Table of Contents
- 1. Take This Longing – Leonard Cohen
- 2. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved
- 3. Back To You – Selena Gomez
- 4. Cornerstone – Arctic Monkeys
- 5. I Want the One I Can’t Have – The Smiths
- 6. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bon Iver
- 7. Just My Imagination – The Temptations
- 8. Layla – Eric Clapton
- 9. Why Don’t You Love Me? – Beyoncé
- 10. Ever Fallen In Love – Buzzcocks
- 11. Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head) – Powfu
- 12. November Rain – Guns N’ Roses
- 13. Gumboots – Paul Simon
- 14. Waiting in Vain – Bob Marley
- 15. Just a Friend – Biz Markie
- 16. Just Friends – Connell Cruise
- 17. Dreaming with a Broken Heart – John Mayer
- 18. Shiver – Coldplay
- 19. The Girl of My Best Friend – Elvis Presley
- 20. You Don’t Know Me – Ray Charles
- 21. You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift
Love is one of the most powerful and universal human emotions, capable of inspiring both great joy and profound pain. One of the most bittersweet aspects of love is the experience of loving someone you can’t have. This unrequited love can be caused by a variety of reasons – perhaps the object of your affection is already in a committed relationship, lives far away, or simply doesn’t feel the same way. Whatever the cause, the feeling of wanting someone you can’t have can be all-consuming, and has inspired countless songs across a wide range of genres and eras. In this article, we will explore the Top 21 songs about loving someone you can’t have, examining the ways in which different artists have captured the heartache and longing of unrequited love. From classics like “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, to more recent hits like “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi and “Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo, these songs explore the complex emotions and experiences of unrequited love, offering comfort and catharsis to anyone who has ever loved someone they can’t have.
1. Take This Longing – Leonard Cohen
“Take This Longing” is a beautiful and haunting song by Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, released in 1974 on the album “New Skin for the Old Ceremony”. The song features a slow and mournful melody, with Cohen’s distinctive baritone voice accompanied by a sparse arrangement of acoustic guitar, piano, and haunting backing vocals.
Lyrically, “Take This Longing” is a poignant meditation on the nature of desire, loss, and longing, with Cohen’s evocative imagery exploring the depths of human emotion with grace and sensitivity. The song’s haunting refrain – “take this longing from my tongue, whatever useless things these hands have done” – captures the deep and complex feelings of regret and yearning that can arise in the wake of lost love.
Musically, “Take This Longing” is a masterful example of Cohen’s unique and evocative songwriting style, with its haunting melody and poetic lyrics combining to create a powerful and unforgettable listening experience. The song has become a beloved classic of Cohen’s extensive catalogue, and a favorite with fans of folk and singer-songwriter music around the world.
Overall, “Take This Longing” is a testament to Leonard Cohen’s unique and visionary approach to songwriting, with its haunting melody, evocative lyrics, and sparse yet powerful arrangement making it a timeless classic of modern music.
2. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved
“Someone You Loved” is a heart-wrenching ballad by Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi, released in 2018 on his debut EP “Breach”. The song features Capaldi’s raw and emotive vocals, accompanied by a simple yet powerful arrangement of piano and strings.
Lyrically, “Someone You Loved” is a poignant exploration of the aftermath of a failed relationship, with Capaldi’s lyrics capturing the complex and often contradictory emotions that can arise in the wake of a breakup. The song’s soaring chorus – “Now the day bleeds into nightfall, and you’re not here to get me through it all” – perfectly encapsulates the feeling of loss and longing that can be so difficult to articulate in the wake of a failed romance.
Musically, “Someone You Loved” is a beautifully crafted song, with its stripped-down arrangement allowing Capaldi’s voice to take center stage and shine. The song has become a global phenomenon, topping charts around the world and earning critical acclaim for its honest and deeply affecting portrayal of love and loss.
