Some songs are so pretty they make you cry. Music is an art, and while some songs focus more on technicality, others on lyricism, and some on the instrumental score, some songs balance the scale on all. They are perfect without trying to strike the listener as pure, unexplainable magic.
And if you’ve never heard a song that made you cry or nearly cry, that’s about to change. Sorry, not sorry. These 27 songs will hit you in places you didn’t know existed.
1. “Say You Will” by Kanye West
Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak was an epic sonic about-face that saw him abandon conventional hip-hop for electro pop, and “Say You Will” was perhaps the best track on the project. Wielding a forlorn soundscape and a hefty dose of Auto-Tune, Kanye emits genuine despair as he longs for his ex- fiancée. With its muted ambiance and Yeezy’s wounded croaks, it’s the sound of beautiful loneliness.
2. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” is a sensational remake of Frankie Valli’s 1967 classic. The beat is sultry and disembodied in a way that makes the lyrics linger even more than they did on the original. Flexing her powerful contralto, Lauryn evokes desperate affection in a way that’s only possible for a few artists.
3. “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy
Just as photography tells the most beautiful stories using no words, so does music. “Clair de Lune,” which is French for Moonlight, is based on a poem by Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine.
4. “Scarborough Fair / Canticle” by Simon & Garfunkel
The folk-rock duo, known for their soothingly soft sounds, Simon & Garfunkel, made some of the most beautiful songs ever. The song was popular partly because it was featured in the 1967 film, The Graduate.
5. “Over The Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
The song’s beauty is in its simplicity. Dreams do come true — if one can only keep dreaming. As plain as the track is, it can also be a metaphor for loved ones becoming bluebirds somewhere over the rainbow.
6. “Linger” by The Cranberries
This one will make you cry, especially if you’re freshly out of a relationship where your partner cheated on you.
Doesn’t it hurt when promises get broken, and those we thought would never lie and betray us do? Still, we linger in those relationships sometimes. Why? Because we’re all such fools for love.
7. “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star
The song begins with a poetic line, “I wanna hold the hand inside you.” Loving can hurt when the one we love becomes a stranger or dies inside, but we keep trying to “color their eyes” to what we once knew. Sometimes we must make like James Bay and let it go.
8. “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young
This song is about the beauty of a long-lasting relationship. Love is beautiful, but growing old with the person you fell in love with is a magical feeling. Here, the singer reminds his lover of his love in every verse.
9. “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys
When you love completely, you can hardly imagine your life without them. You may be clueless about many things, but “as long as there are stars in the sky,” your love for them is the one thing you’re sure of. This song is a perfect description of that kind of love.
10. “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” by Don McLean
McLean wrote this song as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh. In the lyrics, the listener can see the troubled life of the deceased artist. Still, “this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you,” McLean sings in one of the most beautiful and purest songs ever.
Despite how intimate the record sounds, McLean was only inspired by a biography of Vincent van Gogh. He wrote the song because he understood the artist’s struggles and that he wasn’t crazy.
11. “Your Song” by Elton John
Elton John’s love songs are worth living and dying for. “Your Song” is a gift from the narrative of a man who does not have much for his lover. It may be quite simple, but it reminds you that simple things in life are the best things.
12. “The Night We Met” by Lord Huron
“I had all and then most of you, Some and now none of you,” are striking lines from the song. The song gained popularity after it was featured in the series 13 Reasons Why.
13. “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce
If you could save time in a bottle, what would you do? As for the singer, his one wish is to spend the time he saves with his lover. Unfortunately, there never seems to be enough time.
14. “Blackbird” by Nina Simone
Nina Simone always delivers. Something about how beauty and pain mirror themselves in her voice captivates the listener to pay attention to her every rhythm. “Why you wanna fly, blackbird?” she sings. Everyone who has felt destined to be alone, like they don’t belong anywhere, can relate to it.
15. “At Last” by Etta James
The search for true love can be gruesome. “At Last” is a sweet sigh in the face of love. A celebration song that the lonely days are over and, at long last, life is like a song.
16. “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
“Stand By Me” should be on every list of the greatest love songs ever written. There’s not much to say that could capture the exquisiteness of the song, but if there’s one thing you do today, it should be to listen to this. I particularly enjoy the version by Otis Redding.
17. “Bullet Proof Soul” by Sade
Sade is one of the undisputed queens of jazz. The bluesy, seductive passion in her voice could hypnotize anyone. Love is a gun; here, the singer, a betrayed lover, intends to hurt back the way they hurt her. “I came in like a lamb, but I intend to leave like a lion,” she sings. Love changes you, for better or worse.
18. “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot
The world would be easier or more complicated if everyone could read minds. Still, sometimes we wish someone else could read our minds to learn the thoughts we are too weak to say.
19. “Time” by Hans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer is a musical connoisseur, and his genius often goes underappreciated. According to internet sources, “The track’s theme was written to evoke of a sense of life, and how it is only as important as the dreams which make up our reality.” It is part of the soundtrack of the Christopher Nolan film Inception.
20. “Time After Time” by Cindy Lauper
My mom was obsessed with this song, and I listened to it for most of my childhood. Years after leaving home, I stumbled on the song, which brought back so much nostalgia that it made me cry.
This song makes you want to fall in love even though your heart’s been broken time after time because what is the essence of life if we settle?
21. “Vienna” by Billy Joel
From his classic album, The Stranger, Vienna is a song about not letting our dreams and ambitions rule us. Some things in life await us, and we must slow down sometimes, knowing they will always be there. And if they aren’t, well, not all dreams come true.
22. “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix
“Little Wing” is a blues-inspired ballad about a story the singer heard. It was about a little girl who wanted to fly like her father. The 1967 Monterey Pop Festival also inspired it.
23. “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” by Jeff Buckley
“Sometimes a man must awake to find that really he has no one,” Buckley sings. Sometimes a man must realize that he is behind his tragedy. The song is about a man acknowledging that something is missing from his life, longing for his lover, and expressing the sadness that the absence brings.
24. “Only Time” by Enya
“Only Time” is a soothing, intriguing ballad about life and existentialism. It points out that no one can tell what will happen in the future, especially with heart matters.
25. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor
It gets real when you remember the exact time the one you love left. And then comes the misery and depression because nothing compares to them. We’ve all been there — the singer captures the feeling expertly in this heart-wrenching track.
26. “What My Heart Wants to Say” by Gareth Gates
Sometimes we can’t bring ourselves to express what we want, no matter how hard we try. We can only hope that the ones we love understand how we feel. If you’re in such a situation, send this song to your love. No thanks necessary.
27. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince
This track is the lead single from the singer’s second album, Prince. It is about a man in love. He is confident that although he has nothing, he can treat her better than the men she hangs around.
Boloere Divine Seibidor, fondly called B.S., is a Nigerian-based writer and poet. Her favorite topics include music, especially Hip-Hop, film, lifestyle, and fashion. She’s been published by Feral Journal, Fantasy Magazine, The Temz Review, and most notably, Wealth of Geeks. She enjoys romantic dinners, movie nights, and touring new sights. When she’s not writing, she’s delving back in time to the underground world of Hip-Hop, watching TikTok, or visiting the cinema.