We all love a love song. Whether we’re falling in love, falling out of love, or want to fall in or out of love, great love songs have been a part of the experience. While everyone has their own personal favorites, there are a few songs that everyone holds dear. We’re all different, but love is a universal feeling and some songs are just timeless. Here’s our picks of the top 10 greatest romantic ballads – of course, there’s no way we could make a list that would please everyone as love is both a universal and individual feeling, but we can’t imagine that these songs wouldn’t make the cut in somebody’s love story. Check them out and tell us if you agree.
ADORE (1987) Prince
We don’t know who Prince was thinking about (though industry legend says it was Susannah Melvoin, bandmate Wendy Melvoin’s sister) but we’re glad that while the relationship didn’t work out, it inspired this amazing song. “If God one day struck me blind/Your beauty I’d still see/Love’s too weak to define/Just what you mean to me.” I mean, what else do you need to know about love after those lyrics? The song appeared on Prince’s double album “Sign of the Times” and we’re sure people are still falling in love and getting married to this song.
ALWAYS AND FOREVER (1977) Heatwave
This can now be considered a standard. The 1977 release by Heatwave dominated radio in the "Quiet Storm" days and we’re sure it dominated weddings and anniversaries for a long, long time. What’s not to love about this song – it’s what we all want love to be – enduring and real. Interestingly enough, Heatwave lead singer Johnnie Wilder, Jr., would be paralyzed in a car accident in 1979 and his wife stayed with him until his death in 2006. Talk about life imitating art – his life reflected his beautiful song.
HERE AND NOW (1989) Luther Vandross
Luther Vandross is arguably the greatest balladeer of all time and this song he released only solidifies that argument. Almost as soon as it was released, it became a wedding favorite and why not? It’s about being present and making that commitment. Vandross' silky vocals lent the song even more beauty and it’s now viewed as one of his all-time best performances on record. Grammy voters agreed, awarding Vandross his first Grammy for R&B Male Vocal Performance.
RIBBON IN THE SKY (1981) Stevie Wonder
In the history of recorded music, Stevie Wonder will one day be talked about like Bach, Mozart and other classical greats whose compositions stood the test of time. If this is not one of your choices as one of the greatest ballads ever recorded, then well, we just think you must be crazy. In fact, there are many of you who should be sending Stevie a thank-you note, because you owe your very existence to this song. If you wonder why this always makes your parents misty-eyed when they hear this, then you can figure that you are one of those people. Truly one of the greatest songs ever by one of the greatest musicians ever to do it.
IF THIS WORLD WERE MINE Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn
This song, written by Marvin Gaye, is such a classic it has remarkable versions by two different duet partnerships. The first of course, is Gaye’s version with duet partner Tammi Terrell, which was recorded and hit in 1967 before her untimely death. The second version, recorded by Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn was an instant smash when it came out in 1982. It’s one of those songs that makes people who are already in love happier and those who want to be in love sadder. Who wouldn’t want someone who would give them anything in the WORLD if they could? Gaye is well known for his more explicity sexual songs, but it just goes to show you that he had a seriously romantic side as well.
LOVIN’ YOU Minnie Riperton
Don’t act like you don’t know what Minnie Riperton was talking about when she recorded this song. This may be the quintessential song that celebrates what happens when true love is present and people are celebrating that in the most primal way. It’s certainly one of the most transcendent vocal performances ever on record. Riperton’s multi-octave range and her complete control of it make her one of the most underrated vocalists of her generation, but that could be mainly because her output was limited by her untimely death. Though the song was about the real-life love she had with her husband Dick Rudolph, the melody was created to distract her daughter Maya, while Minnie recorded. In unedited versions of the song, Riperton sings Maya’s name over and over. We didn’t have Minnie long enough, but we’re grateful that she left us with this slow jam masterpiece.
ALL THIS LOVE (1982) DeBarge
As we now know, the Debarge family had its share of up and downs over the years with almost everyone in the family struggling with addiction at one point or another. But in 1982, the five siblings from Grand Rapids, Michigan were a hot group whose second album is now considered an R&B masterpiece. “All This Love,” the title track was a big hit for the group and why not? Utilizing El Debarge’s dreamy falsetto to full affect, its affecting plea to a love was actually written for El’s idol, Marvin Gaye, to sing. While we love Marvin, we’re really happy that El took it himself, thus creating one of the most beautiful love songs of all time.
DANGEROUSLY IN LOVE (2003) Beyonce
Oh, fall back music purists. Every love song can’t be recorded by legends of the past. We have to give Beyonce credit for this one – the title cut of her 2003 solo debut, which actually first appeared with a slightly different arrangement on the album “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child. The song was so good, guess it made sense to release it again. This is one of B’s most underrated vocal performances, though she did win five Grammy awards for this CD alone, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for this song. Her pouring out her heart to a man who she can’t live without is one of her more poignant ballads ever. We know somebody fell in love to this one – you know who you are.
THE CLOSER I GET TO YOU (1978) Donnie Hathaway and Roberta Flack
We could have picked several songs by Donnie Hathaway alone – but this duet with Roberta Flack is one of the best duets ever made, so we had to include it. Though both Hathaway and Flack were singer/songwriters, James Mtume and Reggie Lucas, members of Flack’s band at the time wrote it. It became one of Flack’s biggest charting hits and one of R&B’s most heartfelt ballads. This song made you feel like love was not just possible, it was astonishing in its beauty. Now that’s how you want a song to make you feel.
HERE I STAND (2008) Usher
This song has six writers credited to it, but hey if that’s what it took to create Usher’s best ballad, we’ll take it. His album of the same name received a backlash because of the bad publicity surrounding his marriage to Tameka Foster, his former stylist, but it’s a great song. Written to commemorate the love that Usher felt for his then girlfriend, the song was played at the couple’s wedding. Well, despite the song’s promise of commitment and fidelity, Usher and Tameka flamed out, but we’re happy that this song was the gorgeous reminder of their once good relationship.