Dreams are mysterious, fascinating, terrifying, romantic, and even ethereal. Depending on your musical visionary and the genre of your dreams, there’s a huge assortment of music that presents each artist’s version of what those nighttime images mean. Each note and every word takes us to our place and time, with our portrayal and remembrances of illusions from our slumber.
Each of us can recall songs that communicate dreams with either music, lyrics, or a combination of both. Each generation will have their favorites, but some songs transcend time across all generations. These ten songs about dreams may be in your scope of musical taste but the connection you have is completely your own. See if they strike a chord with your spirit.
I’m Only Sleeping – The Beatles
After A Hard Day’s Night, John Lennon needs to indulge in a serious slumber. A profound desire to remain adrift within the seas of subconsciousness is poetically expressed in this unusually abstract pop piece.
At its core, this cozy composition from 1966’s Revolver details the singer’s stubborn refusal to get out of bed. Meanwhile, Paul McCartney’s jaunty bass riff makes every verse land like a tongue-in-cheek punchline, and George Harrison’s backmasked guitar effect creates the surreal ambiance of a distant dreamscape.
Wake Up – Mad Season
The opening number for this grunge supergroup’s only album, Above, is ultimately a haunting down-tempo reflection. The harrowing 7-minute long introspection delves into what it is like to live a decade in a dreamlike state due to the perils of drug addiction.
Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley delivers a booming vocal performance while Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready wails in sweet agony with his downtrodden serenade on electric guitar. This definitive underground ballad from 1995 is truly a heartbreaking masterpiece.
The Dreaming Tree – Dave Matthews Band
In this 1998 epic, alternative rock rhythms are delicately interlaced with soft jazz-fusion atmospheres to capture an intensely forlorn feeling. With nostalgic lyrics that transcend several generations, this solemn track poignantly reveals that there is no dream more devastating than the romanticized idealism of young love.
In essence, this emphatic nine-minute musical plea begs in vain for the restoration of a permanently shattered illusion. The enchantingly melancholy jam even supplied the name for this legendary South African outlet’s Before These Crowded Streets.
The Devil Never Sleeps – Iron & Wine
Everybody’s favorite bearded indie group takes a trip to the barbershop in this bouncy tune, which is somehow both upbeat and macabre at the same time. Sam Beam’s whimsical dreamtime imagery introduces each verse with quixotic surrealism faintly disguised as run-of-the-mill monotony.
This avant-garde performance is a staple of Iron & Wine setlists, and it forms a foundational component of The Shepherd’s Dog, which is one of the band’s most successful Sub Pop releases. At its roots, this piece summarizes a maternal warning to be careful about how you live this dreamy life.
All Some Kind of Dream – Josh Ritter
Josh Ritter’s songwriting took a turn for the political on the song “All Some Kind of Dream” in which he uses dreams as a metaphor to call for political action with lyrics like: “We rose to fight for what we knew was right,
Or was it all some kind of dream?”
In our interview with Ritter, he explained the song’s inspiration, “There are songs, like ‘All Some Kind of Dream’ that came to me as whole creatures, they were just right there. Those are songs that are personal reactions to the world going on around us. I hadn’t really looked to get political in songs very often. It was something that I had to think about.”
Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect – The Decemberists
To usher a soporific vibe, it’s hard to beat Portland’s premier indie-acoustic entourage. This underground sensation off of The Decemberists’ initial full-length record captures the saddening gap between dreams and reality.
Idealism is juxtaposed with harsh truth to symbolize lofty ambitions with the limitations of an earthly body. Dreams are represented as the purest form of freedom in this tune, but they also cultivate impossible desires in the waking world.
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These) – Marilyn Manson
What happens when Eurythmics’ music gets a goth makeover? To answer this question, just take a listen to Marilyn Manson’s wildly creative reinvention of the classic bygone ballad. Without the façade of a glitzy pop production, the darkness of these lyrics is fearlessly amplified.
