Change is a universal part of the human experience. Luckily, many of the changes we go through can be for the better.
The fact that this experience is so common means it naturally inspires artists to create works about growth and positive change. This is particularly true of musicians. In probably every single genre of music, you can easily find numerous songs about change.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Songs About Changing Your Life
- Songs About Changing Society
- Songs About Changing the World
- Songs About Change and Moving On
- Rap and Hip-Hop Songs About Change
- Pop and Rock Songs About Change
- Songs About Change in Relationships
- Songs About Change at Work
- Sad or Sorrowful Songs About Change
- Pop Songs About Change
The following are merely a few of the more noteworthy examples. Along with helping you look back at the way your life may have changed over the years, these songs about change can also inspire you to make even more positive changes, both for yourself and for the world.
Songs About Changing Your Life
If you need a little musical reminder that you can change something about your life that you’re not happy with, keep these songs in mind:
1. “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
This inspirational classic is often a hit at karaoke night for an easy-to-understand reason: It offers hope to those who feel stuck in situations they believe don’t have the power to change. Sometimes, you simply need to wait just a little bit longer for change to occur.
2. “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel
This song is perfect if you’re struggling to make hard decisions. Peter Gabriel wrote it when he was in a professional rut and had to decide to change his life for the better by taking his career in a new direction, even if it meant striking out on his own.
3. “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins
Some people find it difficult to make positive changes in their own lives because they feel that doing so always takes a long time. However, as this song about change reminds us, “life can change” in a single night.
4. “Changes” by David Bowie
The late singer-songwriter and all-around inspiration David Bowie released this song in 1971 as part of the album “Hunky Dory,” about his feelings on growing up. “Changes” shares moments of clarity that even if we look down on those younger than us, we are all changing in some way.
5. “My Life” by Billy Joel
As this song points out, sometimes changing your life in a positive way involves deciding you’re no longer going to live according to the expectations others have for you. Sometimes you have to forget about those expectations and pursue your dreams instead.
Songs About Changing Society
Numerous popular musicians have used their skills as songwriters and performers to call for social change in songs such as:
6. “The Times They Are-a-Changin’” by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s classic practically serves as a mission statement for those promoting social change in the 1960s. It’s also still relevant today.
7. “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
This is a particularly strong example of a song about social change because Sam Cooke wrote it after the owners of a “whites only” motel refused to let him, his wife, and his band stay there.
8. “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
After the 1960s ended, Cat Stevens released this song celebrating the hope that society would continue to become more peaceful for everyone.
9. “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye
The gentle smoothness of this beloved Marvin Gaye song doesn’t prevent it from being a sharp attack on those who allow systemic violence in society to persist. Luckily, it’s also an optimistic call for change.
10. “Talkin’ About a Revolution” by Tracy Chapman
This song expresses the belief that sometimes societal change occurs when large numbers of people decide they’re tired of struggling against injustices.
Songs About Changing the World
If you ever feel as though changing the world is an unrealistic dream or ideal, these songs may change (no pun intended) your mind:
11. “Imagine” by John Lennon
No list of songs about changing the world would be complete without this simple masterpiece.
12. “One” by U2
This song actually has multiple meanings. Although the band members originally used the metaphor of a relationship in turmoil to explore their feelings about the group potentially breaking up, they’ve since acknowledged that listeners can also interpret it as a call for all people to come together and change the world for the better.
13. “One Day” by Matisyahu
Like many songs about changing the world, this one expresses the hope that one day all people will live in harmony and peace.
14. “One Love” by Bob Marley
As this song argues, perhaps the best way to make positive changes in the world is to embrace love for everyone.
15. “We Are the World” by USA for Africa
This well-known tune reminds listeners that changing the world isn’t just something to hope for. It’s also a responsibility.
Songs About Change and Moving On
Again, changes are part of any person’s life. These songs can help you embrace those natural shifts:
16. “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John
The combination of Bernie Taupin’s lyrics and Elton John’s music result in a song that perfectly embodies the joy you feel when you’re finally ready to move on from any type of relationship that held you back in the past.
17. “100 Years” by Five for Fighting
The lyrics to this song about change highlight the value of accepting that everything in life is temporary, and we should simply enjoy the time we have here by allowing ourselves to move on from one phase of life to another when we have to. Listeners could also interpret it as a song about the importance of having a bucket list that reminds them of the experiences they want to have while they’re alive.
