31 Of The Best Songs About Unrequited Love

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Judging by the number of songs out there talking about unrequited love, it’s a popular theme in music that many listeners can relate to. It’s a universal experience and a powerful subject for songwriting.

These songs can be melancholic, filled with sorrow and yearning. Or they can be empowering, encouraging listeners to move on and find love somewhere.

Today, we have compiled 31 of the best songs about unrequited love to show you the complexities of one-sided love. Continue reading to know more.

1. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” By The Police

Up first, we have a classic illustration of unrequited love The Police‘s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Penned by the band’s frontman Sting, the song was released in 1981 from the album Ghost in the Machine.

The song follows the story of a man who is hopelessly in love with someone. He is captivated by every little thing the woman does — hence the title. But when she’s around, he loses his nerve and the courage to admit his feelings. The only thing he can do at this point is fantasize about their potential relationship.

Unfortunately, the feelings are one-sided. There’s a sense of helplessness and frustration as he deals with his inability to communicate his emotions.

Upon its release, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” became a hit. It topped the charts in the UK and peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

2. “Teardrops On My Guitar” By Taylor Swift

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift is no stranger to unrequited love. In fact, “Teardrops on My Guitar” was inspired by her personal experience of harboring feelings for a close friend who was oblivious to her affection.

In “Teardrops on My Guitar,” Swift expresses her love for a boy named Drew, who only sees her as a friend. The lyrics highlight the pain and insecurity that come with loving someone who doesn’t know you’re in love with them. The line “He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar” expresses how emotions are deeply affected by someone’s indifference.

Upon release, the song was almost an instant success. It climbed to #2 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs and crossed over to the pop charts, landing at #13.

3. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” By Bonnie Raitt

Up next is a deeply emotional song about unrequited love. Bonnie Raitt‘s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” resonates with people who love someone who doesn’t feel the same way.

The lyrics express pain and heartache as the narrator acknowledges this harsh reality. She understands that love can’t be forced — it either exists or it doesn’t.

The song also captures the raw vulnerability that comes with accepting that the person you love does not share the same feelings. It’s a portrayal of the human condition and the universal experience of unrequited love.

4. “Everything You Want” By Vertical Horizon

It hurts when the person you love doesn’t love you back. And it hurts more when they love someone who doesn’t value them like you do. That’s the message behind Vertical Horizon‘s “Everything You Want.”

The lyrics “I am everything you want / I am everything you need / I am everything… / you wish you could be” express the narrator’s sentiment of being perfect for his love interest. He can give her anything she wants, but he is overlooked, unrecognized, and unappreciated.

“Everything You Want” captures his frustration and heartbreak. Despite his deep feelings and belief that he is what she needs, he remains unseen and unloved in the romantic sense.

5. “You Belong With Me” By Taylor Swift

Considered the most-awarded country album of all time, Taylor Swift‘s Fearless has produced some very notable songs. One is “You Belong with Me,” about a girl who is in love with her best friend. However, he is oblivious to her feelings and is in a relationship with someone who doesn’t appreciate him.

The narrator sees herself as the perfect match for the boy, knowing him better than his girlfriend does. She understands his needs and desires and is always there for him.

The line “You belong with me” represents her longing and belief that they would be better together. And even if her feelings are unreciprocated, she hopes that one day he’ll realize she’s the right one for him.

6. “Not In That Way” By Sam Smith

Up next is Sam Smith‘s “Not in That Way.” Released in 2014, this poignant song is about the emotional journey of expressing love for someone who does not reciprocate those feelings in the same way.

The title itself carries the essence of the song. The narrator loves someone. And while that person cares for him, his affection is not in the romantic sense that the narrator desires.

The lyrics express the pain and heartache that come with unrequited love. The narrator struggles to come to terms with this harsh reality. At the same time, he finds the courage to voice out his feelings, knowing they won’t be reciprocated.

7. “Love Stinks” By The J. Geils Band

Here’s a raw and unfiltered take on unrequited love. “Love Stinks” by The J. Geils Band offers a cynical view of love.

The phrase “love stinks” encapsulates the narrator’s frustration and disillusionment at unreciprocated love. It highlights the heartache and disappointment that come with unfulfilled romantic feelings.

In addition, the narrator feels that no one wins in love. The scenario of someone loving a woman and that woman loving another man who loves somebody else is an example of this. The song’s blunt message that love stinks struck a chord with many listeners.

8. “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” By The Temptations

The classic soul ballad “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” by The Temptations is up next. Released in 1971, it centers on the feelings of a man deeply in love with a woman. The twist? These feelings only exist in his imagination.

The narrator builds his entire life with this woman in mind. They laugh, hold hands, and even have a house and children. However, these are all fantasies because “in reality, she doesn’t even know me.”

