Failure is an inevitable part of life that can either break a person or motivate them to overcome it and become better. But its inevitability doesn’t make it less scary or difficult, with failure serving as one of the greatest builders of character while simultaneously being one of the most depressing parts of life. Since it can impact any aspect of life, from love to reaching your goals, it’s no surprise that failing is a common theme in music. In this article, we’ll look at 35 songs about failure.
1. Loser – Beck
Loser is the song of the cynical, the unmotivated, and the alienated. It’s the track of the people many call losers and failures for not taking themselves too seriously or having a huge level of confidence in themselves. Beck nailed this alt-rock hit single by combining nonsense lyrics and self-denigration to speak to a generation of people who felt the same way during the 1990s. Maybe we shouldn’t label people slackers and instead look for the things they love to motivate them.
2. In The End – Linkin Park
In The End was a smash hit for Linkin Park when it was released in 2001, and even more than 20 years later, it remains one of their most beloved and iconic songs. It talks a lot about personal failures, focused primarily on the singer’s inability to start a relationship with the person he’s interested in.
This failure to communicate his feelings stops him from ever knowing what could have been and makes all of that potential a waste. The song also questions whether any of it even mattered in the end, as feelings of self-doubt have become so ingrained in the singer that one of the reasons he didn’t bother was that he didn’t believe it would go anywhere.
3. Let You Down – Seether
Let You Down by Seether is another great song about failing in a relationship because of holding back. The main focus is the lack of communication from a partner this time though, with the singer letting them know that if they don’t tell them the things that the other needs, they won’t be able to live up to expectations and will disappoint them. It’s a track about trying to avoid failure at the very least, hoping to find solutions for the problems present in their relationship.
4. Bad Day – Daniel Powter
Daniel Powter’s Bad Day was an international hit single in 2005 that resonated with millions of people around the world. Some days just feel crummy and finding the energy to simply exist is exhausting. The song is a bit of a reminder that bad days don’t last and you aren’t a failure if you have one every now and then. The important thing is to move on and wait for a better day to get things done without letting the crap day overcome you.
5. I Fought The Law – The Clash
The Clash’s I Fought The Law is a classic song that tells the story of a man who tries to rob a bank because he is poor but winds up in jail because he wasn’t able to fight against the law. The upbeat tone of the track might seem a bit out of place for the subject matter but that was one of the things that made it such a classic. The worst part of his failure is that he can’t be with the woman he loves anymore, as his getting caught and thrown in jail means he can’t go see her anytime soon.
6. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
While never giving up is a key component to overcoming failure, sometimes knowing when to give in is the best way to avoid bigger failures. Kenny Rogers’ famous hit song The Gambler sees an old man giving life advice in exchange for some whiskey, telling the narrator that the smartest thing they can do is know when to walk away.
7. Lose Yourself – Eminem
Lose Yourself might be one of the most powerful anti-failure songs there is. The introduction for the track makes it clear that the opportunity of a lifetime is staring the rapper in the face, but questions what he will do with the moment. It talks about being at the bottom of the rap game and seizing the moment to rise above all of the obstacles in the way of success.
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8. Forever – Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, And Eminem
Forever was an epic hit that saw Drake, Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and Eminem team up on a song while all four icons were at the top of their game. Each rapper delivers a verse that talks about their stories of failure to success, reaching the top of the hip hop genre in their own way. Each verse is a deeply personal set of bars that takes listeners on a journey through the career of the rapper laying down the verse.
9. Creep – Radiohead
Radiohead’s biggest hit single is a song about seeing yourself as a failure and not living up to your own expectations. The narrator sees themselves as a loser, a weirdo, and a creep who feels like they don’t belong in social situations.
10. The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
The Winner Takes It All was inspired by the aftermath of a divorce by two members of ABBA. While this unfortunate tale is frankly sad, it turned out to give them an international hit single. The narrator of the song is left by her partner and is blindsided by the whole ordeal, forcing them to question where things went wrong and what failings were theirs in the relationship.
11. Surrender to Failure – KoЯn
Johnathan Davis wrote Surrender To Failure after losing his wife to an overdose. It focuses on his desire to turn back time and be there when she needed him, blaming himself for the situation and reaching that point in the first place. Regardless of fault, it’s common for people facing tragedy to feel like a failure for not doing more but that level of grief isn’t healthy and won’t help people come to terms with what has happened.
