Approximately four hours before my first sixth grade dance, I applied an entire gallon of Limited Too glitter to my eyelids, cheeks, and arms until I smelled like a Starburst and looked like a human tiara. I was REALLY excited, and wanted to prepare myself for total glory. It was my first real dance where I would get to hang out with boys and just have the time of my little LIFE. It didn’t really play out that way because I was super shy, kind of dorky, and wore a neon blue camouflage tank-top (which wasn’t even cool in 2002); I ended up playing tag with my friend Colleen by the basketball courts at the YMCA and discussing how much boys stink.
Once I grew up and out of my glitter-and-camo phase, I learned to actually enjoy dances. In high school, I went with friends and boyfriends to homecomings, formals, and prom, and danced my teenage dream-fueled heart out.
Even though most of us aren’t going to a school dance anytime soon, it’s totally okay to relive those times. Here are 20 songs—from then and now—that are perfect for slow dances and give you the excuse to rest your head on your dance partner’s shoulder (awwwww!).
1. Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game”
Not only is “Wicked Game” one of the most beautiful songs in the WORLD, but it also immortalized the chipped-black-nail-polish look.
2. Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans”
If was still going to school dances now, this would be on my ‘most requested’ list. Sometimes you just need a sad, love song to infinitely sway to.
3. Scorpions – “Still Loving You”
I went through a minor Scorpions phase in high school because rarely do you come across a band that has such an iconic, internationally sexy sound. “Still Loving You” was THE song you wanted your guy to serenade you with in front of the entire school.
4. Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way”
I still don’t really get what was so wrong with saying, “I want it that way,” because I think it’s good to be direct in your relationship, but whatever, I’ll let you have this one, Backstreet Boys.
5. Led Zeppelin – “Tangerine”
My fiancé told me a story about this woman he saw at a bar who spent all her quarters playing “Tangerine” on the jukebox over and over again. That image really stuck with me, because I always wondered who she was thinking about. Her husband? The one that got away? It all just seemed so romantic to me.
6. Berlin – “Take My Breath Away”
I dare you NOT to turn up your volume and belt out, “take my breath aaaaah-waaaaaay” because I know you want to.
7. Patsy Cline – “She’s Got You”
My heart breaks into a million gushy pieces whenever I listen to this song. Patsy, you heartbreaker.
8. Jose Gonzales – “Heartbeats” (The Knife cover)
Jose Gonzales turned the original electro version of “Heartbeats” into a soft-spoken song that turns my chest cavity into mush. Thanks, dude.
9. The Cranberries – “Linger”
“Linger” was the perfect song to ease your way back to normalcy after a bad break-up.
10. Toni Braxton – “Unbreak My Heart”
Watching this music video again, I feel like Toni’s boo wouldn’t have died. I mean, maybe a concussion, but I feel like death was little harsh. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because this song is indulgently sad and forever gorgeous either way.
11. Truly Madly Deeply – “Savage Garden”
When I was younger, I thought it was so gross and unnecessary when they sang, “I wanna bathe with you in the ocean.” Like, a) the ocean is a cesspool of bacteria, and b) bathing with someone? Ew. NOW I’m like, all about this song. Bathe in an ocean? Why not! Lay like this forever until the sky falls down over me? Poetic!
12. Spice Girls – “2 Become 1”
My mom was always so angry when I listened to this song because they sang, “Wanna make love to you, baby.” Like I even knew what sex was when I was seven (I didn’t).
13. The Cure – “Pictures of You”
Arguably one of the best Cure songs, this song just makes me feel all the feelings.
14. Grizzly Bear – “Knife”
If mainstream love tunes aren’t your thing, here is this super addictive, slow-tempo indie song.
15. Journey – “Faithfully”
I couldn’t tell you if all the members of Journey actually stayed faithful, but at least the sentiment is there.
16. Leona Lewis – “Bleeding Love”
Leona Lewis kind of came out of nowhere and amazed the world with this song. EVERYONE was about “Bleeding Love” in 2007.
17. Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
The “Nothing Compares 2 U” music video, which served as inspiration for Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” is incredible, so it’s no wonder Miley wanted to channel Queen Sinéad. So tragic. So good.
18. Celene Dion – “My Heart Will Go On”
I literally cannot listen to this song with breaking into stupid, sopping wet tears. Way to forever tug at my heart-strings, Titanic.
19. Monica – “Angel of Mine”
Because this was on every single radio station in the ’90s. And because Monica taught us that the best things in life are free (like love and maybe hand-me-down blue fur coats).
20. Sixpence None The Richer – “Kiss Me”
If you weren’t mentally preparing yourself for every date with this song in the ‘90s-early 2000s, I don’t even know who you are.