Overall, “Someone You Loved” is a testament to Lewis Capaldi’s talent as a singer-songwriter, with its powerful lyrics, emotive vocals, and beautiful arrangement making it a modern classic of the ballad genre.
3. Back To You – Selena Gomez
“Back to You” is a catchy and emotional pop song by American singer Selena Gomez, released in 2018 as a standalone single. The song features a bright and upbeat melody, with Gomez’s vocals accompanied by a bouncy electronic beat and catchy hooks.
Lyrically, “Back to You” explores the push-and-pull of a turbulent relationship, with Gomez’s lyrics capturing the intense emotions of love and heartbreak with honesty and vulnerability. The song’s infectious chorus – “If I could do it all again, I know I’d go back to you” – perfectly captures the feeling of longing for a lost love, even in the face of pain and uncertainty.
Musically, “Back to You” is a well-crafted pop song, with its catchy melody and slick production making it an instant earworm. The song has become a hit with fans of modern pop music around the world, earning praise for its catchy hooks and relatable lyrics.
Overall, “Back to You” is a testament to Selena Gomez’s talent as a pop artist, with its catchy melody, relatable lyrics, and polished production making it a standout track in her extensive discography.
4. Cornerstone – Arctic Monkeys
“Cornerstone” is a melancholic and introspective indie rock song by British band Arctic Monkeys, released on their third studio album “Humbug” in 2009. The song features a slow and haunting melody, with frontman Alex Turner’s signature vocals accompanied by a subdued guitar and minimal percussion.
Lyrically, “Cornerstone” is a deeply personal song, with Turner’s lyrics exploring themes of lost love and the search for connection in a disconnected world. The song’s memorable refrain – “I thought I saw you in the rusty hook, huddled up in wicker chair” – captures the feeling of searching for something that may be lost forever, and the pain that comes with that search.
Musically, “Cornerstone” is a beautifully crafted song, with its sparse instrumentation and haunting melody creating a sense of space and longing. The song has become a fan favorite in the Arctic Monkeys’ catalogue, with its poignant lyrics and understated instrumentation earning praise for its emotional impact.
Overall, “Cornerstone” is a testament to the Arctic Monkeys’ talent as songwriters, with its raw lyrics and understated musical arrangement making it a standout track in their extensive discography.
5. I Want the One I Can’t Have – The Smiths
“I Want the One I Can’t Have” is an iconic and anthemic song by British rock band The Smiths, released on their acclaimed album “Meat is Murder” in 1985. The song features a driving and energetic rock arrangement, with Morrissey’s distinctive vocals accompanied by jangly guitar riffs and a propulsive drumbeat.
Lyrically, “I Want the One I Can’t Have” is a wry and humorous take on the classic theme of unrequited love, with Morrissey’s lyrics capturing the absurdity and frustration of wanting something that is just out of reach. The song’s memorable chorus – “I want the one I can’t have, and it’s driving me mad” – perfectly captures the sense of longing and desire that defines the human experience.
Musically, “I Want the One I Can’t Have” is a standout track in The Smiths’ catalogue, with its driving guitar riffs and propulsive beat creating a sense of urgency and excitement. The song has become a fan favorite over the years, earning praise for its infectious energy and Morrissey’s distinctive vocal performance.
Overall, “I Want the One I Can’t Have” is a testament to The Smiths’ talent as songwriters and performers, with its catchy melody and wry lyrics making it a standout track in their influential discography.
6. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bon Iver
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a poignant and emotional ballad originally written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin, but made famous by Bonnie Raitt’s rendition in 1991. Bon Iver, an indie-folk band led by Justin Vernon, released their hauntingly beautiful version of the song on their 2011 EP, “Bon Iver, Bon Iver.”
The song features a simple arrangement with sparse guitar and piano accompaniment, allowing Vernon’s hauntingly beautiful and emotional vocals to shine through. His rendition captures the essence of the song’s theme – the pain of unrequited love and the desperate yearning to be loved by someone who doesn’t feel the same way.
