35 Best Songs About Overcoming Obstacles, Challenges, and Hard Times

When life gets you down, it’s easy to feel as though nothing will make you feel better. But music can lift us and get us back on our feet. Take a look at some of the best songs about overcoming obstacles below, and you’re sure to find one that helps you regain solid footing after tough times.

“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson

Song Year: 2011

This modern empowerment anthem isn’t just for women. The message of overcoming a difficult situation can work for a breakup or any scenario where personal growth can happen.

The idea here is that we’re fortified after going through a trial, which Clarkson sings about with fittingly powerful vocals.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel

Song Year: 1970

Released on an album by the same name, this ballad became the signature tune for the duo of Simon & Garfunkel. It won multiple awards in a year or so after its release and has been covered by dozens of other artists, including Aretha Franklin.

The lyrics tell of someone willing to be a place of support for a friend or lover going through a period of darkness. The music mixes folk, jazz, and gospel influences for a unique piano-driven sound.

“Let It Be” by The Beatles

Song Year: 1970

1970 was a great year for gospel-tinged piano ballads. The Beatles give this song more of a rock aesthetic than “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with the addition of guitar and drums.

Backing harmonies support the lead singer, who sings of finding peace amidst heartache and times of trouble. “Let It Be” is one of the most famous songs of its era and one of the best songs about overcoming obstacles, with many other artists giving it their unique spin.

“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus

Song Year: 2009 

We return to the modern era with this power ballad from Hannah Montana: The Movie. Inspirational and with an appropriate dynamic built throughout the song, it talks about facing struggles with courage.

“The Climb” refers to the journey that teaches and strengthens us. Rather than focusing on the other side of the mountain, we should lean in even when times are hard. A top song about struggling.

“Smile” by Charlie Chaplin

Song Year: 1936

The bittersweet lyrics of this song are coupled with gorgeous heavy orchestration for a lush and poignant musical experience. Chaplin first brought this song to the world in his silent film Modern Times, where he portrayed the struggles of his iconic character Little Tramp.

Though many other singers of the big band era performed this tune, the most recognizable version is Nat King Cole’s.

“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

Song Year: 1978

The disco era was never stronger than in this whirlwind of a song, a favorite of partiers and karaoke singers for decades. Strings, harp, and rhythm guitar add to the colorful texture as the classic ‘70s beat rolls on.

The message of staying alive and strong through a challenge refers specifically to a breakup but could apply to any difficult situation where a person needs to gather their resolve. With love to give and hope for the future, anything is possible.

“Defying Gravity” by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth

Song Year: 2003

It’s hard not to sing along with this one! For Broadway fans, there’s no better song about overcoming adversity than this famous power ballad. The lyrics create a metaphor of lifting off the ground to escape people and situations that pull us down.

In the show, Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, sings this song mostly alone. Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the East, joins her later in the song for a duet, as well as the people of Oz.

“You Gotta Be” by Des’ree

Song Year: 1994

British R&B and soul singer Des’ree released this song in 1994 and found success around the globe for its positive message and catchy rhythmic track. It was a top-40 hit in multiple countries, though it reached its peak in the U.S. and Australia.

With words about holding your head up and solving life’s problems, it encourages listeners to be bold, wise, and strong as they face tribulations common to humankind.

“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

Song Year: 2014

The lead single from Swift’s first pop album came in with a bang, offering exuberant vocals over an upbeat dance-pop track. She speaks of “haters” and other critical influences who try to bring her down.

Positive and peppy, this catchy tune is easy to sing along with. It inspires us to look up and not let outside negativity keep us down for long.

“I’m Still Standing” by Elton John

Song Year: 1983

In an ode to being strong enough to overcome difficulties, this classic features a classic 80s sound complete with electro-synth effects and a guitar lead. The bouncy, driving pop rhythm reflects the singer’s intent to stay on his feet and take whatever life gives him.

The anthem to personal fortitude climbed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, becoming a hit in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland.

“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child

Song Year: 2001

This pop track addresses finding strength after a breakup. However, the words can be applied to any situation where a person needs encouragement not to give up.

The song was hugely successful for its time, winning a Grammy for Best R&B Performance as well as an MTV Music Video Award. The action-filled music video depicts the three band members floating in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean and being evacuated from the jungle via helicopter.

“It Is Well With My Soul” By Horatio Spafford

Song Year: 1876

If there’s any genre that understands tribulation and creates beautiful art out of its struggle, it’s religious and worship music.

This standard Christian hymn was written after the composer’s son died and he encountered financial ruin due to a fire. The lyrics use scenes from nature as metaphors for sorrow and peace.

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