The song shows that while the narrator recognizes the unreciprocated love, he finds fulfillment in his daydreams. In reality, his love is unrequited. In his imagination, it is fulfilled.

9. “Just A Friend To You” By Meghan Trainor

Released in 2016, Meghan Trainor‘s “Just a Friend to You” explores the complex emotions of unrequited love in the context of friendship. The narrator expresses her pain and frustration of being in love with a man who only sees her as a friend.

Through the song, the narrator confesses her hidden feelings to a close friend. The lines “I loved you from the start / So it breaks my heart / When you say I’m just a friend to you” encapsulate the theme of the song and the struggle of unrequited love.

In essence, “Just a Friend to You” portrays the pain that comes with unrequited love, especially if the object of one’s affection is a friend. It resonates deeply with listeners who have experienced similar situations.

10. “Losing My Religion” By R.E.M.

In 1991, R.E.M. released “Losing My Religion” as the second track from their album Out of Time. It became the band’s highest charting hit in the US, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and propelled them to stardom.

Despite the title, the song is far from being about religion. The phrase “losing my religion” means losing one’s temper or feeling desperate. That’s because the narrator pines for someone who doesn’t feel the same way.

This theme of unrequited love is woven throughout the song. The narrator is almost obsessed with his love interest. This obsession, along with the lack of reciprocation, leads to him feeling desperate and in pain, encapsulating the difficulty of unrequited love.

11. “Unrequited Love” By Thundercat

When it comes to songs with “unrequited love” in the title, one must not forget Thurdercat‘s 2020 single. “Unrequited Love” comes from the musician’s fourth studio album, It Is What It Is.

Lyrically, the song reveals a deep sense of longing and emotional pain that comes from a one-sided love. The song highlights the singer’s personal experiences, capturing the essence of love lost.

The lyrics suggest that the narrator is lost in the flames of unrequited love. This metaphor refers to the burning pain and desire arising from someone who doesn’t return those feelings. The line “Time won’t always heal” suggests that the pain of unrequited love isn’t easily forgotten.

12. “Dancing On My Own” By Calum Scott

Before he was discovered, Calum Scott posted his version of “Dancing On My Own” on YouTube in 2014. He also performed the song for his audition on British Got Talent in 2015. The soft focus of his version and the song’s message resonated with listeners.

Lyrics-wise, the song explores the pain of unrequited love. The narrator is alone in the club, watching the object of his affection dancing with someone else. The pain is apparent in the line “And I’m right over here, why can’t you see me?”

The lyrics capture the essence of unrequited love — the deep yearning for someone who doesn’t return your feelings, coupled with the pain of seeing her with someone else.

13. “You’re Beautiful” By James Blunt

There’s more to the worldwide hit “You’re Beautiful” than being a song about unrequited love. Released in 2005, this track from James Blunt has since been played at weddings, proposals, and other romantic occasions.

The line “You’re beautiful” is a constant reminder of the narrator’s obsession with the object of his affection. It underscores his longing for someone who doesn’t feel the same way toward him.

But in this interview, Blunt reveals the real deal behind “You’re Beautiful.” According to him, the song is about a guy who is high and stalks somebody else’s girlfriend on the subway.

14. “To Be With You” By Mr. Big

The heartfelt song “To Be with You” by Mr. Big embodies the essence of unrequited love. It was inspired by lead singer Eric Martin’s personal experience, adding a layer of authenticity to the narrative.

The lyrics reveal the narrator’s deep desire to be with the woman he loves, although his feelings are not reciprocated. The longing is evident in the lines “I’m the one who wants to be with you / Deep inside I hope you feel it too.”

The song also conveys his willingness to wait for the woman to realize her feelings for him. This aspect shows the patience and hope often associated with unrequited love.

15. “Unrequited Love” By Yuna

Up next, we have a song with “unrequited love” in the lyrics. Malaysian singer Yuna released “Unrequited Love” in 2016 from her album Chapters.

The song depicts the complexities of falling in love with someone who doesn’t want to belong to you. The narrator conveys her intense emotions when she’s around this person, feeling alive and waiting for a response.

The song further explores the struggle of knowing when to hold on or let go. This emotional tug-of-war is a common feature in unrequited love, where one grapples with the decision to continue loving the other person or move on.

16. “Shiver” By Coldplay

From Coldplay‘s album Parachutes comes “Shiver,” a song encapsulating the essence of unrequited love. Co-written by Chris Martin, the lyrics reference his experience with one-sided affection.

The song describes a man who harbors deep feelings for someone who is seeing another guy. He always plays the role of a best friend, promising her he’ll stay by her side no matter what. He hopes that she will eventually notice his feelings and feel guilty for neglecting him.

