The 50 Best Diane Warren Songs, Ranked

Diane Warren is a legend, having written hundreds of songs for everyone from Kiss to Celine Dion. So far, 33 of her songs have reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, from “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” to “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

She’s a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has earned a whopping 15 Oscar nominations in the Best Original Song category – though she’s still looking for her first win for that award.

best diane warren songs
How can you narrow down the best Diane Warren songs? (featureflash/Depositphotos)

Just about every superstar in popular music has recorded a Diane Warren song, from rockers like Kiss and Bon Jovi to R&B stars like Mary J. Blige, Beyonce, and En Vogue to pop stars such as Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Taylor Swift, and N Sync.

What are the best Diane Warren songs? This questions always leads to a lot of debate. Many rock critics are indifferent to her work, believing that Warren’s songs tend to be overly sappy love ballads. That’s certainly true to a degree. But we don’t mind overly sappy. So if you’re looking for us to trash those songs, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Warren earned her first big hit in 1983 when Laura Branigan took her song “Solitaire” to #7. You won’t find that one on this list, due to its cliched lyrics and dated totally 80s! sound. But two years later, she penned DeBarge’s “Rhythm of the Night,” a #3 hit, and her career was off and running.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers who have recorded Diane Warren songs: Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Kiss, Heart, the Four Tops, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Cheap Trick, Lionel Richie, Chicago, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart, the Pretenders, Willie Nelson, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Chaka Khan, Neil Diamond, the Jacksons, Eric Clapton, Missy Elliott, Santana, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers), Maurice White (Earth, Wind & Fire), Agnetha Fältskog (Abba), and Ronnie Spector (Ronettes).

This is an entirely subjective list, and your list will certainly differ from mine. The songs are judged based on the quality of the track, regardless of how it may have performed on the charts.

Here’s one critic’s view of the best Diane Warren songs of all-time.

50 You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me, Cher, 2010
49 Live for Loving You, Gloria Estefan, 1991
48 I Could Not Ask for More, Edwin McCain, 1999
47 The One I Gave My Heart To, Aaliyah, 1996
46 I Will Be Here for You, Michael W. Smith, 1992

45 I’m Getting Used to You, Selena, 1996
44 Don’t Take Away My Heaven, Aaron Neville, 1993
43 By the Time This Night is Over, Kenny G & Peabo Bryson, 1993
42 I Didn’t Want to Need You, Heart, 1990
41 Just Like Jesse James, Cher, 1989

40 I Learned From the Best, Whitney Houston, 1999
39 If I Was the One, Luther Vandross, 2001
38 If You Asked Me To, Patti Labelle/Celine Dion, 1989/1992
37 Missing You Now, Michael Bolton & Kenny G, 1991
36 Saving Forever for You, Shanice, 1992

35 I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love, Chicago, 1988
34 I’ll Be Your Shelter, Taylor Dayne, 1990
33 I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth), Meat Loaf, 1995
32 I Turn to You, Christina Aguilera, 2000
31 I’ll Never Get Over You (Getting Over Me), Expose, 1992

30 For You I Will, Monica, 1997
29 Have You Ever, Brandy, 1998
28 Love on a Rooftop, Desmond Child, 1991
27 Set the Night to Music, Roberta Flack & Maxi Priest, 1991
26 Stand Up for Something, Andra Day & Common, 2017

25 Save Up All Your Tears, Cher, 1991
24 I’ll Fight, Jennifer Hudson, 2018
23 When the Night Comes, Joe Cocker, 1989
22 It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be, Aretha Franklin & Whitney Houston, 1989
21 Say Don’t Go (Taylor’s Version), Taylor Swift, 2023

20 Reach, Gloria Estefan

Year released: 1996
Co-writers: Gloria Estefan
Hot 100 peak: #42

As Summer Olympics anthems go, “Reach” was no “One Moment in Time.” But it was still a powerful track, with marching drums and a gospel choir giving the chorus an emotional lift.

Warren came up with the title first, then she and Estefan wrote the bulk of the song in 20 minutes. It was only a moderate hit in the U.S., but had great success around the world.

19 Everything Changes, Kathy Troccoli

Year released: 1991
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #14

Here’s another forgotten Diane Warren gem. There’s no doubt “Everything Changes” was written for Taylor Dayne. It’s exactly in the same vein as earlier Dayne hits like “With Every Beat of My Heart.”

But when she passed on the song, Warren went to Kathy Troccoli, a Christian singer who was making the Amy Grant move into mainstream pop music. She had a booming voice, just like Dayne, and was able to capture the vibe that Warren was going for. “Everything Changes” was lightweight, but it was a fun, bouncy pop song, and it became Troccoli’s only hit.

18 Can’t Fight the Moonlight, LeAnn Rimes

Year released: 2000
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #11

LeAnn Rimes was mostly known as a balladeer until “Can’t Fight the Moonlight.” The mid-tempo track with a fierce chorus was fine in its original version, but the dance remix really stood out.

