Unfortunately, the people you fall in love with don’t always fall in love with you.
And, even if they do have feelings for you, the timing could be wrong, the circumstances could be wrong, and there could be more going against you than there is going for you.
It can be hard to let go and to move on even when you know that’s the best thing you can do.
Music has gotten a lot of people through a lot of situations like these.
So, let’s explore 35 songs about unrequited love we can all relate to.
“You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift
Song year: 2008
We don’t plan who we fall for.
Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” is a song about falling for a close friend.
Knowing Swift, this song could be autobiographical.
The trouble, at least as she sees it, is that:
“…she wears short skirts/I wear T-shirts/She’s cheer captain/And I’m on the bleachers/Dreaming about the day when you wake up/And find that what you’re looking for has been here the whole time.”
Friendship is a great starting point for a relationship, but sadly these types of situations have a way of not working out.
“Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon
Song year: 1999
Unrequited love can leave you feeling angry.
There’s a part of you that wants to convince your crush of your goodness.
But many times, no amount of coaxing and persuading will make a difference:
“He’s everything you want/He’s everything you need/He’s everything inside of you/That you wish you could be/He says all the right things/At exactly the right time/But he means nothing to you/And you don’t know why.”
Sometimes, people don’t fall for the people that are right for them and instead fall for the people that will end up hurting them and teach them lessons.
Beneath the shiny veneer of this upbeat pop song lurks a great deal of frustration.
“To Be With You” by Mr. Big
Song year: 1991
It’s easy to forget that this cheery sounding acoustic ballad from the early 90s via hard rock supergroup Mr. Big is indeed a song about unrequited love.
It’s not clear whether things turned out well for the protagonist in the song, either.
In many ways, it was Mr. Big’s answer to Extreme’s “More Than Words” only a year earlier.
At the time, it was important for hard rock/hair metal bands to show their sensitive side, as it gave them access to a new fan base.
Singer Eric Martin later explained that this song is a page from his own book, noting there was a girl he fell for in high school.
She had a lot of guy problems, and Martin got an earful.
Martin ended up liking her and wanted to be her knight in shining armor, but things never quite worked out that way.
“Love Stinks” by The J. Geils Band
Song year: 1980
It doesn’t get any funnier, direct or more absurd than this song:
“You love her/But she loves him/And he loves somebody else/You just can’t win.”
Who hasn’t been through something like that?
When love has got you down, it’s better to put this song on and air your grievances.
“All To Myself” by Marianas Trench
Song year: 2009
Here’s another catchy pop punk number you may not have identified as a song about unrequited love.
But it’s clear that the narrator is want for someone he doesn’t have.
He’s so in his own head that he’s starting to hear things no one has even said:
“Did you say please just follow me/I thought you wanted me/’Cause I want you all to myself/I can try and suck it up/I just can’t suck it up/Make me feel like someone else.”
He’s also down on himself for his lack of self-confidence in going up to ask for what he wants.
For me, the awkwardness of Jr. high and high school come to mind.
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police
Song year: 1981
When it comes to “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, people often remember the catchy choruses and forget what the verse or essence of the song is.
When the narrator says, “every little thing she does is magic”, he’s from the outside looking in, wanting to make a move but unable to do so.
Like “Every Breath You Take”, there’s an element of creepiness to this song.
Still, we can all relate to admiring someone special from afar.
“Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield
Song year: 1981
A simple song about falling for your friend’s girl.
People are sometimes surprised by who people fall for.
But we tend not to fall for those who aren’t in our world.
We fall for those we regularly interact with, and for better or for worse, that ends up being friends, coworkers, community members and so on.
At one point or another, every man has wanted “Jessie’s Girl”, unless of course, he was with her.
“Layla” by Derek And The Dominoes
Song year: 1970
One of the most passionate songs ever written about unrequited love.
As the story goes, guitarist Eric Clapton ended up falling for Beatle George Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd, who was also a neighbor.
It seems scandalous by today’s standards, but Clapton says this kind of thing happened all the time in the 60s/70s.
So, Clapton ended up pursuing her.
Here’s his plea to Boyd in “Layla”, one of classic rock’s most important songs:
“Please don’t say we’ll never find a way/And tell me all my love’s in vain.”
In a rare turn of events, Clapton and Boyd ended up together in real life – great for them.
