Inspiration can come from many different directions. Many of us are inspired by people close to us that we admire and respect, as well as people we will never meet such as historical figures, celebrities, and musicians. When we need to hear something that will inspire us to keep going, art and music can be fantastic sources of inspiration.
An inspiring song can help you through a tiring run, a late night of work, or a tough time in your personal life. Sometimes we just need an extra boost of confidence, determination or self-belief, and that’s exactly what these tracks provide. Here are 21 of the most inspiring songs of all time.
Top Most Inspiring Songs of All Time
“Fight Song” – Rachel Platten
“Fight Song” was Platten’s breakout song – arriving almost a decade after her debut album. Twelve long years trying to forge a career in music saw the singer arrive at a make or break moment. Was she going to keep going, or throw in the towel?
Platten made the decision to keep working at her music career and wrote ‘Fight Song’ about the moment. “I don’t really care if nobody else believes, because I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me,” she sings.
This inspiring song was chosen as an anthem for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, with multiple celebrity supporters of Clinton’s making videos using “Fight Song”.
“Rise Up” – Andra Day
Andra Day’s “Rise Up” is a beautiful inspiring piano ballad about overcoming the obstacles life throws at you and continuing to rise above it all. Every time Day gets knocked down, she gets back on her feet – “and I’d do it a thousand times again,” she sings. “Rise Up” was written at a difficult time in Day’s personal life, when she felt stuck in her personal life and her music career.
On top of that, a friend of hers had just been diagnosed with cancer. Day has described the track as “a kind of prayer.”
About a year after its release, the track became a popular anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement, which Day fully supported. The music video for “Rise Up”, depicting the lives of an inter-abled couple, was directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” – Kelly Clarkson
This adrenalin-pumping pop track from Clarkson reminds us that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” The title track from her 2011 album, “Stronger” sees Clarkson moving on after a relationship and confidently telling her ex that she’s tougher and better for the heartbreak that he put her through. The song is based on a Friedrich Nietzsche quote that reads: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
“Brave” – Sara Bareilles
Inspired by a close friend who was struggling with coming out, “Brave” sees Bareilles encouraging them to say what they’ve been holding back. “Honestly, I wanna see you be brave,” she sings.
“Brave” has now become an anthem for anyone struggling to live as their authentic self. Bareilles wrote the track with producer Jack Antonoff in their very first writing session together. The music video for the track was directed by Rashida Jones of The Office and Parks And Recreation.
“Eye Of The Tiger” – Survivor
‘Eye Of The Tiger’ has been a popular track with athletes everywhere for many years, with the explosive instrumental designed to get the heart racing. The song was written as the theme song for Rocky III, meant to replace Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ which had been used in an original rough cut of the film.
Songwriters Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan were daunted by the task of writing something to match “Another One Bites The Dust”, but it’s safe to say that that “Eye Of The Tiger” was a hit. The inspiring sports track encourages the listener to keep fighting no matter what it takes.
“Unwritten” – Natasha Bedingfield
This light-hearted pop track Bedingfield espouses the benefits of new beginnings. Bedingfield has her whole life ahead of her and she knows that there’s no point trying to write her story before she’s lived it.
“Today is where your book begins – the rest is still unwritten,” she sings. For those who find it difficult to let go of control and trust where life takes them, ‘Unwritten’ is an inspiring love letter to what’s meant to be. The song was originally written as a birthday present from Bedingfield to her brother, because she was strapped for cash that year.
“Keep Holding On” – Avril Lavigne
This rare ballad from the pop-punk queen sees her reassuring someone that she’ll stand by their side no matter what. “Just stay strong, cos you know I’m here for you,” she tells them. The inspiring track reminds listeners that there’s always something left worth fighting for, if they just keep holding on.
“Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
‘Follow Your Arrow’ is a tongue-in-cheek track from Musgraves’ debut album, Same Trailer Different Park. It sees her encouraging listeners to do whatever they want and be whoever they are, no matter what society says.
“Can’t win for losin’, you’ll just disappoint them,” she sings. In the chorus, she gives her recommendation: “Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys – or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into.”
“Girl On Fire” – Alicia Keys
Keys isn’t holding anything back anymore in this inspiring track. Her belief in herself means that she can do anything, and she refuses to back down. “This girl is on fire,” she sings. ‘Girl On Fire’ was the lead single from Keys’ fifth studio album.
It marked a point in Keys’ career where she finally felt she had the creative freedom she had always been craving. The phrase “girl on fire” came from an Essence article about Keys written by Jeannine Amber, in which Amber described Keys in those words. Keys was thrilled with the description and knew straight away that she wanted to use it for the title of her new album.
“Don’t Stop Believin’” – Journey
“Don’t Stop Believin” was born out of an inspiring conversation between keyboardist Jonathon Cain and his dad. Struggling with his career, Cain asked his dad if it might be better for him to return home and give it up.
