20 Songs About Desire and Longing

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Written By Julia Mehalko

Julia is a music journalist with a passion for retro songs. She holds a degree in journalism from University of Nevada.

Desire and longing are universal emotions that poets, writers, and musicians alike have explored for centuries. From the pain of unrequited love to the desire for more power, songwriters have delved into how complex desire and longing can become.

Whether you’re searching for a powerhouse song about desire as it relates to success or a sad ballad about longing in heartbreak, these 20 songs below are full of emotions that we all can relate to.

1. “Hallelujah Money” by Gorillaz

“Hallelujah Money” by Gorillaz, featuring Benjamin Clementine, is a song of protest against political elections and the thoughts and anger they can bring, particularly in the United States. Therefore, this song touches on themes of how many people of power desire more power and control over their subjects.

The musicians get this point across by explaining how the rich and politicians are intertwined and continue to exert their power over others. They sing the lyrics, “While the whole world / And whole beasts of nations desire / Power.”

2. “Desire” by Years & Years

“Desire” by Years & Years, released in 2014, details the end of a romantic relationship. However, even though this relationship comes to an end, the singer still has love for their ex — even though they don’t want to.

The band sings, “Is it desire, or is it love that I’m feeling for you? / I want desire / ‘Cause your love only gets me abused.”

Therefore, the singer explains that they’re quite okay with this desire they feel for their ex. However, if their desire turns back into love, they don’t want this!

3. “It’s Enough” by Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz’s 2018 song “It’s Enough” discusses many problems in the world, particularly death and destruction. Kravitz sings that he’s had enough of all of this pain, as he feels this all doesn’t need to happen. Somebody has to be willing to step up for change.

As he discusses these thoughts, he talks about the desire for power. He sings, “When will the desire for love outweigh the desire for power? / When will we face the truth and allow our hearts to flower?”

4. “Desire Me” by Sam Cooke

Now, onto another song about the desire for someone! Sam Cooke’s “Desire Me” opens with the lines, “Desire me, desire me / As I desire you / Desire me and want me / That’s all I ever ask of life.”

As the song progresses, we learn that all Cooke really wants is for this person to love him back. Now, there’s no telling that this person actually does. Therefore, this song could detail a potential unrequited love!

5. “Burning Desire” by Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey’s 2012 song “Burning Desire” is another great example of a song about desiring someone in a romantic relationship. The song is simple in that Lana Del Rey easily expresses her longing for one person in particular, repeatedly singing the lyrics, “I’ve got a burning desire for you, baby.”

6. “Longing For You” by Vic Damone

An oldie, but a goodie! “Longing For You” by Vic Damone tells the story of longing for someone you can’t have — or who doesn’t want you back. Throughout the song, Damone sings, “Daytime, night time, what can I do / I just keep on longing for you.”

He loves this person. However, there are many signs in the lyrics that she may not love him in return. She’ll stay with him, then leave him. Call him, then run away when he comes to town. As a result, the singer is left heartbroken, yet still with a need to be with this person.

7. “Desire” by U2

“Desire” by U2, released on the band’s 1988 album Rattle and Hum, is all about desire in different forms. For the most part, however, the band details desire for someone in a romantic way. They don’t touch on whether this person also desires them, so this song is mainly just about one’s desire for romance in general, rather than an unrequited love type of song! 

8. “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely” by Ricky Martin

Rick Martin’s “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely”, which features Christina Aguilera, follows two people who want to be together. Instead of being alone, the singers believe that everybody should seek out another.

As a result of these thoughts, they sing about desire and longing. Martin and Aguilera sing, “Nobody wants to be lonely / Nobody wants to cry / My body’s longing to hold you / So bad, it hurts inside.”

9. “One Desire” by Hillsong

Now, let’s discuss some worship songs about desire. There are quite a lot of religious songs that touch on themes of desire in faith, though “One Desire” by Hillsong is one of the most popular ones today.

In this song, the singer expresses their love for God and faith in Him. They sing the opening lyrics, “You gave it all for me / My soul desire, my everything / And all I am is devoted to You.”

