1. Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”
Say what you will about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie — the soundtrack is great. Like, really, truly, Beyoncé-is-on-this-thing great! But, while most of the film’s music paints in ~shades of lust~, Ellie Goulding’s contribution, “Love Me Like You Do,” is pure bliss. Built like a cathedral of synths, the song is toweringly romantic and unapologetically sweet.
Swoonworthy lyric: “You’re the light, you’re the night / You’re the color of my blood / You’re the cure, you’re the pain / You’re the only thing I wanna touch”
2. Selena Gomez, “Good for You”
Selena Gomez transitioned into adult pop stardom this year with a whisper, not a shout. Literally. Her first post-Disney single — the hushed, R&B-inspired “Good for You” — is sung in a sexy, vowel-breaking whisper. The result is like pillow talk, only catchier.
Swoonworthy lyric: “Let me show you how proud I am to be yours / Leave this dress a mess on the floor / And still look good for you, good for you”
3. Fetty Wap, “My Way (feat. Monty)”
On “My Way” time slows to a syrupy wooze as the rapper tries to impress the object of his affection with come-on after come-on. It’s equal parts charming and desperate. It’s charmingly desperate. There’s something about Fetty Wap’s Auto-Tuned warbling that sounds like the way infatuation feels — uncontrollable and ecstatic.
Swoonworthy lyric: “I spotted you, you had that glow / Watch me pull out all this dough / Take you where you want to go”
4. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Run Away With Me”
Nobody crushes like Carly Rae Jepsen crushes. Fluttery feelings of romantic possibility take on cosmic shadings and become something grander in her hands. Three years ago, she made giving your phone number to a stranger sound fated on her bubblegum masterpiece, “Call Me Maybe,” and, this year, she’s imbued her best new song, “Run Away With Me,” a sax-inflected, end-of-the-night anthem, with a real sense of destiny.
Swoonworthy lyric: “Oh baby, take me to the feeling / I’ll be your sinner, in secret / When the lights go out / Run away with me”
5. 5 Seconds of Summer, “Vapor”
Young love and teen angst collide on 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Vapor,” a pop-punk ballad about an intoxicatingly uncertain relationship. The track is full of drums, strings, and capital-F Feelings. The kind of big, bright, painful feelings that make adolescence feel so techno-colored and 5SOS so unbelievably popular.
Swoonworthy lyric: “I want to breathe you in like a vapor / I want to be the one you remember / I want to feel your love like the weather / All over me, all over me”
6. Blake Shelton, “Sangria”
Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” is a sexy song. A sexy country song. Country music doesn’t usually excel as “sexy,” but “Sangria” does. There’s some racy electric guitar and Shelton dials down his swagger to an intimate come-on as he sings lines like “Your skin is begging to be kissed by a little more than the sun” and “Only thing I want to do tonight is drink you like a Spanish wine.” It’s a buzzed Mexican honeymoon in song form.
Swoonworthy lyric: “Wrecking-ball dancing down the hallway / You’re holding your shoes, wearing my shades / We fall against the door / We fall into a wild, warm kiss”
7. Melanie Martinez, “Training Wheels”
Don’t be fooled by the juvenile title: Melanie Martinez’s “Training Wheels” is loaded with grown-up ideas about love and trust. The 20-year-old pop singer quietly levels with her lover — “It’s not like I’m asking to be your wife / Wanna make you mine, but that’s hard to say” — over twinkly, music box–like production.
Swoonworthy lyric: “I love everything you do / When you call me fucking dumb for the stupid shit I do / Wanna ride my bike with you / Fully undressed, no training wheels left for you”
8. Troye Sivan, “for him. (feat. Allday)”
Is it any surprise that Troye Sivan’s songwriting made Taylor Swift lose her chill earlier this year? “For him.” is exactly the kind of diaristic love song that she loves (and is so good at). Bouncy, laid-back, and chock-full of super-specific details, “for him.” is, in a lot of ways, a downright Swiftian portrait of young love.
