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30 Best Songs About Unrequited Love of All Time

December 8, 2023
Songs about unrequited love

I’ve curated a collection of the best songs about unrequited love of all time, each track echoing the complex emotions of love that remains unreciprocated.

This article delves into the heart of songs that articulate the bittersweet experience of loving someone from afar.

Top Songs About Unrequited Love

  • R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”
  • Etta James – “I’d Rather Go Blind”
  • Bon Iver – “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
  • Pearl Jam – “Black”
  • Eric Clapton – “Layla”
  • Lykke Li – “Unrequited Love”
  • James Blunt – “You’re Beautiful”
  • Massive Attack – “Unfinished Sympathy”
  • Depeche Mode – “It’s No Good”
  • Yuna – “Unrequited Love”

1. R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”

The title of this classic hit refers to the expression “lost my religion” meaning that you lost your faith in something.

It’s one of the iconic songs about unrequited love. And it’s also about obsessive love, which makes it even more emotional.

And if you ask us, “Losing My Religion” is R.E.M.’s best work.

“Every whisper, of every waking hour
I‘m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool.”

2. Etta James – “I’d Rather Go Blind”

“Something told me it was over
When I saw you and her talkin’

Something deep down in my soul said, ‘Cry, girl’
When I saw you and that girl walkin’ around.”

“I’d Rather Go Blind” is just one of the proofs of Etta James’ timeless charm.

It’s an unforgettable, soulful song about seeing someone you love with someone else.

Released in 1968, “I’d Rather Go Blind” is still popular and often covered by different artists. Beyonce and Dua Lipa are just some of the big names.

3. Bon Iver – “I Can’t Make You Love Me”

I’ll close my eyes,
Then I won’t see
The love you don’t feel
When you’re holding me.

Bon Iver’s cover of Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 ballad “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is piano-driven, gentle, and emotional.

It’s one of those songs about being in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same.

The acknowledgment that someone doesn’t love you back and that you can’t do anything about it is painful but also liberating and, in most cases, necessary.

4. Pearl Jam – “Black”

This is probably one of the most emotional rock songs about loving someone you can’t be with.

Pearl Jam released “Black” on their debut studio album “Ten” in 1991, and it became one of their most popular songs. 

Besides being a song about unrequited love, “Black” is also about letting go. Although it seems hard, you need to move on instead of holding on to memories.

“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why can’t it be
Oh can’t it be mine.”

5. Eric Clapton – “Layla”

This rock classic was inspired by “The Story Of Layla And Majnun.”

It’s a 12th-century Persian tale of an Arabian princess who had to marry someone else, leaving her true love Majnun behind. Eventually, Majnun goes mad.

Eric Clapton also wrote “Layla” because of his infatuation with his friend George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd. Eventually, Eric and Pattie got married. So it doesn’t always end badly.

“I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down
Like a fool, I fell in love with you
You turned my whole world upside down.”

6. Lykke Li – “Unrequited Love”

“Once again it’s happening
Oh this love is unrequited.”

“Unrequited Love” was released on Lykke Li’s album “Wounded Rhymes” in 2011.

Most of the songs from the album revolve around the theme of love and all the pain that can come along with it.

It’s pretty clear what “Unrequited Love” is about. But although the lyrics are direct, it’s a song that will leave you with an undefined but good feeling.

7. James Blunt – “You’re Beautiful”

“You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt is probably one of the most radio-popular songs about unrequited love.

James Blunt was inspired to write the song after seeing his ex-girlfriend in a subway with another man. So, the lyrics are true.

You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful, it’s true
I saw your face in a crowded place
And I don’t know what to do
‘Cause I’ll never be with you.

8. Massive Attack – “Unfinished Sympathy”

“Really hurt me, baby, really cut me, baby
How can you have a day without a night?
You’re the book that I have opened
And now I’ve got to know much more.”

These last two verses are really powerful, and along with Massive Attack’s talent to make unique, memorable music, it’s no wonder that “Unfinished Sympathy” remains one of their biggest hits.

Released in 1991, the song is about wanting to be with someone who is not there, and possibly being hurt because of the unrequited love.

All in all, it’s a brilliant song that can evoke all kinds of emotions.

9. Depeche Mode – “It’s No Good”

Depeche Mode is known to portray love in a rather realistic but romantic way.

