As described by The Washington Post, crafting popular music can get a bit formulaic. Well, for starters, many renowned songwriters tend to gravitate towards certain instruments, song structure, and of course, lyrics.
With this mentioned, you might be wondering know: What are the most frequently used words in popular music? As many songs explore the theme of being alive, being in love, and being free, the words breath or breathe are often used to represent these themes.
According to a 2017 word count, the word ”breathe” is among the 29 most used words in songs since the 1920s and among the four most popular in the 2000s. These are the times when many songs about breathing—both literally and figuratively—were produced.
Hence, it won’t probably be difficult for you to think of a song with this word (and any of its variations) in it!
What’s cool to know is that breathing and music are much more linked. In a 2005 study, it was found that listening to music can stabilize one’s breathing and heart rate, ultimately helping you keep calm when you need it! Another study has found that music can be a great guide when it comes to breathing exercises.
To celebrate everything we’ve learned so far, we compiled a list of 25 breathtaking songs about breathing!
Top 25 Songs About Breathing
1. “Breathin” by Ariana Grande
We’re kicking our list off with sort of our title track.
Breathin was written by global pop superstar Ariana Grande alongside industry staples such as Savan Kotecha and Ilya Salmandazeh. The track was released as the third single off of 2018’s Grammy-winning album Sweetener. Lyrically, it tackled anxiety in the light of how it changes the way we breathe.
The track features vocal acrobatics from Grande that will surely get you gasping for air, alongside a masterful production and even an electric guitar solo in the bridge. The track eventually peaked at number 12 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
2. “You Take My Breath Away” by Queen
We’re now transitioning from one queen to another with a masterpiece from Queen.
The track will surely immediately get your attention with the way it starts—an acapella intro filled with beautifully stacked harmonies then transitioning to a soft piano instrumental. Many critics and fans often associate the song lyrically with a love letter. It talks about the perplexing beauty of romance and yearning for the feeling it imbues.
The song never really progresses much in terms of instrumentals, but the vocal prowess exhibited was enough to drive it. A notable highlight is how the song ends!
3. “Breathe” by Pink Floyd
The progressive rock band Pink Floyd surely had a roster of hits, and this track is no exemption.
The song is part of the band’s ever-iconic studio album The Dark Side of the Moon released in 1973 (if you’re not familiar with the album, you’re most likely aware of its cover art). Thanks to several overdubs, the track boasts a rich sound produced by an electric guitar.
The mid-tempo track’s intro may be weird to listen to at first, especially if you’re listening outside the album; it’s because the track transitions from another song Speak to Me.
4. “Lose My Breath” by Destiny’s Child
If this list is lacking more stars (for now), we’ll now be adding the legendary Destiny’s Child to the mix.
The track was written and produced for the 2004 album and the American band’s fourth full-length project Destiny Fulfilled. The banger served as the album’s lead single, setting off the project’s upcoming R&B and dance-pop sound. Specifically, the song incorporates up-tempo pacing with military percussions and marching which will surely get you dancing and lose your breath.
Lyrically, it talks about how women want their potential lovers to do better. The song received critical and commercial acclaim. It received a Grammy nomination and reached the Hot 100’s top 3.
5. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
“Every breath you take and every move you make” hold it there. We know you want to sing the entirety of the amazing (understatement) track.
The track was released as a single by the English rock band The Police from their 1983 studio album Synchronicity. To say that the positive reception for the song was outlandish is an understatement. To list a few examples, it topped the Hot 100 for eight weeks, won Song of the Year and Best Performance for a Duo/Group, and was recognized as the most well-played radio song by BMI.
It ranked as the best song of its year by Billboard and is part of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It’s only right that any list of songs about breathing should include this classic!
6. “Take My Breath” by The Weeknd
The Weeknd has surely taken over global charts in the recent couple of years, and this track is an amazing example of why.
This song is one of the most recent on the list, being released in 2021. It served as the lead single off of The Weeknd’s fifth full-length album Dawn FM (2022). Critics would describe the track’s production as “psychedelic,” featuring common elements you would hear in disco, funk, and dance-pop tracks. Its whirling synths continue The Weeknd’s 80s sound established in 2020s After Hours.
The single was a commercial success, bagging The Weeknd’s 13th top 10 hits in the US Hot 100.
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7. “Just Breathe” by Willie Nelson
“Yes, I understand that every life must end. As we sit alone, I know someday we must go.”
In terms of lyricism and composition, this track would as well top this list! The 2012 track from Willie Nelson’s studio album Hero talked about the beauty of loving someone and the equally tragic moment of losing them. Just Breathe continues Nelson’s signature country roots, interpolating an acoustic guitar, some light percussion, and a refreshing harmonica.
It may be unknown to some, but this track is actually a cover from the 2009 track from Pearl Jam.
8. “How Do I Breathe” by Mario
Of course, how could we forget sprinkling in some good old R&B in our list?
