We all have dreams, aspirations, and big plans for ourselves. The subject of our hopes and dreams is a common theme in music, with songwriters seeking to connect with this underlying shared experience. Check out these top songs about dreams that speak to some part of our sense of hope, achieving our dreams, or not quite getting there.
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Song Year: 1980
This pleasant and uplifting track is a testament to the joys of true love. The keyboard opening is infectious, and the message of the song is simple and lighthearted: no need to keep dreaming of true love because you found it.
Since its release, “You Make My Dreams” has gained massive popularity thanks to movies like (500) Days of Summer and The Wedding Singer, which feature the song.
Song Year: 1973
Chasing your dreams takes persistence, drive, and determination. It is this message that is central to “Dream On,” how you must “dream until your dreams come true.”
Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler lets loose his trademark falsetto screams in the epic culmination of this power ballad, sure to send chills down your spine. The song was the first major hit song for Aerosmith, who became one of the most popular classic rock bands.
Song Year: 1986
Australian band Crowded House scored their biggest hit with this emotional ballad about overcoming adversity and never giving up hope.
The song weaves a string of metaphors about how the world will try to bring you down, how negativity may feel like it reigns supreme, yet you should never lose hope and should always keep dreaming. The music video for the song earned Crowded House the Best New Artist award at the 1987 MTV Video Music Awards.
Song Year: 2002
Detroit rapper Eminem released his album 8 Mile to tell the story of his rise from living in a trailer park to being one of the most influential rappers of all time. The central theme of this track is to seize the opportunity to realize your dreams because those opportunities may be rare.
Eminem's character in the song recounts his struggles and failures, yet always returns to the idea of losing yourself in your passions as a way to overcome.
Song Year: 2014
The Boss recorded a cover of this classic Suicide song in his signature style, showcasing his booming voice and soulful delivery. The song has a simple message of love and unity, where Springsteen compels us to keep dreaming and have an open heart.
Unlike some of his more intense and expansive tracks, “Dream Baby Dream” offers a much more stripped-down and plaintive version of Bruce Springsteen that perfectly blends with the song's message.
Song Year: 2005
Sometimes you need a big anthem to capture the spirit of achieving your dreams. Kanye West provides exactly that in this joyous and celebratory track from his second album, Late Registration.
The song's message of shrugging off pessimism and staying committed to your goals is perfectly accompanied by soaring horn arrangements and Kanye's cheerful vocal delivery. Believing in yourself has never sounded as cool as this.
Song Year: 1962
A top song with dream in the title. This classic hit from Elvis Presley was also the namesake of a film that he starred in. The song is a fast-paced stomper that is all about pursuing the dreams that define you no matter the cost while finding the right person to join you on the ride.
The song inspired then ten-year-old Tom Petty to follow his dreams to rock and roll stardom after he met Elvis Presley on the film set in Florida.
Song Year: 2005
Oasis is known for their feuding stage antics, but that doesn't mean they never made a song that resonates in a heartfelt way. “Keep the Dream Alive” is a soaring ballad about the confusion and doubt of following your dreams and about the perseverance that it takes to get back up when you are down and continue on your journey. The bright and catchy sound of 1990s Britpop is alive and well in this tune.
Song Year: 2019
Lillie West of Lala Lala makes the path of following your dreams intensely personal in this track from their album, Sleepyhead. The song blends specific images about dreams of success with darker and sadder metaphors about failure, creating a tension that is mirrored in the driving punk style of the arrangement.
Song Year: 2002
Just listen to the child choir that is heavily featured in the chorus of this track: I know I can be what I want to be. The message is clear as day, but Nas fills the song with allusions to failure and heartbreak that help elevate the song's emotional impact.
The song paints a picture of just how fragile life can be and how believing in yourself is the first step for achieving anything in this world.
Song Year: 1963
Dreams were often on the mind of crooner Roy Orbison. Many of his songs feature dreams as central themes, but not in the same way as many songs on this list. This track is all about the pain of waking up after dreaming about a lost lover.
Orbison's dreamer can walk and talk with their lover but is crushed to wake up and find them gone. It is a beautiful metaphor about the pain of loss and the power of dreams.
