Everybody needs somebody, but there isn’t always somebody around. Independence is a valuable skill that we all have to fall back on at some point or another, and the more content we are in our own company, the better. Striking out alone can be a scary thing, but the right music can inspire a self-reliance that can carry you into success.
Whether you’re leaving home, coming out of a serious relationship, or just trying to learn how to be less dependent on others, independence is something that everyone can learn with a little practice and a good playlist.
In honour of every lone wolf out there, here are our top twenty songs about independence.
Top Songs About Independence
“Wide Open Spaces” – The Chicks
This moving-out anthem from the iconic country trio formerly known as The Dixie Chicks tells the story of a young girl leaving home. Despite her parents’ worries, she sets off knowing that she needs room to grow and make her own mistakes. As she leaves, her mother recalls her own first flight from the nest and knows that her daughter is making the right decisions.
“Wide Open Spaces” comes from the Dixie Chicks album of the same name, which was their first with new lead vocalist Natalie Maines and helped them to breakthrough commercially. It also won them two Grammys.
“Try It On My Own” – Whitney Houston
Houston has matured and she’s not afraid to tell the world in this typically Whitney ballad, complete with lush orchestral arrangement and soaring high notes.
Almost Disney-esque in its confessional lyrics and stirring melody, the song expresses a desire to find belated independence and pleads with an unidentified someone to stand back and let Houston find her own place in the world.
The music video sees Houston rejecting the advice of music industry experts around her in order to perform the concert that she wants to.
“Independent Women, Pt. 1” – Destiny’s Child
Recorded for the 2000 film Charlie’s Angels, this Destiny’s Child track celebrates independence even more the rest of their discography. The group lists all the bills that they pay alone with no help, insist that they always split costs in a relationship equally, and assert that they aren’t emotionally reliant on anyone either.
Most of us singing along probably aren’t making quite as much as these three ladies were, but if you’re bringing home your own paycheck then feel free to get those hands up.
Aside from its appearance in Charlie’s Angels, “Independent Women, Pt. 1” also acted as the lead single for the group’s Survivor album, picked up a Grammy nomination, and made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. This last was for being the longest-running number-one song by a female group, sitting on top of the charts for eleven consecutive weeks.
“Miss Independent” – Ne-Yo
Ne-yo loves a self-sufficient woman. He describes his perfect girl as someone who is financially and emotionally independent, self-sufficient and full of confidence. “There’s something about the kind of woman who can do it for herself,” he sings. Evidently members of the Recording Academy agreed – the song went on to win two Grammys.
“I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor
That dramatic and instantly recognisable piano in the beginning gives way to one of the best disco songs ever recorded. Gaynor asserts her independence with ferocity, kicking out a bad love and letting them know with no degree of uncertainty that she doesn’t need them to get by.
The story goes that producer Freddie Perrin handed Gaynor the lyrics to “I Will Survive” scribbled on a piece of brown paper and Gaynor immediately recognised its potential.
However, unable to convince the label to release it as an A-side, it became the B-side to “Substitute”. The song performed well regardless, as Gaynor had predicted, and won the first and only Grammy for Best Disco Recording.
“Free Bird” – Lyrnyrd Skynyrd
The American rockers pay a sentimental farewell in this free-spirited track about moving on. The protagonist of the song bids his girl goodbye, telling her that he’s good too much to see and do and can’t stay with her any longer.
He asks her not to take it all personally – he’s just a restless soul who isn’t ever going to lose his independent streak. The track clocks in at a whopping nine minutes, with lengthy guitar solos added to give lead singer Ronnie Van Zant a rest during long live sets.
“Independence Day” – The Shires
There’s something beautifully ironic about going through a break-up on the 4th of July. British country duo The Shires use this upbeat track to assure someone that their “Independence Day” won’t turn out to be such a bad thing, scary as it may feel in the moment. They insist that independence will one day feel something to celebrate – an uplifting message for anyone finding themselves suddenly self-reliant.
“I’m Like A Bird” – Nelly Furtado
Furtado confesses a free spirit to her lover in this ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ break-up track. Much as she loves her partner, and as beautiful as they are, she knows that she won’t be able to stay tied down for long. The 2001 track was one of the most successful that year and won the Canadian singer-songwriter a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance.
“Unwritten” – Natasha Bedingfield
Bedingfield celebrates new beginnings in this uplifting track. Championing potential, she encourages the listener to go out and write their story for themselves. With a fantastically catchy melody and some wonderful pop lyricism (“Feel the rain on your skin/No one else can feel it for you/Only you can let it in”) Bedingfield romanticises independence and makes striking out on one’s own feel like a very attractive prospect.
