It is a fact that we see ourselves in the music we listen to, whether it’s a sad breakup song or infatuation ballad, and it is the same with inspirational music. Sometimes, we all need a little pat on the shoulder and push on the back to keep going in this journey called life. Whether it’s achieving your dreams, morning exercise, or even commuting to work, this is why we have compiled a list of the best inspirational songs to keep you motivated in your everyday routine.
1. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Dino Fekaris originally wrote the song after getting fired from Motown Records, a staff writer for almost seven years. However, Gloria Gaynor gave the song a new life as a female-empowerment anthem about moving on from toxic relationships. The song became one of best the inspirational songs in the industry.
2. Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
The 1986 rock anthem went on to become the band’s signature song. The #1 hit single tells the story of Tommy and Gina, a working-class couple struggling to make ends meet in New Jersey – However, the couple vows to hold on to what they share, and their ambition gets them through difficult times.
Shortly after, ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’ was released. The song was the second Jovi single to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Interestingly, the song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 in November 2013 after a video of Boston Celtics fan Jeremy Fry dancing to the song surfaced on the internet. The video garnered more than 11 million new views for the song and propelled it back on the charts – peaking at #25.
3. Lose Yourself – Eminem
If you are an Eminem fan, the chances are that you can sing Lose Yourself in its entirety word for word. The song was used as the theme song for Em’s semi-biographical movie 8 Mile and is considered one of the best songs to date. The iconic single was written between breaks when filming 8 Mile.
The smash single peaked at #1 in more than 20 countries and held the #1 spot in the U.S. for an incredible 12 weeks – earning it a place as one of the third-longest chart-topper from a movie soundtrack. On top of winning two Grammy Awards – Best Rap Song & Best Male Rap Solo Performance – it was also the first rap song to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
4. Flawless – Beyoncé
Released in 2013, Flawless was formerly known as ‘Bow Down.’ The female empowerment anthem begins with a sample of Girls Tyme – the girl band that would eventually turn into Destiny’s Child. The song also samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s inspirational speech, where she queries parents’ attitudes towards young people’s sexuality. The song tells women that they are flawless and should not be defined by a relationship.
5. Roar – Katy Perry
Roar is yet another self-empowerment anthem and a perfect companion for Katy’s other famous anthem, ‘Firework.’ It is considered one of the best modern pop self-empowerment songs of the 21st century. The song talks about rising above bullying and fully reconnecting with yourself.
It is the lead single off her fourth album – Prism. It deviates from the electro-pop sound featured heavily on the ‘Teenage Dream’ in exchange for a mellower mid-tempo pop-rock anthem. The hit single was written by Bonnie McKee and Dr. Luke, who co-wrote ‘California Gurls,’ ‘Teenage Dream,’ and ‘Last Friday Night.’
6. Started from the Bottom – Drake
Started from the Bottom was the first Single of Drake’s third album – Nothing Was The Same. Drake writes about his journey through the years, from a humble actor to being one of the most sought-after rap artists in the world. In the song, he explains that he has worked hard – together with his family and team – to make everything possible. He also addresses his frustration over people disregarding his struggles because he did not come out of the ghetto like some other rappers. The song’s video celebrates Drake’s journey from the bottom of his career to life at the peak. The rapper was inspired to write the song after listening to Jay Z and Kanye’s ‘N***as in Paris.’
7. Titanium – David Guetta ft. S.I.A.
David Guetta made a name for himself as one of the most respected Electronic Dance Music figures worldwide. Titanium is a timeless collaboration between the French DJ and Australian singer – Sia. The massive track soared as the fourth single from Guetta’s album – Nothing but the Beat. The song was a top 10 hit in 17 countries and sold a whopping 3.8 million units in the U.S. alone.
The inspiring song talks about our inner strength and believing in ourselves no matter what the world says about us. The creatively authored lyrics use different elements to portray the simple message artistically. All in all, when bad things happen, we must be strong-hearted and strong-willed to keep pressing on.
8. Fighter – Christina Aguilera
The song is a rock and R&B hybrid that sees the artist thanking a man who did her wrong for making her a fighter. Having grown up in the music business, she found many dishonest older men who only wanted to take advantage of her.
9. Can’t Hold Us Down – Christina Aguilera
The song is a famous feminist anthem that challenges the double standards of our society. Aguilera directed this track to males who put women down for stating their minds. The song featured on the eponymous album and peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award as the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals in 2004.
10. Work Hard, Play Hard – Wiz Khalifa
Work without play makes jack a dull boy. They forgot to tell us that the harder you work, the harder you can play – well, at least Wiz Khalifa came through to remind us. Work Hard, Play Hard is one of Khalifa’s most popular songs and icing to the O.N.I.F.C. album’ cake.’