Swoonworthy lyric: “You don’t have to say I love you to say I love you / Forget all the shooting stars and all the silver moons / We’ve been making shades of purple out of red and blue”
9. Meek Mill, “All Eyes on You (feat. Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj)”
Look, I’m not gonna lie: Chris Brown almost ruins this song. It’s a testament to Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill’s chemistry that he doesn’t. Instead of being a certified mess, “All Eyes on You” is actually pretty romantic! It’s fun to listen to an actual, real-life couple trade verses about their actual, real-life relationship.
Swoonworthy lyric: “I got him in the back of that ‘bach, I think he catchin’ feelings / Now it’s all eyes on us, and this all lies on trust / And if them bitches wanna trip, tell ‘em they tour guides on us”
10. Jazmine Sullivan, “Let It Burn”
If you lost your shit over Adele and her perfect voice this year, you should really make room in your playlists for Jazmine Sullivan. The chronically slept-on R&B singer has an equally impressive set of pipes and she really lets loose on “Let It Burn,” a velvety throwback jam that features some truly spectacular wailing and a ‘90s-era Babyface sample. All-consuming passion has never sounded cooler.
Swoonworthy lyric: “When it comes, you never wanna give it up / And, baby, I’m caught in the light and I ain’t gonna fight it / There’s no use in tryin’, I’m yours”
11. Pentatonix, “Rose Gold”
While “Rose Gold” seems ridiculous on paper — it’s Haylor fanfiction, loaded with allusions to 1989 — the song is, in practice, a sparse, surprisingly mature bit of a cappella. The Petatonix have been subverting expectations all year and “Rose Gold” is no exception.
Swoonworthy lyric: “Like a myth, the story of our lives / Couldn’t fit in only black and white / If it’s true that legends never die / Me and you could stand the test of time”
12. Miguel, “Coffee (Fucking)”
This is a song called “Coffee (Fucking)” from certified R&B sex god Miguel. What more could you want? What more could you possibly need? Assurances that the song lives up to its sexy and affectionate title? Well, OK, here they are: “Coffee (Fucking)” does, in fact, live up to its excellent title. It’s a sultry ode to nights when “pillow talk turns into sweet dreams” and “sweet dreams turns into fucking in the morning.” Would that we could all be so lucky!
Swoonworthy lyric: “I don’t wanna wake you / I just wanna watch you sleep / It’s the smell of your hair / And it’s the way that we feel / I’ve never felt comfortable like this”
13. Lianne La Havas, “What You Don’t Do”
Lianne La Havas’s “What You Don’t Do” is a cheery, neo-soul tribute to commitment and stability; one of those rare love songs about what happens after the honeymoon phase of a relationship ends. The singer’s voice soars with certainty over jittery piano and lush backing harmonies. The result is a tune that sounds both lived-in and utterly ecstatic.
Swoonworthy lyric: “You don’t need to show it, I already know it all / It’s what you don’t do, it’s what you don’t say / I know you love me, I don’t need proof”
14. Ryn Weaver, “Free”
There’s something kind of radical about the explicitly egalitarian #RelationshipGoals Ryn Weaver celebrates on “Free.” She isn’t submitting to her lover or catering to their every whim. Instead, she’s inviting them to grab her hand and run with her. “Not a ball or chain,” she sings matter-of-factly, “just a ball when we’re together.” The song is spacious and exuberant — like a blast of fresh air from a more equitable future.
Swoonworthy lyric: “Hallelujah, believe / Hear my heart beat major keys / Nothin’ competes / When love is free”
15. Echosmith, “Bright”
Some feelings are too delicate for words. They exist in the atmosphere. Enter: Echosmith’s “Bright.” While the song is filled with plenty of pretty words, its best moments come when singer Sydney Sierota gives up on trying to articulate them and, instead, relies on swoony oh la las to express that weightless, honeymoon feeling.