18. “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day
Green Day’s gentler side came out in this tune that often makes its way onto graduation playlists. It’s simply a moving song about accepting the end of an experience, whether it be a relationship, your high school years, or any other prolonged experience that may someday end.
19. “Dammit” by Blink-182
Moving on often requires growing as a person and learning that some changes are merely part of life, as this song about growing up expresses.
20. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
This is one of the most beloved songs about change because it acknowledges that moving on from a relationship or life circumstance can be frightening, but again, it’s just part of being human. The “landslide” of the title is also one of the most interesting metaphors about life you’re likely to hear in any song.
Post-planning tip: Moving on can feel difficult in the face of a sudden death. If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, it's tough to handle both the emotional and technical aspects of their unfinished business without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.
Rap and Hip-Hop Songs About Change
If you’re putting together a rap and hip-hop playlist featuring songs about change, consider including these:
21. “One Man Can Change the World” by Big Sean
This song’s inspirational lyrics describe how, even when we are struggling in life, we need to refocus and remember that we have the power to change our lives. We even have the power to change the world.
22. “Changes” by 2Pac
Released in 1999 nearly three years after 2Pac’s untimely death, this song expanded the lyrical prowess of the West Coast rapper with words that still ring true today. The lyrics layer issues like racism, police brutality, drugs, and world instability on each other to urge everyone to look past their old ways to improve and make their own peace.
23. “I Can” by Nas
With his staccato lyrics written to young Black men and women, “I Can” by Nas delves into African history to inspire his audience to “read more, learn more, change the globe.” In its purest form, this song provides an impetus to fight for change and be different.
24. “Be (Intro)” by Common
Common sets the tone for his 2005 album with “Be (Intro),” a quick two-minute song that brings you through his past, present, and future. He writes lyrics about his own life like learning from his daughter, staying present in the moment, and keeping family demons in mind as he--and we--move throughout this world.
25. “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy
Public Enemy recorded this song in part to encourage young Black people to facilitate societal change by refusing to accept the oppression many of them faced.
Pop and Rock Songs About Change
Don’t worry, pop and rock fans. These genres also include such songs about change as:
21. “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
Anyone who has ever heard this song knows why it became a liberating breakup anthem for pop fans throughout the world upon its release.
22. “I’m Not Crying” by Flight of the Conchords
If you’re struggling to cope with the necessary life change that may occur after a breakup, this humorous track can help you laugh about the situation. This song was originally written for the self-titled HBO TV show Flight of the Conchords and exists as a pop culture favorite.
23. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” by The Verve
What may be the biggest hit of The Verve’s career also features a stellar hook and lyrics about recognizing our ability to change.
24. “Time to Pretend” by MGMT
Although MGMT have made it clear the lyrics to this hit are at least partially a humorous take on a young adult’s dreams of becoming a rock star, they also highlight the changes that growing up must involve.
25. “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
Closing out this list is a rocking tune that makes one thing clear: accepting change and moving on doesn’t need to be as painful as you expect if you have the right attitude.
Songs About Change in Relationships
Relationships are rarely stagnant. Change in any long relationship is almost always inevitable. These songs capture the various ways that change may affect someone in a relationship, as well as the different ways in which relationships can change in general:
26. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton wrote this song as an explanation to her friend and mentor, Porter Wagoner. She explains that while striking out on her own after having worked with him for several years (a decision that initially hurt Wagoner), she still deeply cared for him and always would. It’s a song that highlights how even when a change in a relationship means drifting apart, love can persist.
27. “Back to the Start” by Lily Allen
Not all songs about change in relationships need to be about romantic relationships. Additionally, songs about change in relationships don’t need to be about moving on, but instead can be about reuniting. According to Lily Allen, she co-wrote this song for her older half-sister, with whom she didn’t get along when they were younger. The song is a hopeful track about the possibility of reconciling with important people in our lives.
28. “Stay (I Missed You)” by Lisa Loeb
The title of this song might make it an ironic entry on a list of songs about change, but it deserves a spot here due to the way its lyrics touch on the conflicting emotions someone can experience when they are not sure whether they should remain in an imperfect situation or whether it’s truly best to embrace change.
29. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis
Songs about change in relationships can often be sorrowful. However, Noel Gallagher said goal of the song was to write about the importance of looking forward instead of looking back. He wanted to focus on what could have been when it’s time to move on from a relationship. This makes “Don’t Look Back in Anger” a uniquely optimistic breakup song.
