Top Inspirational Rock Songs

The inspiration behind making this list was obvious -- when times are tough, we sometimes turn to music to make us feel better. With that in mind here are several contemporary rock songs that will boost your spirits and help get you through the day. What's interesting about these songs is that while being inspiring, they also often touch on sadness, suggesting that we can only know joy by being aware of sorrow.

The message of this Smashing Pumpkins hit couldn't be clearer: Today is the only day we have, so let's make the most of it. Balanced against Billy Corgan's worries about past regrets and disappointments, the song's winding, towering guitars offer unfiltered ecstasy and hope. Corgan could be a dour fellow, but for once, he argued that the trick to being happy is simply deciding to be happy.

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One of the biggest hits off Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, "Rise Above This" (like the album that contains it) is largely about trying to find the bright side to dark circumstances. On this song, Seether frontman Shaun Morgan stares deep into the heart of self-doubt but vows not to let his troubles destroy him. "I've fallen down," he admits, "but I'll rise above this." The explosive punch of the chorus suggests he's well on his way to pulling himself out of despair.

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A song about dreaming of a better tomorrow, "Paradise City" rides the urgent, hopeful riffs of Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash into the promised land. It's a pretty safe bet that a lot of disheartened souls have sung along with Axl Rose's desperate wail of "Take! Me! Home!" over the years, with the volume cranked all the way up.

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When we're down, sometimes it helps to change perspective. This song from Live juxtaposes the birth of a baby with the death of an elderly woman, hinting that the woman's donated organs helped save the newborn's life. Live were known for uplifting songs, but "Lightning Crashes" has a spiritual, philosophical bent to it as the lyrics ponder the miracle of being alive.

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Oasis - "It's Getting Better (Man!!)"

Singer Liam Gallagher of Oasis
Singer Liam Gallagher of Oasis. Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

A song doesn't need to be deep to be inspiring. Here, Oasis summon a flurry of revved-up guitars to offer encouraging words to anybody down in the dumps. Singer Liam Gallagher effectively sums up the urge to choose hope over pessimism with these simple lines: "Build something/Build a better place and call it home/Even if it means nothing/You'll never ever feel that you're alone."

Though not one of Pearl Jam's more famous hits, "I Am Mine" is one of their most defiant tunes, a vigorous blast of self-determination that feels like a raised fist held up in protest. Starting with a reserved verse before blasting into a rousing chorus, the song lays out the case that when everything seems to be falling apart, all we have to rely on is ourselves. Eddie Vedder's rugged vocals suggest all the struggle and courage required to stand strong when the world lets you down.

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R.E.M. - "Everybody Hurts"

Mike Mills, Bill Berry, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe
Mike Mills, Bill Berry, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe of R.E.M at rehearsal for the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. FilmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

In the 1980s, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe preferred to sing his cryptic lyrics in mumbled, mysterious tones. But for this openhearted 1992 ballad, Stipe made his intentions plain, delivering one of his most plaintive performances. Over comforting, churchly keyboards and strings, Stipe consoles the listener, urging him or her not to give up. "Everybody hurts sometimes," he says, "so hold on."

 

Bruce Springsteen - "Born to Run"

Bruce Springsteen
Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen perform on stage on Born To Run tour during a residency at the Bottom Line in August 1975 in New York. Redferns / Getty Images

Bruce Springsteen has made a career out of writing uplifting songs about dreary situations. His masterpiece in this regard is "Born to Run," a beautiful ode to escaping the drudgery around you. With wildly romantic imagery, Springsteen paints a portrait of two restless young lovers who just want to jump in the car and drive as far away as they can. More than 30 years after he wrote it, "Born to Run" remains a favorite for its powerfully transcendent message, inspiring tons of bands along the way.

Many U2 songs deal with inspirational themes, but "Beautiful Day" is perhaps their sunniest song, a paean to being positive when there are obvious reasons not to be. As the song opens, the main character is literally and metaphorically stuck, but then he realizes all the wonders of the world around him, which immediately improves his mood. As the Edge's guitar chords aim for the heavens, Bono encapsulates the feeling of buoyant optimism: "What you don't have/You don't need it now/What you don't know/You can feel it somehow.”

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The Foo Fighters turn down the volume for an almost country-ish ballad about trying to hang onto your sanity during hard times. With sweetly hushed vocals, Dave Grohl sings to a woman who's equally dispirited, offering nothing more than an impossibly breezy melody as a comfort to shield oneself from all of life's sorrows. "Ain't It the Life" may sound melancholy, but its willingness to defiantly put one foot in front of the other makes it resoundingly hopeful.

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