10. “Longing In Their Hearts” by Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt’s 1994 song “Longing In Their Hearts” also expresses thoughts of desire and longing. Raitt’s song is interesting, and very different from many of the other songs on this list, in different ways.

Firstly, Raitt sings about a married couple who still have a longing in their hearts. For what? Well, they’re not quite sure. They love each other, love their life, and don’t necessarily have any ideas about what they’d like to change.

However, there’s still that longing — and it won’t go away. Therefore, this song is a great example of when people have a longing in their lives for something else, even if they aren’t sure what this something is!

To better get the point across, Raitt sings the lyrics, “There’s a longing deep inside our hearts / And no one to tell us why.”

11. “Desire” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

“Desire” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts is one of the best rock songs about desire and longing! In this 1988 track, Jett sings about her interest in having a romantic relationship with someone. However, even though she desires them, she also warns them that she will leave them if they don’t desire her back!

She sings, “’Cause I feel that desire / You’re the flame that feeds my fire / Will you take me higher / Give me that love that I desire.”

12. “Desire Brings Me Back” by Blondie

In “Desire Brings Me Back”, Blondie details a romantic relationship full of passion and romance. However, even though this love is full of desire, Blondie also ensures that they explain how this love still makes them feel free. As a result, this talk of an all-consuming desire is shifted in a more positive, freeing light.

The band sings, “Desire brings me back / Back to where I’ve always been.”

13. “The Dull Flame of Desire” by Björk

Björk’s 2007 song “The Dull Flame of Desire”, which features ANOHNI, details a romantic relationship as well! In this song, the duo often sings about their partner’s eyes. They sing, “And through the downcast lashes / I see the dull flame of desire.”

14. “Life Eternal” by Ghost

In Ghost’s “Life Eternal”, the band talks about death, mortality, and how neither people nor relationships can last forever. Everything must end eventually. As they discuss these overarching themes, they also talk about desire and longing.

The singer questions, “Would you let me touch your soul–forever? / Can you feel me longing for you–forever, forever?”

15. “That Feeling In the Moonlight” by Anita O’Day

Anita O’Day’s “That Feeling In the Moonlight” is a classic song about the romance of walking in the night, under the moonlight. O’Day captures these feelings of desire and longing perfectly. She sings, “Did you ever get that longing on a June night / That wonderful longing you can never resist / Did you ever get that feeling in the moonlight / That feeling that says you want to be kissed.”

16. “Live Life Now” by Cheryl

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N23tlKzmSGY

“Live Life Now” by Cheryl is all about living your life the best way that you know how — even if you don’t have a lot of money. Cheryl explains that you should always do what you desire and find a way to live your life now, to the fullest. She sings, “What do you desire? / If money was no object / What would it require?”

17. “Power” by The Temptations

Here we have another song about the desire for power. In “Power” by The Temptations, the band sings about all the issues wrong with the world, and how everyone just wants more power. However, this song could also be seen as how we all want power — even though many of those who get that power don’t do anything, as issues still exist in the world.

18. “I Don’t Want to Live Without You” by Foreigner

“I Don’t Want to Live Without You” by Foreigner, released in 1987, opens up with the band discussing their current romantic situation. The singer explains that he’s in a relationship. However, something has changed.

He liked this person before. But now, he finds that he wants to be with his partner always. He sings, “I’m longing for the time / I’m longing for the day / Hoping that you will promise to be mine / And never go away.”

19. “Desire” by Meg Myers

Meg Myers’ Nine Inch Nails-inspired 2014 song “Desire” follows the singer as she explains her desire for someone. She wants to be with them and doesn’t long for anyone else. As she expresses her feelings and thoughts, she links her desire to a hunger or craving — and something completely consuming.

20. “Take This Longing” by Leonard Cohen

At last, we have the last song on this list! “Take This Longing” by Leonard Cohen, released on his iconic 1974 album New Skin for the Old Ceremony, also discusses longing and desire. Cohen sings to a woman he desires, even though he knows this woman loves someone else.

He sings the lyrics, “Just take this longing from my tongue / All the useless things my hands have done / Let me see your beauty broken down / Like you would do for one you love.”