And “It’s No Good” is undeniably one of their most powerful songs. And it’s definitely not a song about giving up on love, because the narrator is sure he will get the girl eventually. 

“I’m going to take my time
I have all the time in the world to make you mine
It is written in the stars above.”

10. Yuna – “Unrequited Love”

“Unrequited Love” by the Malaysian singer Yuna is a beautiful, almost poetic portrayal of this painful form of love.

Released in 2016, the song became one of the indie favorites about unrequited love.

For as long as I can remember
Like oil and water we collide
But you don’t seem to want forever
This adventure was only real to my eyes.

11. Selena Gomez – “The Heart Wants What It Wants”

Released in 2014, “The Heart Wants What It Wants” is a delicate, melancholic tune that proved that Selena Gomez started to create more serious pop ballads.

In the song, Selena reportedly talks about her relationship with Justin Bieber. Either way, it’s a song about loving someone who might not be good for you.

However, although it’s true that the heart wants what it wants, you should never be with (or dream about) someone who doesn’t treat you well.

The bed’s getting cold and you’re not here
The future that we hold is so unclear
But I’m not alive until you call
And I’ll bet the odds against it all.

12. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – “I Hate Myself for Loving You”

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

Another song that backs up the phrase ‘The heart wants what it wants’ is this 1988 rock tune by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

It’s one of the songs about loving someone you can’t be with, regardless of the reason, and Joan Jett expressed these feelings through her iconic strong and powerful energy.

“I Hate Myself for Loving You” is Jett’s biggest hit. After all, the song was written by Desmond Child who also wrote “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”.

13. Bob Marley – “Waiting in Vain”

The reggae legend Bob Marley wrote songs about all kinds of love, including the bittersweet unrequited love.

“Waiting in Vain” was released on Marley’s amazing album “Exodus” in 1977.

In a way, it’s a song about being fulfilled with love despite the wait or the possibility it might not be reciprocated.

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.

14. Jack Johnson – “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”

Another song about waiting for love is “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing.”

Jack Johnson’s music is catchy, soothing, and genuine, and  “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” is no different.

However, it’s one of the songs about liking someone you can’t have, or simply receiving mixed signals.

“But Lord knows that this world is cruel
And I ain’t the Lord, no I’m just a fool
Learning loving somebody don’t make them love you.”

15. The Police – “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”

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.

When you really like someone, you believe that everything they do is magic.

This 1981 hit by The Police expresses these exact thoughts in a very charming, tender way.

And it’s also one of those secretly in love songs.

16. Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”

This absolute hit by the Swedish singer Robyn was released in 2010.

The song was covered by many artists including Callum Scott and Kings of Leon.

“Dancing On My Own” expresses the feeling of seeing your past love with someone else.

But it’s also a song about dancing out all your worries – and it will definitely help you do that!

Somebody said you got a new friend
Does she love you better than I can?
And there’s a big black sky over my town
I know where you’re at, I bet she’s around.

17. Olivia Rodrigo – “Driver’s License”

“Driver’s License” by Olivia Rodrigo is currently one of the most popular songs about loving someone who doesn’t love you back.

Essentially, it’s a Gen Z heartbreak anthem reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s early music.

And the lyrics say it all:

I got my driver’s license last week
Just like we always talked about
‘Cause you were so excited for me
To finally drive up to your house
But today I drove through the suburbs
Crying ’cause you weren’t around.

18. Coldplay – “Shiver”

Coldplay released “Shiver” on their album “Parachutes” in 2000.

It’s clearly a song about unrequited love, but also a very nice throwback to Coldplay’s older albums.

So I look in your direction
But you pay me no attention
And you know how much I need you
But you never even see me.

19. Kate Nash – “Nicest Thing”

If you’re a millennial, perhaps you’ve done your bit of crying with Kate Nash.

“Nicest Thing” was released in 2007, and its lyrics and melody hit hard, especially if you’re in a situation that you love someone who doesn’t love you back.

“I wish you couldn’t figure me out
But you always wanna know what I was about
I wish you’d hold my hand
When I was upset
I wish you’d never forget
The look on my face when we first met.”

20. Beyoncé – “Why Don’t You Love Me”

If you need something to cheer you up, listening to Beyoncé’s older hits is always a good idea.   

Actually, “Why Don’t You Love Me” was released on Beyoncé’s album ” I Am… Sasha Fierce” in 2001.

This upbeat R&B track is about a woman asking her man why she isn’t loved and valued. 

