Contemporary Rock's 15 Best Love Songs

Chart-Topping Hits and Hidden Gems

When rock bands turn their attention to matters of the heart, they make songs that come in many shapes and sizes—some tunes celebrate romance, while others mourn the loss of true love. With that in mind, here are the best love songs in contemporary rock, hits that have stood the test of time as well as some little-known gems that never made the charts.

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Oasis: 'Wonderwall'

Singer Liam Gallagher of Oasis
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For years, fans of this acoustic ballad from Oasis were led to believe that Noel Gallagher wrote it for his girlfriend. Only in 2002 was it revealed that Gallagher had actually meant the song to be intended for "an imaginary friend who's gonna come and save you from yourself." But even if it isn't technically a love song, millions have embraced "Wonderwall" as an intimate conversation between lovers trying to survive a rough patch in their relationship.

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Slipknot: 'Snuff'

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Beneath the bruising surface of Corey Taylor's songs is a sense of a man trying to find a connection with the world that scares him to the core. This song off the album "All Hope Is Gone" reveals a vulnerability you rarely hear in a Slipknot song as Taylor sings twisted lyrics about a love affair that seems doomed thanks to his own self-loathing and her inability to cope with his failings. "Snuff" sure isn't romantic, but it feels very, very real.

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Buckcherry: 'Sorry'

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Buckcherry is notorious for raucous bar-band rock that pays homage to bad girls, but members of the band do write the occasional love song, too. On "Sorry," singer Josh Todd apologizes to his woman while listing all the reasons she means the world to him. Next time you screw up in your relationship, play your significant other this song.

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Eels: 'That Look You Give That Guy'

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Sometimes the one you love actually loves someone else. It's a terrible feeling, and Eels frontman E nails the sentiment perfectly on this "Hombre Lobo" track. Over a melancholy melody, E pledges to adore his beloved with all his heart, if only she would give him the time of day. He may not end up with the girl, but he proves himself to be a hopeless romantic.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: 'Under the Bridge'

Red Hot Chili Peppers
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At a low point in his life, Anthony Kiedis wrote a ballad to the one thing he knew he could count on: the city of Los Angeles. "Under the Bridge" is best known as a tale of drug addiction and self-doubt, but it's also a love song to a place that gives Kiedis a reassuring sense of community. For many brokenhearted souls, this Red Hot Chili Peppers track has been a source of comfort during hard times.

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Guns N' Roses: 'Sweet Child o' Mine'

Axl Rose
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A love song both hopeful and despairing, "Sweet Child o' Mine" is a startlingly pretty ode to a relationship that reminds Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose of the innocence of childhood. That mixture of love and innocence are then juxtaposed with Slash's searching guitar solo and Rose's worries about whether something so wonderful can last.

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The White Stripes: 'Fell in Love With a Girl'

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In a frantic, guitar-ravaged 110 seconds, ​The White Stripes' Jack White details a torrid, doomed love affair in "Fell in Love With a Girl." The lyrics fly by so quickly you have to strain to make out the details: He's fallen hard for a woman who's involved with somebody else but is always looking for new partners. Rarely has a love song so perfectly captured the frantic, anxious rush of being in love with someone you know is absolute, positively bad for you.

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Foo Fighters: 'Walking After You'

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The Foo Fighters album "The Colour and the Shape" detailed Dave Grohl's crumbling marriage, but the record was never more gorgeous than on this acoustic tune. "Walking After You" pinpoints that moment in a failing relationship when both sides are past the point of reconciliation but can't quite let go of each other. The song is painful and beautiful all at once, seeing the end in sight and crying all the way.

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Stone Temple Pilots: 'Sour Girl'

Stone Temple Pilots
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Stone Temple Pilots leader Scott Weiland has a knack for emotional love songs, but "Sour Girl" is the band's very best. A love affair has ended, and Weiland tries to figure out what went wrong, guessing he's probably the one to blame. Stone Temple Pilots mix acoustic and electric guitars with a deceptively bouncy rhythm section, and the melody is so wistful that the song's heartbreak seems to be happening in real time.

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Metallica: 'Nothing Else Matters'

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For diehard Metallica fans, "Nothing Else Matters" is better known as ​"The Song Where Metallica Totally Sold Out." James Hetfield risked his credibility to attempt his first love song, and the results are striking -- an unabashedly romantic salute to finding your soul mate. "I never opened myself this way," he admits, but this ballad argues that such candor suited him well.

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Garbage: '#1 Crush'

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A song that's more about lust than love, Garbage's "#1 Crush" is a scary/sensual ode to devotion. Riding a sexy, stripped-down beat, lead singer Shirley Manson lets her lover understand in no uncertain terms what she'll do to please him. Is she a stalker or a siren? It's impossible to know for sure, but in terms of pure carnal desire, "#1 Crush" is the sound of hormones run amuck.

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Smashing Pumpkins: 'By Starlight'

Smashing Pumpkins
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Buried near the end of the two-disc epic "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan unleashes his most beautiful romantic pledge. Corgan was always more open-hearted than his songwriting contemporaries, and "By Starlight" is the man at his purest, showering his lover with affection and admiration, while at the same time wondering if one person can ever truly know another completely.

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Radiohead: 'House of Cards'

Radiohead Portrait Session
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You wouldn't expect a straightforward love song from the cryptic Thom Yorke, so it's appropriate that Radiohead's most haunting tale of romance is a twisted little story about two people trapped in unhappy marriages who are mad for each other. "Throw your keys in the bowl/Kiss your husband goodnight," Yorke sings sweetly in "House of Cards," and the swirling beauty of the music makes it impossible to determine if the planned infidelity is pure bliss or utter disaster.

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U2: 'With or Without You'

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U2 has always been one of the rock's most romantic bands, but it has never been more heartbreakingly gorgeous than on this track from "The Joshua Tree." "With or Without You" starts with muted, aching guitar notes before ascending to a ravishing agony punctuated by Bono's wails. The exquisite uncertainty of love that the singer articulates so perfectly here ("I can't live/With or without you") is further explored in the group's superb follow-up album, "Achtung Baby."

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Pearl Jam: 'Black'

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One of the first songs Pearl Jam ever wrote was this crushing tale of a love affair gone bad. Eddie Vedder tries to go through the routine of a regular day, but everything just reminds him of her -- kids at play, sheets of empty canvas. The crystalline guitars convey deep wells of loss and regret, while Vedder lets fly with a vocal performance that's wounded without being whiny. Best of all, this is that rare breakup song that refuses to be bitter. Vedder sums up his still-abiding affection and pain with these eloquent final lines: "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life/I know you'll be the sun in somebody else's sky/But why why why can't it be/Can't it is mine?"