Although his love is unrequited, he is resolved to always love her, even willing to change if she demands it. He is not fazed by the fact that she doesn’t “see” him and the affection that he so generously shows her.

17. “Crush” By Mandy Moore

More than two decades since it was released, Mandy Moore‘s “Crush” still resonates with many. This song captures the experience of having a crush on someone who’s got his sights on another girl.

The lyrics narrate the story of a girl who has feelings for someone who is universally loved and admired. The lines “You know everything that I’m afraid of / You do everything I wish I did / Everybody wants you, everybody loves you” capture this sentiment perfectly.

Despite her fears, she is hopeful that her feelings might be reciprocated. This embodies the sense of unrequited love — the sense of longing, hope for reciprocation, and fear of rejection.

18. “Damn Good Friends” By Elle Varner

Singer-songwriter Elle Varner dedicates “Damn Good Friends” to girls who have fallen in love with a male friend only to find out he has no plans of taking their friendship to the next level.

The narrator fears ruining their friendship by admitting her feelings. The lyrics “Two puzzles identical with the same piece / Missing from both never complete” capture her inner conflict. She believes they could be perfect together as a couple. However, the status of their friendship holds her back.

In addition, the song touches on the pain of pretending, as addressed in the lines “I long for you / It kills me to pretend.” She grapples with emotional turmoil as she hides her feelings and continues acting as if everything is all right.

19. “Surrender” By Billy Talent

Canadian rock band Billy Talent released “Surrender” in 2007 from their album Billy Talent II. The song centers on the pain and struggle of unrequited love.

The lyrics follow the narrator, who is head over heels in love with a girl who only sees him as a friend. He couldn’t bring himself to confess his love for fear of ruining their close friendship. He “never had the nerve to ask” and is afraid that his moment to confess has come and gone.

In essence, “Surrender” depicts unrequited love. It captures the vulnerability, emotional turmoil, and fear of rejection, all of which are associated with such situations.

20. “Jessie’s Girl” By Rick Springfield

A classic portrayal of unrequited love and longing is Rick Springfield‘s “Jessie’s Girl.” It tells the story of a man who finds himself falling for his friend’s girlfriend, Jessie, thus sparking feelings of desire and envy.

The narrator’s struggle is evident in the lines “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl / Where can I find a woman like that?” Here, the object of his affection is unattainable or unavailable as, in this case, she is involved with his friend.

The song depicts his internal conflict, torn between loyalty to his friend and his overwhelming desire for the woman. It also encapsulates his feelings of frustration, confusion, and heartache.

21. “Almost Lover” By A Fine Frenzy

In “Almost Lover,” A Fine Frenzy sings about someone who does not reciprocate her feelings, making him an “almost lover.” The song appears in her 2007 album One Cell in the Sea.

The line “Goodbye, my almost lover” suggests a painful farewell to the person whom the narrator has deep feelings for. The song captures the internal struggle of dealing with unreciprocated love and letting go.

The chorus sends a message of goodbye to this person, recognizing that hoping for mutual unhappiness would be useless. This shows her resignation and acceptance of the fact that her love is unrequited.

22. “Call Me Maybe” By Carly Rae Jepsen

When Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Call Me Maybe” came out in 2012, it was an instant hit. This pop anthem captures the essence of unrequited love in a light-hearted, catchy way.

The song is about a girl who falls for a guy at first sight. She hands him her number, hoping he will give her a call. In the line “But here’s my number, so call me, maybe,” the “maybe” suggests uncertainty, indicating that her feelings might not be reciprocated.

In addition, the lyrics “You took your time with the call… / You gave me nothing at all” show that he doesn’t rush to reciprocate her feelings, further emphasizing the theme of unrequited love.

23. “Without Me” By Halsey

American singer Halsey explores unrequited love in the context of a relationship that has ended in “Without Me.” She sings about the pain and self-realization that comes with loving someone who does not reciprocate those feelings in the same way.

The lyrics depict her experience with unrequited love, giving her all to the relationship while her ex battles with his own issues. This leads to an imbalance in their relationship.

In addition, “Without Me” explores the theme of self-worth and empowerment. In the lines “Does it ever get lonely? / Thinking you could live without me,” she questions her ex’s ability to move on without her, indicating her realization of her own worth.

24. “Unrequited Love (& Other Clichés)” By Breakup Shoes

When love is not returned, it leads to pain and frustration. In “Unrequited Love (& Other Clichés)” by Breakup Shoes, the narrator is unable to make his love interest see his worth or reciprocate his feelings.

The lyrics “I don’t know what’s wrong with me / Nothing I do can make them see” depict his struggle. He feels misunderstood and unappreciated in his pursuit of love. His disappointment becomes apparent upon realizing his feelings are not shared.

