Sara Bareilles has become one of the most acclaimed singers and songwriters of the last decade, producing songs that are celebrated for her vocal performances and emotional vocals. You can always expect a bit of vulnerability, raw emotion, and good advice when you throw on one of her tracks, which has made sure that her work has resonated with listeners around the world.
While massive chart success hasn’t been on her radar, critics and fans alike fall a bit more in love with her work with each subsequent release. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 15 best Sara Bareilles songs and rank them according to the songwriting behind them, the message they convey, and the success the tracks were able to find.
Brave is probably the first track that comes to mind when you think of Sara Bareilles. This pop anthem from her 2013 album Blessed Unrest was released to incredible critical and fan reception and serves as something of a fight song to many listeners. It was inspired by the struggles of a friend dealing with coming out as gay, and the production of it was directly focused on reaching tremendous levels of radio airplay.
It quickly rose on music charts, becoming her third top 40 hit in the US and peaking at number 23. It was later covered by Lea Michele and Naya Rivera on an episode of Glee in 2014 and has been used in numerous ads for the Nokia Lumia line of devices. It then earned a nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
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2. King of Anything
King Of Anything is an incredibly fun track from Sara Bareilles that has been a fan favorite since it was first released in 2010 on her album Kaleidoscope Heart. According to her, it was meant as a “f*ck you song.” Inspired by all of the unsolicited advice she’s been given throughout her lifetime, most of which was just exhausting or frustrating.
In her classic empowering way, she turned that frustration into a track that doesn’t even sound angry despite being a full takedown of her critics and the people who think they know better than she does what she should be doing with her life. It debuted at number 52 on the Hot 100 and eventually peaked at number 32, earning a platinum certification in the US along the way. It also earned a nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance but lost to Lady Gaga’s song Bad Romance.
3. Love Song
Love Song was Sara Bareilles’s debut single, and it was the track that put her on the musical map. Coming from her major record label debut album Little Voice in 2007, it’s still one of her most successful songs of all time. It spent 19 weeks in the top 10 of the Hot 100 and 41 weeks on the chart in total, eventually peaking at number four on the Hot 100, UK Singles Chart, and the Australian ARIA charts. It topped the Canadian Hot 100 and the US Mainstream Top 40 charts as well.
One of the things that made it resonate with listeners was the honesty and vulnerability on display in the single. It was a peak behind the curtain of an artist just coming onto the mainstream scene with a free iTunes song of the week. While it didn’t win either award, it earned nominations for both Song of the Year and Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 2009 Grammy Awards.
Sticking with Sara Bareilles’ debut album, we also have to give a nod to Gravity for being one of her best songs of all time. It was released as the third single from her 2007 album Little Voice, it was written after the singer’s first real heartbreak and has the raw emotional performance you would expect from that kind of event. The haunting nature of the track was a credit to her songwriting talent and the way she captured the complex nature of relationships was nothing short of brilliant.
Before being included on Little Voice, it first appeared on her college a cappella group’s album Dysfunktional Family Album and her earlier album Careful Confessions. It would eventually find a place online in the YouTube community for character-shipping videos. While the single failed to chart in the US, it still earned a double platinum certification from the RIAA.
5. Chasing the Sun
Chasing The Sun ended up being the lead single from Sara Bareilles’ 2013 album The Blessed Unrest. It’s meant to be an upbeat song about seizing the day and making sure to prioritize the important things in life, but it’s built on sobering imagery.
The track was inspired by and built on the idea of tombstones looking like miniature skyscrapers, a reminder that each person’s time is limited and that once it happens to be up, there’s none left to make things happen. It’s looked back on as an anthem of living your life to the fullest and a happy reminder to make the most of the opportunities you get in life.
6. Gonna Get Over You
Gonna Get Over You was the final single released from Sara Bareilles’ album Kaleidoscope Heart and was touted as a highlight of the album. The retro-inspired track gets its rhythm from catchy guitar riffs, and the lyrics are just as playful as the chords.
While it deals with the heavy topic of moving on from a relationship, it does so in a fun and playful way, reveling in the strength to let go rather than drowning in regret. It was also a fun song because it blended genres like rock, doo-wop, and pop in an elegant and entertaining way, exactly the style she has become known for.
