With so many phenomenal musicians, how do you choose which to include on your bucket list of songs to listen to before you die? If you listed every artist's #1 album, you'd be listening to music all day, every day, and still not get through it all.
Just like having a list of books to read before you die or places to visit, having a list of songs and albums can help you focus on the absolute best the musical world has to offer. Whether it's rock, pop, classical, rap, or another genre, music can remind you of special times in life, bring up memories, and inspire you to live your best life.
Here, we list happy songs, sad songs, energetic songs — there's something for everyone.
1. “1” by the Beatles (2000)
This album by one of the most famous bands of all time is a must-listen. It's packed with timeless and iconic songs that will bring you back to the era of Beatle-mania.
2. “Gold: Greatest Hits” by the Carpenters (2004)
Nothing is more satisfying and soothing than listening to Karen Carpenter's voice with Richard Carpenter's arrangements.
3. “In the Wee Small Hours” by Frank Sinatra (1955)
Do you like a jazz, smooth music, and traditional pop combo? Frank Sinatra’s got you covered. He sold millions of records, and this may be his best album.
4. “Bella Donna” by Stevie Nicks (1981)
Considered to be the best album of rock goddess Stevie Nicks, this is a fantastic album. Groove to Nicks’ distinct voice, unique vibes, and poetical lyrics.
5. “The Genius of Ray Charles” by Ray Charles (1959)
Get inspired by music from the Genius himself. This album is ideal for anyone who loves a good dose of blues, soul, jazz, and rock and roll.
6. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John (1973)
Most famous for “Candle in the Wind,” this album is an ultimate feel-good throwback for Elton John lovers.
7. “Complete Edith Piaf (Remastered) Vol. 3” by Edith Piaf (2010)
Can there be anything better than the sultry sound of Edith Piaf's voice? You won't be able to stop listening to this album of autobiographical ballads about sorrow, love, and contentment.
8. “Purple Rain” by Prince (1984)
Pure soul, funk, and rock ballads by the prince of musicians: You'll be glad you gave this a listen.
9. “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell (1969)
Featured in the movie “Love Actually,” you'll be glad you put this album on your list. Joni's songs are known for a beautiful combination of poetry and music.
10. “Balance” by Van Halen (1995)
Van Halen was likely on your radio a lot if you grew up with rock and roll. This Van Halen album has a beautiful balance of hard rock scores and excellent lyrics.
11. “The Collection” by Alanis Morissette (2005)
You may already agree that Alanis Morissette’s vocal range and songs are out of this world. This album contains all of her best songs from 1995 to 2005.
12. “Greatest Hits II” by Queen (1991)
Recently popularized by the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen is one British band you're not likely to forget. If you didn't get enough of Freddie Mercury from the film, this album is your chance.
13. “How Does That Grab You?” by Nancy Sinatra (1966)
Nancy Sinatra reigned in the 1960s and was a songstress known for her dynamic pop, rock, and country music. No musical complication is complete without adding Nancy's best album.
14. “The Song Remains The Same” by Led Zeppelin (1976)
If you can't get enough of U.K. pop and rock, add this to your list. “Stairway to Heaven” is one of their most popular songs to date.
15. “My Tennessee Mountain Home” by Dolly Parton (1973)
Dolly is fondly considered the queen of country music. Even if you don't live in Tennessee, this album will take you home and bring back memories.
16. “Aladdin Sane” by David Bowie (1973)
An artist whose music transcends time, Bowie will take you to different realms with his experimental and influential pieces in this album.
17. “Amazing Grace” by Aretha Franklin (1972)
Considered one of the best gospel singers of all time, Aretha showcases her golden voice in this album of albums. You'll be hard-pressed to find a record more uplifting and soul-satisfying.
18. “Gold: Greatest Hits” by ABBA (1992)
Swedish pop superstars ABBA hit the charts numerous times throughout their career. To this day, their songs are some of the most loved the world around.
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19. “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder (1976)
Like Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder brings you into the world of blues, soul, pop, and funk music.
20. “My Love: Essential Collection” by Celine Dion (2008)
For the romantic, sensitive types, you can't go wrong with a collection by Celine Dion. Perhaps you will resonate with her most well-known lyrics, "My Heart Will Go On."
21. “Greatest Hits: The Ultimate Collection” by Bon Jovi (2010)
Think of Bon Jovi as a romantic rock band. They've created numerous hits throughout the years, and it's fitting to listen to their best while you think about your best moments.
22. “Ray of Light” by Madonna (1998)
You can't leave out the Queen of Pop and her Ray of Light album. This is considered to be one of the best albums she’s ever released.
23. “The Final Countdown” by Europe (1986)
Europe is one of the most successful European bands of all time. They became famous because of the hits on this album.