In essence, this song mentions unrequited love and its harsh realities. It highlights the despair and self-doubt that often accompany unreciprocated love.

25. “Grenade” By Bruno Mars

Up next is a raw and emotional depiction of unrequited love. Bruno Mars‘ “Grenade” narrates the story of a person who will go to extreme lengths for the one they love. Only to find in the end that his affection isn’t reciprocated.

The line “Easy come, easy go, that’s just how you live” portrays the carelessness of the person he is in love with. She takes his love for granted, leading to a one-sided love.

The chorus, “I’d catch a grenade for ya,” is a powerful metaphor that represents his willingness to endure immense pain and even danger for his beloved. But the lyric, “But you won’t do the same,” reveals the crux of the unrequited love.

26. “I’m Not That Girl” By Idina Menzel

Many can relate to the experience of loving someone who does not feel the same way. Idina Menzel‘s “I’m Not That Girl” is about that story, exploring the heartache of unrequited love.

This song is part of the musical Wicked, sung by the character Elphaba. She is a witch who realizes that the man she loves, Fiyero, is in love with someone else.

The good thing about it is that, despite her attraction to him, she recognizes that she isn’t the right one for him. She accepts that her dreams of being with Fiyero are just that — dreams.

27. “Stacy’s Mom” By Fountains Of Wayne

Though they have numerous songs under their belt, it was “Stacy’s Mom” that catapulted Fountains of Wayne to stardom. This smash hit peaked at #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Vocal Pop Performance and Best New Artist in 2004.

Thematically, the song presents a unique and humorous take on unrequited love. The narrative follows a boy who falls hard for his friend Stacy’s mother, hence the lines “Stacy, can’t you see? / You’re just not the girl for me / I know it might be wrong but / I’m in love with Stacy’s mom.”

Unfortunately, his feelings for Stacy’s mom are unreciprocated, as she most likely sees him as just her daughter’s friend.

28. “Can I Be Him” By James Arthur

In “Can I Be Him,” James Arthur serenades the object of his affection. Despite knowing that she is already in a relationship, he still confesses his feelings, believing that the other guy does not deserve her.

The title itself conveys his longing and desire that he is the one she chooses. It’s a plea and a question filled with hope and despair as he yearns to be the one she is in love with.

In essence, “Can I Be Him” captures the universal experience of loving someone who is already committed. It paints a picture of the pain, longing, and desperation that often accompany unrequited love.

29. “Lovefool” By The Cardigans

The 1996 single “Lovefool” by The Cardigans explores unrequited love and captures the desperation and vulnerability that accompany this emotion. The song follows someone who is still in love with a person who no longer reciprocates her feelings.

In the lyrics, she pleads for her man to “pretend” to be in love with her. This emphasizes the depth of her feelings and the lengths she will go to maintain the illusion of reciprocated love.

At its core, “Lovefool” portrays the dangers of unrequited love. The narrator is so blinded by her feelings that she is willing to be deceived just to feel loved.

30. “Creep” By Radiohead

The best-selling single of the rock band Radiohead is “Creep,” which was released in 1992. The song is told from the perspective of a “creep” or a drunk guy who stalks a woman he is attracted to.

In the lyrics, we find the narrator infatuated with the woman but lacks the courage to approach her. He likens her to an angel, whereas he sees himself as a creep and a weirdo who is unworthy of her attention. Nevertheless, he wishes he was special so he’d be worthy of her.

The lines “But I’m a creep / I’m a weirdo / What the hell am I doin’ here? / I don’t belong here” depict this sense of alienation and unrequited love. It reflects his feelings of not fitting in or being an outsider.

31. “Waiting In Vain” By Bob Marley And The Wailers

Last but not least is “Waiting in Vain” by Bob Marley and the Wailers. This classic came out in 1977 from the album Exodus.

The song centers on themes of longing and the complex emotions that come with unrequited love. The narrative follows a man who has been patiently waiting for his love to be reciprocated by his love interest.

The title itself encapsulates the essence of the song. His wait for his love to be reciprocated seems futile hence it is in vain. The song portrays the agony of unrequited love, capturing the narrator’s yearning and enduring hope despite the helplessness of his situation.

Summing Up Our List Of Unrequited Love Songs

In wrapping up, our list showed us the complex emotions surrounding unrequited love. Through their music, artists from The Police to Bob Marley and the Wailers have created timeless pieces that continue to resonate with listeners.

We hope that each song has captured the longing and frustration one often experiences when love is one-sided. These songs remind us that unrequited love, while painful, is a universal experience.

So, believe us when we say you’re not alone in your thoughts and emotions. Let these masterpieces offer you a cathartic outlet for the complexities of unrequited love.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.