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15 Best Songs With a Positive Message

Home > Everywhere > Lists | Music | Performing Arts | Quirky | Vintage and Retro
by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published April 30th 2020
Be uplifted
Sometimes it feels like everywhere we look there is only negativity in the world. Be it the leaders we have foolishly voted into power, the proliferation of pseudo-science or the constant wars going on everywhere, the sources of negativity are global. And it seems like this is infecting people at a more personal level. Self-isolation has done something to the mind-set of the population. Plus the normal things that happen to all of us in life are still there. It just feels so bleh at the moment.
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Sorry, don't want to bring anyone down.

But there are some things we can do to make ourselves feel better. And the one I am going to going to focus on is – surprise! – music.
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There is a huge number of songs that spruik a positive message. So very many. And I will not say that I have heard even close to 1% of them all, which means this list is probably very incomplete. These are the favourites of my own, taken from my own music collection. It did make for a fun day of listening to songs. So many songs! My neighbours are probably glad I'm in typing mode right now!

Now, I only set myself two rules. First, the song has to be about general positivity, not positivity due to falling in love or having a child or something that would make people feel positive in general no matter what. Second, the song has nothing to do with dancing. My column, my rules. And there is a reason for that second rule. Honestly.

All right, I normally don't include comedy songs in my lists, but, seriously, how could I not include:
'Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life' by Monty Python (1979)

From the classic film Life Of Brian, this song is about trying to find the positives in life, no matter what because, well, we're all going to die, so why worry about anything? Coming from a scene in the movie when a bunch of people have been crucified, it still works out of that context. And, really, who hasn't at least tried to whistle along to it? Monty Python were the best.

Now, the list proper! In chronological order, as usual, and I know some of these songs might be a little polarising, but I like them all… And why 15? Because I struggled to cut it down, that's all.

'What A Wonderful World' by Louis Armstrong (1967)

This track has become one of the most over-used songs in pop culture. It was used in the films Good Morning, Vietnam and 12 Monkeys, the documentary Bowling For Columbine and it was the perfect finish for the TV mini-series Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Plus the many, many more I can't be bothered to think of at the moment. Why? Because it so perfectly encapsulates how the world can be beautiful if looked at the right way. Armstrong's rough voice suits the tone and that closing "Oh, yeah…" is so wonderful. For what it's worth, Joey Ramone's version is also pretty damn cool.

'Here Comes The Sun' by The Beatles (1969)

From that frankly brilliant Beatles' album Abbey Road, written by George Harrison, this song about the sun breaking through a "long, cold Northern winter" is a metaphor about breaking out of whatever in life is giving you grief and looking for the positives. Yes, it could have been about the Beatles' dissolution, but it can mean anything to anyone. I've said it before, I say it again – Harrison was really under-rated.

'I Can See Clearly Now' by Johnny Nash (1972)

Much like the Beatles' song I just mentioned, this equates good times with a break in the weather. Probably better known through the cover version by Jimmy Cliff, or, for people of the generation after me, the version by either Hothouse Flowers or Liam Finn (all of which I enjoy), the original has a little more charm and emotion about it. It is positive all the way through. It has an uplifting feel about it that almost comes across as gospel, though it is tinged with reggae. Wonderful mix, wonderful song.

'Don't Stop' by Fleetwood Mac (1977)

From the Rumours album, an album that was written and recorded as the band's relationships were all falling apart and collapsing under the weight of ego, drugs and sex with other people. For all that, it is a really good album. And this song is one of the better tracks from it. While a message from Christine McVie (the writer/keyboardist) to her ex-husband John (the bass player) (it's complicated), its feeling of optimism was deliberately written to be able to be used across all manner of events. In fact, Bill Clinton used it as his campaign song, in a rare example of a politician using a song properly. The song says things might be bad now, but tomorrow will be better, so focus on that. And all from a break-up.

'We Are The Champions' by Queen (1977)

Normally paired with 'We Will Rock You', this track is about claiming victory in whatever you do in life. While it has been adopted by many, many, many sporting events and clubs and groups and associations, its message goes beyond that. The band wanted a song to bring people together. I remember reading a long time ago that this song was voted one of the most recognised songs in the world; I wonder if that is still the case. It would not surprise me. This is a song that stays with you and does not let go. And when you have a band as good as Queen, everything about the song is just amazing.

'I Will Survive' by Gloria Gaynor (1978)

While this is ostensibly a song about coping after a break-up, it is more about finding strength after some sort of devastating life-changing event, any event. Gaynor's voice soars and overcomes even the dated disco beat. The song's message, however, is so pervasive that videos using this song appear all over YouTube, especially the funny parodies. I fell into a strange rabbit hole of these for half an hour or so doing this! In recent times, I heard it being used at a #metoo rally, and that makes sense. So, yes, while it might break my rules, the subsequent uses have seen it go beyond its mere lyrical borders.

