Just because being lonely is a normal part of our lives doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. Thousands of artists have written songs about being lonely and we love them for it.
Just in case you’re in the mood for a sad song, we’ve compiled twenty-one songs about loneliness. You might discover some new favorite tunes or revisit some forgotten favorites. Either way, we hope this list of the best songs about loneliness makes you feel a little better.
1. How Soon is Now? – The Smiths
“How Soon is Now?” is on their 1984 album, Hatful of Hollow. Morrissey sings about how his shyness keeps him from meeting and making connections with others. He feels inadequate in every part of his life, from going to the club to coming home alone. We’re led to believe from the start that this has been his fate as he sings that he has inherited his shyness.
His anxiety has reached a tipping point, and he doesn’t believe he can endure another minute of feeling so unloved.
The musical introduction is one of the most familiar guitar sounds in pop culture.
2. Drive – The Cars
While Ric Ocasek was the usual frontman for the Cars, bassist Ben Orr took the lead on this one.
From their album Heartbeat City it’s often considered their signature song. Some people are led to believe it’s about alcoholism, but before the days of Lyft and Uber, people viewed your status as being single or in a relationship by who drove you home from a party. The last person you’re with at the end of the evening is the one most likely to still be with you in the morning.
We assume the object of the singer’s attention is in denial about living alone. What we don’t know is if the person in question actually feels lonely or if this is the singer projecting his feelings.
This is a common element in songs about being alone and living in solitude. We are guessing the singer’s observations about the situation are accurate, but that isn’t always the case.
3. Storm – Lifehouse
Lifehouse released Who We Are in 2007. “Storm” is a haunting song with frontman Jason Wade singing a capella against minimal background music. The song is a moving description of his situation that reflects feelings of being alone and drowning in a stormy ocean. He’s hopeful the lover who made him feel so isolated will eventually bring him out of his misery.
“If I could just see you, everything would be alright.”
Wade said he loved the “starkness” of the recording and it definitely comes across to the listener.
4. Alone Again (Naturally) – Gilbert O’Sullivan
Back in 1972, Gilbert O’Sullivan sold over 2 million copies of this song. He might have sold more if people weren’t so busy sobbing whenever it came on the radio. Somehow or another, everyone in this man’s life leaves him and we’re the ones left feeling devastated by his losses.
5. The Outside – Taylor Swift
This is about charting one’s own path and then being rejected outright with no chance of being let into the fold. The loneliness she feels by being put in this situation is unlike any other pain she’s ever felt.
Taylor Swift wrote this song when she was 12 years old. It proves that anyone can relate to songs about loneliness.
She has pointed to this song as being the bridge that created her career. She felt miserable in middle school, so much so that she never knew if anyone would talk to her. It gave her the “rock bottom” she needed to handle being rejected by record labels.
6. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
This is from Tyler’s Faster than the Speed of Night. Released in 1983, it was nominated for the 1984 American Music Award for Best Pop/Rock Single (it lost to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”) and earned Tyler a Grammy Nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
The consensus of people who have heard this song is that it’s about Bonnie’s breakup. She thought she had found the love of her life, but she’s alone with that idea. Her emotional wounds force her to withdraw and not allow anyone else to reach her.
Composed by the superb songwriter/producer, Jim Steinman, the song is actually about two vampires falling in love. “Every now and then…,” we think he isn’t quite right.
7. All By Myself – Eric Carmen
Eric sings about how love used to be a game, but as he’s grown older, he’s afraid he left his best friends and lovers in his past. Now that he’s older and ready to settle down with one person, there’s no one available.
The song was released in 1975 as a single from Carmen’s self-titled album. It’s really a mash-up of Rachmaninoff and a song he wrote while with the Raspberries.
8. Are You Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley
This song is about a man who fell madly in love with someone who, basically, was faking it. Elvis wonders if she’s thinking about the good times they had together. It’s pretty obvious that he is doing most of the grieving.
Elvis recorded this song at the request of Colonel Tom Parker’s wife. It was released in 1960. Three months later, it was certified gold. It reached the top of the charts in the United States and United Kingdom.
Originally composed in 1926, its popularity has lasted nearly a century.
9. Days Go By – Dirty Vegas
Songwriter Steve Smith says that he wrote it based on a personal event that ended on a much more positive note. The singer remembers a love that has left him and at a time when he was at a low point in his life. He remembers every detail about her and now, can’t remember a time when she wasn’t a part of his life.
“Bitter cold within” pretty much sums it up.
10. Here I Go Again – Whitesnake
This is from Whitesnake’s Saints and Sinners, released in 1982. It was a number one hit in the United States.