12. Failure – Breaking Benjamin
Breaking Benjamin’s song Failure is about struggling to accept personal failures but is also a track that reminds listeners that life goes on. The singer can’t accept the times they’ve failed but realizes that the world continues to move on like nothing happened no matter how many times he fails. This forces him to move on as well serving as an important lesson for listeners.
13. Failure’s Not Flattering (What’s Your Problem) – New Found Glory
Some people seem doomed to fail because they refuse to learn from their mistakes and continually make bad decisions. The people around them want them to smarten up and do better, knowing that they have the ability but just refuse to do it. Failure’s Not Flattering by New Found Glory is a great example of viewing failure from the perspective of other people’s flaws and wishing they would do better for themselves.
14. Failure by Design – Brand New
The pressure of having work to do can often lead people to waste time avoiding getting anything done. This small level of failure is the result of burnout that can happen no matter what job you have. Brand New sums it up pretty well in their song Failure By Design, which was also an apology to their record producer for wasting so much studio time due to burnout from recording sessions.
15. The Burden of Our Failures – Ingested
We’ll talk several times about how failure can cause people to feel hopeless, but the best way to describe failure for those people is as a burden. It’s something that weighs you down if you let it, impacting every aspect of your life from your mental state to your physical well-being. Ingested did a great job of capturing those feelings in The Burden Of Our Failures, the perfect song for venting frustrations when you’re just waiting for something to fall your way for once.
16. I Don’t Belong Here – I Prevail
Not every failure is something you can control. Sometimes, things you have no power over feel like personal failures and these hurt even more than just failing because of the effort put in. It can even make people feel like their lives are falling apart. These themes are the subject of I Prevail’s single I Don’t Belong Here, one that’s universally relatable for anyone trying to find their way in life but not feeling like they have the power to make meaningful changes on their own.
17. Failing in Love – Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige might have summed up the sunk-cost fallacy in relationships better than almost anyone else. Her single Failing In Love describes the internal struggle of letting go of a toxic relationship that’s falling apart, blaming herself, and trying to fix the problem rather than find something better. It was a unique track from 2022 that saw a return to prominence for her, helping earn her album Good Morning Gorgeous a Grammy nomination.
18. Failure Isn’t Forever – Nickel Creek
Failure Isn’t Forever is one of the best uplifting songs on this list about failure. Rather than another depressing track about the dark side of failure, this song serves as an inspirational reminder that failing gives people an opportunity to improve themselves. The only time a failure defines a person is when they give up, so keep on keeping on and work to take control of life even when it seems impossible.
19. Romantic Failure – Hinterwood
Romantic Failure is an interesting song because the singer purposefully fails in the romantic area of her life to gain insight into the flaws she has. Rather than seriously be with someone, she uses them to reveal things she should change in her life, then ends the relationship. It’s a testament to the way people self-sabotage relationships by wondering why anyone would want to be with them or looking for flaws when the other person might not see any.
20. Worthless – Eli.
Failing over and over can leave people feeling lost, which can then spiral into feeling worthless in the view of others. The entire process of looking at other people to find success but lacking it in the singer’s own life is on full display in the song, with envy, fear, and feelings of self-doubt being prominent parts of the track. By the end, they even wonder if life has any real meaning, driving home the level of depression they’ve reached.
21. Lonesome Loser – Little River Band
The loser in Lonesome Loser is talking about a man with a gambling problem who finds himself never winning big when he makes a bet. It seems he lives his entire life in this way too, not finding success in love or making it where they want to be in general. This old soft rock single is an awesome example of how addictions can be the catalyst for failure and the way they can permeate a person’s life.
22. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
Ring Of Fire seems like an odd choice for this list. Those in the know are aware that June Carter wrote the song about falling in love with Johnny Cash, specifically for him to sing later on. But this track counts as a failure on several fronts for them.
When the two met, both were already married, and they still were when their relationship likely began during the time they were touring together. The two failed to follow through with their respective partners, igniting a love story for the ages at a steep cost, so I’m counting it as one about a failure in their lives.
23. Wake Me Up – Fickle Friends
Wake Me Up is a song about wanting to be pulled out of a failing relationship. The singer is well aware that their relationship is falling apart, with the realization of this fact motivating them to want to do something but be unsure of what to do. Communication is the root of the problem, leaving the bond between the two fragile and rotting. The emotion in the song is the best part about it, perfectly capturing what it feels like to know you’re failing at something you’ve worked hard at.