Song Year: 2004
This is another track that showcases the fallout of broken dreams. Themes of loneliness and loss are all over this hit from Green Day's American Idiot, which offers a vision of the pain caused by failure, while also providing a message of perseverance and resilience.
The boulevard that they speak of is a metaphor for a lack of accomplishment, but the advice they offer is to keep walking alone, no matter how tough, because you really can only count on yourself.
Song Year: 1977
Such a deep sense of sorrow is sometimes best captured by the classic twang of a country ballad. And that is exactly what Emmylou Harris achieved on this cover of the Louvin Brothers standard. The song is about the loss that is felt when a lover leaves, which is only dealt with by giving up on the dream of love. Harris's stirring vocal delivery is as haunting and beautiful as they come.
Song Year: 2010
Nelly is known for his party anthems, but the St. Louis rapper shows his more emotional side on “Just a Dream.” The dream that Nelly speaks of is based around a relationship that falls apart, leaving Nelly to question whether the love they had was even real, to begin with. His dream of love was crushed, and now he must face the fact that their love will never exist.
Song Year: 1980
This showstopper from the musical Les Miserables is the story of a woman reflecting on the turmoil of her life and the fact that her situation is so different from what she had expected it to be.
The character Fantine faces the brutal realities of the world after being fired from her job and forced onto the street, where she loses all hope in the dreams that had motivated her. “I Dreamed A Dream” is a mournful lament that paints a stirring, sad picture about the loss of hope.
Song Year: 2013
The journey to achieving your dreams is never easy, and this track by Drake is a celebration of the work that it takes to get to the top. Drake makes plenty of references to the life he had before he was able to achieve his dreams, noting how unglamorous and tough that life was.
Life is much better for Drake these days, and this track is a testament to the journey that he took to get here.
Song Year: 1981
The title says it all. This classic by Journey is a real crowd-pleaser, sung in bars and stadiums alike, with everyone joining in for the iconic chorus. The song's sentiment is simple but powerful: do not give up on your dreams.
Each character in the song comes from humble beginnings, yet they are spurred on to continue searching for the meaning and emotion in their lives that may be hidden from them at the moment. Another great song about dreams.
Song Year: 2017
In this stripped-down and haunting song, Feist investigates the feelings of change from having your dreams slip away. Feist's commanding vocal performance and the sparse instrumentation give this song a spine-tingling sense of foreboding.
This is a perfect backdrop for the lyrical content, which centers on a loss of innocence and a breakdown of faith in other people. The refrain of “lost dreams” takes on an almost hypnotic element as the song develops.
Song Year: 1966
Sometimes our dreams take the form of wishing to be somewhere else. The narrator of “California Dreamin” is stuck in a dark, gray existence and pines for the warmth and security of California.
Beautiful harmonies are the real selling point of this tune, which was one of the most popular tracks to come out of the folk-rock craze of the 1960s. A simple story of longing for the sun-soaked streets of Los Angeles is a relatable and lighthearted take on the narrative of the crushed dream.
Song Year: 1964
Keeping the faith is harder than it seems, but Sam Cooke gives reason for hope in this classic soul song. The song is a reminder that challenges and obstacles are all too common in life, but you must not lose hope, for change is just around the corner.
After its release, “A Change Is Gonna Come” became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, used as a message of hope and unity in the face of adversity.
Song Year: 1969
An image like the sun rising on a new spring day and melting away the ice of a long, cold winter is a perfect metaphor for the way that hopefulness spreads.
The Beatles included this feel-good track on their masterpiece Abbey Road, and it has since become synonymous with good fortune and hope. Of all of their influential hits, “Here Comes the Sun” is the most streamed song by the Beatles.
Song Year: 1977
Bill Withers has plenty of songs that evoke the feeling of hope, but none are as good as “Lovely Day.”
The song's narrator is worried about facing the world and feels burdened by life, but these feelings subside when he takes one look at his lover and is filled with joy and reassurance. The repeating refrain of “Lovely Day” is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone's face, with its catchy rhythm and easy-going feel.
Song Year: 2015
Kendrick Lamar is a rapper deeply concerned with politics, especially regarding race and violence against black communities in America. It is from this place that he made “Alright,” a song devoted to imparting a sense of hope and perseverance to combat the relatively bleak way that black life is usually portrayed.
