersweet acknowledgment in Sam Smith's “Not in That Way” to the gut-wrenching plea in Bonnie Raitt's “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” each song featured in this blog post carries a slice of that pain and yearning.

But as much as they give voice to the ache of unreciprocated desire, they also offer a chance to feel it, cry it out, and, perhaps, find the strength to move on.

Listening to these songs can be a form of healing, a companion through the emotional rollercoaster that comes with caring for someone who doesn’t see you the same way.

Indulge in a playlist curated not only to accompany lonely nights but to serve as an anthem for the love-lost and a hand to hold for those ready to turn a page.

Begin your melodious passage through hope, despair, and the layers of emotions in between with our compilation of the 35 Best Songs About Unrequited Love.

1. Layla, Eric Clapton

“You've got me on my knees, Layla. Begging darling please, Layla. Darling, won't you ease my worried mind?”

Layla is a song about a young fellow who goes crazy because of his love for a girl. Eric Clapton wrote the song based on the book “The Story of Layla and Majnun” and recorded it with the band Derek and the Dominos.

2. Every Little Thing She Does, The Police

“Every little thing she does is magic, everything she does just turns me on. Even though my life before was tragic, now I know my love for her goes on.”

This song is considered one of the greatest hits by The Police, as it reached the top three on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1981. It is about the unrequited love of a man who can’t get the love of his life because he is too reluctant to do so. The song is also famous for having a piano solo, which is an unusual element in a song by The Police.

3. Waiting in Vain, Bob Marley

“It's been three years since I'm knockin' on your door and I still can knock some more. Ooh, girl, ooh girl, is it feasible?”

Every reggae fan knows Marley, and most know this hit single he released in 1977 on the Exodus album. Even if you aren’t a reggae fan, the song has been covered in a number of different genres.

4. 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 that it won't.”

This song is one of Raitt’s most successful singles, probably because it is so relatable. It reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991 and was even included in the top 10 on the Adult Contemporary list.

5. Jessie’s Girl, Rick Springfield

“And she's loving him with that body, I just know it. And he's holding her in his arms late, late at night. You know, I wish that I had.”

Rick Springfield may have sounded like a bad friend in this song—and a jealous one, at that—but it was arguably his biggest hit. The song tells the story of a man who wants his friend’s girlfriend.

6. Shiver, Coldplay

“So you know how much I need you, but you never even see me, do you?”

Chris Martin admitted that Shiver is about one of his real-life ex-girlfriends. He also said that it is a “stalking song” because the lyrics talk about a man’s unhealthy obsession with a woman.

7. Not in That Way, 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.”

Sam Smith said that their mom cries every time she hears this song. It tells the story of a guy who puts in a lot of effort, but the other person never reciprocates his feelings. What a sad situation to be in!

8. You Belong with Me, Taylor Swift

“If you could see that I'm the one who understands you, been here all along, so why can't you see? You belong with me.”

You Belong with Me is one Taylor Swift’s early songs that made her really famous. If you are an original Swiftie, you probably have a copy of her first album, which is mostly about unrequited love.

9. Just a Friend to You, Meghan Trainor

“I loved you from the start so it breaks my heart when you say I'm just a friend to you.”

Meghan Trainor admitted in an interview that this song is about her real-life friend. They both seem to want to love each other, but things just keep getting in the way.

10. Teardrops on My Guitar, Taylor Swift

“He's the time taken up, but there's never enough, and he's all that I need to fall into.”

Here’s another treat for the Swifties out there! Taylor Swift really knows how to make us cry, doesn’t she? That is probably because most of her songs are based on her real-life experiences.

11. Love Stinks, J. Geils Band

“You love her, but she loves him, and he loves somebody else. You just can't win.”

Love can definitely be a cruel mistress at times. Lead singer Peter Wolf argues that he has been through different kinds of love and his only conclusion is that it stinks.

12. 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.”

Everything You Want is the second single from Vertical Horizon’s first album, and it spent some time at the top of the charts for several weeks upon its release. The song is about a man who falls in love with a “beautifully complex and crazy person,” as described by Matt Scannell.

