The songs that inspire us
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
“Funny how a beautiful song could tell such a sad story”
So says Sarah Dessen, the author of Lock and Key. The lyrics of a song have the power to make or break our moods. They have the power to inspire, motivate and compel. Hence the popularity of musicians cum activists like Joan Baez and Woody Guthrie, whose powerful lyrics lent a hand in bringing up a generation of social change.
What makes a song so inspirational? What makes its words reach out to us and touch us? What makes us sit up and say “Aha, I love that song?” And how can hope to make our lyrics or any other writing compelling and meaningful?
When do we need inspirational music?
As with any other art form, music is subjective. Someone who loves heavy metal would take a step back, perhaps, at “feel good” or inspirational music, and vice versa.
At different times of our lives and even during the day, we need music that inspires and enriches us.
When need music that gives us a kick start.
When we are dry on ideas and need a little stimulation, music helps to provide that impetus to get the project, or even the day, going. For many of us, the lyrics to a good song help to create that “aha” moment.
It certainly does for me. Music serves very much as a good writing prompt!
Music alleviates stress at work.
If you do not have a boss who minds you being plugged to a pair of headphones while at the workdesk, music is a way to remove the stresses of the day. It induces relaxed feelings, enables us to think with clarity and restores order in our minds.
I find pleasant, listenable a wonderful way to unwind after a long day, though the type of music that enables relaxation varies from person to person. It helps me after a long day of work around the house and writing.
It is good for a workout!
If your regular gym does not supply piped in music, have your own while running on that treadmill.
Inspiring music gives peace of mind while we are exercising our bodies. That can push us to give ourselves to keep in better shape.
We need it to settle disquieted emotions.
We are all completely aware that our emotions can drive us to do things which are impulsive or foolish.
I find that inspiring songs help me as I run through a gamut of emotions after running into unpleasant situations. The clarity of mind it induces helps to check any impulsivity.
We need music during our “alone” times.
Music is a great companion during lonely hours.
It certainly is for me. I need it when I want to feel less alone in moments of solitude.
What makes us listen to an inspiring song?
We might not be able to explain it, but there is an element about a certain song that will grip us and enable us to connect with it. Just what makes us listen to music that stirs our souls?
The song should move us.
For a song to be inspiring, it should move us both emotionally and physically. While a sentimental song moves us to tears, an equally motivating song can make us get up and dance.
By virtue of that definition, we cannot discount the inspiring nature of our favorite dance numbers.
Music should inspire you to reach out to someone.
Inspiring music should stir in us the desire to give someone a hand or give us the extra push that is needed for us to do so.
Songs like “Reach out and touch (somebody’s hand) by Diana Ross and MIchael Jackson’s “Heal the World” are all time favorite motivational classics that will fall into a category of music that gives us the push we need to make the lives of those around us, and consequently our own, just a little better.
It should raise awareness.
Good inspirational music should make us aware of those around us and give us a reason to make changes in our lives.
Even if we are not physically able to help someone, a good motivational song should inspire us to do what we can to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
It should feed the soul.
A good, inspiring song should give our very days meaning and something to think about. It should be true fodder for the soul.
There was a stage when Heal the World made us think so much that we were singing it in our heads every day at camp. We realized the truth of the words, and had a lot of fun too!
It should provide balance.
When we feel off center, the right music helps us to get back on track. Good song lyrics can remind us that we need to find the balance in our lives when we feel depressed or stuck in a rut.
“That’s what friends are for” by Dionne Warwick reminds us of the important people who are there when we need them, even if we do not notice. Such checks help us to keep an emotional balance.
How to write compelling song lyrics
Whether we are aspiring song writers or just looking to the written words for comfort, song lyrics can be poems that enrich our lives and souls.
How can we write lyrics that are meaningful and move others? Here are few suggestions.
Spend time thinking of a topic.
Things that will make music meaningful is if the subject has been life changing for you or has moved you personally in some way. Words from the heart and written with sincerity always help to make them moving.