11. Happy – Pharell Williams
Pharrell Williams literary made the world happy with the 2014 smash hit single. The song peaked at #1 in 35 countries, which only shows that we are all looking for a little more joy in our lives. Williams originally wrote and produced the song as a soundtrack for the minions’ movie Despicable Me 2 – a fantastic piece for an incredible film.
12. Stronger – Kelly Clarkson
‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger/ stand a little taller. The popular self-empowerment song explains self-confidence in a simple yet powerful way.
It was the artist’s third #1 smash single on the Billboard Hot 100. The track featured on Clarkson’s fifth album – Stronger.
13. Don’t Stop Believing – Journey
The song has been described as an anthem for young people who want to feel unrestricted. Don’t stop Believing is the band’s most definitive and enduring track. It has a unique structure that helps it stick in your mind. The song encourages young people to dream big and go for everything they believe in.
14. Get Up Stand Up – Bob Marley
Bob Marley is popularly known all over the world as the king of reggae. Over his legendary career, Marley is famously known for fighting for the underdogs and the oppressed through his music. Marley wrote Get up Stand up while touring the Caribbean islands – Haiti. He was deeply struck by the levels of poverty and suffering in the country, so he urged to get up and fight for what is rightfully theirs.
15. We are the Champions – Queen
The famous sporting events anthem is a celebratory milestone song that marks a hard-fought victory. It implies that success and achievement are achieved through hard, consistent, and painful effort. We Are The Champions was inspired by Queen’s struggles on their journey to success. The song even inspired the penning of another sporting events anthem – We Will Rock You by Brian May.
16. Where is the Love? – Black Eyed Peas
The political Black Eyed Peas record tackles topics concerning racism, terrorism, and police brutality.
The song was released as the lead single to their third album, Elephunk. It was Black Eyed Peas with Fergie as an official group member.
The original release features uncredited vocals from Justin Timberlake, who sang the chorus of the song. ‘People killing, people dying/ children hurting, hear the crying/ can you practice what you preach? / And would you turn the other cheek? / Father, father, father help us/ Send some guidance from above/ Cause people got me, got me questioning/
This is undoubtedly one of the best inspirational songs of the 21st century.
17. Live Forever – Oasis
The 1994 hit song responded to Nirvana’s ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die,’ which Noel Gallagher did not believe kids need to be hearing. As a result, Oasis wrote the optimistic indie anthem full of swagger. The song has been voted the greatest song of all time in a poll conducted by Q magazine.
18. Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
Possibly one of the most popular songs by Survivor, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is undoubtedly one of the most popular songs from the 20th century. The song held the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for an impressive six consecutive weeks in 1982. The smash jam also topped charts in several other countries, including Norway, Japan, Australia, and Canada.
It also unsurprisingly won Survivor a Grammy for the ‘Best Rock Performance’ by a duo or group with vocal. Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik initially wrote the song, and the lyrics depict someone training to overcome hardships. The song is an anthem of sporting events, and especially fighting ones – after it was used in the training montage of Rocky III.
19. Express Yourself – Madonna
‘Express Yourself’ was the second single off Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer.’ The female empowerment anthem was initially a sonic homage to the ’70s funk-soul of The Staples Singers and Sly & The Family Stone. The radio and club version of the song was overhauled into a legendary electronic-pop banger thanks to Shep Pettibone’s remix. Madonna borrowed some aspects of the song from ‘Respect Yourself ‘by the Staple Singers, an empowering song about the African-American community during the harsh Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Madonna added her twist to the song and made it an empowering piece, which created a turning point in the 1980s feminism movement.
20. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – Daft Punk
This is one of Daft Punk’s most popular singles and probably one of their most sampled singles – most popularly in Kanye West’s Stronger. The song instantly draws you in with its catchy, futuristic beat and irresistible electro vocals. The music video was directed by legendary Kazuhisa Takenouchi and featured Japanese animation. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger features a four-to-the-floor rhythm, funky bass, and guitar samples, as well as heavily processed vocals.
21. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
A great love song that promotes belief in romantic ideals. Everybody knows this song, and for good reason. It’s a song full of life, positive energy and love, and it’s very inspirational because of these qualities.
22. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin
The award-winning a cappella song talks about putting our problems and worries aside and facing life with a smile shining on our faces. The song has a cheerful and happy writing style, a simple, catchy melody, and a tiny pinch of sarcasm that is only revealed when you listen to the song carefully. The song hit #1 on the U.S. Hot 100, an impressive feat for a cappella song to date. Bobby McFerrin recorded every element of the song without any instruments whatsoever. The simple, cheerful message and unusual style made the song a surprise hit – winning the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance.
The catchy phrase ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ was inspired by the Indian guru Meher Baba.
