Humans are moody. (Some more than others.) We laugh, cry, get angry, and feel lonely, and that’s all before lunch! Feelings are hard to deal with, especially when you’ve got a lot on your plate, so spend some time with these songs about emotions to help you feel your way through the pain.
- The Scientist – Coldplay
- Boots of Spanish Leather – Mandolin Orange
- I Know It’s Over – The Smiths
- No Name #1 – Elliott Smith
- Teardrop – Massive Attack
- Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
- The Message – Dr. Dre
- The Call – Regina Spektor
- How to Save a Life – The Fray
- Hurt – Johnny Cash
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
- Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens
- Emotion – Destiny’s Child
- Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith
- Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor
- Writer In The Dark – Lorde
- Emotions – Mariah Carey
- Stone Cold – Demi Lovato
- Fix You – Coldplay
The Scientist – Coldplay
This song tells the story of a scientist who spent too much time on his work and neglected someone because of it. While he never says the word itself, regret is the primary emotion of the song. The scientist wishes he could go back to the beginning and try again. This song charted at number 10 in the UK when it debuted and seemed to have only gotten more popular over the years, with many people covering it.
Related: This appears on our list of songs about a profession.
Boots of Spanish Leather – Mandolin Orange
Bob Dylan originally released this song in 1964. The song is about two lovers who are both longing for something; the man longs to be with the woman, but the woman longs to travel overseas. Mandolin Orange covered the song in 2014 and sang it as a duo, offering a different experience than how Bob Dylan first performed it.
I Know It’s Over – The Smiths
The singer feels alone in this song and feels like he’ll always be alone. He sings about a bride and groom in a longing way, as though he wishes he could be a groom himself. He questions how he can be so alone if he’s funny, entertaining, and handsome. He should have someone by his side if he has these qualities, right? That’s at least how he feels about it.
Related: This indie classic features on our list of songs to get over a breakup.
No Name #1 – Elliott Smith
Introverted or socially awkward people will probably find that this song hits way too close to home! Elliott Smith sings of a man who went to a party but felt out of place the entire time. He overthinks, whistles because of his anxiety, and stumbles through awkward conversations. He eventually leaves when nobody’s watching.
Teardrop – Massive Attack
‘Teardrop’ is about the fragility of life and love. The lyrics mention many fragile things like flowers, feathers, and teardrops hitting fire, suggesting that love can easily be broken and life doesn’t last long. The song was number 10 in the UK, and the song was used as the intro for the TV series House.
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
‘Landslide’ is about the fear of life suddenly changing. Stevie Nicks was inspired by two different things when she wrote this song. One of them was her good relationship with her father, and the other was how she wouldn’t be able to stop a landslide if one started. Stevie was invited to Fleetwood Mac only three months after she wrote this song, and the band released it two years later, and it charted at number 51 in the US.
Related: We include this on our list of songs about people changing.
The Message – Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre gets personal in this song by talking about all the emotions he felt when a friend passed away. He indirectly references the five stages of grief since he denies that his friend isn’t here anymore, is angry at God for taking him, wishes he could’ve gone with his friend, and is depressed over the loss. The only step that appears to be missing is acceptance.
The Call – Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor wrote this song for the 2008 movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The song is melancholy and hopeful, and the subject matter is open to interpretation. Since Aslan in the Narnia stories is supposed to represent Jesus Christ, some pick up a religious meaning about keeping faith and praying. Others take it at face value and see it to be about war.
How to Save a Life – The Fray
Lead singer Isaac Slade came up with this song after being paired with a teenager who struggled with addiction and other problems while volunteering at a camp for troubled youth. Isaac wanted to help save the teen, but there isn’t exactly a rule book on how to do it. The song sort of functions as a rule book, but it’s mostly Isaac recalling the conversation he had with the teen.
Hurt – Johnny Cash
Nine Inch Nails first released this song in 1994, and Johnny Cash released his cover in 2002, almost a year before he passed away. The original version is likely about addiction or other problems people struggle with, but Johnny’s version adds a new dimension. Some interpret the song as him looking over his life as he approaches his end, and others assume it’s about his struggle with diabetes.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles
George Harrison sings of his disappointment and sadness about how the world could find universal love toward everyone, yet people choose not to. He’s somewhat hopeful because he assumes that humanity is learning from all its mistakes. The Beatles weren’t getting along when making this song, so George invited Eric Clapton to play the guitar, making the rest of the band shape up.
Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens
The narrator in this song is struggling with coming to terms that his friend and love interest has cancer and passed away. He’s confused about why the prayers don’t change anything and why she ultimately has to die so young. The song mentions tucking in shirts, an aesthetic thing that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things but represents putting on a brave face while dealing with hardships.
Emotion – Destiny’s Child
Samantha Sang first released this song in 1978, and it charted at number 3. Destiny’s Child did the song justice since it came in at number 10 when they covered it in 2001. The song is about a woman who’s heartbroken because she lost her lover. She wants him back and feels she’ll never be able to love anyone else but him.
Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith
The Aerosmith band members had a rough relationship for a while due to struggles with addiction that usually lead to tense emotions. The lyrics are about the tension everyone felt toward each other. In the first verse, Steven Tyler is talking to guitarist Joe Perry’s girlfriend, whom he hated. Letting it all out seemed to have done some good since this song charted at 36 in the US and 74 in the UK.
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor
Ok, you knew there was going to be some sad songs in this list, right? The singer in this song is distraught and feeling blue over an ex who left her only fifteen days ago. This song was recorded by Prince in 1984, but he never released it. He gave the song to The Family, who released it in 1985, but it didn’t take off until 1990 when Sinéad O’Connor covered it. It was number 1 in multiple countries.
Related: This Prince-penned classic also appears on our list of songs about disappointment.
Writer In The Dark – Lorde
Lorde displays the pain she felt over her breakup with her ex in this song. She has a slightly vengeful attitude about being a lyricist with the power to write their wrongs into eternity via music. She feels hopeless about ever getting over this former lover, but at the end of the song, she shows hope that one day she’ll be able to move forward.
Emotions – Mariah Carey
‘Emotions’ perfectly describes what it feels like to fall head-over-heels in love with someone. Mariah Carey sings of feeling like she’s in a dream because the way she feels is too good to be real! This song hit number 1 in the US, and the high-pitched note at the end of the song was the highest note sung by a human at the time. Fun fact: Georgia Brown broke the record in 2004.
Stone Cold – Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato sings of the pain of watching an ex be with someone else. While Demi feels happy for their ex for being able to find happiness again, they can’t help but feel sadness and jealousy and tries to bury those feelings deep inside, so they don’t have to feel the pain anymore.
Fix You – Coldplay
No list of emotional songs is complete without this one. This Coldplay classic is about trying to “fix” someone you love when they’re feeling broken to make them feel better about the troubles they’re going through. Lead singer Chris Martin wrote this song about his now ex-wife, whom he was dating at the time. Her father had passed away, and because he loved her, he wanted to try to fix her. This song charted at number 4 in the UK and 59 in the US.