When the end of the year rolls around, two things usually happen. One thing we do is look ahead and set goals for the upcoming year. The other thing we do is look back and try to put the prior year into perspective.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- End of the Year Songs for School or Graduation
- End of the Year Songs for New Year’s Eve
- Sentimental End of the Year Songs
- End of the Year Songs About Perseverance
- Uplifting End of the Year Songs
There are many ways to observe these kinds of New Year’s Eve rituals. One popular method is to put together an end of year playlist or slideshow. You can even combine the two and set a slideshow to music. This slideshow can be fun to revisit with friends and family who share your memories of the year. Or they can provide an opportunity for you to engage in some self-reflection as you brainstorm New Year’s resolution ideas.
Of course, a ceremonial event like this is always better with the right music. Here, we share a list of songs that make the perfect soundtrack to an end-of-year slideshow.
End of the Year Songs for School or Graduation
There are very few moments in life as nostalgia-drenched as the school year coming to an end. This is doubly true when you happen to be graduating. In many ways, it feels like the end of an era. These songs are perfect for an end-of-school-year playlist.
1. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
The “Good Riddance” part of the title might make this seem like an unlikely song for a graduation playlist. But while Green Day entered the scene as a brash punk trio, this song marked their transition to a more mature and emotional sound.
2. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
When you get older, this song has a more bittersweet flavor. But for young people graduating, it evokes an enticing picture of an endless road filled with possibilities.
3. “Hall of Fame” by The Script (featuring will.i.am)
In high school and college, you might find yourself in your school’s hall of fame. But once you graduate, you get the chance to aspire to a brand-new hall of fame. You might even end up changing the world.
4. “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
The song is technically about how the energy of a crowd and a song can barely be contained by the roof of the club. But the feeling of graduating has that same chaotic, joyful energy
5. “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
Standing on the precipice of graduation can be terrifying. But it can also be so exciting. This song captures that feeling of having your whole life ahead of you.
End of the Year Songs for New Year’s Eve
Your New Year’s Eve playlist can set the tone for your celebration. Want to have a raucous party? Select upbeat and up-tempo songs. Want something a little more laid-back? Opt for more chill music, instead.
6. “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus
It’s your New Year’s party—you can do what you want. That includes playing this guilty pleasure song.
7. “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic
As a new year draws near, many of us promise to drastically change our lives. This song follows a narrator on a similar path. He’s dreaming about leaving it all behind and starting again.
8. “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers
Not every song has to have some deeper meaning. There’s nothing particularly New Year’s- themed about this song. But it’s the one song almost everyone can agree is amazing.
9. “This Will Be Our Year” by The Zombies
Not everyone wants to start all over from scratch on New Year’s. Some people are happy to face another year with opportunities to grow and evolve. In this song, the narrator is simply saying that every year has been great, and this one will be even better.
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10. “Lover” by Taylor Swift
There’s something very relatable (and seasonally appropriate) about the lyrics:
“We could leave the Christmas lights up 'til January
This is our place, we make the rules”
Sentimental End of the Year Songs
When the end of the calendar year rolls around, pretty much every media outlet puts out year-in-review compilations. TV channels and print publications round up the best songs of the year. Here are a few iconic songs that belong on any end-of-year playlist.
11. “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae
This nostalgic song about listening to your old records is perfectly suited for a playlist of celebration.
12. “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
This bittersweet song captures all the excitement and fear that comes with taking a huge risk. It’s an emotional moment that pays off every time you hear it.
13. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa (featuring Charlie Puth)
The hook on this song is a tearjerker every time you hear it. It’s heartbreaking but inspirational all at the same time.
14. “Rise” by Superfruit (featuring Mary Lambert, Brian Justin Crum, and Mario Jose)
The song was originally recorded by Katy Perry for the 2016 Olympics. But this cover transcends the original. It blends five powerhouse vocals together for an anthem that just soars. It was dedicated to everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, lending it added resonance.
15. When The Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish
Eilish’s ethereal and haunting vocals make this song a moody New Year’s favorite.
End of the Year Songs About Perseverance
When we make it through a difficult year, it can be very empowering to realize how far we’ve come. If you find you’re reflecting on everything you’ve overcome, these songs will be right at home on your playlist.
16. “Alive” by Sia
Sia excels at writing pop anthems about people who overcome challenges. So many of her songs could have also made this list. This one, though, has an especially powerful message. Even if you lose everything, as long as you’re still alive you can keep on fighting.
17. “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John
It’s hard to believe this song is 35 years old. It feels incredibly timeless. It’s all about how, no matter what people throw at you, you can still stand tall. After a stressful year, this song gives you the energy to keep it moving.
18. “Battle Scars” by Lupe Fiasco and Guy Sebastian
This song deserves much more popularity. Lupe Fiasco is a rapper known for his intricate wordplay and gasping delivery. Guy Sebastian is a singer-songwriter best known in Australia.
Somehow these two disparate voices come together in a way that is utterly engaging. Its message—that life may leave you scarred, but you will keep fighting—is pretty empowering.
19. “Head Above Water” by Avril Lavigne
Sometimes life can be challenging. This song encourages you to just keep your head above water, and soon you’ll make it through the storm.
20. “Titanium” by David Guetta
It’s not often that a club jam can make you feel so powerful. But this song’s message—that you are as strong as titanium—helps you feel downright indestructible. You can’t help but want to keep persevering when you hear it.
Uplifting End of the Year Songs
Whether you’re ending the school year or the calendar year, you’ll often find that you’re filled with a sense of excitement or optimism. These uplifting jams are perfect for keeping your mood buoyant as you look to the future.
21. “Juice” by Lizzo
Lizzo is essentially the queen of self-empowerment anthems. No one loves Lizzo as much as she loves herself. And she wants everyone to hold themselves in similarly high esteem.
This fun, frothy gem is about how Lizzo can’t help being great. Listen to it, and you’ll start to believe you’re pretty great, too.
22. “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato
There’s something really uplifting about being able to be unapologetically happy for being you. That message is even more powerful when directed at people who once doubted you.
23. “Happy” by Pharell Williams
The lyrics “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof” seem a little incomprehensible at first listen. But we like to think it’s describing a level of happiness that can’t be contained by mere walls and ceiling. It doesn’t get much more uplifting than that.
24. “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen
There’s so much chaotic, joyful energy behind this song. It can be really uplifting to remind yourself that you are absolutely unstoppable.
25. “This Is Me” by Keala Settle
This song has only been out for a few years, but it’s already an undisputably timeless anthem. At the end of the day—or year—the best thing you can do is be yourself. This song captures what a power move that can be.
Sum Up Your Year with a Playlist or Slideshow
As a new year dawns, it’s always important to look back on the one we’re leaving behind. When we look back at the mistakes we’ve made and the hardships we’ve faced, we can make a plan to be better moving forward.
An end of year slideshow or playlist can help underscore these reflections with a sense of poignancy. This mix of empowering and inspirational songs will be a perfect addition to your year in review.