'Rainbow Connection' by Kermit The Frog (1979)

From The Muppet Movie, this sad sounding song is about chasing rainbows, but never stopping doing so. I saw this film when it first came out, at a drive-in, with my mum and sisters (not sure where dad was). Back then, this song didn't do much for me, but when I re-watched the film early in high school (we all do weird things when we're teenagers), and I actually listened to the lyrics properly, it struck me. It became a guilty pleasure song, one my friends never knew I had some affection for. It is the sort of song that speaks to everyone.

'Don't Stop Believin'' by Journey (1981)

A song that tells a story, this is a song I have mentioned before because, frankly, it is a wonderful track. Set goals, set dreams, and don't stop until you reach them, always strive for them, be true to yourself, do what you feel you have to do. The positive messages in this song are enough to fill a little book of uplifting quotes (with cute pictures of animals). And with the voice of Steve Perry driving it along, it is perfect. As much as it pains me to admit, I think this song was almost forgotten by all but those of us who remember it until used in that final episode of The Sopranos and used in the popular rock musical Rock Of Ages… and then sung in the TV… show(?) Glee. No matter. The original version is a classic rock anthem.

'Break My Stride' by Matthew Wilder (1983)

Like so many songs on this list, this is about not letting anything get you down or get in the way of achieving what you want in life. This was one of the few songs in the 80s to make the top of the charts without a genuine music video, showing just how strong the song was – it did not need the visuals to sell it. Younger readers may remember the Unique II version, but this is so much better. Wilder's odd voice and the strange lyrics of the verses only add to the song, not distract from it. Just a good song.

'Walking On Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves (1985)

The version we all know and love is actually a re-recorded version. The original they recorded in 1983 was redone and this is the one that took the world by storm. Yes, it does break one of my rules, as it is essentially about love, making the singer "walk on sunshine", but its use since has gone beyond the romantic to be a love of all things, including the world at large, and the chorus has become a means of celebrating sheer, unadulterated joy. And it is a song that, if you know it, you can't help but sing along to. So good.

'Don't Worry, Be Happy' by Bobby McFerrin (1988)

When I decided to write this list, this was the first song that I thought about. If you were not alive back in the late 80s, you could not comprehend how pervasive this song was. It was everywhere! It was sort of like Ed Sheeran in the mid-2010s, only it was one song and not every song off one album (Divide (χ)). The video featuring Robin Williams and Bill Irwin was hugely popular. I was in year 13, my last year of high school, and kids would be singing it in the yard, doing their own little a cappella versions of the song; friends at other schools told me it happened there as well. So strange. The song itself is not only life-affirming and filled with joy, but it is the only song to top the US Billboard chart with no instruments, done by one person. All the voices, vocal effects, finger clicks, hand-claps, and everything else is done by McFerrin alone, with lots of overdubs. That unique sound is possibly a reason why it was so popular, but I also think its message was a strong reason.

'Beautiful Day' by U2 (2000)

Another song I've mentioned before, this positive song from U2 with its up-tempo guitar sound and soaring chorus is a song that just uplifts. It's about being happy with what you've got, which is a very positive message (if a bit rich coming from such a wealthy band). It won a bunch of Grammy awards, if I remember correctly, and I know it was in the upper reaches of the charts here in Australia, as well as in the UK, so its appeal seemed to be pretty universal. And that is understandable. The last song on this list was from the 1980s; maybe the world needed positivity after the 1990s.

'Perfect' by P!nk (2010)

Yes, I have used the polite, friendly version of the song and its title, but adding the expletive only makes the concept more forceful; it does not change the message of the song. This song is about looking after yourself, that no matter what anyone else says, you are perfect in your own way. I was teaching when this song came out, and the girls, especially, in my class in that year seemed to take it on as an anthem. They took it to be about it not mattering what you looked like, that beauty is not skin deep. Great. No problems at all with that, because at least they took a very strong positive message away from it. Although, a part of me thinks they just like singing the 'f-'word. Still, strong song.

'Best Day Of My Life' by American Authors (2013)

This infectious, catchy track is about reaching for your dreams, and every day you get a little closer becomes the new "best day of my life". The use of acoustic instruments and the anthemic chorus lift it out of the pop of the time, but the lyrics also help. Very positive in tone of the writing and the singing. Don't see that enough any longer.

'Fight Song' by Rachel Platten (2015)

And we finish with a song about empowerment. I know that many people do not like this song and feel its message is forced, but it came out at a time when it actually meant something to me. It is a song about taking control of one's own destiny – "This is my fight song/ Take back my life song…" – and trying to rise about the bad stuff in your life. The chant-like chorus tries to be anthemic, but does not quite get there. Still, Platten's voice is very good and the ideas in the song are very strong, and I think this song gets more hate than it deserves. It deserves some love.

And there you have it – 15 songs with a positive message stretching back over many, many years. Not just the messages here, but also the music itself will set your head bobbing along. We all need some positivity in life, and I hope these songs will add at least a little to yours.

And, of course, feel free to add your own below.

Happy listening!
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Why? We all need some positivity in our lives
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Your Comment
Beautiful by Carly Simon. "You've got to get up every morning, with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart."
by happy (score: 0|4) 822 days ago
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