While many musicians sing about problems in relationships or fame, some sing about conquering it all and choosing to do so if they had to do it all over again. Indeed, music can be a great motivator and inspiration to persevere through hard times.
25 songs about overcoming obstacles, adversity, and challenges.
1. “Let It Be” by The Beatles
“Let It Be” is an iconic ballad by the English rock band the Beatles, first released in 1970 as a single for their album of the same name. Paul McCartney was inspired by his mother, Mary, to write this positive song. One night, he saw his mother in a dream, and she spoke to him. She came to him in his time of trouble with words of wisdom that brought him peace. It’s an inspirational song with a powerful message.
2. “Long Promised Road” by The Beach Boys
“Long Promised Road” is a song recorded by the American rock band the Beach Boys. It was from their 1971 album Surf’s Up. The song was written by Jack Rieley and Carl Wilson, who provided lead vocals. When Rieley was asked about the music in a 2013 interview, he said he was writing personal lyrics, like love songs with a sense of poetry. In this song, the band has captured the essence of what it means to overcome challenges and fight off obstacles.
3. “Imagine” by John Lennon
“Imagine,” a 1971 song by John Lennon, is one of the best-selling singles for his solo career. It was created when the Vietnam War was in full swing. This song encourages people to imagine a world without borders, religion, or materialism. This song is one of the most well-known and respected songs worldwide that inspires listeners to embrace peace and unity amidst the world’s challenges.
4. “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“I Can See Clearly Now” is a song written and recorded by singer Johnny Nash. The hit song was included on his album of the same name, released in 1972. The song was often thought to be about suicide. However, this song about strength and hope is dedicated to people who have experienced adversity and never gave up.
5. “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
From Michael Masser and Linda Creed, this song was written for the film 1977 The Greatest, which featured the life of boxer Muhammad Ali. The first version of the song was recorded by George Benson. Eight years later, Whitney Houston’s rendition of the song in 1985 made it even more well-known, topping the charts in the United States, Australia, Canada. The song is about the writer’s wish that children would learn to love themselves and believe in themselves even when faced with challenges or adversity.
6. “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin'” was released in 1981 as a single off of Journey’s album, Escape. Although it was not their biggest chart hit, this iconic track is the band’s most enduring song after resurging in the 2000s. The lyrics emphasize the importance of remaining positive when faced with challenges and uncertainty. Steve Perry himself believes in the ideals of believing in yourself and following your passion.
7. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
“Hold On” is an inspiring song by Wilson Phillips. It was released in 1990 as the lead single from their debut studio album, Wilson Phillips. This song addresses someone going through some rough times and encourages that person to persevere. They sing that things will get better and give the person some tough love but only to help them achieve success in life. When Chynna Phillips wrote the lyrics to the song, she was inspired by her personal experiences with drug and alcohol addiction.
8. “The Show Must Go On” by Queen
“The Show Must Go On” is co-written by Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury and lead guitarist Brian May. This beautiful song, released in 1991, pays tribute to the resilience of Mercury’s character. While it was essentially written by May based on his experiences with his father’s death, the main focus of the song revolves around Mercury’s struggle to overcome his terminal illness [HIV/AIDS] while recording Queen’s sixth studio album: Innuendo.
9. “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree
Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” is an R&B and soul song with lyrics about discovering one’s identity. It is included as the third track on Des’ree’s second album, I Ain’t Movin’. In the track, Des’ree encourages others to express their feelings, be true to themselves, and live life fully. The singer became successful worldwide after the single was released in 1994.
10. “Go the Distance” by Michael Bolton
“Go the Distance” is a song from Disney’s 1997 animated feature film, Hercules. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel wrote the song, while American actor Roger Bart recorded it for his film role as the singing voice of Hercules. The number is reprised when Hercules declares that he wants to become a true hero and “go the distance” to prove himself.
11. “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
“Survivor” is a song by American R&B group Destiny’s Child. Beyoncé wrote and composed the song with Anthony Dent and band manager Mathew Knowles. She says this was a defining moment in the career of Destiny’s Child, as they achieved success with the success came a great deal of negativity. The criticism encouraged her to “write them out of the negativity,” which is how she came up with this song.
12. “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
“Fighter” is a 2002 song by American singer Christina Aguilera included in her fourth studio album, Stripped. The song was written by Aguilera during the promotion of her debut album in 1999. She wanted to create an “emotionally rich and positive empowering” song, especially for women, so that they can speak for themselves and be strong. The lyrics are about resilience in the face of hardships, inspiring listeners to overcome their own challenges in life.
13. “Defying Gravity” by Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth
“Defying Gravity” is a song from the musical Wicked and was originally sung by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth in 2003. They won a Tony Award for this performance. The song has become a show-stopper that closes Act I and is considered the signature song of Wicked. The song’s popularity is due mainly to its inspirational message: Elphaba finds power in her outsider status.
