Music is well-regarded as one of the best forms of healing, because it has the innate power to evoke visceral feelings, whether they be positive or negative. Often, people turn to music to find comfort and endurance. And now more than ever, the music industry is addressing the crucial importance of mental health and self-care, from Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” to Kesha’s “Rainbow.” However, this mental health awareness has been highlighted in songs for decades. Here is a list of 15 tracks that have always reminded me that I am not alone in my fight for solace.
1. “Adam’s Song” – blink182 (2000)
Blink182’s “Adam’s Song” was the third and last single off of their studio album Enema of the State in 2000. The band’s bassist, Mark Hoppus, has pointed out numerous times that along with personal experiences, the track was also inspired by a teen suicide letter he read in a magazine.
Standout Lyric: “Sixteen just held such better days, days when I still felt alive, we couldn’t wait to get outside”
2. “Swim In The Light” – Kid Cudi (2016)
Kid Cudi made headlines when news broke out that he checked himself into a rehabilitation center for suicidal thoughts and a long battle with depression in 2016. Cudi is one of the most vocal rappers about mental illness in the game today. “Swim In The Light” is the second track off of his 2016 project Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’. The track is an ominous one that strips Cudi of all his inner demons.
Standout Lyric: “What is to do, I’ve been low enough / Who knew I’d make it out? / I jumped too low, now out the way”
3. “Breathe Me” – Sia (2004)
“Breathe Me” is a heartbreaking ballad that places Sia in an incredibly vulnerable state of mind. She talks about depression while screaming a cry for help.
Standout Lyric: “Ouch, I have lost myself again / Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found, yeah I think that I might break / Lost myself again, and I feel unsafe.”
4. “Holding On To You” – Twenty One Pilots (2013)
I believe that out of all the modern alternative acts out there right now, Twenty One Pilots definitely takes the crown for being such paragons of advocacy for self-acceptance and mental health. “Holding On To You” is just one of the many tracks off of their second studio album, Vessel, that shines a light onto hope and perseverance.
Standout Lyric: “Time is slowin’ and it’s frozen still / And the windows still look really nice, right? / You think twice about your life / It probably happens at night, right? / Fight it, take the pain, ignite it”
5. “Anziety” – Logic (2017)
Logic’s suicide prevention track “1-800-273-8255” has been everywhere lately, and for a good reason. Another track that tackles mental health off of Everybody is “Anziety.” The song brings light to the struggle of living with anxiety through Logic’s perspective but more importantly, it is a call to action.
Standout Lyric: “I’ma make it some day some how” what you telling yourself / But you ain’t focused on what’s important: mentality, health.”
6. “The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World (2001)
I’m positive at least 90% of you have heard this song. Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” is an early 2000’s classic. This one is easily the best song to listen to when you’re having a rough day. The instrumentals go hand in hand with Jim Adkin’s voice and ultimately convinces you that the bad times will pass.
Standout Lyric: “It just takes some time, little girl you’re only in the middle of the ride.”
7. “Happy” – Marina and the Diamonds (2014)
Marina Diamandis, face of Marina and the Diamonds, reached her peak after releasing her second studio album, Electra Heart. However, her latest project FROOT contained a standout track titled “Happy” that was raw and filled with vulnerability. In an interview with The Line of Best Fit, Marina clarified that this track is a stripped ballad with themes of happiness and loneliness.
Standout Lyric: “Couldn’t relax / Couldn’t sit back / And let the sunlight in my lap / I sang a hymn to bring me peace / And then it came / A melody”
8. “Rock Bottom” – Eminem (1999)
Eminem’s “Rock Bottom” discusses just how much Slim Shady’s life is filled with anger and stress, touching on Eminem’s depression. A Rolling Stone feature on the rapper stated,
It didn’t help that days before his daughter’s first birthday, Eminem got fired from his cooking job at Gilbert’s Lodge. “That was the worst time ever, dog,” he says. “It was, like, five days before Christmas, which is Hailie’s birthday. I had, like, $40 to get her something. I wrote “Rock Bottom” right after that.”
Standout Lyric: “My life is full of empty promises and broken dreams / I’m hopin’ things look up; but there ain’t no job openings / I feel discouraged, hungry and malnourished”
9. “Numb” – Linkin Park (2003)
Linkin Park moved mountains in as advocates for mental health awareness with their memorable track “Numb” released in 2003. This is exactly why it was completely shocking when news broke out that lead singer Chester Bennington lost the fight to depression earlier this year.
Standout Lyric: “I’m tired of being what you want me to be / Feeling so faithless, lost under the surface / I don’t know what you’re expecting of me”
10. “Under The Bridge” – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991)
Arguably kings of the 90’s decade, the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991. On the record were iconic RHCP tracks such as “Under The Bridge.” Vocalist Anthony Kiedis wrote this song because of his depression and drug addiction. Kiedis has been extremely vocal about his journey to recovery ever since.
Standout Lyric: “It’s hard to believe that there’s nobody out there / It’s hard to believe that I’m all alone.”
11. “Skyscraper” – Demi Lovato (2011)
After seeking treatment for addictions and mental health issues in 2010, Disney star Demi Lovato came back stronger than ever with Unbroken. In the record she completely exposed her inner demons and gave listeners a much needed reminder that it’s okay to admit when you are not. “Skyscraper” was the first time Demi was vulnerable to the public.
Standout Lyric: “Would it make you, feel better, to watch me while I bleed? / All my windows still are broken / But I’m standing on my feet.”
12. “Times Like These” – Foo Fighters (2003)
90’s icons, Foo Fighters released “Times Like These” in 2003. At the time, lead singer Dave Grohl called it “the best song I’ve ever written.” Though the track isn’t about anything heavy, its underlying message gives a sense of hope.
Standout Lyric: “It’s times like these you learn to live again / It’s times like these you give and give again / It’s times like these you learn to love again / It’s times like these time and time again”
13. “Gasoline” – Halsey (2015)
Halsey created buzz when she dropped her debut studio album Badlands in 2015. In it was a fan favorite titled “Gasoline,” a track that finds Halsey evaluating her mental state and battle with bipolar disorder.
Standout Lyric: “I think there’s a flaw in my code / These voices won’t leave me alone / Well my heart is gold and my hands are cold”
14. “Rubber Ball” – Cage the Elephant (2011)
Grammy award winning alternative rock band Cage the Elephant rose to fame after the release of their second studio album Thank You, Happy Birthday. On it contained “Rubber Ball,” a ballad that finds lead singer Matt Shultz self-reflecting on his worth and even existentialism. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Shultz stated,
“The song ‘Rubber Ball’ [bassist Daniel Tichenor] and I wrote in our first band house. It’s about excess in all aspects. It’s about trying to gain control and not being able to but having love in your heart.”
Standout Lyric: “Trying to stand like a big strong tough man / Finding out fast that I’m sinking in sand / All I got is nothing but / A little bit of love”
15. “Atmosphere” – Joy Division (1980/1988)
The oldest on this list is Joy Division’s “Atmosphere.” This was the track that disc jockey and radio presenter John Peel played after announcing the suicide of the band’s front man Ian Curtis. The track is also memorable to fans of the 2007 biopic Control as it plays at the end of the movie. Ian’s dark and heavy feelings are felt throughout the entire track in quite an eerie manner.
Standout Lyric: “Don’t turn away, in silence / your confusion / my illusion / worn like a mask of self-hate”