What is life without music?
Especially music that talks about a universal experience, love.
Whether you are celebrating love, crying over it, surviving it, forgetting it or are over the whole premise, there is no denying that music is an integral part of the process.
This list takes a look at some of the most influential Greek love songs of the last 20 years. They have not only touched the hearts and souls of Greek listeners but a whole range of people from around the world that may not always understand the lyrics but can feel the sadness, the pain or in some rare instances the joy of the love song.
At first I thought putting together a list of songs that are specifically about love might be too restricting.
I had forgotten that almost every single Greek song talks about love!
And this fact is widely known across the Balkans and Eastern Europe as well so there is no hiding from it.
Earlier this year, while talking with a new Turkish friend about our music preferences, he turned around and said something along the lines of,
“Greek love songs make you feel sad but in a good way. Like you need to feel that deeply.”
I instantly understood what he meant and offered a word we use, “kapsoura”.
Impossible to translate properly, kapsoura is a word that plays on the root “burn” to describe a feeling of yearning and lusting over someone.
So, here are the songs that we have “loved” over for the last 20 years.
1999 Alkinoos Ioannidis – Tha mai konta sou (otan me thes)
This is one of the most popular Greek love songs of the last 20 years. Written and sang by Alkinoos Ioannidis, this song was included in his 4th album Anemodiktis.
The song seems to be about a man trying to get over a past failed love. While he seems to have moved past the lies and fairy tale scenarios, he keeps remembering the voice of this woman, saying: “I will be near you, when you need me”.
2000 – Prigkipesa – Sokratis Malamas
There are some songs that seem to go against all the pop charts yet manage to captivate audiences and remain timeless.
This is the case with this love poem/song, written and first sang by beloved Greek artist Sokratis Malamas back in 2000. In an interview years later, Malamas admitted to having written this song as a birthday gift to a woman. Having put it together at the last moment, he did not expect a warm reception. The song has remained a hit, inspiring cover versions by other notable Greek names and continues to move to the top of the charts so many years later.
The woman the song was written for must be quite happy as well, as she eventually became his wife.
Outside the wind is blowing
But inside of me,
In this house – my princess
Your light and my light dance around us
Amazing is this world
And so are our personalities
This must be the song that officially signals the start of the summer, every year.
For anybody born in the ’90s in Greece, this was and remains the love anthem of summer. They can probably tell you what island they were holidaying on, who they had a crush on and how it brings them back to that moment every time they hear it to this day.
Undoubtedly the biggest hit of the rock band Dytikes Synikies, its upbeat tempo makes it one of the happiest love songs on this list. This summer time romance, is all about falling hopelessly in love and that period of sweet intoxication.
Summer time dates on your body
Summer time “i love you’s” on the sand
All of the island, a pebble on your feet
All of the earth, your hug
It is 2002 and we are back to our standard, pain, agony and hurt love songs.
Antonis Remos is one of the biggest names in the urban folk genre or “laiko” as we would say. Active since the early 1990s, all of his albums have been successful and gained platinum status.
The song was part of the second best selling album of the year and continues to be in our playlists for those oh, so common, break up moments!
But we’re not over
It can’t be I tell you, we’re not over
We just froze time for a while
That’s what I remember, that’s what you said before you were lost
And you swore it to me
But now from my life you’ve disappeared
Of my love you were never convinced
But still we are not over
In 2003, Elli Kokkinou released a new album playing on the meaning of her last name (red), that was titled, “to red”, duh!
All of the songs included in this album became instantly successful in Greece as well as neighboring Turkey.
This is a sweet and sentimental song that touches on the beautiful aspect of love. In moments of total bliss, the ugliness of the world is swept to the side and we find strength, beauty and meaning through our other half, or so the song tells us!
Because I live in my own world
And there only you exist, baby
It is my own world theory
Only you to be of importance
You will be everything
To me, my love, always
The laughter, the tear
The salt in my life
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one Eurovision song. The Eurovision Song Content is an annual competition of the best original song, performed by artists of primarily European countries. The winner is decided after a lengthy voting process, where all countries award points to their favourite songs.
Now, guess who won in 2004?
The song proved successful both during the competition and afterwards and was a big summer hit in Greece and other countries.
If you watch the original Eurovision performance you will notice traditional Greek elements incorporated into the choreography and music. Like the Greek Pontic style line dancing and the sounds of the Cretan lyra. The lyrics are focused on exalting the virtues of her lover. Sounds like he is the most amazing person who probably ever lived!
You’re a fire and desire
When I kiss your lips, you know, you take me higher
You’re addiction, my conviction
You’re my passion, my relief, my crucifixion
Never leave me and believe me
You will be the sun into my raining season
Never leave me and believe me
In my empty life you’ll be the only reason
This is one of those songs that manages to embed itself in your head and never leave.
