Let music give you a sweet, sweet boost with our list of the most inspirational songs of all time
Edited by Andy Kryza
Music is a great motivator. Whether you need a push to finally finish that novel or apply for that dream job or just get out of bed in the morning, the right song can get you there. In some cases, it can be any song that means something to you. But the best inspirational songs don’t just nudge you toward your goal - they make you feel like the person singing is pursuing the same mission right alongside you.
Sure, rock stars aren’t always folks who may have quite the same problems as the rest of us, but unless their dad is George Harrison many of them have struggled at some point in their lives - or at the very least needed some inspiration of their own. On this list of the 33 best inspirational songs of all-time, you’ll find everything from aspirational rap classics to rock’n’roll affirmations to pop stars who inspire simply by existing. No matter what you need to get done, these jams will help get you there.
💪 The best motivational songs
⚡️ The best songs about power
💸 The best songs about money✊ The best protest songs
🏋 The best workout songs
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Best inspirational songs, ranked
1.‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967, this Ashford and Simpson-penned songwas covered by Diana Ross three years later, becominga hit. The original, however, is still the most uplifting version, full of hope and determination, proving that love can conquer anything that stands in its way. If at all possible, seek out the live version to take the motivational factor up to stratospheric heights.
2.‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor
Another number that proves life goes on after a break-up, this ultimately empowering disco anthem is aclassic motivational tune and an essential track on any Pride playlist. Gaynor later used it as the backdrop for a 2013 anthology of inspirational stories called We Will Survive. Destiny’s Child may have shouted about it the loudest, but GG was the original survivor.
3.‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem
Putting all the memes about ‘Mom’s spaghetti’ aside, if you’ve ever felt like the underdog (and who hasn’t at some point?), then ‘Lose Yourself’ is for you.Em's Oscar-winning pick-up anthemis all about seizing the moment and giving it all you’ve got, plus a bit more –and what’s more inspirational than that?
4.‘I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John
Originally written as a kiss-off after a breakup, this seriously up-tempo Elton John smash has been co-opted by the masses as an anthem of steely resiliance for basically any occasion. It’s a musical embodiment of perseverence from a man who has been defying the odds for decades.
5.‘Survivor’ by Destiny’s Child
A true lesson in resilience from Queen Bey and co, this classic is a motivational poster turned into an R&B banger. The song came off the back of problems within the group, but itsilenced their critics and inspired fans in the process.
6.‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk
Even the title of this dance duo’s repetitive electro-banger is seriouslymotivational. It’s been hijacked a bit by gym bros, but don’t let that stop it from picking you up when you need a lift. For extramotivational kudos, the track was later sampled by Kanye on his 2007 hit ‘Stronger’.
7.‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher’ by Jackie Wilson
Possibly the greatest feelgood song of all time, this tune is three minutes of pure happiness and will flingyou straight into summer. Thereare loads of cover versions knocking around, but – surprise surprise – the joyous original still wins hands down.
8.‘***Flawless’ by Beyoncé
Sampling Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s inspirational feminist call to arms, thereare many layers to ‘***Flawless’ and just too many motivational lines to count. The overriding message, however, rings clear and true:ladies, you’re flawless– and you shouldn’t be defined by a relationship.
9.‘Born to Run’ by Bruce Springsteen
The Boss’s defining 1975 album Born to Runwas the one that catapulted him to stardom, and its title track remains inspirational, also acting as the highlight of every epic Bruce live show. Written as a love letter to a girl named Wendy, it’s all about running away – which initially doesn’t sound too inspirational, until you realise it’s also about starting all over again with a fresh outlook.Plus it has a killersax solo courtesy of the late, great Clarence Clemons.
10.‘Juicy’ by the Notorious BIG
Hip-hop is full of come-up anthems, but this is the greatest of them all. The late Christopher Wallace usually put his unparalleled storytelling acumen to use painting cinematic images of crimes he may or may not have actually committed, but on his signature anthem, he keeps the language simple yet vivid, describing how he went from high school dropout to ‘puttin' five karats in my baby girl's ear’ with such detail it almost feels like it could be your story. But of course, it’s not - it’s one of the singular tales in all American culture, even if it ultimately ended in tragedy.
11.‘Heroes’ by David Bowie
From the second album in his‘Berlin Trilogy’, this is one of Bowie’ssignature songs. Over the years, it’s becomeassociated with optimism and hope – some even associate it with playing a part inthe fall ofthe Berlin Wall, after Bowie performed it live in front of the Reichstag in 1987, in an emotionally charged concert. It's since become a staple of movie trailers, which isn't quite as stirring as scoring the crumbling of a monument to oppression, but is impactful nonetheless.