The track How Do I Breathe was recorded by the American R&B artist Mario. It served as the lead single off of his third full-length project Go. The song was a modest commercial success, debuting inside the US Hot 100 and eventually entering the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Critics have attributed the song to paying tribute to the sound that Neyo was known for. It met positive reviews, describing to have a simple charm. It is cemented as one of Mario’s better works to date.
9. “The Breath You Take” by George Strait
If you condense this song into one line it would probably be: Living is not about the breath you would be taking but the moments that would be breath-taking.
Indeed, George Strain (being a veteran in country music) is no stranger to crafting well-made hits. It was released in 2010 as the fourth single off of Strait’s album Twang. The song received modest commercial success, entering the Hot Country Songs chart’s top 10. It eventually bagged a Grammy nomination for the best country song.
Lyrically, the song tackles fatherly love across different stages of life. It incorporates the country sound go-to’s that Strait is known for.
10.“Still Breathing” by Green Day
With 75 million records sold globally alongside five Grammy wins from 20 nominations, it would be impossible that you haven’t heard of Green Day.
The American rock band is known for their dark, heavy-hitting, and emotional tracks, and Still Breathing would be a great representative of these sounds. The 2016 track was released as the second single off of the band’s 12th full-length album Revolution Radio. The track tackles resiliency—basically, how an individual retains strength amid the most difficult of times.
Critics describe the song to be “serious” and unsettling.” It sampled a melody from Could Have Been Me by The Struts.
11.“Breathe” by Faith Hill
If we’re to talk about country music, it would be disrespectful to exclude Faith Hill from the conversation. During the 90s, she surely cemented herself as an industry name—and we can take a peek at that through this track.
Breathe is a country-pop track released as the lead single and title track off of Hill’s fourth studio album in 1999. It became Hill’s seventh chart-topper in the country charts. Its commercial success was further ratified by its number two peak in the US Hot 100.
It interpolates elements of a classic power ballad, gaining positive attention from critics.
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12.“No Air” by Jordin Sparks
Finally, a song on this list without “breath” or its variations in the title.
No Air tackles the intensity of a romantic relationship and how one would find it difficult to live without the other – “Can’t live, can’t breathe with no air. That’s how I feel whenever you ain’t there.”
The track was released in 2008 and served as the second single off of Jordin Spark’s self-titled album. To this date, the song secured eight platinum certifications from different countries. It was also able to attain huge commercial success in the US, reaching the Hot 100’s top three.
13.“Breathing” by Kate Bush
Breathing is one of the older songs on this list (being released in 1980), but it can surely keep up with the tracks before it.
Unlike many songs in this list, the subject matter of this track is quite peculiar and, maybe, a hint of depressing. It talks about a specific situation in the nuclear war, where a baby in the womb would have no choice but to breathe in radioactive air.
If there’s something that will surely make this track stand out, it would be its music video. Hint: it’s tightly associated with the song’s message.
14.“Breathe You In” by Dierks Bentley
American country singer Dierks Bentley has an array of hits under his belt and this one is surely a standout.
Brace yourselves because this song may get a little weird. Breathe You In talks about loving someone so much that you want to breathe them in. “I wanna breathe you in. I wanna be so close. You can wear my skin like a new set of clothes.” It may come off as too much to many, but love really does make you go a tiny bit crazy.
As you would guess, it incorporated classic country sounds alongside Bentley’s commendable vocal performance.
15.“Harder to Breathe” by Maroon 5
Maroon 5 unarguably introduced us to two decades of hits and classics, and we have this track to thank for putting the band on the map.
The song served as the American band’s debut single and was written by Adam Levine, himself. It was released in 2002 as the lead single off of Maroon 5’s debut album Songs About Jane. Lyrically, it discussed the exhaustion of being in a suffocating relationship.
Despite being a debut single, the track was able to crack the US Hot 100’s top 20 (it peaked at 18!). Later on, in an interview with MTV, Levine revealed that the song was about their frustration with their label
16.“Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
If it just so happens that you’ve spent your teenage years in the early 2000s, you had probably had this song on repeat inside your head at least once.
With her signature angst, American Idol icon Kelly Clarkson talked about how she was able to breathe after getting out of a suffocating relationship. The song interpolated pop-rock elements along with power ballad elements, giving us a peek into the sound that Breakaway (2004) would be giving.
It was listed by many critics as one of the best pop songs of the 2000s and was even included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The track was also one of Clarkson’s biggest hits, clinching the Hot 100’s number two spot.
17.“Breathe Deeper” by Tame Impala
If a song in this list took things to the most literal, it would be Tame Impala’s Breathe Deeper.
Again, this track is one of the most recent on the list. It was released in 2020 as part of the psychedelic project’s studio album The Slow Rush. Lyrically, the song discusses the importance of breathing and how the sustenance of life revolves around it. It incorporated several electronic elements, with a playful and funky production reminiscent of that of Pharell Williams.
It was able to chart in five countries. In the US, it was successful in clinching the number two spot on Billboard’s Hot Rock Songs.