Most people will have heard of it even though not all are proud of knowing the lyrics. Sarbel sings about knowing many girls but finding the one that made him stick around. His infatuation with this person is obvious but we are not sure if she feels the same way about him at all.
A piece of yours
Keep for me
You are what I like
You are what I like
And makes me crazy
Why do I still wonder
What is happening to me
If you are making a playlist of the ultimate Greek love songs, and why wouldn’t you, this is one that needs to be included.
The song encapsulates what I find the hardest to explain about Greek folk music. This invisible line between poetry and music and how you are often unaware of how much you can feel through a song until it is presented to you and you are left speechless.
While there is definitely a love component to this song, I find it can be applied to many areas of life. The title and core message of the song is about “the unspoken” (words). The things we missed out on saying to those we loved the most, whether it was a partner or a parent or a friend.
Even though the message is about what has been left unspoken, Zervoudakis sings, “hold on don’t speak/ let the heartbeat say what is to be said”. A profound line about how words are not the only way of expressing what you feel.
And when the break of days comes
with desire and anticipation
It will be a strange kind of bliss
it will turn into thirst and fire
It will be a strange kind of bliss
Hold on, don’t speak, let the heartbeat
say what is to be said
in the light let it be born
for the nothing don’t be afraid
how did we get to the unspoken
my dear, don’t you disappear
In 2006, the young singer Nikos Oikonomopoulos emerged as the winner of the Greek talent show Dream Show – The Music 2 and by 2007 his first album was released.
Included in this album the song “Look to Learn” that would become one of his many hits and catapult him into fame with Greek and international listeners.
A bitter song, it is an emotionally heavy option that you probably won’t listen to before 1 o clock in the morning or at least without a drink in hand. Τhe theme can best be described as desperation, or that stage in a failed romance when you look back and want the other person to understand what they have done.
Why are you looking at me, you are not wrong!
I am the one you want
I am the one to whom if you remember
once told you loved
You are not confusing me with anyone
This is how you made me
Why are you looking at me, you are not wrong!
I was your whole life
Τhis was a year with a lot of diverse songs dominating the charts including this song by hip-hop and rap influenced band Stavento. It plays with multiple genres to deliver a piece that proved popular with young people and the band has only increased in popularity since.
Love, lust and desire are expressed in this song through the careful construction of playful images yet, it does not enter into the vulgar or indelicate arena that rap songs have found themselves nowadays.
Inside you if I could live for a moment
Nothing else would I ask of you
Nothing else would I long for
Inside you if I could live for a moment
2009 Natasa Theodoridou – Mia Kokkini Grammi
Natasa Theodoridou is one of the most successful female artists of the last 50 years with three of her albums having gained platinum status. This song, A red Line, was included in the same titled album.
If there is a theme to this song is determination. The one that comes after realizing that someone was never right for you to start with and the certainty there are better things to come if only you just dare to leave.
Theodoridou sings “what sky can fit us both? It is time for me to do something”.
So, I draw a red line through everything
Erasing a love that had the wrong path
Since you want it
Let this be our biggest moment
2010 Michalis Hatzigiannis To Kalokairi Mou
Hatzigiannis is a Cypriot singer, songwriter, composer and producer whose songs could easily take any of the spots on this list. With countless awards, including Best Selling Artist of The Decade 2000-2010, this prolific artist has a song for every love mood you could think of.
This summer hit, aptly named “My Summer” is one of the happier ones with an upbeat tempo that is perfect for beach bar kinda days.
And if you are a sea I hugged you
And if you are a wind I held you
And if tomorrow is in my hands
You will forever be
2011 An Eisai Ena Asteri – Nikos Vertis
2012 Pantelis Pantelidis Den Tairiazete Sou Leo
In 2012, an unknown amateur singer posted a video on Youtube that would soon receive more than 1 million views. Instantly securing a record deal and with his first album soon released, Pantelis Pantelidis became a household name and this was his first big hit.
His first album, which included countless other big hits, became double platinum and won him the award of best emerging artist. In total, Pantelidis recorded around 50 songs all written by him, while also writing songs for other Greek artists.
Pantelidis died in 2016 in a car accident in Athens, before he could receive the award for Best Artist of the year or share more of his music with the world.
You may burn in his gaze as well
He may have humour and other unnecessary things
You may feel like a child when you wake up with him
But I am asking you, can he give his life for you?
2013 Eleges – Melisses
Melisses is a popular Greek pop-rock band that has been active since 2008. In 2013 they received the award for Best Band and dominated the charts with the song “Eleges”. It also became the most played Greek song on Youtube in that year.