12.‘Move On Up’ by Curtis Mayfield
This has to be what plays on the elevator up to heaven. With its perpetually ascending swirl of percussion, guitar and triumphant horn blasts, this soul classic classic unfurls over nine euphoric minutes, propelled forward Mayfield’s sweet falsetto insisting you keep moving and keep your on the prize, no matter what complications may befall your path. Kanye West, of course, cut the tempo in half for ‘Touch the Sky,’ which is inspirational in its own right.
13.'Roar’ by Katy Perry
A perfect companion to the razzle-dazzle of ‘Firework,’ ‘Roar’ is very much a feminist anthem, and one of modern pop’s best. But it’s also a hair-raising tribute rising above bullying to fully realize yourself, then shouting it from the mountaintops. Or, in Katy Perry’s case, from the shoulders of a gigantic kaiju-like robotic lion in the middle of a stadium.
14.‘Started from the Bottom’ by Drake
Once upon a time, before he was a certified loverboy, Drake was just like you, arguing with his mum and sitting in traffic. Now he wears all thechains – even when he’s doing the washing up– to remind him how far he’s come. After listening to this for a few minutes, you'll feel like you and your crewcan go that far too.
15.‘Girl on Fire’ by Alicia Keys
Seemingly penned as a walk-on song for Hunger Gamestribute Katniss Everdeen, Keys – the human embodiment of grace and confidence – penned this rousing anthem about the ability to stand up to any and all challenges, her voice practically soaring above her signature piano work. The message? Keep your head in the clouds, continue dreaming… and burn any and all naysayers to the ground.
16.‘I Won’t Back Down’ by Tom Petty
The late Wilbury’s ode to picking yourself up from the mud is one of the rocker’s biggest hits thanks to its universal message of staring adversity in the face and standing your ground. It’s a common theme, but with Petty’s ascendant bridge paired with one his catchiest melodies, it’s become the stuff of underdog legend.
17.‘Titanium’ by David Guetta ft. SIA
‘You shoot me down, but I won’t fall/I am titanium’ SIA wails from behind a wall of hair on David Guetta’s breakout anthem to confidence, and it’s almost impossible to not feel like you could stop a train with your bare hands while listening to the beat climb to the sky.
18.‘True Colors’ by Cyndi Lauper
This simple, stripped-down ode to being your best authentic self has been striking a chord with outsiders for over three decades. It's been particularly embraced by the LGBT+ community, one Lauper has supported for years, so it's heartening to know that she co-founded the True Colors Fund in 2008 tohelp fight homelessness among queer young people.
19.‘Touch the Sky’ by Kanye West
The rapper has a few inspirational songs underhis belt, but ‘Touch the Sky’ – with its Evel Kneivel-inspired video and aspirational lyrics– is up there as being one of the most uplifting, motivational tunes of all time, sung by someone who knows a thing or two about self-motivation.
20.‘The Show Must Go on’ by Queen
While ‘We Are the Champions’ is the conventional choice here, the final track from Queen’s 1991 album ‘Innuendo’ was recorded when Freddie Mercury was gravely ill, from complications due to HIV/AIDS. Guitarist Brian May reportedly had concerns about whetherMercury would be able to sing the song, whoresponded with ‘I’ll fucking do it darling’, before downing a shot of vodka and deliveringa stellar performance. Nailed like a true icon.
21.‘Unwritten’ byNatasha Bedingfield
This uplifting smash hit from2004encourages usto admit that wemake mixtakes, learn from them and then ‘Live your life with arms wide open’. Every line of this tune–which earned Bedingfield a Grammy nomination and helped her break the US– oozes encouragment and champions the possibilities of a fresh start.
22.‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ by Kelly Clarkson
‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ sings the first ever winner of American Idol on this 2012 hit, which takes lyrical inspiration, believe it or not, from Friedrich Nietzsche. This one is all about dusting yourself off and getting the hell back out there, no matter what.
23.‘Encore’ by Jay Z
An unapologeticlist of the rapper’s attributes and achievements, ‘Encore’ was called one of his ‘happiest cuts’ by one critic. Crucially, it’s also a warning to other rappers that might follow in his path: Jay Z is the greatest, and he knows it. Sometimes, all you need to be inspired is your bad self. Many fans cite the Linkin Park remix with the late Chester Bennington as the superior cut, but theBlack Album version – with John Legend, Kanye and GLC providing support – is the definitive version.
24.‘Live Forever’ by Oasis
This 1994 hit was a response to Nirvana’s ‘I Hate Myself and Want to Die’ (the B-side to‘Pennyroyal Tea’, intended as a jokey response to Kurt being asked how he was), with NoelGallagher saying he wasn’t ‘having that… kids don’t need to be hearing that nonsense.’ The result? A brazenly optimistic indie anthemfull of arrogant Mancunian swagger.