It’s also a nice reminder that when someone doesn’t love you back, it’s never your fault.

21. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on my Guitar”

Well, we can’t skip the teen queen of broken hearts, or at least that’s what she was a while ago.

Although Taylor Swift still writes love songs, but more delicate ones, “Teardrops on My Guitar” from her 2006 self-titled album is a sweet tune about loving someone who loves someone else.

Drew looks at me, I fake a smile so he won’t see
That I want and I’m needing everything that we should be
I’ll bet she’s beautiful, that girl he talks about
And she’s got everything that I have to live without.

22. Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game”

“Wicked Game” by Chris Isaak is one of the most iconic love songs of all time.

Although it’s often referred to as a song about unrequited love, which is true to some extent, Chris Isaak was inspired by a slightly different personal experience.

So, it’s also a song about wanting someone who might not be good for you.

Either way, “Wicked Game” certainly has an authentic, timeless charm.

23. DYLAN – “Someone Else”

This youthful indie-rock track by DYLAN is one of the songs about loving someone who loves someone else.

Released in 2021, “Someone Else” is a song that will help you process your emotions and let them all go.

“Why don’t you want me darlin’?
Why don’t you want me to yourself?
It should be me that you’re calling
It should be me and no one else.”

24. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”

“Seasons (Waiting on You)” by the American synthpop band Future Islands is a lively, indie track with a dreamy atmosphere.

It can be seen as a song about relationships and how they change, with seasons representing the passage of time.

But the song also portrays the feeling of waiting for someone, whether it’s someone who doesn’t love you back or someone who is slowly drifting away from you.

As it breaks
The summer will warm
But the winter will crave what is gone
Will crave what has all
Gone away.

25. The Cardigans – “Lovefool”

The uplifting “Lovefool” will undoubtedly put a positive spin on your thoughts of unrequited love.

It’s the most famous hit by The Cardigans, and even after 25 years, the song still keeps its popularity and charm.

“Dear, I fear we’re facing a problem
You love me no longer, I know and
Maybe there is nothing that I can do
To make you do.”

26. Lenny Kravitz – “I’ll Be Waiting”

Unrequited love often entails a lot of patient waiting.

After all, if you really love someone, even time won’t erase your feelings.

Lenny Kravitz released “I’ll Be Waiting” in 2008, and it’s one of his most emotional songs.

It’s a ballad about heartbreak, devotion, and hope.

“You need some time to be alone
Then you will find
What you’ve always known
I’m the one who really love ya, baby. “

27. Halsey – “Without Me”

Halsey rose to fame after uploading her debut single “Ghost” to her SoundCloud account in 2014.

In the meantime, her music became widely popular, especially among younger generations.

Halsey’s track “Without Me” is about her personal experiences, but it’s also a song about unrequited love and regrets.

“You know I’m the one who put you up there
Name in the sky
Does it ever get lonely?
Thinking you could live without me.”

28. The Smiths – “What Difference Does It Make?”

The Smiths are the masters of singing about unrequited love and, well, feeling somewhat miserable.

In “What Difference Does It Make?”, Morrissey talks about being ready to ‘take a bullet’ for someone who doesn’t really care about him.

“I think I can rely on you
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I’d leap in front of a flying bullet for you.”

29. The Cure – “Pictures Of You”

Another legendary band that comes to mind when dreaming about lost or unrequited love is The Cure.

Their song “Pictures Of You” is considered to be a song about loss, but it’s also a song about missing your lover, for whatever reason.

Either way, it’s a song about holding on to your memories, which can be a dangerous thing.

“Looking so long at these pictures of you
But I never hold on to your heart.”

30. Ani DiFranco – “Unrequited”

“Unrequited” was released on the 2006 studio album “Reprieve” by the talented American singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco.

It’s a gentle track about loving someone even if we’re not with them.

And it’s an ideal conclusion for our little musical journey.

“He had all kind of reasons
Why she was unable to love him
She was just too young
She was too high strung
She was afraid of commitment.”

Songs About Unrequited Love – Final Thoughts

Our list of the best songs about unrequited love is an emotional rollercoaster, but also a good reminder of some beloved tunes.

After all, some of the best songs of all time were written because someone was unhappily in love.

However, we’ve also included some cheerful tracks about unrequited love, so you don’t have to think that everything is so blue.

Because it isn’t, especially when you’re surrounded by good music!

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Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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