The stripped-down instrumentation, combined with Vernon’s raw and vulnerable performance, gives the song a sense of intimacy and immediacy that resonates deeply with listeners. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a powerful reminder of the heartache and longing that comes with unrequited love, and Bon Iver’s version of the song is a stunning tribute to its enduring emotional resonance.
7. Just My Imagination – The Temptations
“Just My Imagination” is a soulful and melancholic ballad by The Temptations, released in 1971. The song tells the story of a man who daydreams about a beautiful woman, but is unable to approach her in reality. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of his imagined romance, with vivid descriptions of walks in the park, dancing in the moonlight, and a shared sense of joy and happiness.
The song’s bittersweet melody and heartfelt vocals perfectly capture the sense of longing and regret that comes with unrequited love. The lush, orchestral arrangement adds to the song’s dreamlike quality, creating a rich and atmospheric backdrop for the story being told.
“Just My Imagination” remains one of The Temptations’ most enduring and beloved songs, thanks to its timeless lyrics and unforgettable melody. It’s a beautiful reminder of the power of imagination and the depth of our emotions, even when the object of our affection is just out of reach.
8. Layla – Eric Clapton
“Layla” is a classic rock song by Eric Clapton, originally released in 1970 as part of the album “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” by his band Derek and the Dominos. The song was written about Clapton’s unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend George Harrison.
The song’s iconic opening riff and fiery guitar solos are instantly recognizable, while the lyrics capture the intense emotional pain of longing for someone who is unattainable. The chorus of “Layla, you got me on my knees” is a desperate plea for love and affection, while the verses describe the narrator’s inner turmoil and heartbreak.
Despite its origins in personal turmoil and unrequited love, “Layla” has become a beloved classic, recognized as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Its passionate vocals and searing guitar work have inspired countless imitators and tributes, cementing its place in music history as an enduring tribute to the power of love and desire.
9. Why Don’t You Love Me? – Beyoncé
“Why Don’t You Love Me?” is a soulful R&B song by Beyoncé, released in 2010. The song features powerful vocals, funky guitar riffs, and a retro sound reminiscent of classic Motown and soul music.
The lyrics of the song express the narrator’s frustration and confusion at the lack of affection and attention from her lover, questioning why they don’t appreciate her and love her as she deserves. Beyoncé delivers the lyrics with a raw emotional intensity, capturing the heartbreak and longing of unrequited love.
The song’s music video features Beyoncé in a retro pin-up girl style, performing domestic chores and vying for the affection of a disinterested man. The video’s humorous tone contrasts with the serious emotional subject matter of the song, creating a powerful and memorable visual statement.
“Why Don’t You Love Me?” has become a fan favorite and a classic track in Beyoncé’s discography, known for its powerful vocals, catchy hook, and emotional resonance. The song has inspired countless covers and tributes, and remains a testament to the enduring power of R&B and soul music.
10. Ever Fallen In Love – Buzzcocks
“Ever Fallen In Love” is a punk rock classic by the British band Buzzcocks, released in 1978. The song is known for its catchy guitar riff, energetic drums, and powerful vocals by lead singer Pete Shelley.
The lyrics of the song explore the bittersweet emotions of falling in love, with the narrator describing the thrill and excitement of the experience, as well as the pain and heartbreak that can follow. The song’s driving beat and irresistible melody make it a beloved anthem of punk and alternative music, with its infectious energy and relatable lyrics resonating with generations of fans.
“Ever Fallen In Love” has been covered by numerous artists, and remains a staple of Buzzcocks’ live shows. The song’s blend of punk attitude and pop sensibility has made it a timeless classic of the genre, and a testament to the enduring power of great rock music.
11. Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head) – Powfu
“Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)” is a modern indie pop and rap song by Canadian artist Powfu, released in 2020. The song gained massive popularity on social media platforms like TikTok and Spotify, due to its catchy melody, relatable lyrics, and laid-back vibe.