Whether the singer is croaking or bellowing, he gets the angst across clearer than just about anyone else could. The energetic 1983 synth-pop hit witnessed a massive revival when Smells Like Children repackaged their polished sound for a grungy new generation in 1995.
Sweat – TOOL
Long before Inception made this novel concept mainstream, we had an infamous metal band popularizing Edgar Allen Poe’s distinctly terrifying notion of layered dream states. The chorus directly references the author’s “A Dream within a Dream,” and the lines eerily elucidate the fragility and confusion that accompanies a false awakening.
Thus, with the first track on their debut EP, TOOL really made a deep statement that defined their iconic sound and psychological bent all in one fell swoop. With Maynard James Keenan’s vulnerable falsetto and visceral screams, swirling into delirious madness has never sounded so delightful.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled – Queens of the Stone Age
This gritty industrial recording hearkens back to an age-old nursery rhyme to get its point across. The lurching tempo can fill any listener with dread for an impending demise.
With a sly reference to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” the narrator fully welcomes a fate that entails waking up from life itself. As the brooding introduction to 2013’s …Like Clockwork, this haunting production captures lead singer Josh Homme’s own near-death experience and the ensuing states of lucid dreamlike awareness.
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums – A Perfect Circle
Sleep is used as a metaphor for complacency in Maynard James Keenan’s anti-war side project. A quaint nursery tale is given a demented twist in this remix of “Pet” from Thirteenth Step. This powerful edition was originally released on a compilation of covers known as eMotive.
The song is sung from the perspective of an antagonistic force that is urging listeners to ignore the atrocities around them. In this fashion, the track’s intent is to lull you into the unexpectedly creepy slumber of ignorance.
Wake Up – Rage Against the Machine
You may remember this bomb track from the original soundtrack for The Matrix, and it triumphantly serves as a symbol for the choice between illusory and real.
In the movie, it cunningly parallels the blue and red pill conundrum; however, this forceful performance is about the false dream of prosperity and freedom that Americans have been sold by their politicians. Zack de la Rocha is a bona fide spitfire as he lays down verses about racial and social strife. Meanwhile, guitarist Tom Morello drops imaginative effects and solos that will make you feel like you’re dreaming.
These Dreams – Heart
These Dreams was written by Bernie Taupin and Martin Page in 1985 and Heart recorded it on their album Heart, in January of 1986. With the power of the Wilson sisters’ voices, These Dreams was presented to us by the soft yet powerful vocals of Nancy.
Every perfect poetic stanza is the deep meaning of sleeping with visions in the mist. When the world is full of stress “these dreams go on when I close my eyes, every second of the night I live another life”.
The choice of musical tones and the background vocals and orchestra become a dreamlike ambiance. Incredible explanations and small voices that ask the questions about flying or walking “without a cut through a stained glass wall”. Imagery is so abundant and stunningly exact in this beautiful classic.
I Dreamed A Dream – Les Miserables
This beautiful and sorrowful lamentation of the Les Miserables character, Fantine is a captivating and chilling tale of her downward spiral into depression. Beautifully written for the 1980 musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and John Cameron, with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer.
Losing everything and feeling that there is no purpose left except emptiness and hopelessness that is deeply rooted in the very core of a lost soul.
Remembering the hopes and dreams once believed in, and feeling them slip away into the darkness as a symbolic emotion of nothingness. By no means does this dismal song of tragedy have a happy ending for Fantine because she explains that “life has killed the dream” she dreamed.
Dream On – Aerosmith
To not include this powerful rock ballad written by Steven Tyler, himself, would be unimaginable in the realm of dream songs. Tyler was only 17 or 18 when he began writing Dream On, but the song was recorded on their debut album, Aerosmith, in June of 1973.
“Dream until your dreams come true” seems a simple declaration; although, everyone must come to this realization in their way, in their own time. Life can take you on a journey where you stumble or fall flat on your face. You look in the mirror and see the trials and hardships in those little lines.