18.“Last Breath” by Plain White T’s
Breathing is commonly attributed to life. However, in Plain White T’s Last Breath, this is not necessarily the case.
The song was written by Tom Higgenson and was released as a single off of their studio album Wonders of the Younger in 2010. For its instrumentals, an acoustic guitar (along with other strings) was heavily utilized. Its solemn and ambient feel created a haunting experience that crafted a different vibe for this ballad.
Lyrically, it talks about the death of a loved one.
19. “Breathe In Breathe Out” by Kanye West
Breathe In Breathe Out was released by Kanye West as part of his seventh full-length project The College Dropout in 2004. If you decide to listen to the track, you’d immediately be inclined to bop your head. Sonically, it features a playful production with a bouncy sound effect and sections of thick horns. To be more creative in describing it: it’s like children’s music but on steroids.
The song interpolates pop, hip-hop, and R&B. It tackles Kanye’s struggle as he got famous, and how people around him tend to take advantage of his newfound lifestyle.
20.“It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing” by Shania Twain
Shaina is well-aware of how to craft hits, and this Canadian top five hit is a great example of that.
It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing was released as the fourth (and final) single off Twain’s fourth full-length studio album Up!. Immediately, the song stands out amid all the tracks in the aforementioned project. Sonically, it is a heartbreaking ballad with interpolated country elements.
Aside from being the sole non-up tempo track in the album, it’s also the only song that did not delve into the themes of positivity and optimism.
21.“I’ll Hold My Breath” by Ellie Goulding
“Breathe air you’re not used to, tread floors you don’t fall through. Make waves. You crash a symbol hard.”
I’ll Hold My Breath by Ellie Golding a deep cut from her 2010 studio album Bright Lights. It talked about the importance of taking a breather – a break amidst everything that’s been keeping you busy. It also talked about having a special person to be there when you need a place to rest.
The track fuses elements of alternative pop with electro-pop. Sonically, synths played an important role in driving the song’s progression. Electronic elements, keyboards, and harmonies were also heavily utilized.
22.“Breathless” by The Corrs
If you haven’t heard or listened to any songs by The Corrs, you are missing out big time! The band combines sounds from pop-rock that we usually hear alongside traditional Irish music. Talk about creativity!
Of course, their song Breathless is no exemption as proof of their talent. The song was released as the lead single of In Blue in 2000, giving fans a sneak peek at what’s to come. It received modest commercial success, being the group’s sole UK chart-topper and US top 40 hit.
Breathless is straight-out pop and talks about female sexuality. It eventually received a Grammy nomination.
23.“I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R.
I Can’t Breathe is a 2020 song recorded and released by the American R&B artist H.E.R. The critically acclaimed track penetrated Billboard’s Hot R&B Songs chart’s top 20.
The song was and is socially significant, talking about systemic racism in the United States. H.E.R. was able to beautifully word out the decades of anger and frustrations felt by the black community as exacerbated by George Floyd’s death.
“We breathe the same and we bleed the same. But still, we don’t see the same”
Top industry critics describe the song to be “powerful” and “moving.” The song won Song Of The Year at the 63rd Grammy Awards.
Next: 25 Songs About Animals
24.“Alive” by Sia
Despite our keyword not being there, you’ll probably know why this track is on this list – that is if you’ve at least listened to the song once.
Alive was released as the lead single off of This Is Acting (2016) – one of Australian singer-songwriter Sia’s most critically acclaimed body of work to date. The song highlights the singer’s powerhouse vocals (especially in that chorus), accompanied by dark, heavy synthesizers. Alive was loved by critics and was able to penetrate the top 40 in 15 countries. Lyrically, it talks about being a survivor amidst tragedy – about how one remains breathing after coming out of a thunderstorm.
Fun fact: the song was actually written by Sia for Adele!
25.“Breathe” by Taylor Swift
We started this list with an A-list pop star and we’re ending it with another one. And of course, what’s a songs list without Ms. Swift herself.
Breathe was released and co-written by mega pop star Taylor Swift as a deep cut for her second studio album Fearless (2008). It featured vocals and writing help from fellow Americal singer and songwriter Colbie Caillat. The song’s lyrics focuses on the heartbreak caused by the loss of a valuable friendship.
The track uses the sound Swift was known for during her early career – of course, her country roots. An acoustic guitar was prominent accompanied by a piano and a violin. The song was able to enter Billboard’s Hot 100 and is certified Gold in the US.
We, as humans thrown in such a busy world, often overlook breathing. It’s one of the most apparent acts that keeps living beings living.
As you might have concluded after hovering through this list, there is a lot of songs about breathing (or at least songs that contain the word). And what we’ve listed is only the tip of a deeply sunken iceberg. This, in itself, should already stand as a testament of how important this word is in popular music.
Next time you go out and listen to a couple of the songs we’ve listed, try taking a deep breath and appreciate the beauty of life. In the hustle and bustle of life, it takes so little to be alive—but it takes so much to truly live.