The song tells the story of a person reminiscing about a past relationship, and imagining what it would be like to spend one more day with their lost love. Powfu’s soothing vocals, along with the simple guitar melody and subtle electronic beats, create a dreamy atmosphere that perfectly captures the song’s wistful and nostalgic tone.
“Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)” has become a viral hit, reaching the top of the charts in multiple countries and amassing millions of streams and views online. Its universal message of love and loss has touched the hearts of listeners worldwide, making it a poignant and memorable song of its time.
12. November Rain – Guns N’ Roses
“November Rain” is a power ballad by American rock band Guns N’ Roses, released in 1991 as part of their album “Use Your Illusion I”. The song features a soaring orchestral arrangement and showcases the impressive vocal range of lead singer Axl Rose, along with the guitar work of Slash, who delivers a soulful and emotive solo that has become one of the most iconic in rock history.
The song tells a story of heartbreak and loss, with lyrics that speak of love that can never be regained. The music video, which features a memorable wedding scene and a dramatic rain-soaked finale, has also become a classic of its era, adding to the song’s lasting impact.
“November Rain” is widely regarded as one of Guns N’ Roses’ greatest songs and has become a staple of classic rock radio. Its evocative and emotional lyrics, coupled with its powerful melody and soaring instrumentation, have made it a timeless anthem of love and loss that resonates with listeners of all generations.
13. Gumboots – Paul Simon
“Gumboots” is a lively, upbeat song by Paul Simon from his acclaimed 1986 album “Graceland.” The song is a tribute to the gumboot dance, which originated among gold miners in South Africa who were forbidden to speak to one another and used the rhythms of their rubber boots to communicate. Simon’s version features infectious African rhythms, lively percussion, and vocal harmonies that are sure to get listeners moving. The lyrics are in the form of a call-and-response, with Simon leading the verses and the backing vocalists responding with the chorus. The song captures the exuberance and joy of the gumboot dance, while also acknowledging the difficult and often oppressive circumstances that gave rise to it. “Gumboots” is an example of Simon’s pioneering work in blending Western and African music, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its infectious rhythms and message of resilience and creativity in the face of hardship.
14. Waiting in Vain – Bob Marley
“Waiting in Vain” is a classic reggae love song by Bob Marley. The track is a smooth, mellow ballad about a man who is hopelessly in love with a woman who does not reciprocate his feelings. The song features Marley’s signature laid-back, yet powerful, vocals backed by an infectious bassline and upbeat guitar riffs that give the track a bright and groovy vibe. Marley’s lyrics are simple, yet poignant, conveying the emotional pain and longing of unrequited love. The chorus is particularly memorable, with Marley singing, “I don’t want to wait in vain for your love. From the very first time I rest my eyes on you, girl, my heart says follow through.” The track is a testament to Marley’s songwriting and musical genius, and it has become a beloved classic in the world of reggae music, inspiring countless covers and interpretations over the years.
15. Just a Friend – Biz Markie
Released in 1989, “Just a Friend” by Biz Markie is a catchy and humorous rap song about unrequited love. The song features Markie’s trademark off-beat flow and a memorable chorus that has become a cultural touchstone. Markie tells the story of a girl he is interested in who repeatedly rejects him, telling him that he is “just a friend.” Despite her rejections, Markie continues to pursue her and fantasizes about a romantic relationship with her. The song’s upbeat tempo and humorous lyrics contrast with the underlying theme of heartbreak and unrequited love, making it a relatable and catchy tune. “Just a Friend” has become a staple of 80s and 90s hip hop and is a classic example of Markie’s unique style and approach to rap.
16. Just Friends – Connell Cruise
“Just Friends” is a heart-wrenching pop ballad by South African singer-songwriter Connell Cruise. The song speaks to the pain and frustration of being in love with someone who only sees you as a friend, and the struggle to keep those feelings hidden. The opening verse sets the scene of a friendship that has the potential to be more, but is stuck in a state of limbo: “I’m sitting next to you, but I’m feeling a million miles away / I’m feeling so confused, ’cause I don’t know what to say.”