Swoonworthy lyric: “You sprinkle star dust on my pillowcase / It’s like a moonbeam brushed across my face / Nights are good and that’s the way it should be”
16. Years & Years, “Shine”
Years & Years’ disco devotional “Shine” is the kind of song you want to be listening to when you make intense eye contact with a stranger for the first time. All synths and euphoria, it sounds like falling in love on the dance floor.
Swoonworthy lyric: “I’m holding it all tonight / I’m folding it all tonight / You know that you make it shine / It’s you that I’ve been waiting to find”
17. Wet, “Weak”
Even when love doesn’t hurt, it can ache. Because love requires being vulnerable and being vulnerable is hard! That hard, vulnerable, aching kind of love is what Brooklyn-based synth-pop trio Wet are getting at on the irresistible “Weak.”
Swoonworthy lyric: “You, you make me weak / Yeah you, you bring me to my knees / And all I ask of you / And all I ask of you / Is baby, please don’t leave me”
18. Majical Cloudz, “Downtown”
Happiness seeps into “Downtown” slowly and then, to quote a popular author, all at once. The song begins with Devon Welsh tentatively confessing his love over gentle, overcast synths and ends with him all but shouting it over sun-soaked keyboards.
Swoonworthy lyric: “And if suddenly I die / I hope they will say / That he was obsessed and it was okay”
19. Seinabo Sey, “Poetic”
Like Jazmine Sullivan, Seinabo Sey is one of those lesser-known powerhouse vocalists Adele fans should make a point to be adding to their playlists. “Poetic” finds the 25-year-old Swedish soul-pop singer pledging her endless devotion with the same breathtaking force and fragility that Adele brings to songs about heartbreak.
Swoonworthy lyric: “I’ll lose my breath for you / And I don’t want it back / All that I have is yours / Run to the moon and back”
20. Maddie & Tae, “No Place Like You”
“No Place Like You” is a traditional-sounding country song that has decidedly nontraditional ideas about love. Maddie & Tae sing about the pros and cons of pursuing love and lifelong dreams at the same time with the same fresh, clear-eyed perspective made their riotous, bro-country satire “Girl in a Country Song” such a revelation. The girls make it clear that the objects of their affection aren’t their whole world — just their favorite place in it.
Swoonworthy lyric: “There’s a lot to see from a windshield view / But sometimes, I wish I could close my eyes and click my shoes / ‘Cause there’s no place like you”
21. Thomas Rhett, “Die a Happy Man”
Simple and straightforward, “Die a Happy Man” is a country ballad that stays out of its own way. Thomas Rhett is in love. He’s got a woman he thinks is a saint, goddess, and masterpiece. A woman whose praises he sings with hushed reverence. She’s all he needs. It would be cheeseball if Rhett didn’t sound so goddamn sincere.
Swoonworthy lyric: “If I never get to see the Northern Lights / Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night / Oh if all I got is your hand in my hand / Baby I could die a happy man yeah”
22. One Direction, “Olivia”
Is “Olivia” about Taylor Swift? A coded reference to the good ‘ship Larry? Just a name that sounds conveniently like “I live for ya”? All of the above? There’s been a lot of speculation about this song and none of it has been anywhere near as interesting as the track itself — which is the big, shameless Beatles homage the boys have been working towards their entire career.
Swoonworthy lyric: “When you go and I’m alone, you live in my imagination / The summertime and butterflies / All belong to your creation / I love you, it’s all I do, I love you”
23. Natalie Prass, “It Is You”
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Natalie Prass has the voice of a Disney princess: sweet and clear, without a trace of irony or cynicism. For most of her self-titled debut, she employs it to temper songs about heartbreak and troubled relationships, but on the album closer, “It Is You,” she leans into her voice’s fairy tale qualities. The swooning, string-laden fantasy sounds like the centerpiece of an animated romance. It’s the musical equivalent of “happily ever after.”
Swoonworthy lyric: “So many things will fill my life / But only one will do / It is you, it is you, it is you”