23. Imagine – John Lennon
John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is one of the most memorable and inspiring songs of all time. Initially released in 1971 during the Vietnam War, the song asks listeners to imagine a world where peace was second to nature, a world where all humans could come together in the face of adversity. The political song peaked at #3 on the Billboard hot 100 and remained one of the world’s most popular and respected songs.
Yoko Ono, who was present when Lennon was writing the song, said that John imagined what the world would be if we were all united together, one country, one world, and one people – and he wanted to share the idea with the world.
24. Beautiful Day – U2
Beautiful Day is about a man who lost everything but still found joy in what he had left. The song was inspired by Bono’s experience with Jubilee 2000 – an international coalition movement urging politicians to drop the Third World Debt.
It is the lead single from U2’s 2000 album – All That You Can’t Leave Behind. The song is about finding happiness in difficult situations. Beautiful Day peaked at #1 on the U.K. charts, making it the group’s fourth U.K. #1 after Discotheque, Desire, and The Fly.
25. Unstoppable – Santigold
The famous track was produced by the famed American D.J., songwriter, and record producer – Diplo. It became a massive success after being used as a soundtrack for an internet video that went viral in 2009. In the video, a shirtless guy dances enthusiastically to the song on a hill at the Sasquatch festival. The guy inspires hundreds of other concertgoers to join him in starting an enviable dance party.
26. True Colors – Cyndi Lauper
True Colors is a signature record for the eccentric American singer. Although Billy Steinberg initially wrote the song about his mother, it resonated with Cyndi Lauper because of her good friend, Gregory Natal. Over time, the song grew to become an anthem for the L.G.B.T. community. True to her cause, Cyndi eventually opened a shelter for homeless lesbian, gay, trans, and bisexual youth – the shelter was poetically named ‘True Colors.’ Over the years, the song has been covered by multiple artists, including Phil Collins and The Weekend.
27. Girl on Fire – Alicia Keys
According to Alicia Keys, the song is about letting go of anything holding you back from living your dreams. Following what you believe in with all your heart and willpower. It was the first single off her fifth studio album. The song was inspired by an article written by Jeannine Amber on Essence magazine, which described the artist as a ‘girl on fire’.
28. Heroes – David Bowie
‘Heroes’ were featured in Bowie’s second studio album, Berlin Trilogy.’ The song went on to become one of the artist’s signature songs. Over the years since it was released, the music has been associated with hope and optimism. Some even credit the song as one of the reasons the fall of the Berlin Wall was successful – this was after David Bowie performed it live in front of the Reichstag in 1987.
29. Lovely Day – Bill Withers
Published in 1977 by Bill Withers, the song appeared in his 1978 album – Menagerie. In early 1978, the song peaked at #30 on the Billboard Top 100 and #6 on the Billboard R&B chart. It also reached #7 on the British Single chart.
The song was popularly used in a series of commercials for The Gap, where it helped thousands of khakis. The song is also popularly known for the 18-second note hold. Bill performs at the end of the song, which might be the longest-held recorded note in any American hit song of the 20th century.
30. Stand by Me – Ben E. King
Stand by Me is still a favorite for millions of people worldwide. Initially released in 1961, the song became an anthem of hope and love across the decades. Ben E. King wrote the song with help from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The song got its inspiration from ‘Stand by Me Father,’ a spiritual song written by Sam Cooke and JW Alexander – and recorded by the Soul Stirrers. ‘Stand by Me’ was also a famous gospel hymn throughout the American South. Charles Albert Tindley originally wrote it. However, it was recorded by several gospel acts in the 50s.
The song has been covered hundreds of times ever since it was initially released. Some of the most popular covers are John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, and Florence + the Machine. Stand by Me has also gained a new face as a wedding favorite for years. It was even performed at the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
31. Teardrop – Massive Attack
When a song has been covered more than 20 times, you know it has rightfully achieved its status as a great piece of art. The inspirational gem was built around a sample of 1973 classic ‘Sometimes I Cry’ by jazz pianist Les McCann.
32. Survivor – Destiny’s Child
Survivor is one of the biggest hits from the girl group Destiney Child. The song is about surviving through different situations. It makes you feel strong and makes you feel like you can conquer anything that is thrown your way. Queen Bey herself claimed that the song was about anyone who ever doubted the group’s success, and what a way to tell off your haters? The smash-hit single won the 2001 MTV Video Music Award for the ‘Best R&B video.
33. I’m Still Standing – Elton John
I’m Still Standing is the second single from Elton John’s studio album ‘Too Low for Zero.’ The song is often seen as a statement of the artist’s resilience in the face of adversity. However, everyone who listens to it has a different interpretation, which fits into their life story. Elton sings the song to let a former lover know that he is still standing strong without them.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.