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Valentine Index

Here we attempt the impossible; to define and quantify love itself. Well, alright then, love songs !

In honour of St Valentine's Day, and by popular request of radio stations and publications the world over, here are the biggest selling love songs of all time in the UK.

Someone is sure to email to ask "how do you define a 'love song'?" In our judgement (and at the risk of science getting in the way of romance!), the track must:
a) express a desire to form or perpetuate a romantic relationship with another person or be a celebration of a romantic relationship with that person;
b) be directed toward / dedicated to that person;
and c) be performed in a spirit of sentimentality (generally at a tempo below 100bpm).

Estimated sales figures are given. We are reluctant to include a few titles; they have been given at the end of the listing along with a reason for exclusion. Their estimated sales are also given so that you can insert them in the appropriate place should you so desire. We are indebted to Simon Walters for his assistance in the compilation of this chart.

The Biggest-Selling Love Songs of All Time
    1 Robson Green & Jerome Flynn Unchained Melody 1995 1.84m
    2 Will Young Evergreen / Anything Is Possible 2002 1.79m
    3 Wet Wet Wet Love Is All Around 1994 1.785m
    4 Stevie Wonder I Just Called To Say I Love You 1984 1.775m
    5 The Beatles I Want To Hold Your Hand 1963 1.75m
    6 Bryan Adams (Everything I Do) I Do It For You 1991 1.545m
    7 George Michael Careless Whisper 1984 1.37m
    8 Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You 1992/1993 1.36m
    9 Celine Dion My Heart Will Go On 1998 1.35m
    10 Gareth Gates Unchained Melody 2002 1.34m
    11 Jennifer Rush The Power Of Love 1985 1.32m
    12 Elvis Presley It's Now Or Never 1960/1977/2005 1.25m
    13 Celine Dion Think Twice 1994 1.24m
    14 Engelbert Humperdinck The Last Waltz 1967 1.16m
    15 David Soul Don't Give Up On Us 1976 1.15m
    16 Frank Ifield I Remember You 1962 1.10m
    17 Spice Girls 2 Become 1 1996 1.08m
    18 Boyzone No Matter What 1998 1.07m
    19 Shayne Ward That's My Goal 2005 0.99m
    20 Kylie Minogue & Jason Donovan Especially For You 1988 0.98m
    21 Take That Back For Good 1995 0.97m
    22 Atomic Kitten Whole Again 2001 0.94m
    23 The Righteous Brothers Unchained Melody 1965/1990 0.92m
    24 The Commodores Three Times A Lady 1978 0.91m
    25 Cilla Black Anyone Who Had A Heart 1964 0.85m
    26 Nilsson Without You 1972 0.84m
    27 Elton John & Kiki Dee Donít Go Breaking My Heart 1976 0.84m
    28 Berlin Take My Breath Away (Love Theme From Top Gun) 1986/1990 0.83m
    29 Lionel Richie Hello 1984 0.81m
    30 Leo Sayer When I Need You 1977 0.81m
    31 Bee Gees How Deep Is Your Love 1977 0.80m
    32 Beatles From Me To You 1963 0.80m
    33 Chicago If You Leave Me Now 1979 0.80m
    34 Donny Osmond Puppy Love 1972 0.79m
    35 Barbara Streisand Woman In Love 1980 0.78m
    36 Dr Hook A Little Bit More 1976 0.78m
    37 David Soul Silver Lady 1977 0.78m
    38 Sonny & Cher I Got You Babe 1976 0.77m
    39 Renee & Renato Save Your Love 1982 0.76m
    40 Roxy Music Dance Away 1979 0.75m

You'll notice that the only song to appear in the above chart more than once is "Unchained Melody" (three times). With combined UK sales well in excess of 4 million this is easily the biggest-selling love song of all time. Its amazing success is, in no small part, due to exposure on TV and the silver screen. Its 1990 success (Righteous Brothers) was sparked by the track's prominence in the soundtrack to the film "Ghost". Five year's later Robson Green & Jerome Flynn took it back to the top spot. They first performed it as part of the storyline of the "Soldier Soldier" TV series. In 2002 Gareth Gates made no. 1 with the track following his success (though second place) through repeatedly performing the song in the first series of ITV's "Pop Idol". Not bad for a track which began its life as a pure instrumental as incidental music for the 1955 film "Unchained" (hence 'Unchained Melody').

If you think (probably with some justification!) that the parody by Rennee and Renato should be disqualified or that "Dance Away" isn't really a lament between two lovers then feel free to substitute these tracks which came close to qualifying for the above chart but which were ultimately excluded for the reasons given:

  • "You're The One That I Want" - John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John (1.98m) [too up-tempo at 124 bpm; more about lust than love in any case!]
  • "I'll Be Missing You" - Puff Daddy & Faith Evans (1.4m) [platonic lament]
  • "Killing Me Softly" - Fugees (1.3m) [narration to a third person]
  • "Diana" - Paul Anka (1.2m) [the fact that this was a dubious declaration of love for a babysitter wasn't itself sufficient grounds for exclusion. Its tempo of 140bpm was!]
  • "Heartbeat" - Steps (1.1m but well over half of those sales can likely be attributed to the track's double 'A' side, "Tragedy"; definitely not a love song!)
  • "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" - Culture Club (0.82m) [more of a futile exercise in damage limitation]
  • "Knowing Me Knowing You" - Abba (0.77m) [beyond repair]
  • "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Wont Do That)" - Meat Loaf (0.76m) [tender moments overpowered by an argument over a driving rock beat]
  • "Whiter Shade Of Pale" - Procol Harum (0.76m) [wonderful romantic ambience; lyrical genious but their deliberate ambiguity leaves us wondering what's actually being said! - sacrilege we know]
Special mention must go to James Blunt's "You're Beautiful." In terms of chart success (peak position and longevity), it is easily the top love song of this millennium - and would be just inside the top 10 of the above chart based on these criteria. But because single sales were so low in 2005 (pre the inclusion of downloads) it only has reported sales of around 0.5m, leaving it short of the all-time Top 40 love songs. It is fair to say that, had it been released a few years earlier, it would have easily made our chart. We'll get a Top 40 based on chart performance (as opposed to sales) up here soon to compensate.

Retrocharts for St Valentine's Day in...
1950s... 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959
1960s... 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969
1970s... 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
1980s... 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
1990s... 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
2000s... 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

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