With more than 20 million views at the moment, this is a song about break ups and about the words we used to say but no longer hold true.
You were saying that you love me
but your me hopes
You were saying not to leave you
only you to love
Like this I will go on
Another love I will meet
But in the depths of my heart
I will keep only you
2014 – Fila Me – Stamatis Kraounakis
Stamatis Kraounakis is a prolific composer, producer and song writer that has composed music for more than 60 albums without including dozens of theatrical plays, television series and shows.
In 2014, Kraounakis gave his voice to the song Fila me, part of an album of songs inspired by the events following 1922. Τhe year needs no introduction for Greeks, as it signified the end of the Civil War following WWI and the population exchange that followed with Turkey that saw many people leave their homes in the region of modern Turkey refereed to as Asia Minor.
The composers wanted to create songs that can stand on their own now yet carry with them the memories of a time past. While the meaning and general feel of the song is optimistic the music is marked by lament and sorrow.
I sail and I get lost
Look at me
I fly to find you
In my heart the pain to erase
This is a song that was first a poem. One of the most famous Cretan poems of the 17th century actually, written by Vitsentzos Kornaros and first made into a song by the legendary voice of Nikos Xylouris who played the lyra and whose mantinades (15 syllable rhyming couplets) earned him the title of the Archangel of Crete.
The poem in question is the love story of Erotokritos and Aretousa. Set in Ancient Greece and written in the Cretan dialect of the time, this is not the easiest poem for the modern world to embrace. Yet, it remains one of the most beloved pieces of Greek literature that has inspired countless others works of poetry and music.
The 2015 version performed by Giannis Haroulis, another native Cretan whose music is a mix of traditional Cretan sounds accompanied by his lute and Greek folk music, introduced this piece to a whole new generation of young people.
If you are fed up with this changing world and what passes for love songs in the radio nowadays then find a translation of this poem and listen to the song. You will not regret it.
And I promise I will tell the people I caught on to the long hair of a woman
and that the hair broke, and I lost all I had dear in this world
2016 Το Kima – Melisses
Another song from the rock band Melisses (which translates to “Bees” in case you were wondering).
This is another quintessential modern Greek love song that weaves together images of love and loss at the same time, at once making us celebrate our past love and the feelings we had while at the same time mourning for what could have been.
This balance between sad and hopeful, passion and desperation, moving on yet never forgetting has become ingrained in our psychic. There is no simple way to say, we love to be in pain over love.
Darling on your two damp eyes
sorrowful paths open up
Through the sadness I will march
To close your wounds
And when I reach the edge and the black has been lost
I will carve a tear, a precious promise
Back to a happy, dancing song that doesn’t make you want to drink a bottle of whiskey or contemplate everything you have done wrong in your life.
Throughout this post, I had plenty of opportunities to introduce Konstantinos Argyros, one of the hottest names in the Greek music scene and that is an accurate description of both his singing career and his facial structure.
Argyros has released six albums and his songs dominate radio charts without a doubt. 2017 was a particularly impressive year for the singer, as he was presented with the awards for Best Male Singer, Best Greek Folk Singer Of The Year as well as the award for Favourite Radioproducer Song.
The following year, he went on to receive the award for Best Male Singer again as well as Best Song Of the Year for the above mentioned “Ximeromata”
So, what is this one about?
A man singing about a woman driving him crazy with her mixed messages. He seems to be out and about in the early hours of the morning and trying to convince himself that betraying her is not the worst of ideas. The way his reasoning goes, “I should look after myself a little, above else I need to put my ego”.
Not great messages about love and relationships I will admit to that, but it is catchy
Early mornings – you give me licence *
One moment you don’t talk to me the next you tell me you love me
Early mornings I return – and I don’t recognize myself
Early mornings – you give me licence
Sunrises give license
*the context of “licence or rights” is here most probably in reference to cheating or being unfaithful
The kind of song you can dedicate to a lover, a parent, or a child, which may or may not be what the artist intended.
The video clip does offer a hint at the end of the song, when the singer, having walked far and wide to reach the person they wanted to, bursts into a room and smiles at a baby. You were not expecting that, were you?
The lyrics also perfectly apply to either scenario.
If someone ever hurts your dreams
With dirty hands touches on your heart
If they bring clouds to your eyes so they cry
And I swear to you I will come
Regardless of how kilometers away I am
No distance can keep me away
Guardian angel – I will run
It’s probably best to end this list with a happy Greek love song. Another one written by favourite Nikos Oikonomopoulos, this is one of the few upbeat and happy songs that he is known for and it instantly became a summer hit.
A beautiful ballad that is about hope, new beginnings and overcoming obstacles.
I love you
that is the point
I will tell you
And put it to the max
put it to the max