Songs About Change at Work
Work plays a major role in someone’s life. Thus, changes in one’s career or work situation can be fairly significant, as these songs illustrate:
30. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” by Billy Joel
This song describes characters who work far too many hours for far too little pay. They don't consider whether the life their earning for is one that's worth all the suffering. Although it’s not entirely clear what becomes of the characters, the lyrics suggest that at least some realize that quitting their jobs and trying to live easier lifestyles might be the better choice for them.
31. “My Life” by Billy Joel
That’s right, Billy Joel earns two consecutive spots on this list! “My Life” features lyrics similar to “Movin’ Out.” It describes a man who spontaneously decides to close his business and move to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. When friends and family who would never dream of making such a move question his decisions, he merely explains that he is free to make choices about his own life.
32. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John
Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s longtime collaborator, has stated that he wrote this song about his experiences feeling disillusioned with success and wishing to return to his roots. However, it’s a song that virtually anyone can relate to if they’ve been in a job, only to realize it’s not what they expected it to be. They'd rather turn back towards a lifestyle that ultimately offered greater fulfillment.
33. “The Job That Ate My Brains” by The Ramones
Well, the title to this one is pretty self-explanatory. Many people understand the feeling of realizing a job is too soul-draining to remain in.
Sad or Sorrowful Songs About Change
Change is not always an easy experience. When life changes in ways we don’t wish for it to, pain is a natural result. Songs such as the following highlight this truth:
34. “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison
The title of this song sums up the message it shares: regardless of our wishes, there is almost nothing in life or in this world that is permanent. It’s an upsetting truth for many to accept. Although this is a relatively sad song about change, it still offers some solace by reminding the listener that change is a part of life. Learning to feel comfortable with this knowledge can make coping with change slightly easier than it might otherwise be.
35. “You Were Meant for Me” by Jewel
Some of the most sorrowful songs about change are those about not wanting to admit that a change has occurred. It's a feeling that it’ll be impossible to return to the life we once had.
In “You Were Meant for Me” by Jewel, a woman who has recently gone through a painful breakup describes her daily routine that feels empty now that her ex-lover is gone. The painful chorus of the song features the woman insisting that her lover will see the error of their ways and return, when in reality this is unlikely to be the case.
36. “New York Minute” by The Eagles
“New York Minute” focuses on how life can suddenly change or end for reasons beyond our control. Although the song’s message could be positive, as it encourages the listener to remember that there is no guarantee life will always remain as it is. We should cherish every moment because lives take random and unexpected turns for the worse every day, the essential tone of the song is regretful.
Pop Songs About Change
Change is, again, a universal human experience. Thus, it should come as no surprise that some of music’s most popular artists address the topic in songs such as:
37. “Change” by Taylor Swift
The lyrics to “Change” by Taylor Swift begin fairly negatively, describing a vague situation in which someone has experienced yet another disappointment after having already experienced a string of them. However, the song becomes an optimistic anthem, with lyrics insisting that life will eventually change for the better and the downtrodden will overcome their difficulties.
38. “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson
“Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson describes the experience of growing up in a small town that offers little opportunity to someone with big dreams. Regardless, the song’s speaker describes how she'll one day change her life and move somewhere where she can fully pursue her heart’s desires.
39. “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry
Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" features lyrics that initially describe someone falling into the depths of despair. Although they don't specifically explain the nature of the song's speaker's difficulties, they conjure up a sense of struggling to cope with life's challenges.
Like many positive songs about change, the lyrics shift when the speaker has a moment of realization, discovering that they have the power to change their life for the better.
40. “Stronger” by Britney Spears
Sometimes, a person allows someone else to control them and their sense of self-worth. This is an experience the lyrics of “Stronger” by Britney Spears describe. Luckily, the lyrics also remind the listener that it’s always possible to make a change by recognizing that it’s not necessary to allow toxic people to dominate your life.
Like many of the other uplifting songs about relationships, “Stronger” is an anthem for moving with a sense of hope. Additionally, a relationship could serve as a metaphor for any life experiences holding someone down before they make a positive change.
Songs About Change: An Experience We All Have
Remember, there are so many classic songs about change out there because change is something we all experience. These songs are merely some of the most powerful reminders of that fact.