25.‘I’m the Best’ by Nicki Minaj
‘I hear they comin’ for me / because the top is lonely,’ Minaj sings on thestandout track from her first album, Pink Friday. Looking back now, it’s obvious at this pointthat Minajknew she was about to become the globe-smashingstar she is today – and it’s this level of self-belief that we all should aspire to have... unless that self-belief concerns medical advice, in which case, maybe listen to doctors instead.
26.‘Unstoppable’ by Santigold
This Diplo-produced track became massivelypopular after it soundtracked a viral video back in 2009: one guydancing enthusiasticallyon his ownatSasquatch! Festival, as Santigold plays a live version of the song. This one dude gradually inspireshundreds of others to rush towards him andjoin in the fun, inadvertently starting a huge dance party. Great, uplifting vibes, pure and simple.
27.‘So What?’ by Pink
Pink's a fount for inspirational tunes, but her ‘screw you’ to her husband (they had separated at the time) was praised by critics for its empowering message. It’s not hard to see why. The songis full of aggressive swagger and is definitely one to scream along to if you’ve had a bad day: ‘I got a brand new attitude and I’m gonna wear it tonight / I wanna get in trouble, I wanna start a fight.’ A pretty clear statement of intent.
28.‘Can’t Hold Us Down (ft ‘Lil Kim)’ by Christina Aguilera
Ladies, if you’re sick and tired of gendereddouble standards, you’ve got two allies in Xtina and Lil‘ Kim. This song is a mega-bold statement on female sexuality, with a brilliant accompanying video that features creepy men getting their comeuppance. It's the polar opposite of Christina’sother motivational hall-of-famer ‘Beautiful,’ and all the better for it.
29.‘The Harder They Come’ by Jimmy Cliff
Owner of one of Jamaica’s sweetest voices, Cliff burst through internationally playing a troubled young singer in the 1972 film The Harder They Come, whose soundtrack brought reggae to the wider world and contained one of the genre’s most potent anthems of defiance. Despite his honeyed delivery, you know Cliff means it when he sings, ‘I’d rather be a free man in my grave/Than living as a puppet or a slave.’
30.‘Don't Give Up’ by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush
Elton John famously said that this song is the one that ‘saved his life’ and helped him get sober. Though Peter Gabriel’s verses are those of despair, Kate Bush swoops in to provide an optimistic counterpoint withwords of hope and encouragement: ‘Don’t give up / you’re not beaten yet’.
31.‘Eye of the Tiger’ by Survivor
Yet more survivors, this time providing the tune that got Rocky Balboa out of his rut and back in the ring (after a brief sunrise beach run with Apollo Creed, naturally). We defy you to hear those thudding, opening guitar chords and not feel 110 percent ready to deal with whatever nonsense the day throws at you. Just like Rocky, you got this– just don’t startpunching people, okay?
32.‘Break My Stride’ by Matthew Wilder
Wilder’s synth-pop/reggae hit saw new life in the ‘90s when Puff Daddy sampled it on ‘Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,’ a song that serves the dual function as a self-motivating banger and a tribute to Puff Daddy’s favorite subject, Puff Daddy. But the stripped-down 1983 original is a simple earworm about the urge to continue moving forward no matter the obstacle, and as such it’s endured much further than any song featuring rapper-turned-preacher Mase could ever hope.
33.‘Express Yourself’ by Madonna
One of Madonna's very best pop songs is also a feminist classic. Empowerment has always been a core theme in La Ciccone's work, and it comes to the fore in this funk-fuelled floor-filler written as an homage to Sly & The Family Stone. ‘What you need is a big strong hand to lift you to your higher ground,’ she tells her female listeners, urging them to find a partner who treats them right. Preach, sis, preach.
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|21. I'm a Believer (2001)||Smash Mouth|
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"I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. "Better in Time" by Leona Lewis. "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston. "You Learn" by Alanis Morissette.
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- Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys)
- Uptown Girl (Billie Joel)
- Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
- I'm a Believer (The Monkees)
- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)
- Livin' on a Prayer (Jon Bon Jovi)
- I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)
- Walking on Sunshine (Katrina & The Waves)
|2. "It's Not Over Yet"—For King and Country||19. "Move Along"—All American Rejects|
|3. "You're Going to Be OK"—Brian & Jenn Johnson||20. "The Show Must Go On"—Queen|
|4. "Rise"—Katy Perry||21. "You Are Loved [Don't Give Up]"—Josh Groban|
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- 'Three Little Birds' by Bob Marley & The Wailers.
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Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream Speech" in 1963 reminds people there is always something better on the horizon. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., delivered what is arguably the most famous and most inspiring speech in American history.