24. Failure – Blood Youth
Failure was Blood Youth’s debut single in 2015, which sounds like a bit of an ironic title for a band that has seemingly made it. The song itself is a hardcore punk anthem of wanting to start over after an endless number of failures. But that punk energy never gives in, and it serves as an awesome track about how failure can be overcome, no matter how many times a person fails or how difficult the road is, there’s always a way forward.
25. A Song for Failure – The Boys You Know
If you’re dealing with failures in life and need a little pick-me-up, checking out A Song For Failure is a great idea. The track is indeed exactly what the doctor ordered when dealing with failure, as the entire thing is a motivational song that will help people move on despite hardships in their way. And on a list full of tracks about how depressing failing can be, an uplifting single is a welcome addition.
26. Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home – Sinead O’Connor
Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home was originally recorded by country legend Loretta Lynn, but Sinead O’Connor’s version adds string and brass instruments to give the song even more emotion. It talks about the way prioritizing a career—in music, in this case—can be to the detriment of a partner. Even though the person in the song finds success, it costs them their relationship and the home they built together, as the feelings of closeness are no longer there.
27. The Elevator Song – Tie-Rex
The Elevator Song is about the way people feel like their failures bring down the people around them as well as if their failure is an elevator that brings them all to a lower floor. Those feelings put a lot of pressure on the singer when it comes to their goals, making them feel like they have no control or choice in life, compounding the problem. In the end, it’s a great sad song about failure that has an awesome guitar riff.
28. Failing on Purpose – Arrows in Action
Failing On Purpose isn’t actually a track about trying to fail, instead, it’s a song about the fear of watching a relationship fail. That fear can paralyze people, making them have anxiety over every little action they choose and wonder whether or not it could be the downfall of their relationship. This track describes the way the fear of failure can be the cause of failure, adding an extra layer to the parade of songs about failure we’ve already discussed.
29. Loser of the Year – Simple Plan
Loser Of The Year is a song about reaching all of your goals and finding them hollow. The narrator has made it big in their career, rubs elbows with celebrities, and is on the verge of winning numerous awards. But none of it matters to them without their lover, who was assumedly left behind in the pursuit of fame. It’s a testament to failing by not prioritizing the right things, even if your goals are achieved.
30. I’m A Loser – The Beatles
Nobody would characterize The Beatles as a failure, but they know a thing or two about feeling sorry for themselves. The narrator of I’m A Loser loses the woman he loves and offers advice to others to try to help them avoid the same fate.
31. Criminal – Britney Spears
Making the wrong choices when you know it’s the wrong choice is a failure just as much as not succeeding. Britney Spears frames this theme well in her song Criminal, as it discusses the narrator’s attraction to a bad guy with a bad history whom she knows she shouldn’t be messing around with.
32. I See Failure – Antarctigo Vespucci
In many cases, a single person can give you the hope to go on when everything feels pointless. I See Failure by Antarctigo Vespucci is a song about a man who feels like he’s destined to be a failure and allows his feelings of self-doubt to infect his relationship with his lover. Their presence gives him hope, but he can’t simply enjoy it because he wonders if they see him as a failure the way he sees himself.
33. FAILURE GIRL – Kairiki Bear
FAILURE GIRL is a song told from the perspective of a girl who thinks all the people around her consider her a failure and a loser despite her just looking for love and appreciation from her peers. The continual social failures lead to a snowball of self-doubt that rolls into an unending amount of suffering for the narrator.
34. A Suicidal Failure – Cage
A Suicidal Failure is one of the saddest songs on this list. After a man loses his lover, he attempts to take his life on several occasions but fails each time. These failures only compound the failure of his relationship and the way his life fell apart after his love left, leaving him feeling even worse. Despite the catchy beat, the track is a stark reminder of how failures can compound themselves if people allow them to.
35. Fails – Jynx
Fails was only released in 2019, but the song is incredibly reminiscent of the early-2000s sound of metal music. This track looks at failures as a positive, with them serving as a motivating factor rather than something that brings them down. It’s a reminder for listeners that it’s okay to push beyond their failures and make smart choices, no matter what anyone else tells them that they should feel when they don’t succeed.
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.