It’s a little sad for Harrison, though.
“I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt
Song year: 1991
A heart-wrenching song about the agonies of unrequited love.
These lines are simply heartbreaking:
“’Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t/You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t/Here in the dark, in these final hours/I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power/But you won’t, no you won’t/’Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t.”
Reportedly, the inspiration for this song came from a man who got drunk and shot at his girlfriend’s car.
When asked what he had learned, he said that he learned he couldn’t make his girl love him.
So, while this song may not be autobiographical, it’s still powerful.
“Crush” by Mandy Moore
Song year: 2001
We’ve all had crushes.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason why they call it a “crush” – you’re crushed when it doesn’t work out.
In this song, Mandy Moore sings about someone that everyone loves and reveals her own feelings for him:
“Ooh, I got a crush on you/I hope you feel the way that I do/I get a rush/When I’m with you/Ooh, I’ve got a crush on you/A crush on you.”
A simple, cute song about a crush.
“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Song year: 2001
This might seem like an odd pick, but when you think about it, at no point does the protagonist say:
“We’re together now and everything’s great.”
She’s fascinated by a guy she comes across and essentially calls it love at first sight (typically a red flag, as attraction is not indicative of a connection, matching interests or a suitable personality type).
Yet, if you read the lyrics closely, you can see that he hasn’t said anything about being into her yet:
“You took your time with the call/I took no time with the fall/You gave me nothing at all/But still you’re in my way.”
It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of love before anything has materialized.
“Teardrops On My Guitar” by Taylor Swift
Song year: 2006
Everybody knows Taylor Swift breakup songs are a dime a dozen.
We could almost say the same for her catalog of unrequited love songs (I’m being a little facetious here).
Music, of course, is often a healing agent, something this song hints at:
“He’s the reason for the teardrops on my guitar/The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star/He’s the song in the car I keep singing, don’t know why I do.”
If you keep dreaming about someone and can’t get them out of your head, this song is for you.
“Shiver” by Coldplay
Song year: 2000
If your love has gone unanswered, then surely you can relate to the sentiment expressed in Coldplay’s “Shiver”, a song about feeling invisible.
Takes these lines for instance:
“I’ll always be waiting for you/So you know how much I need you/But you never even see me, do you.”
People don’t know how much we care – especially if we’ve never shared our feeling with them.
Of course, that’s the scary part.
“Damn Good Friends” by Elle Varner
Song year: 2012
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes you can fall for a friend.
As the friendship deepens, you begin to fear losing that friendship.
“What would happen if we got into a relationship? Would we eventually break up?”
Those thoughts can’t help but cross your mind.
To me, that’s what “Damn Good Friends” by Elle Varner is all about:
“I long for you/It kills me to pretend/I’m not in love when I so am/But you don’t understand/That we’re such/Damn good friends.”
Fear can hold you back.
“(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection” by Nelson
Song year: 1990
When you love someone and they don’t love you back, you might end up feeling rejected.
But sometimes you just don’t want to give up on something good.
This song is about the latter.
If you’ve ever felt like you couldn’t live without someone’s love and affection in your life, put on this song to ease your pain.
“Put You In A Song” by Keith Urban
Song year: 2010
No hidden messages in this Keith Urban tune.
There’s a girl he loves, and he imagines whisking her away in a car and writing a song about her.
In that sense, “Put You In A Song” might be a tad self-referential:
“Well here you come again and you’re lookin’ so fine/You don’t notice me but it’s alright/I’m just a guy who wishes that I could be your man someday/Yeah a picture paints a thousand words it’s true/But it’s still not enough for how I feel about you/I wanna put you in a melody, I gotta set you to a groove.”
Who of us can say we haven’t felt that way about someone special?
“Bad Religion” by Frank Ocean
Song year: 2012
A song where the term “unrequited love” is right in the lyrics.
It’s clear the narrator is in anguish.
These lines specifically seem to refer to self-harm:
“To me, it’s nothin’ but a one-man cult/And cyanide in my styrofoam cup.”
Unrequited love can drive you crazy and this song is in touch with those emotions.
“Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon
Song year: 1984
The first verse says it all:
“I can’t fight this feeling any longer/And yet I’m still afraid to let it flow/What started out as friendship has grown stronger/I only wish I had the strength to let it show.”