As the song progresses, Cruise’s emotive vocals build to a soaring chorus, in which he pleads with his crush to see him as more than just a friend: “Just friends is all we’ll ever be / Why can’t you see what you mean to me?” The track is characterized by its lush instrumentation, featuring sparkling keyboards and a driving beat that underpins Cruise’s soaring vocals. “Just Friends” is a poignant and relatable ode to unrequited love that is sure to strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt trapped in the friend zone.
17. Dreaming with a Broken Heart – John Mayer
“Dreaming with a Broken Heart” is a heartfelt ballad by American singer-songwriter John Mayer. The song tells the story of a man who is struggling to move on from a past love, as he is haunted by dreams of his lost love every night. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of the pain and longing that the man feels, as he tries to come to terms with the fact that the relationship is over. The song’s emotive melody is built on a simple, yet effective, piano motif that underpins Mayer’s soulful vocals. The chorus is particularly powerful, with Mayer belting out the line “When you’re dreaming with a broken heart, the waking up is the hardest part.” The song’s honest portrayal of heartbreak and the difficulty of moving on make it a relatable and powerful piece of music that is sure to tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has experienced the pain of unrequited love.
18. Shiver – Coldplay
“Shiver” by Coldplay is an emotive ballad about unrequited love. Released as the lead single from the band’s debut album “Parachutes”, the song features lead singer Chris Martin’s soulful vocals over a hauntingly beautiful guitar riff. The lyrics speak to the pain of being unable to have someone you desire, with Martin’s wistful vocals conveying a sense of longing and desperation. The chorus is particularly powerful, with Martin passionately singing “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.” The song has a melancholic tone that’s further amplified by its atmospheric production, with ethereal guitar effects and understated drumming that create a dreamy soundscape. “Shiver” is a timeless classic that showcases Coldplay’s ability to create songs that tug at the heartstrings and resonate deeply with listeners.
19. The Girl of My Best Friend – Elvis Presley
“The Girl of My Best Friend” is a classic song by Elvis Presley, originally released in 1960. The track features Presley’s signature rockabilly sound, with catchy guitar riffs and upbeat rhythm. Lyrically, the song tells the story of a man who is in love with the girl who happens to be his best friend’s girlfriend. The narrator expresses his desire to be with her and laments that he cannot have her. The song is a poignant exploration of unrequited love and the complexity of romantic relationships. Presley’s heartfelt delivery perfectly captures the bittersweet emotions of the lyrics, making the song a timeless classic that resonates with listeners to this day. The catchy melody and sing-along chorus have made the song a fan favorite and a staple of Presley’s discography.
20. You Don’t Know Me – Ray Charles
“You Don’t Know Me” is a classic ballad by Ray Charles that captures the feeling of unrequited love. The song is a plea from the singer to the object of his affection to see him as more than just a passing acquaintance. Charles’ soulful voice is perfectly suited to the emotional lyrics, which are filled with longing and heartache. The melody is simple and elegant, with a subtle arrangement that emphasizes the emotional weight of the lyrics. The song has become a timeless classic, covered by many artists over the years, but Charles’ version remains the definitive one. It’s a song that captures the feeling of wanting someone who doesn’t feel the same way, and the pain that can come with unrequited love.
21. You Belong With Me – Taylor Swift
“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift is an upbeat pop-country song that tells the story of a girl who is secretly in love with her friend, who is in a relationship with another girl. The song is an expression of the girl’s desire to be with her friend and her frustration that he is with someone else. With its catchy melody and relatable lyrics, the song became a hit and resonated with many listeners. Swift’s sweet, innocent vocals add to the song’s charm, while the upbeat tempo and catchy chorus make it a perfect sing-along track. The song’s message is one of unrequited love and the hope that one day, the person you love will see you as more than just a friend.