13. Just My Imagination, The Temptations

“Her love is heavenly when her arms enfold me. I hear a tender rhapsody, but in reality, she doesn't even know me.”

The title of this song itself speaks of unrequited love—just my imagination. It’s about a man who is madly in love with a woman, but can only be with her in his imagination. He sees her every day and imagines their future together, but that will never happen because the girl doesn’t even know he exists.

14. Dancing on My Own, Robyn

“I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her. I'm right over here, why can't you see me? I'm giving it my all, but I'm not the girl you're taking home.”

We think of two artists when we hear the song Dancing on my Own—one by Robyn and the other by Calum Scott. While Robyn’s vibrant and groovy version can make you dance, Scott’s rendition will have you crying.

15. Black, Pearl Jam

“I know someday you'll have a beautiful life. I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky. But why can't it be mine?”

Eddie Vedder believes that “you can’t really have a true love unless it was a love unrequited.” We aren’t sure we agree with that, but we definitely agree that unrequited love can make you feel a rollercoaster of emotions.

16. Hello, Lionel Richie

“Are you somewhere feeling lonely? Or is someone loving you? Tell me how to win your heart for I haven't got a clue.”

“Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” was a line that Lionel Richie would often ask himself when he was young and saw beautiful women passing by. Who knew that this question would eventually become a hit?

17. Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen

“You took your time with the call; I took no time with the fall.  You gave me nothing at all but still, you're in my way.”

This song is a bit playful, which is unusual for a song about unrequited love. Carly Rae Jepsen definitely knows how to groove, despite having to love someone from a distance.

18. Grenade, Bruno Mars

“I would go through all this pain, take a bullet straight through my brain. Yes, I would die for you, baby, but you won't do the same.”

According to Bruno Mars, the song is about a guy who can’t understand why his love is not reciprocated. He is so in a love with a woman, but she cannot see how much he is willing to give. He would even catch a grenade for her.

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19. Stacy’s Mom, Fountains of Wayne

“Stacy's mom has got it goin' on; she's all I want. I've waited for so long, Stacy, can't you see? You're just not the girl for me.”

Believe it or not, the lyrics of this song are based on a true story. It was written by Adam Schlesinger while thinking about his friend, who had a huge crush on his grandmother—yes, you read that right. Adam admittedly said in an interview that his grandma was a beauty.

20. Bad Religion, Frank Ocean

“If it brings me to my knees, it's a bad religion. This unrequited love to me, it's nothin' but a one-man cult.”

Bad Religion is dedicated to Frank Ocean’s summer fling. And, it is not unrequited because his summer fling was a guy. It was because that particular guy had a girlfriend back then. Ocean says, however, that he is still good friends with this pal.

21. You Don’t Know Me, Ray Charles

“Though my heart aches with love for you, afraid and shy, I let my chance go by—a chance that you might love me, too.”

This song is not an original by Ray Charles, although he was the singer who popularized it. It was originally recorded by country singers Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold. Ray Charles later recorded a cover and added it to his album I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

22. If, Janet Jackson

“If I was your woman, the things I'd do to you. But I'm not, so I can't, then I won't, but if I was your girl.”

You might find this song rude at first, because the lyrics talk about seducing a guy who already has a girlfriend. But the song eventually reveals that she can’t convince him to leave for her.

23. Creep, Radiohead

“You're just like an angel. Your skin makes me cry. You float like a feather in a beautiful world.”

Thom Yorke explains in an interview that this song is about him “trying to assert a sexual persona” on one hand and then “trying desperately to negate it” on the other. Creep has a lot of self-loathing in its lyrics and Yorke said that it is about being in love with someone but not feeling good enough about yourself to deserve them.

24. Just a Friend, Biz Markie

“I was so in shock my heart went down south. So please listen to the message that I say, don't ever talk to a girl who says she just has a friend.”

Biz Markie knew exactly how to gain our sympathy with this song. What would you do if you found your partner kissing another person she said was just a friend?