His dad told him: “Don’t stop believin’.” Set on Sunset Boulevard, the track describes the myriad of people who show up in LA looking to make their dreams come true. “Don’t Stop Believin” had a second life almost thirty years after its original release, when the Glee cast covered it in 2010 and had the song charting again.
“Unstoppable” – Sia
This big track from the Australian singer Sia sees her assert how confident and determined she’s feeling. The inspiring song encourages the listener to face the world with the same strength and self-assurance that Sia feels. A remixed version of the track was later recorded by Sia for a Gillette Olympic ad campaign 2016, which featured a group of elite athletes.
“Survivor” – Destiny’s Child
“I’m a survivor, I’m gonna make it,” sing Destiny’s Child in this upbeat R&B track. The track’s title is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the TV show, Survivor, to which Destiny’s Child drew comparisons after losing three members in one year.
Beyoncé Knowles wrote the track as a response to the speculation about which group member would leave next. ‘Survivor’ became an inspirational track for many, with its themes of perseverance, resilience and self-belief. Knowles acknowledged that the song made listeners feel like they could “survive anything.”
“Titanium” – David Guetta ft Sia
“Titanium” marked an effort for Sia to pivot into writing for other artists, composing simple, single-concept pop songs that were radio-friendly. However, the surprise success of her single “Chandelier” encouraged her to refocus her efforts into her own music.
“Masterpiece” – Jessie J
This inspiring track from Jessie J’s 2014 Sweet Talker album sees the singer celebrate her flaws. “I’m perfectly incomplete, I’m still working on my masterpiece,” she sings. Directly addressing her haters, she shrugs off the pressure and lets them know that she’s happy being a work in progress. “Those who mind don’t matter, those who matter don’t mind,” she sings.
“Roar” – Katy Perry
Perry’s huge pop anthem celebrates new phases in life and making your voice heard. Perry feels that she has been biting her tongue too long and now she’s ready to shout loud enough that everyone has to pay attention to her.
“You’re gonna hear me roar,” she sings. Written with her friend Bonnie McKee, the song was born out of Perry’s frustration at not feeling able to advocate for herself. Interestingly, Perry references another one of our most inspiring songs when she sings: “I’ve got the eye of the tiger.”
“Born This Way” – Lady Gaga
When Gaga came to write her “this-is-who-the-f**k-I-am anthem,” she wanted to make sure that the message of the song didn’t get lost in metaphor but was tackled head-on and without fear. “Born This Way” champions equality, diversity and authenticity and is inspiring in its frankness. “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way,” sings Gaga.
“Confident” – Demi Lovato
“Confident” sees Lovato fully embracing the skin she’s in for the first time. Lovato’s self-love and confidence are incredibly inspiring to anyone who struggles with self-doubt, and she encourages the listeners to share her mindset. “You’ve had me underrated,” she tells her detractors.
“Say Yes To Life” – Gang Of Youths
“I’m with you in amongst the confusion,” sings frontman David Le’aupepe. “It’s okay; don’t fear.” Le’aupepe knows that life can be a complicated, messy thing, and it’s not always easy to be happy to self-assured.
But his message of embracing everything that life has to throw at you is an inspiring one. “Our time is short, but we’ve will to carry on,” he says. Later, he urges the listener to “say yes to life” and everything about it.
“Catch Me In The Air” – Rina Sawayama
Sawayama decides that she’s ready to jump out into the unknown in this piece of glittery indie pop. A tender, upbeat ode to her mother, “Catch Me In The Air” sees Sawayama flying higher than her mother could have possibly ever imagined for her daughter. “Mama, look at me now, I’m flying,” sings Sawayama.
“Who Says” – Selena Gomez & The Scene
“I wouldn’t wanna be anybody else,” sings Gomez in the opening line of this self-love anthem. She acknowledges that she’s far from perfect, but whilst other people might be trying to change things about themselves, Gomez loves herself exactly as she is.
She knows that her haters might not have an accurate idea of her character, but she’s learnt to accept that. The song’s inspiring chorus reminds the listener that no one else has the authority to tell them what they are and what they aren’t – they themselves get to decide that they are enough.
“I Forgot That You Existed” – Taylor Swift
Swift used to be obsessed with what her haters, detractors and exes thought of her. Now? She’s pretty indifferent. “Then something happened one magical night…” she sings. “I forgot that you existed.”
The song’s inspiring message is one of perspective – even though the things that happen to you might feel insurmountable at the time, one day you’ll be able to look back with a shrug and smile. “It’s all just a blur,” sings Swift with a laugh. “I Forgot That You Existed” opened Swift’s Lover album, signalling that her darker Reputation era was over and now she was all about enjoying her life.
When life throws us curveballs, having the right song to listen to can help to remind us that there’s always hope. An inspiring song doesn’t just uplift and encourage us – sometimes it can sustain us through difficult times and get us through to the other side. Inspirational music motivates us to reach for goals that we might never previously have thought possible. What have these songs inspired in you?
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.