24. “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse (2006)
Like Alanis, Amy is one female artist who can't fit into any one genre of music. She gives you pop, jazz, soul, blues, and contemporary rock ballads in this dynamic album.
25. “Exile on Main Street” by The Rolling Stones (1972)
The Rolling Stones created some of the best rock and blues music of all time. Exile is considered to be their best album.
26. “Pure” by Maria Callas (2014)
If you love opera, this compilation of Maria Callas' arias will whisk you away to places magical and mysterious as she serenades you long into the night.
27. “Anthology” by Bryan Adams (2005)
This album features Adams' beautiful ballads. It also features his song used in the DreamWorks film, “Spirit.”
28. “Heart of Stone” by Cher (1989)
The Goddess of Pop outdid herself with this album, and it sold more than 4 million copies worldwide.
29. “Best” by Scorpions (1999)
Another successful European band, Scorpions, has made some of the best anthems of all time.
30. “Whitney: The Greatest Hits” by Whitney Houston (2000)
With her powerful voice, Whitney is one of the best-selling artists in the world. You'll never go wrong with her greatest hits.
31. “In Rainbows” by Radiohead (2007)
Radiohead is one of the most iconic rock bands in the world. The band jumps between art and alternative rock, as well as experimental and electro music. You'll be seeing rainbows with this collection.
32. “The Very Best of Eagles” by the Eagles (2003)
You'll be glad you gave this album a listen. All the most iconic songs are included from this American band that has stood the test of time.
33. “Nirvana” by Nirvana (2002)
You can't forget Kurt Cobain. This Nirvana compilation includes nearly every song that became someone's life anthem.
34. “Joanne” by Lady Gaga (2016)
If you ask Lady Gaga, she'd say that this is her best album so far. We think you'll agree.
35. “Face Value” by Phil Collins (1981)
This album was the start of Phil Collins' hugely successful career. Give a listen to the classic songs that began it all.
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36. “Andrew Lloyd Webber Unmasked: The Platinum Collection” by Andrew Lloyd Webber (2018)
If you can't get enough of Broadway musicals, this is for you. Nothing can be more delightful than listening to the best of Webber's creations.
37. “The Greatest Hits… So Far!!!” by P!nk (2010)
P!nk: Her singing is powerful, and her writing is exquisite.
38. “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends” by Coldplay (2008)
Coldplay was the recipient of several Grammy Awards because of this album. Simply put, the music is stunning.
39. “Cinema” by Andrea Bocelli (2015)
Andrea Bocelli has that warmth and power in his voice that you can't ignore. You'll be glad you listened to this Italian tenor singing the best film soundtracks from Moon River to hits by Hans Zimmer.
40. “Born To Die” by Lana Del Rey (2012)
Though contemporary, her songs and her voice will take you back to the late 1950s and 1960s.
41. “Night Visions” by Imagine Dragons (2012)
This album is the reason why you might know the name Imagine Dragons.
42. “21” by Adele (2011)
This early album of Adele takes you back to sad times and heartbreaks. With Adele's songs, you won't be alone as you walk down memory lane.
43. “Hozier” by Hozier (2014)
Indie and sometimes folk, this album is for those with eccentric musical tastes. The songs have poetry that will prompt you to think about your life.
44. “Divide” by Ed Sheeran (2017)
Like Adele, this album is best when accompanying you on a walk down memory lane.
45. “Atlas: Life” by Sleeping At Last (2015)
Eccentric, poetic, and thematic, you'll be surprised by the depth and sincerity of the lyrics and musical compositions in this album.
46. “Lungs” by Florence and The Machine (2009)
This is another one for eccentric music lovers. Enjoy The Machine's classic magical vibe and colorful arrangements.
47. “American Beauty/American Psycho” by Fall Out Boy (2015)
This album by the famous American rock band has songs you'll recognize from numerous films, including Disney's “Big Hero 6.”
48. “Lemonade” by Beyoncé (2016)
If you don't know why the pop world calls her Queen Bey, this album will tell you why.
49. “No Strings Attached” by ‘NSYNC (2000)
The best album of an earlier American boy band, each song will bring you back to the youthful days of the 2000s.
50. “Anti” by Rihanna (2016)
Like most of Rihanna's creations, this album is raw and explicit. But that is very Rihanna, and it's what fans love about her.
The Music of Life
Music, like any art form, can connect with us deeply, inspire our imaginations, and speak to us of lessons learned in life. Many of the nostalgic songs on this list will bring back memories and help you relive old times, heartbreaks, and happy thoughts.
Music serves to remind us that, while we all have separate journeys, we travel the road of life together.