7. She Used to be Mine
She Used To Be Mine is a bit different from these other songs, as it was released as part of the musical Waitress in 2015 rather than on any of her albums. Like her other best work, it combines her songwriting talents with a simple piano arrangement to dive into themes like self-doubt, regret, and how time passes by.
The lyrics illustrate the way a woman is reflecting on her life and the things she wishes to change in a raw and honest way. This made it beloved by fans and one of her best tracks despite it not being an album release at the time.
8. Bottle It Up
Sara Bareilles often shows a particular knack for capturing the emotions of young women across the country or giving sound advice, laying those feelings out in an honest and non-combative way for listeners. Bottle It Up is another song that beautifully achieves this goal, letting younger people know that others will want them to bottle up who they truly are and stifle their creativity.
Her advice is to live your life to the fullest and be the person you choose to be rather than let anyone else dictate your choices. It went on to become a fan favorite and a staple of her live shows.
Uncharted was the lead single for Sara Bareilles’ album Kaleidoscope Heart in 2010, and it set the tone for the album as being uplifting, positive, and individualistic. This one mainly focuses on being willing to take risks and discover the things that drive you, stepping out of your comfort zone, and being unafraid of the unknown.
It mirrored much of the other songs in the album in that positive outlook and advice department, but it was a notch above most of them. Her vocal performance in the track is astounding, and it is one of the few songs that really lets her show off the range of her voice.
10. I Choose You
All of Sara Bareilles’ music is a testament to her songwriting and vocal abilities, but some songs showcase those things better than others. I Choose You is a brilliant love ballad that manages to show off both of those things. It discusses finding true love and committing to a lifelong partnership with that special someone, framing those things as joyful life events that everyone should not only seek but be proud of. It eventually became a popular track at weddings and proposals, but its true power is in the performance she gives for the song.
11. When You Wish Upon a Star
When You Wish Upon A Star is one of Disney’s most famous and beloved tracks. It was written for the 1940 animated film Pinocchio and was originally sung by Cliff Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket. It eventually found a place as the theme song of Disney itself and is often used as one of the opening tracks behind production logos at the beginning of all of the company’s movies.
Sara Bareilles recorded a cover of the song for Disney’s centennial anniversary as part of the company’s 100 Years of Wonder campaign, releasing it as a single in 2023.
12. One Sweet Love
One Sweet Love was one of the best songs from Sara Bareilles’s Careful Confessions album. Yes, it’s an earlier track from her that doesn’t have as much of the lyrical depth she was able to produce later on, but it’s still utterly beautiful. A heartfelt ballad, it discusses love and vulnerability, tackling those topics with raw emotion and passion. It’s a song that resonates with listeners regardless of their background. The chorus sees her take her vocal range to new heights as well, providing a catchy and emotional portion to the track.
13. Come Home
Come Home was a single released by OneRepublic that Sara Bareilles was a featured artist on. Listening to her and the band trade verses and work off of each other is a treat and makes for one of the most captivating songs on the entire list. It first appeared in 2009 on OneRepublic’s album Dreaming Out Loud, and it broke onto the Hot 100, peaking at number 80. This version of the track was later featured on several TV programs, including Gossip Girl, Cold Case, Easy A, and The Vampire Diaries.
City was written by Sara Bareilles about her time at UCLA and how big of a culture shock she went through. As a small-town girl moving to Los Angeles, everything was much different than at home and it made her feel lonely and isolated. The song reflects those feelings and talks about her search for people who made her feel like herself.
It also discusses trying to find real love in a big city like L.A., not knowing where to even begin, and being overwhelmed by the vastness of the area. There is also a piano version of the track that is even more beautiful than the album version, bringing in a guitar solo and otherwise mellow instrumentation.
15. 1000 Times
The song 1000 Times is a haunting track about unrequited love but makes it even more personal. It talks about being in love with someone who you see regularly and you think you’re friends with, but the realization of deeper feelings is daunting. Rather than just loving someone who doesn’t love you back, this one is about loving someone and having no idea what their feelings towards you are, which is a much scarier prospect. It’s a sad single about the desperation, depression, and fear that comes with that situation.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.