14. “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor
Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name” is a tribute to Mike Shinoda’s struggle to defy adverse circumstances and reach his goals. In the lyrics, Shinoda discusses what an artist has to go through to succeed in the music industry. For many listeners, “Remember the Name” is about not giving up against all odds to achieve your dreams.
15. “Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne’s “Keep Holding On” is an inspirational ballad used as the theme song for the 2006 film Eragon. It is also included in her album, The Best Damn Thing. In the lyrics, Lavigne expresses to another person that they won’t be alone in their struggle, and they will make it through together. The song became an empowering anthem that reminds listeners of their strength and courage.
16. “Move Along” by The All-American Rejects
“Move Along” is a song recorded by the American rock band The All-American Rejects. Written by Nick Wheeler and Tyson Ritter, this song was released in 2006 as the second single from their second studio album. Wheeler explained that the song was written as a suicide awareness song about believing in yourself and persevering through tough times. The music video describes the experiences in life that we all face—whether we work as a doctor, librarian, gardener, football player, or in an office. The lead singer’s fictional engagement is called off, and he decides to move on.
17. “Titanium” by David Guetta, Sia
In “Titanium,” David Guetta gets a little help from Sia in encouraging listeners to conquer their fears and reach for their dreams. The song appeared on Guetta’s fifth studio album, Nothing but the Beat, released in 2011. This song is a powerful anthem against the critics and the bullies, equating vicious criticisms to bullets. The piece was built around the metaphor of a study metal resistant to harm.
18. “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato
This song is sung by American singer Demi Lovato. On November 1, 2010, their publicist announced that Lovato had entered a treatment facility for physical and emotional issues, which was subsequently reported to include an eating disorder and self-cutting. On December 18, 2011, the singer released the single “Skyscraper,” depicting their resilience in the face of personal issues. The single’s lyric is about the pain they felt in rehab because of their self-harm and eating disorders.
19. “Shake It Out” by Florence and The Machine
“Shake It Out” is a 2011 song by British indie rock band Florence and the Machine. It was chosen as the first single from their second album, Ceremonials. This song was written within an hour by band member Florence Welch. She said that the lyrics of this song are about some dark moments in life when you feel like you can’t go on, but in reality, those moments are just parts of a much larger picture of your own life, and it will pass one day.
20. “Hall of Fame” by The Script, will.i.am
The Script released a hit single in 2012, “Hall of Fame,” featuring will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas. It was also included in the band’s third studio album. The song encourages people to pursue their dreams and make the world better for everyone.
21. “Roar” by Katy Perry
“Roar” is a song by American singer Katy Perry released as the lead single from her fourth studio album Prism (2013). In the song, Perry sings about standing up for yourself and remaining positive in the face of adversity. The cheer-filled music is an anthem for self-empowerment.
22. “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift
The first single of Taylor Swift’s album 1989, “Shake it Off,” encourages listeners to let go of their minor problems. The upbeat song is about how Swift has learned to deal with false rumors about her. She said she cannot let the negativity get to her and has learned to just shake it off. For listeners worldwide, the song is also about taking pride in knowing who you are and refusing to let others bother you.
23. “Rise Up” by Andra Day
“Rise Up” is a motivational protest song that can fit any cause. Released in 2015, Audra Day sings about staying strong in the face of challenges and finding community, even when it seems like you’ll never overcome them. The motivational song is an excellent source of inspiration that can motivate you to prevail over the obstacles you face.
24. “Rise” by Katy Perry
“Rise” is a song by singer Katy Perry who wrote the song after feeling a need for our world to unite. She co-wrote the song with Savan Kotecha, Max Martin, and Ali Payami. She released it as a single in 2016, two years after the release of her last album. The song is about overcoming adversity and honoring one’s self. The title refers to a person’s own self-empowerment and self-worth and the power of compassion, love, and unity.
25. “This Is Me” by Keala Settle
Written for the film The Greatest Showman, “This Is Me” is a song performed by Keala Settle. Told from the perspective of Lettie Lutz, the music is an empowerment anthem for those who are ostracized by society for being peculiar. The bearded lady refuses to be cut down in the film and instead celebrates her difference. The song is positive encouragement for underdogs to those who are different.
One of the prominent universal themes in music is rising above challenges and adversity. Everyone experiences obstacles from time to time, and music artists sing great songs that inspire people to overcome them.
From Whitney Houston wishing for the children to believe in themselves to Taylor Swift choosing not to let the negativity get to her, these songs can motivate you to conquer your personal struggles. Hopefully, these songs will cheer you up when you need a song about overcoming adversity.
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