It reached #3 on the Dance Singles Sales chart and entered the Top 20 on the Dance Club Songs chart. It kinda makes you wonder why more artists didn’t try to turn Diane Warren songs into dance club hits. Her strong and catchy melodies would seem to lend themselves to dance music.

17 I Get Weak, Belinda Carlisle

Year released: 1988
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #2

“I Get Weak” is one of Warren’s more underrated lyrics. It’s almost poetic the way she describes being infatuated with a lover. Belinda Carlisle sings, “Convincing eyes / Persuasive lips / The helpless heart just can’t resist / Their power,” and “With a kiss, you can strip me defenseless / With a touch, I completely lose control / All that’s left of my strength is a memory.”

The song topped out at #2. Warren wrote it with Stevie Nicks in mind. It would’ve been interesting to hear how she would’ve performed the vocal. But Carlisle’s version is great.

16 How Do I Live, LeAnn Rimes

Year released: 1997
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #2

Ah yes, the infamous song recorded by two artists at once, LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood. It’s always amazed me that the movie execs behind Con Air thought Rimes’ recording was subpar, and recruited Yearwood for what turned out to be a far inferior version.

The Rimes recording of “How Do I Live” set all kinds of records, staying on the chart for a then-record 69 weeks despite never reaching #1.

The lyrics of the song weren’t anything special. “How do I live without you?” is about as generic a hook as you’ll ever hear, but the song works because of the melodic progression and those long held notes that build up drama and tension.

15 Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, Starship

Year released: 1987
Co-writers: Albert Hammond
Hot 100 peak: #1 (2 weeks)

Warren’s first Oscar nom came for “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” written for the Kim Cattrall movie Mannequin. Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick were in the middle of a comeback with Starship, and the song became their third chart-topper in three years.

The lyrics may be a little bit hokey – “If this world runs out of lovers / We’ll still have each other” – but it’s got a memorable, sing-along chorus. And who could resist the sight of Grace peering deep into the camera and shouting, “Let ’em say we’re crazy / What do they know?

14 Look Away, Chicago

Year released: 1988
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (2 weeks)

A lot of folks can relate to the experience of running into an ex who is with a new significant other. Diane captured the awkwardness of that moment on Chicago’s “Look Away,” which featured Bill Champlin singing, “When you called me up this morning / Told me ’bout the new love you found / I said I’m happy for you / I’m really happy for you.

Though it’s been largely forgotten, “Look Away” reached #1 on the singles chart and was actually the #1 song for the entire year of 1989, according to Billboard. It was the best of four Diane Warren songs that Chicago recorded, including “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love” and “Chasin’ the Wind.”

13 I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, Aerosmith

Year released: 1998
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (4 weeks)

Aerosmith received a good deal of criticism for recording “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” It was viewed as a sellout move by the classic rock band to sing a Diane Warren ballad. The band had the last laugh, as the track became their only chart-topping hit on the Hot 100.

It’s best not to pay close attention to the lyrics of this one, because they are clearly not the strongest part of the song. Instead enjoy the dramatic strings, the power ballad drums that kick in at just the right time, and, most notably, Steven Tyler’s unique vocal phrasings, which turn what could be a boring love song into an appealing track.

12 I Was Here, Beyonce

Year released: 2011
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: N/A

Beyonce sings about wanting to make a difference on “I Was Here,” an album track from her 4 album. The album’s release was delayed so she could record the song.

“I’ve never had chills through my entire body like I had from hearing Beyoncé sing this song,” Warren says. She wrote the tune in honor of the 10th anniversary of September 11, and had Beyonce in mind to sing it from the very beginning.

11 Don’t Turn Around, Ace of Base

Year released: 1986 (Tina Turner), 1994 (Ace of Base)
Co-writers: Albert Hammond
Hot 100 peak: #4 (Ace of Base)

The Swedish pop group Ace of Base had a huge hit with “Don’t Turn Around” in 1994. Tina Turner actually recorded the song first, and it’s wild to hear her more rocking version compared to the more familiar Ace of Base rendition with the Tetris-like synths.

Bonnie Tyler took a crack at the song in 1988, and even Neil Diamond recorded the song in 1991. All of them arranged the song as a somewhat snoozy power ballad with a soaring chorus, until Ace of Base came along and emphasized the dance beat and synth instrumentation. That took the song to an entirely new place and a #4 chart peak.

10 Blame it on the Rain, Milli Vanilli

Year released: 1989
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (2 weeks)

Milli Vanilli became a national punchline after the revelation that they never actually sang on their album. But that doesn’t diminish the quality of the songs themselves.

Warren says she’s still proud of “Blame it on the Rain,” and she should be. It was a unique lyrical concept, as Warren wrote about someone who couldn’t take responsibility for ending a relationship. The #1 song was one of a string of hits for Milli Vanilli in 1989.

By the way, it turns out Fabrice Morvan can really sing. He continues to perform live in concert these days, and he sounds great when singing “Blame it on the Rain.”