David Coverdale wrote the lyrics about his failing marriage. It’ s about the loneliness you feel while dealing with a breakup. He’s walking away from another failed relationship and has been through the cycle so many times, he feels like it’s his destiny to live his life as a single man.
Feeling we will never find lasting happiness is a common theme in songs about being lonely.
11. Never Knew Lonely – Vince Gill
Vince has suddenly realized that the woman he loves is the love he needs in his life. He recognizes how much he misses her when he’s separated from her.
The song is from the album When I Call Your Name and was released in 1990.
12. Alone – Heart
Ann Wilson sings about how she finally finds a man she could spend the rest of her life with. Unfortunately, her would-be love is nowhere to be found. This was recorded back in the days when, if you didn’t answer your home phone, no one could reach you. She is by herself, wondering where he is and how she can get him alone to confess her love. This was from their 1987 album, Bad Animals.
13. Without You – Harry Nilsson
This is a cover originally written and recorded by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of the British rock band, Badfinger.
The recording sounds dated since they used an orchestra in the background, but the song itself has stood the test of time even though it has a very dark history. It’s a somber song about thoughts of suicide after a breakup. “I can’t forget tomorrow when I think of all my sorrows,” refers to him dreading the idea of a future without her.
14. Here Without You – 3 Doors Down
Many songs center around the loneliness created by the absence of one particular person. Singer Brad Arnold mentions in the opening verse he and his partner have been apart one hundred days. He holds onto the fact that she’s still with him in his dreams.
Many people think this is a breakup song, but an interview with the songwriter mentions it’s intended to be positive. From this, we can conclude that the separation isn’t permanent.
The song rose to the top of several Billboard charts in 2003.
15. Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
This is one of the most iconic songs about loneliness ever written. It’s from their 1966 album, Revolver. It’s the story of two people that are involved with a church.
Father McKenzie writes sermons “no one will hear.” It’s ambiguous whether people simply don’t attend his church or they’re not connecting with his message. The Beatles loved using simple stories to convey deeper meanings.
Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice after the wedding. She wasn’t connected to the ceremony. Her only connection was to the building. We realize that she still hopes for a relationship, but there’s really no one around for her.
The first time we realized Father McKenzie buried Eleanor Rigby, we were overwhelmed by their collective isolation.
16. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys
“Lonely Boy” was released in 2011 on the El Camino album and is one of their most popular songs.
There are a couple of lines that tell us he may be used to living and dealing with people in a higher income bracket. Think of movies like Pretty Woman and Mystic Pizza and you get the idea.
He falls for her, but she rips his heart out. He’s so infatuated, he doesn’t mind the torment. He’s love struck and lonely.
17. In the Dark – Billy Squier
Squier’s album Don’t Say No is a triple platinum album that was released in 1981.
There are thousands of references in art and literature pointing to how our world feels brighter when we’re in a relationship.
Billy sings to an unknown person about what it’s like to be alone and how they hide their true feelings every day. He offers them an invitation to walk away from loneliness and take a chance on someone new.
“The dark” could refer to how we feel when living alone. There’s also some speculation that it could be a reference to being in the closet, which can create its own feelings of isolation.
18. Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes
The song is from the Yes album 90125 and it’s the most commercially successful song in their discography.
This is not a broken relationship song! Yes sings about how many of our day-to-day decisions leave us feeling isolated. We will all face the consequences of our decisions and indecisions. To that end, we need to make our choices based on what we feel is best for us.
There are also plenty of references that lead us to believe that even thinking about freedom and revolution will be dealt with severely by a totalitarian government or the Thought Police.
Oddly, it brings to mind Taylor Swift’s “The Outside” since it was her commitment to her passion for composing and singing music that ostracized her from her classmates.
19. Leave Me Alone (I’m Lonely) – P!nk
One of the more interesting songs about being lonely. P!nk wowed the critics with this single about the duality of how you can feel incredibly lonely, but still want to be left alone.
She feels smothered by her lover. We all need “me time” and can get irritated when we can’t have some time for ourselves.
20. Have You Ever – Brandy
From Brandy’s 1998 album Never Say Never, this mirrors Heart’s song that was released eleven years earlier.
She’s laying awake at night, trying to find a way to say what’s in her heart. It’s clear that he isn’t returning her love, but we don’t know if that’s because he isn’t interested or is just clueless.
21. Message in a Bottle – The Police
The island they’re singing about isn’t found on a map. It’s found in the depths of our souls. Sting mentions that the metaphor is subtle. You can interpret this literally as a guy on an island, but the deeper meaning is it’s a song about living with loneliness. There’s comfort at the end when he realizes that this is something everyone goes through. “Seems I’m not alone in being alone.”
He nailed that part.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other 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.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.