Strength picks you up and gives you a shake back into the moment and your sparks are ignited. Never stop dreaming about what you love. Reach out for your desires and hopes, without doubt, until they come true. Upon hearing those reminiscent musical notes, Dream On with the passionate vocals of Steven Tyler, there’s a feeling of hope and the strength to never give up.
Dream – Imagine Dragons
This dynamic piece of power written by Alexander Junior Grant (a.k.a. Alex da Kid), brings images of a lifetime through the hauntingly beautiful voice of Dan Reynolds and Imagine Dragons, recorded on their album, Smoke and Mirrors.
Every quote, every wise word, and all the values gifted to us by our parents lie in question when lifelong beliefs are swiped from our hands, like when the kids at school said Santa was a myth. Through hardships and sorrow, in the end, all we want is to believe in our dreams.
Silent Lucidity – Queensryche
The power ballad is putting it mildly when it comes to this single from the 1990 Empire album from the band Queensryche. Very moving, evocative, and inspirational lyrics and music from Chris DeGarmo, lead guitarist, and backup vocalist. The beauty of the soul-stirring melody leads you to a dreamlike atmosphere as the haunting vocals of Geoff Tate make you want to close your eyes and feel the song in your core.
Lucidity in a dream means having some control of events, while still aware you are dreaming. The control gives you the power to teach your subconscious how to provide your destiny. Silent Lucidity‘s message provides the freedom to lead your desires into the real world, and never fear for your imagination to believe it is truth.
Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
American Idiot, the seventh album from Green Day in 2004, includes Boulevard of Broken Dreams which, like the entire album, explores the world of their main character, Jesus of Suburbia. While the entire band wrote the music, Billie Joe Armstrong wrote the words reflecting his solo trip to NYC, but it was a perfect fit for the life of Jesus of Suburbia.
When you “walk alone” there’s a certain pride that walks along with your “shadow” letting the world know you’re limitless. Through all your courage you still hope someone notices you’re alone and saves you from your rogue status. Even though dreams change or seem “broken”, life is still ahead so keep on focusing forward.
California Dreamin’ – Mamas and the Papas
Let’s roll the clock way back to 1965 when Mamas and the Papas released this timeless classic, written by John and Michelle Phillips. Beautiful harmonies express the sentiment of the grass being greener, not just on the other side, but in California.
Daydreaming is another way of putting a title to the music and lyrics of this amazingly rich folk-rock tune. Searching your memory would very likely conjure times when you wished you were somewhere warmer, cozier, cooler, less snow, or basking in the California sunshine. In the final analysis, you have to gratitude the attitude and appreciate home.
Daydreaming – Radiohead
This ambient ballad was released in May of 2016 and written by the members of Radiohead resulting in an elegy that may have familiar tones alongside lead singer and musician, Thom Yorke, reminiscent of the split from his wife of more than two decades.
Daydreaming may be noticeably light on words but filled with emotion and deep despondency. How dare the dreamers not learn their lesson to keep life on a very narrow path. Don’t believe in any future because there is no such thing as hope. But, if you’re daydreaming, controlling your adventure, then your dreams have just begun to take shape.
All Nightmare Long – Metallica
Dreams can sometimes come in the form of nightmares as this driving beat of a heavy metal jam draws you directly into the anxiety and fear. Metallica‘s Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Robert Trujillo composed this song and released it in December of 2008 on their album, Death Magnetic.
Undoubtedly everyone has encountered a horrible, frightening nightmare of some degree in their lifetime. All Nightmare Long sums up the agony and unrelenting fear and panic that lives with nightmares and comes out to play with our heads for a while as we try to find peace in slumber.
Dream Weaver – Gary Wright
Everything about this 1975 single from Gary Wright‘s album, The Dream Weaver, speaks the element of reflection and pensiveness. So beautifully written to take your spirit to another level of understanding what you can make happen in your sleeping moments.
Dreamweaver has the flavoring of the John Lennon song, God, which explores the ability to direct your dreams. Gary Wright “climbed aboard the Dream Weaver Train” and put the weaving into the hands of God. Be still and know every moment is brand new.