For all your slow dance needs, here are 21 songs that will always stand the test of time.
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
The prom song to end all prom songs, “Thinking Out Loud” went from earnest to cheesy to earnest again. Through all that time, it was always ubiquitous. It remains Sheeran’s goopiest, and most enduring, ballad in a catalogue full of them.
Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
For anyone “too cool” for a slow dance song, try “Maps”, the most overtly romantic song to come out of the 2000s indie rock boom. It’s got the bombast of any good ballad while retaining the hipster chic of underground music. The message, however, it universal: “They don’t love you like I Iove you.”
Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
Where “Maps” is an alternative rock song trying to pass itself off as a gigantic ballad, “Iris” is a gigantic ballad trying to pass itself off as an alternative rock song. You can’t go wrong with either, though, and “Iris” has that string arrangement that hits just right for dance floor swaying.
At Last – Etta James
Chances are that if you haven’t specified your slow dance song, the wedding DJ will have this song automatically cued up for that most romantic moment of the night. There’s a reason why no wedding is complete without it: “At Last” is the gold standard for heartfelt slow dances.
Without You – Harry Nilsson
The 70s piano ballad to end all 70s piano ballads, “Without You” is so pompous and ridiculous that it’s perfect for any hopeless romantic who wants to spill their heart all over the dance floor. Nilsson’s pitch-perfect high notes will give you goosebumps as you hold your date close.
“Heroes” – David Bowie
As long as you don’t read it ironically (hence the quotation marks), this tale of lovers overcoming all kinds of hardship can be the perfect metaphor for you and your significant other, no matter the circumstances. Bowie doesn’t have a lot of genuine love songs, but this is his most legendary.
Sign of the Times – Harry Styles
With all the grandeur of a classic over-the-top balladeer, Harry Styles is today’s most consistent hit maker. As his first solo single, “Sign of the Times” proves he can balance slick pop songs with apocalyptic love paeans.
O-o-h Child – The Five Stairsteps
Incredibly romantic AND absolutely groove-tastic: the perfect combination. This highly optimistic slice of Chicago soul is the perfect balance of nostalgia and heartfelt love. The slow dance might open up into a soul train line, but that’s never a bad thing.
Something – The Beatles
The Beatles had a ton of love songs, but none of them ever felt as fully enraptured with the idea of love like George Harrison’s “Something”. It was so transcendent that luminaries like Frank Sinatra and Elton John, masters of the love song, held it up as one of the best, if not the best, of all time.
I’m a Fool to Want You – Billie Holiday
Arguably the most iconic female voice in jazz, Holiday will sweep you up in all her hard-fraught emotion and delicate vulnerability with whatever song she sings. “I’m a Fool to Want You” just happens to be perfect for the most improbable, and imperfect, of relationships.
American Scandal – Ashley McBryde
For tragic star-crossed lovers everywhere, “American Scandal” lets you know it’s ok to embrace the feelings you might have been holding back, no matter what scandal may follow. If your love is anything like Kennedy and Monroe’s, at least you have the perfect song to weather the storm.
True – Spandau Ballet
Yeah, it’s incredibly cheesy. But who doesn’t love cheese? Posh and breezy, “True” will have you converted by the time the sax solo comes crashing in. Time travel back to the 80s with one of the silliest and most affecting ballads of the decade.
Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis
More of a world-conquering call to arms than a true-blue romantic ballad, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is still highly effective in the slow dance department. Extra bonus: it means you don’t have to play “Wonderwall”.
Shallow – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Perfect for if you want to get really, really, really dramatic with your slow dance, this song was inescapable two years ago, and now just seems like an artifact of a simpler time. Remember the good old days of two years ago with “Shallow”. For full effect, try to replicate those belting high notes of Gaga’s.
Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
Smooth as silk and more soulful than a plate of collard greens, Al Green could sing the dictionary and have it be romantic. This is the song where he goes all out with devotion, which makes it perfect for you and yours to express your devotion as well. “Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, let’s stay together.” Perfect wedding fodder.
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
I was amazed that Stranger Things decided to go with “Every Breath You Take” (which is absolutely not a love song) for Eleven and Mike’s first dance instead of this pitch-perfect slow dance song. “Time After Time” is incredibly 80s, but also weirdly transcendent. It works in any decade, and any situation where a slow dance song is necessary.
Lover – Taylor Swift
I mean there’s no way to avoid T-Swift in the slow dance department. Whichever love song of hers you pick will work well, but this one is the easiest, breeziest, and best for your romantic swaying, whether your love has been three summers long or thirty.
Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
Fuzzy and simple, like the best kinds of love, “Fade Into You” is an evergreen cut that is perfect for the gentle swaying of couples during a slow dance. The lulling vocals in the big choruses are the perfect time for a first kiss, if you can sneak it in.
In Your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
Embrace your inner John Cusack by pulling out the boombox, cranking it up, and blasting this romantic ode to seeing everything you could ever want in someone. If it keeps you from playing any Phil Collins due to a one-Genesis-singer-per-slow-dance maximum, all the better.
Maybe I’m Amazed – Paul McCartney
McCartney’s best ballad actually happened after his bitter departure, and subsequent malicious implosion, of the biggest band of all time. Go figure. Sometimes the harshest of contexts lead to the most beautiful of outcomes, and that is certainly the case with “Maybe I’m Amazed”.
Love is a Wild Thing – Kacey Musgraves
The most recent addition to this list, “Love is a Wild Thing” is nevertheless destined to be played during slow dances for years to come. It might be a bit fast for a slow dance, but you’ll hardly notice when you’re wrapped up in its beautiful romantic aura.