“Independence Day” – Martina McBride
This country track from Martina McBride describes a sad story about a child witnessing a domestic violence incident on Independence Day. After being hit, the mother burns down the house with the father inside and gains her independence from her abusive husband.
McBride acknowledges that this may not have been the most moral reaction to the situation, but reminds the listener that the mother also may not have had any other good options. Sad as the subject matter is, the track ends happily for the woman, who goes free.
“King Of Anything” – Sara Bareilles
Bareilles celebrates the independence that comes with not caring what others think. Faced with a judgemental date, she decides to simply brush off his opinions and stay true to her own path. “I’ve had more unsolicited advice on my life than I care to mention, and this was how I dealt with it,” said Bareilles of the track. “King Of Anything” earned Bareilles a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
“Confident” – Demi Lovato
“I make my own choice, yeah I run this show,” sings Lovato in this ode to self-belief and independence. Lovato states clearly that they don’t need anyone else to tell them what to do – they’re ‘the boss’, and they’re going to enjoy being confident in their own skin. Written with legendary producer Max Martin, the track went triple platinum and earned praise from critics over Demi’s new ‘confident’ persona.
“Soar” – Christina Aguilera
Aguilera encourages listeners to ditch the naysayers and learn to depend on yourself for approval. Independence is key when forging a creative career, as other people’s opinions can weigh you down. “Don’t be scared to fly alone, find a path that is your own,” she sings.
The track comes from Aguilera’s 2002 studio album, Stripped. Looking to shake associations with teen pop, Aguilera centred the album around womanhood, sexuality and empowerment, the latter of which is a key theme in “Soar”.
“Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
Anything you do in your life will invite judgement from someone, Musgraves argues in this country track. The best thing is to just nurture your independence and focus on following your own path. “You might as well just do whatever you want,” she sings.
“Follow Your Arrow” was featured on Musgraves major label debut, Same Trailer, Different Park. The song was a hit with critics and fans alike, with many feeling it modernised the traditional image of country music. It even won Song Of The Year at the 2014 CMA Awards.
“It’s My Life” – Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi reminds everyone that they’re in charge of their own lives and they want to make the most of living. Proclaiming their independence, they reference Frank Sinatra with the lyric: “Like Frankie said, “I did it my way.””
The song actually references two other important people as well – Tommy and Gina, a fictional couple that the band talked about in “Livin’ On A Prayer” 14 years earlier. The couple ended up being featured in the music video as well, played by Will Estes and Shiri Appleby.
“Control” – Janet Jackson
Jackson has had enough of being controlled in this funk track. She’s taking back her independence and ending the control she’s allowed others – romantic partners, industry execs and even family members – to have over her for so long. At nearly six minutes, the track explores in detail what this transition means for Jackson and why she feels she has to take a stand.
“Bird Set Free” – Sia
Sia doesn’t have to sing for anyone else in “Bird Set Free” – “I sing for love, I sing for me,” she tells the listener. Using the central metaphor of the bird, she expresses joy in her independence, but also explains that it can be a struggle to hold onto that independence when she feels other people are always trying to drag her down to earth.
Although she wrote the song, Sia initially didn’t want to sing it herself. She pitched it as part of the Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack but the song was rejected in favour of Jessie J’s “Flashlight”. After both Rihanna and Adele passed on the track as well, Sia eventually decided to include it on her This Is Acting album.
“Breakaway” – Kelly Clarkson
A young Clarkson dreams about leaving home and making a name for herself in this empowering ballad. Although Clarkson still has a fondness for her hometown and the people that live there, she knows that she needs to embrace her independence and set off into the world if she ever wants to achieve any of her goals.
The track was a big hit for Clarkson and was included in the soundtrack for The Princess Diaries 2. Despite its pop princess associations, however, the song was actually written by Avril Lavigne. It was though not to fit with the tone of Lavigne’s debut album and so the song was given to Clarkson, but Lavigne recorded her own version later.
“Born Free” – Kid Rock
Kid Rock pays homage to the winding road trips he takes whilst enjoying his independence. He feels most at home travelling around by himself, even though he may sometimes put himself in dangerous circumstances by choosing to be alone. He asks that if anything does happen to him, his loved ones remember him as being “born free”. The song was the title track from Kid Rock’s country rock album of the same name.
“Freedom” – Nicki Minaj
Minaj talks about how she is a leader in the industry, opening doors for other acts. Despite this, she feels she never gets the credit she deserves. Her natural independence means that she has always been a trailblazer, and she knows that she will continue to set the standard in the industry for years to come, whether she is thanked for it or not.
Independence can be aspirational until you get it and scary when you do, but it’s important to remember that, as these songs remind us, everyone is capable of going it alone. When it’s your time to be self-sufficient, make the most of the challenge, and make sure you always have some good music to pick you up.
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.