There is much comfort to be found in words that so effortlessly tap into whatever it is we might be experiencing, and the power of song is something many of us are familiar with. Here, we round up 10 song lyrics that get it right
1. ‘Help me, it's like the walls are caving in / Sometimes I feel like giving up / But I just can't’
Shawn Mendes, ‘In My Blood’
In a 2020 interview with Apple Music, shared on YouTube, Shawn said about the song: “Growing up, I was a pretty calm kid. I knew people who suffered from anxiety, found it kind of hard to understand, and then when it hits you, you’re like, oh my God.”
A powerful ode to the experience of feeling gripped by anxiety, ‘In My Blood’ is also a song about holding on through the hard times.
2. ‘I have emotional motion sickness / Somebody roll the windows down’
Phoebe Bridgers, ‘Motion Sickness’
Inspired by an abusive relationship with a famous, disgraced music producer, ‘Motion Sickness’ captures the destabilising and complex feelings that can come with being in a controlling and coercive relationship. With a dream-like yet relentless sound, this song is an empowering exploration of a devastating romantic dynamic.
3. ‘It doesn’t matter when you bloom / It matters that you do’
The Secret Sisters, ‘Late Bloomer’
In a feel-good song that’s guaranteed to uplift anyone who has ever felt like a ‘late bloomer’, this track perfectly captures the feeling of lagging behind the people around you, while repeating that important reminder of the value of moving at your own pace.
4. ‘Bad times turn to good memories, smile / Even when I'm gone and you remember me, smile’
In this track, Jay-Z reflects on the bad memories he has from throughout his life, and considers the way that they have made him who he is today. The song was also the first instance where his mother, Gloria Carter, came out – and the song ends with a moving spoken outro by her where she touchingly speaks on the experience of coming out later in life.
5. ‘Well I’ll keep moving (moving on) / Things are bound to be improving / These days, one of these days’
Jackson Browne, ‘These Days’
Most of us can relate to the feeling of being world-weary at times, when the daily grind gets you down. ‘These Days’ perfectly captures that lethargy, but with a hopeful twist that believes that, one of these days, things will get better. Though it’s been covered by many artists over the years, the original was written by Jackson Browne at the age of 16, yet it still resonates with many today.
6. ‘Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about? / You’d better cool it off before you burn it out’
Billy Joel, ‘Vienna’
Truth be told, we could have picked any line from ‘Vienna’, the masterpiece – and personal favourite of Billy Joel’s – is an anthem for slowing down, and going easy on yourself.
Inspired by a trip to Vienna, in a 2008 New York Times article, Billy Joel said: “We treat old people in this country pretty badly. We put them in rest homes, we kinda kick them under the rug and make believe they don’t exist. They [the people in Vienna] don’t feel like that. In a lot of these older places in the world, they value their older people and their older people feel they can still be a part of the community and I thought ‘This is a terrific idea’ – that old people are useful – and that means I don’t have to worry so much about getting old because I can still have a use in this world in my old age. I thought ‘Vienna waits for you…’”
7. ‘(Hard times) Gonna make you wonder why you even try / (Hard times) Gonna take you down and laugh when you cry / (These lives) And I still don't know how I even survive’
Paramore, ‘Hard Times’
This, perhaps deceptively bouncy, song was inspired by lead singer Hayley Williams’ experience with depression in 2016. Working through the thoughts that can come with being in this emotional space with a driving rhythm, many interpret the track to be replicating a tendency to overcompensate happiness when you’re feeling anything but.
8. ‘I'll make you OK and drive them away / The images stuck in your head’
Elliott Smith, ‘Between the Bars’
As many of Elliott Smith’s songs were, ‘Between the Bars’ is inspired by his own struggle with addiction. Many interpretations of this song see ‘alcohol’ as the narrator, speaking to Elliott, and exploring the cruel power of addiction. Famously used in the soundtrack for the Oscar-winning film Good Will Hunting, this simple but touching track has a unique power to move.
9. ‘Don’t hesitate / Time heals the pain / You ain’t the problem’
Michael Kiwanuka, ‘You Ain’t the Problem’
In this toe-tapping fusion of soul, funk, and rock, Michael Kiwanuka opens up a rallying call to let go of shame and self-blame, to let yourself off the hook, and to keep on persevering despite it all.
10. ‘Time goes by and I can’t control my mind / Don’t know what else to try, but you tell me every time / Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’
Ariana Grande, ‘Breathin’
In 2018, Ariana Grande told Vogue: “I think a lot of people have anxiety, especially right now. My anxiety has anxiety… [but] I’ve never really spoken about it because I thought everyone had it, but when I got home from tour it was the most severe I think it’s ever been.”
This song explores her own experience with anxiety, and serves as a reminder to keep on breathing through it.
If you are struggling with your mental health and need to talk, professional support may help. Visit Counselling Directory to find a therapist today