The message of hope and strength hits on a deeply emotional level, which is taken even further by jazz saxophones and Lamar's rapid-fire delivery.
Song Year: 1968
The second song by the King of Rock n' Roll on this list was inspired by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech. Beautiful string arrangements and gospel backup singers give a lush vibe to this track, which is about the ability to realize a dream of peace and harmony despite the feeling of being trapped in a world filled with pain.
Song Year: 1977
Hope for the future is the central theme of this classic rock hit by Fleetwood Mac. The song is a feel-good anthem that has been used by a number of political campaigns thanks to its optimistic and hopeful outlook. The song was one of many major hits from the album Rumors, which became one of the best-selling albums of all time.
Song Year: 2005
Connor Oberst flexes some real emotional lyricism on this indie rock song by Bright Eyes. The song is a love story at its core, portraying two people who meet and fall in love, pulling each other from the depths of despair. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, Oberst's unique voice and his earnest, emotional writing is put front and center.
Song Year: 1970
No opening guitar riff seems quite as filled with hope and triumph as the first licks of “Up Around the Bend.” Creedence Clearwater Revival played a distinctive style of classic rock inspired by the Louisiana bayou and became one of the most popular bands in the era. This track invites the listener to “leave the sinking ship behind” and join them in a movement toward a better world.
Song Year: 1998
Tupac Shakur was a poet and rapper who was keenly aware of the pain in the world and strove to change it for the better. This track is maybe the best example of his pursuit to leave the world better than how he found it, with Tupac giving a sermon-like performance that highlights the need for more understanding and compassion between people.
Song Year: 1982
It's one of the most iconic guitar riffs ever. Few songs can claim the level of cultural significance that Survivor achieved with their hit “Eye of the Tiger,” an ode to perseverance and the importance of rising up to challenges. Their hopeful portrayal of human grit and determination mixed with the driving hard rock sound is why the song is always used in training sequences of movies (like it was, famously, in Rocky 2).
Song Year: 2000
Talk about a downer! Linkin Park gained massive success with its blend of rap and rock, and “In the End” is one of their most recognizable hits. The song is somber in tone, and the lyrics are centered on a sense of failure despite great effort, as well as an inevitability of death that has no regard for your hopes and dreams. Crushed dreams are serious stuff, and Linkin Park captures this drama and pain in a memorable way.
Song Year: 1947
Hank Williams sang about heartbreak and crushed dreams often in his short career, which ended with him being regarded as one of the most influential American songwriters of all time. This is one example of Williams' signature style, reflecting a sense of despair and longing because of a lost love that leads the narrator to give up on his dreams and life in general.
Song Year: 2020
Bon Iver has a truly unique, genre-bending style that is at the forefront of music today. The title of this song is an acronym for “please don't live in fear,” a pure and hopeful message that was meant to inspire people during the throes of the Covid 19 lockdown.
Bon Iver donated all the proceeds from this song to Direct Relief, a non-profit organization that gave support to frontline workers during the pandemic.
Song Year: 2018
This high-energy track from Dashboard Confessional offers a reassuring and hopeful message while also showing the cost of pursuing your dreams. Taking risks is an important part of chasing a dream, and this song highlights the risk of losing relationships due to living the way you need to.
Song Year: 1980
In a departure from his typical upbeat reggae style, Bob Marley gives one of his most stirring performances with “Redemption Song.” With just an acoustic guitar and his powerful voice, Marley speaks on the lingering effects of slavery and offers a hopeful vision of freedom for the future. The song is the perfect blend of political awareness and emotional honesty.
Song Year: 2021
Just like the title implies, Arlo Parks wants you to know that you're not alone in this world. This jazzy take on indie rock centers Parks' clever and offbeat songwriting, which perfectly imparts a sense of hope and connectedness, meant to inspire and remind people that “you're not alone like you think you are.”
That’s out list of songs about dreams. People look to music to take them to a better place, to show them that life isn't as bad as it sometimes feels in the moment. These tracks all deal with the big questions of life, and, thankfully, most of them have good news to report.