25. The Heart Wants What It Wants, Selena Gomez

“This is a modern fairytale No happy endings, no wind in our sails, but I can't imagine a life without the breathless moments breaking me down.”

In an interview, Selena Gomez said that the song is about feeling lots of doubt about herself and her relationships with the people around her. She also half-dedicated this song to Justin Bieber because she wrote it during their break-up.

26. Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad, Meatloaf

“Well, there's only one girl that I will ever love and that was so many years ago. And, though I know I'll never get her out of my heart, she never loved me back.”

Jim Steinman says that this song is about the “elusive nature of love.” It is about a girl who will never love him, no matter what.

27. Wicked Game, Chris Isaak

“What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way. What a wicked thing to do, to make me dream of you. And I don't wanna fall in love.”

Wicked Game was an easy piece for Chris Isaak to write. The words flowed out of him, likely inspired by painful experiences in his past.

28. Almost Lover, A Fine Frenzy

“So long, my luckless romance. My back is turned on you. Should've known you'd bring me heartache. Almost lovers always do.”

From the title itself, you can tell that this is a song about unrequited love. Alison Sudol wrote this song when she was 19 and recalls feeling that she was expressing herself in a very honest and genuine way.

29. I Hate Myself for Loving You, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

“Can't break free from the things that you do. I wanna walk but I run back to you. That's why I hate myself for loving you.”

The original title of this song might not sound favorable, particularly to conservative people. So, they changed it into something that is safe and more subtle—love. Guess there is no need to explain why it is about unrequited love. The title speaks for itself already.

30. Lovefool, The Cardigans

“Love me, love me. Pretend that you love me. Leave me, leave me. Just say that you need me.”

Lovefool is the song that gave The Cardigans international fame. Its lyrics are nice and relatable and its beat is groovy and vibrant. Nina Persson wrote the lyrics, while Peter Svensson created the melody. This is a song for everyone who knows that love can make a fool out of you.

31. Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers

“And time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much. Are you still mine?”

Unchained Melody is the original theme song of the prison film Unchained. It was written by Hy Zaret. According to its official distributor, the song has been recorded over a thousand times by more than 600 different artists. While it might not be an original from the Righteous Brothers, they are definitely the ones who made it famous.

32. To Be with You, Mr. Big

“I'm the one who wants to be with you. Deep inside I hope you feel it too. Waited on a line of greens and blues. Just to be the next to be with you.”

Eric Martin, the lead singer of Mr. Big, has stated that this song is about unrequited love. He originally wrote it to impress his sister’s friends, but his inspiration was a girl whom he had loved when he was 16, but who didn’t love him in return..

33. Better Now, Post Malone

“You know I say that I am better now, better now. I only say that 'cause you're not around, not around. You know I never meant to let you down, let you down.”

Better Now is about a past relationship that didn’t end well. It is about two people who still have feelings for each other, but who decided to call the relationship off because things weren’t working anymore. This is a song that makes us realize that sometimes love may not be enough after all.

34. I’m Not That Girl, Idina Menzel (from Wicked, The Musical)

“I wasn't born for the rose and the pearl. There's a girl I know. He loves her so; I'm not that girl.”

If you are a fan of Wicked, The Musical, then you know why this song is about unrequited love. It is the main character’s song for the prince who she knows will never fall in love with her because “no one ever falls in love with the unpopular, green-skinned girl.”

35. Chasing Pavements, Adele

“Should I give up, or should I just keep chasin' pavements even if it leads nowhere? Or would it be a waste even if I knew my place? Should I leave it there?”

Adele states that this song is about a relationship that “you have when you’re in it but miss when you’re not.” She is asking herself if it’s worth it to keep fighting for a love that will never be returned.

Final Words on Songs About Unrequited Love

Love comes in different forms. It is happy at times, but it can be painful as well. If you are currently experiencing the latter, we hope that we can help you heal with these songs about unrequited love.

No matter what happens, don’t give up on love. As another great song from The Lumineers said, “it’s better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love is indifference.”

And if you want more inspirational songs, be sure to check out these blog posts:

songs about unrequited love | songs about unrequited love with your best friend | songs about unrequited love rock
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