Do not discount the quality of your lyrics
Telling yourself that “these will never be good enough” will curb whatever motivation that you have to write good song lyrics.
Always move forward, and check the lyrics by reading them aloud to yourself. There will always be ways to make them better. But do not be afraid to get started!
As with anything that is creative, a song on a topic that everyone has written about is less likely to be listened to.
There are lots of topics that are personal to us, so using them in song lyrics is the way to go.
Do a little planning.
Write the words in your head down, or create a mind map of the ideas that come to your mind as you think of a song.
Planning helps any form of writing.
Look through books or magazines.
If stuck for a phrase or good words, try looking through books or magazines for ideas.
A good songwriter gets inspired, but never copies the work of others, though.
Try the narrative form.
Many good song lyrics tell a story, with Alio Guthrie’s Alice Restaurant Massacree being a good example of the story form being used successfully.
A good story always touches the heart!
Read the words back to yourself.
Read the words you have written back to yourself. If they can move you, they are quite likely to do so for someone else.
Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland
A list of inspiring songs
As with all music lists, we will have our personal favorites or those that connect with us for any given reason. Here is a list of songs which I find have given me a lift during the times I needed it.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Written for 1939’s The Wizard of Oz and sung by Judy Garland, this song remains an evergreen favorite. It has become Garland’s signature song.
It is also motivating to me because it carries a reminder that we all long for the land at the other end of the rainbow - but we might already be there, depending on how we shape the situation.
Theme from the Chariots of Fire
Chariots of Fire
This was written by Vangelis for the 1981 show of the same name, which depicted the triumphs and trials of two inspiring athletes in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell, who ran for the Glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, who ran to overcome the prejudice.
If that is not inspiring enough, the tune itself will make you feel invigorated just listening to it.
It's a Beautiful Day, U2
It’s a Beautiful Day U2
The first track from their album “All you can’t leave behind,” it helped to launch the album to commercial and worldwide success.
This is an uplifting song which teaches us how to find joy, even within the greatest of loss.
Walking on Sunshine Katrina and the Waves
Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
This song does not only make the day just a little better, the beat drives one to get up and dance.
Written by Kimberley Rew, it reached number 4 in Australia and 8 in the United Kingdom.
This song has been used many times in advertisements, which makes the royalty payments for it extremely high.
It's My Life Bon Jovi
It’s my life Bon Jovi
This song is inspiring simply because it drives one to a little action, out of complaint and complacency. It makes us ask “When am I going to live my life?”
Written by Richie Sambora, Max Martin and Bon Jovi himself, it hit #1 in many countries, though not in the US itself. The song has helped the band reach its younger fan base.
That's What Friends Are For Dionne Warwick and friends
That’s what friends are for
This is an inspiring track that always reminds me of the friends I already have in my life. Written by Burt Bacarach and Carole Sager, the song, sung by Dionne Warwick and friends, was a charity single to raise funds for the American Foundation for Aids Research. It became the Number #1 single for 1986.
Music from My Heart N'Sync and Gloria Estefan
Music of my Heart by Gloria Estafan and N’Sync
This started as a teen pop song but morphed to glean 4 important nominations - an Academy Award for best original song, a Grammy nomination for Best Song written for a Motion Picture and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. The last nomination was for Billboards Top Song for a Movie. It was written by Diane Warren and produced by David Foster.
Unsurprising, since it is the song to play to express gratitude to those who have always been there for us.
Heal the World Michael Jackson
Heal the World
This song was Michael Jackson’s musical contribution to the cause for greater humanity. From his hit album, 1991’s Dangerous, its music video featured children suffering in countries plagued by unrest, including Burundi. Jackson performed the song for Super Bowl XXVII, complete with a flashcard presentation.
Proud to have created this poignant reminder, Jackson also created the Heal the World foundation.
Take some time off to listen to an inspiring song or write and inspiring write - it is guaranteed to make your day!
An article on song lyrics that inspire us.