As I’ve already noted, friendship can quickly evolve into feelings of love, regardless of your original intent.
We’re not sure how the story ends in this song but it certainly stands as a classic ballad about unanswered love.
“Closer Than You Might Believe” by Alanis Morrisette
Song year: 1995
A song about unrequited love by Alanis?
Hard to believe, but it’s true.
And, she says it better than a lot of other songs do:
“So if the love that you’re chasing after/Is in the heart to be found in the out of reach/Well, if you break it all down/Take a good look around, you’d see/That it’s closer than you might believe.”
Sometimes we just wish the person we’re in love with would stop to look around.
To us, it can appear as though they’re chasing problems – especially when we feel like we would be right for them.
“Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” by Meat Loaf
Song year: 1978
While the first verse alludes to unrequited love, this is just as much a song about love lost, as indicated by these lines:
“I remember how she left me on a stormy night/She kissed me and got out of our bed/And though I pleaded and begged her not to walk out that door/She packed her bags and turned right away.”
So, although the love took shape, ultimately, it didn’t last.
But there are still plenty of great lyrics that will resonate with anybody experiencing the agony of one-sided love, including these:
“There’s only one girl I’ll ever love/And that was so many years ago/And though I know I’ll never get her out of my heart/She never loved me back.”
“Why Don’t You Love Me” by Beyoncé
Song year: 2010
No matter how good you are to someone, there are times when they don’t recognize the sacrifices you make and the things you do for them.
As backwards as it is, sometimes that’s the problem – the fact that we shower them with too much attention.
It certainly doesn’t help your situation though, because it can leave you feeling resentful.
Beyoncé offers up these simple questions many can relate to:
“Why don’t you love me?/Tell me, baby, why don’t you love me/When I make me so damn easy to love?/And why don’t you need me?/Tell me, baby, why don’t you need me/When I make me so damn easy to need?”
“Why Can’t This Be Love” by Van Halen
Song year: 1986
When “Why Can’t This Be Love” was released as the first single from Van Halen’s 1986 album 5150, the fans must have been caught off guard.
Not only did it feature the then new lead vocalist Sammy Hagar, it also put keyboard, rather than the guitar, at the heart of the rhythm section.
While the lyrical content is somewhat ambiguous, the repeated line “why can’t this be love” has us thinking it’s about unreturned love.
We don’t know exactly what situation the narrator is dealing with, but it has him saying:
“It’s got what it takes/So tell me why can’t this be love?/Straight from the heart/Oh, tell me why can’t this be love?”
So, while it’s a bit vague, there could be some unreciprocated feelings going on.
“Creep” by Radiohead
Song year: 1992
I would say this is as much a song about being a creep as it is a song about unrequited love.
How can you know it’s unreciprocated if you don’t even ask?
Of course, getting up the nerve to ask is the hardest part.
But if you’ve ever admired anyone from afar, surely this song will resonate with you.
“You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt
Song year: 2005
There’s a good chance you never thought of “You’re Beautiful” as a song about unrequited love before.
So, if you’re reading this now, you’ll probably never look at it the same way again, because honestly, it’s kind of creepy.
Have a look at the first verse if you don’t believe me:
“My life is brilliant/My love is pure/I saw an angel/Of that I’m sure/She smiled at me on the subway/She was with another man/But I don’t lose no sleep on that/’Cause I’ve got a plan.”
Of course, that “plan” is never revealed in this song, and in the end, the protagonist admits “I will never be with you.”
Editor’s note: This is one of my favorite songs about unrequited love.
“Just My Imagination” by The Temptations
Song year: 1971
A simple ballad about imagining yourself with that special someone.
My favorite lines are these:
“To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true/Out of all the fellows in the world she belongs to me/But it was just my imagination/Runnin’ away with me.”
Enjoy the slow groove of “Just My Imagination.”
“Hello” by Lionel Richie
Song year: 1984
This unforgettable classic certainly seems to fit the bill when it comes to unrequited love.
Reportedly, in his younger years, Richie used to be too shy to talk to the beautiful women that walked past him.
So, the song was borne out of this simple phrase:
“Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”
It took a while for Richie to finish the song, but in the end it was worth it.
And, I’m sure Riche isn’t the only person that’s experienced similar torture.
“Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains Of Wayne
Song year: 2003
This is quite possibly one of the best pop songs of the early 2000s.
Fountains of Wayne are brilliant in their ability to write unforgettable melodic hooks and complex, intelligent lyrics.
Message wise, this, perhaps, is one of the more direct songs they’ve got.
The basic premise is that a young boy is in love with his friend’s mom.
Beyond that, there’s no evidence to support unrequited love, but yes, there’s a good chance it won’t work out too well for Stacy’s friend.
“You Sent Me Flying” by Amy Winehouse
Song year: 2003
Unfortunately, sometimes your crush knows that you’re crushing on them, and to add insult to injury, they string you along and manipulate you.
It’s one thing if your love goes unanswered – which can be painful enough.
Quite another if the other person uses that to their advantage.
This is the painful picture “You Sent Me Flying” by the late Amy Winehouse paints.
These lines are heartbreaking:
“And now I feel so small discovering you knew/How much more torture would you have put me through?/You probably saw me laughing at all your jokes/Or how I did not mind when you stole all my smokes, yeah.”
“Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” by Jack Johnson
Song year: 2004
Have you ever felt like you’d do anything for the person you’ve fallen for?
Have you been built up only to be let down?
Then this song is your unrequited anthem.
“Keep building it up/But then you’re shooting me down/But I’m already down/Just wait a minute.”
“If” by Janet Jackson
Song year: 1993
If you’ve ever fantasized about someone you couldn’t have, then you’ve captured the essence of Janet Jackson’s “If.”
You’ve thought about it and you know you could be good for that person, but it’s just not happening.
It’s what can be painful about one-sided love.
“Surrender” by Billy Talent
Song year: 2007
There’s no question Billy Talent has ushered forth their own brand of melodrama with their music, but when it’s as expertly executed as it is in this song, how can you find fault with it?
If you’ve experienced unanswered love, I’m sure you can relate to these lines:
“Even though I know what I’m looking for/She’s got a brick wall behind her door/I’d travel time and confess to her/But I’m afraid she’d shoot the messenger.”
“Excuse Me Mr.” by No Doubt
Song year: 1996
Why do we fall for the unavailable?
I don’t have the answers.
But it could be because they’ve got something going for them.
There are plenty of great lines in this upbeat song, but these are probably my favorite:
“For most love comes for free/They don’t pay the high cost/Of mental custody I’ll pay bail for a guarantee/Please make space for me in the time yet to be.”
“Leading Me On” by Harem Scarem
Song year: 2005
This is by far my favorite song about heartbreak and unrequited love.
It’s full of raw emotion, energy and even anger.
This is a great segment of lyrics to peruse:
“Talk is cheap/Flowing from the weak/You lie and deceive/But only when you speak.”
Nobody likes to be led on and for better or for worse, it can go on for a long time.
If someone has been leading you on, this is your tune.
“Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
Song year: 2000
Probably not the first song that comes to mind when you try to brainstorm songs about one-sided love.
If you know the song, then you probably know the lyrics already.
The theme of “teenage dirtbag” comes out so strongly that sometimes it’s easy to overlook the dormant themes of unreciprocated love:
“But she doesn’t know who I am/And she doesn’t give a damn about me.”
What sets this song apart, however, is that things turn out well for the protagonist, because the girl he likes is a “teenage dirtbag” too.
“Beyond Repair” by Harem Scarem
Song year: 2008
Another expertly written song about unrequited love via the Toronto melodic rock band Harem Scarem.
As with “Leading Me On”, it’s full of raw emotion.
The chorus says it all:
“But your silence/Is saying everything/You’re made of stone/And sinking beyond repair.”
Nobody likes to be toyed with.
Nobody wants to lose their precious time to a relationship that’s going nowhere.
You can hear and feel all these emotions in the interludes between the lyrics.
The Best Unrequited Love Songs, Final Thoughts
In my experience, there’s nothing especially fun about unrequited love.
I have a song called “Your Eyes Give It Away” that’s essentially about this very topic.
Whether there’s someone you love or someone that loves you, it can be hard to find completion in the situation.
But that’s the most important thing – that you find completion.
You can’t necessarily help the other person understand what’s important to them.
But it is possible to become clear on your feelings.
So, whatever situation you’re facing right now, remember that you don’t need to live with these feelings forever.