9 Because You Loved Me, Celine Dion

Year released: 1996
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (6 weeks)

Warren gave a bunch of her songs to Celine Dion over the years, including “If You Asked Me To,” “Nothing Broken But My Heart,” and “Love Can Move Mountains.” But none came close to the smashing success of “Because You Loved Me,” from the film Up Close and Personal.

Fun fact: Though many consider “Because You Loved Me” to be a quintessential love song, Warren says she wrote it about her late father, because he always believed in her. Dion turned it into an expression of love for a partner, and it spent six weeks atop the chart.

8 How Can We Be Lovers, Michael Bolton

Year released: 1990
Co-writers: Michael Bolton, Desmond Child
Hot 100 peak: #3

Michael Bolton never got a lot of respect from critics, but “How Can We Be Lovers” was an underrated gem that stands as one of the best Michael Bolton songs.

Co-written by Warren with Bolton and Desmond Child, the tune features an unstoppable hook with a wall of voices shouting the titular question, “How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?” The blend of voices in the hook and the “whoa-whoa” bridge is just perfection.

Warren wrote a lot of songs for Bolton that haven’t stood the test of time. But even those who typically can’t stand the crooner’s work should admit that “How Can We Be Lovers” is a pop banger.

7 Rhythm of the Night, DeBarge

Year released: 1985
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #3

People don’t normally think of Diane Warren as being a writer for Motown acts, but her first signature hit was for DeBarge, who were on Motown at the time. “Rhythm of the Night” was one of the great infectious pop songs of the 1980s.

The calypso-lite tune about distracting yourself with music was a far cry from the love themes of Warren’s later work, but it’s still one of her most popular songs.

6 Un-Break My Heart, Toni Braxton

Year released: 1996
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (11 weeks)

“Un-Break My Heart” is one of the most stirring songs Warren ever wrote. Much of that is due to the extraordinary vocals of singer Toni Braxton. In another artist’s hands, the song might not have resonated as strongly, but she absolutely crushed that performance.

Warren says of Braxton, “She didn’t really want to do that song. She didn’t really like it. But then she did and she won the Grammy. She probably likes it now.”

5 Til it Happens to You, Lady Gaga

Year released: 2015
Co-writers: Lady Gaga
Hot 100 peak: #95

“Til it Happens to You” was one of the most meaningful songs Warren has ever written. She volunteered to write the song for free when she became aware of the subject matter of the documentary film The Hunting Ground, a movie about sexual assault on U.S. college campuses.

She teamed up with Lady Gaga, an assault survivor herself, to create a moving and somber song about the trauma of being a victim. The track never got much radio airplay and thus didn’t chart highly, but it earned Gaga and Warren an Academy Award nomination.

4 When I See You Smile, Bad English

Year released: 1989
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (2 weeks)

“When I See You Smile” is undoubtedly a sappy song. One of the sappiest, perhaps. It doesn’t get much more shlocky than, “When I see you smile I can face the world / Oh, you know I can do anything.

Yet, the song is also incredibly sweet. Something about those twinkling keyboards and that gentle melody are irresistible. And Bad English singer John Waite brings just the right amount of emotion and power to the tune. The rock critic in me understands why people may not enjoy this one, but all of those reasons explain why it’s always been one of my favorites.

3 Only Love Can Hurt Like This, Paloma Faith

Year released: 2014
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: N/A

“Only Love Can Hurt Like This” was a ‘60s soul throwback, following the Amy Winehouse template. Paloma Faith delivered a brilliant vocal performance, with a sultry low vocal in the first chorus, and then belting out subsequent choruses in a higher octave.

This was the best song Diane Warren had written in years, and it got virtually no attention in the U.S., aside from a terrific performance on Letterman.

The song was much more successful in the U.K., where it reached #6 and earned Faith a memorable performance in the rain at the BRIT Awards.

2 Love Will Lead You Back, Taylor Dayne

Year released: 1990
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #1 (1 week)

Warren wanted Whitney Houston to sing “Love Will Lead You Back,” but Arista Records president Clive Davis thought it would be perfect for Taylor Dayne, and he was right.

As incredible as Whitney was, it’s hard to imagine how she could’ve brought more passion or more impressive vocal runs to the track. The song rightfully reached #1 for a single week and remains a classic.

1 If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher

Year released: 1989
Co-writers: None
Hot 100 peak: #3

Cher famously didn’t want to record “If I Could Turn Back Time.” She hated the song. Diane had to beg her, literally, to get the diva to give it a shot.

Warren says, “I got on my knees and pleaded. I told her I wasn’t going to leave the room until she said yes, and finally, just to get rid of me, she did.”

The song checks all the boxes of Warren’s best songs: a supremely catchy chorus, a modest amount of rock guitar so it’s not too lame, and a legendary artist singing her heart out.

The song would’ve been a huge hit even without a video, but there’s no doubt its success was aided by that video where Cher struts around a Navy battleship wearing tiny straps over her naughty bits.

Imagine if Cher never recorded “If I Could Turn Back Time” and that video never existed? We would’ve been robbed of one of the great pop culture moments, and Diane Warren’s best song might never have been heard.

What’s your favorite Diane Warren song?

Last Updated on May 18, 2024

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