Whether you’re dealing with physical pain or an emotional wound, nothing soothes the hurt more than a song you can relate to. And since pain is a universal experience, the subject has been the focus of countless songs – and we’ve included a list of some of the all-time best songs about pain you should listen to when you’re hurting.
Song Year: 2002
Although it was originally written and performed by the Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash and his raspy, gravelly voice has easily made Hurt into an American classic. Cash’s version may have the same lyrics, but the tone is completely different – and it’s definitely not a song you’d want to miss if you’re experiencing pain.
Specifically, the subject of this song is about self-harm and addiction, and the pain oozes from Cash’s voice. Not only does he talk about using addiction to numb the pain he’s feeling, but also the pain he causes everyone else in his life with his addiction.
Song Year: 1968
From upbeat bops to slow, sultry songs, The Beatles left no subject untouched – and that includes their hit, While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The song showed up on their 1968 album, The White Album, and George Harrison along with Paul McCartney and John Lennon, wrote it to talk about love.
More specifically, the song touches on how the world fails to see its own potential for love, and the pain that comes with that. Some people consider this one of The Beatles’ best songs ever, and if you listen to the track, you’ll hear Eric Clapton as the lead guitarist on the song.
Song Year: 1992
When this song came out in 1992, it topped charts across the world – including the United States, France, Canada, and even Iceland. Given the message of the song, it’s not difficult to see why this song was such a hit for the band, especially the drummer, Bill Berry, who wrote most of it.
Everybody Hurts reminds us that pain is a universal experience, and you can use the people around you as a source of comfort. Rather than give up when things feel like they’re too much, R.E.M. tells us just to “hold on.” The song was originally written for a younger audience, but anyone can resonate with the lyrics.
Song Year: 2005
We’ve all had bad days that make us just want to tune out the world and that’s exactly what Daniel Powter wanted to capture with his 2005 song, Bad Day. Interestingly enough, this song wasn’t a hit right off the bat. It only became popular after it was played during an elimination round on American Idol.
If you’ve ever dealt with failure or lost something you really wanted, this is a great song to listen to – it can remind you how awful failure can feel when the wound is still fresh, but also that everyone has “bad days,” where they lack passion and motivation to keep going.
Song Year: 1992
Some of the most powerful songs are inspired by current events going on in the country or world and that’s exactly the case with Feel No Pain by Sade. This rock song centers around poverty and the long-term effects of unemployment – not just on the country but on a personal level for families and individuals.
While the song correlates well to what Americans dealt with in the 1990s, it’s still relevant today, especially if you’re struggling with poverty or with trying to find a job.
Song Year: 2006
Grief is its own special kind of pain, and in this song, Christina Aguilera captures that feeling perfectly. Aguilera actually wrote the song about the death of her father, and how she never got to tell him how much she loved him before he died.
If you’ve ever dealt with the loss of a loved one – especially if you’ve felt pain or regret over not getting those special, last moments you wanted – then you may want to check out this early 2000s track.
Song Year: 2017
A little more recent than some of the other songs about pain on this list, Let’s Hurt Tonight by OneRepublic presents a more modern perspective on heartbreak and a relationship on the verge of ending. The band describes the relationship and love between two people as pain.
The relationship in the song is definitely portrayed as more toxic than healthy, but it’s a pain that the people in the relationship share together. For anyone that’s dealing with relationship troubles or feels like their own love story is coming to a close, you don’t want to skip this song.
Song Year: 2004
Country lovers just may fall in love with this painful lullaby from Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. This song is more than just a generic bop about heartbreak or pain, it’s a story about a soldier who’s been deployed and the adultery his wife commits while he’s away. After his wife kicks him out, the soldier tries to drown his sorrows with whiskey and alcohol, but it’s not enough to numb the pain or forget what his wife has done to him.
Alison Krauss, who duets with Paisley, sings the perspective of the cheating wife, so you’ll hear both sides of the story.
Keep in mind that this sad song explores some dark themes – like addiction and suicide – before you listen.
Song Year: 2003
There are plenty of songs that explore the emotional pain that comes from loss and heartbreak, but what about the physical pain that often comes with it? Even though the cause of the pain is emotional, Joan Armatrading does a great job of capturing that even emotional pain can hurt you physically.
So, if you’re looking for a song to help you understand the physical side effects of these deep, painful emotions, this 2003 track is worth a listen.
Song Year: 2003
Rascal Flatts have a reputation for creating emotional songs in the country genre, and this 2003 song is not an exception to that. This is another song that depicts how painful and heart-wrenching a breakup can be when you love someone and picture a future with them.
Long after the breakup, you may still have things you want to say – or wished to say while the breakup was happening – and the lyrics capture this perfectly. Loving someone can make you feel as if you’ve found “the one,” you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, and What Hurts The Most reminds us how painful it can be to not only lose that feeling but still be reminded of the relationship after it’s over.
Song Year: 2004
Some of Green Day’s most popular songs came from their 2004 album, American Idiot, and this includes Give Me Novacaine. In the beginning of the song, the singer describes a throbbing, painful migraine that just won’t go away, and they request novacaine, which is an anesthetic that numbs physical pain.
While the cause of the migraine isn’t clear in the beginning, the singer talks about how a goodnight kiss will soothe their pain and act as their novacaine. This song focuses on how loving someone can cause pain, but it can also just as easily soothe it.
Song Year: 2011
While going through a breakup can be painful, watching the person you still love settle down and find someone else can be its own unique kind of hurt. In this 2011 song, Adele tells the story of watching the person she still cares about find someone else.
It hasn’t been long enough for her to move on from the relationship, but seeing her ex love someone else signals that it’s time for her to “find someone like you.” Throughout the song, Adele repeats the same phrase – that sometimes love lasts, but sometimes it also ends up hurting you instead.
Song Year: 2003
From their album, Fallen, Evanescence put out My Immortal in 2003, and it’s been one of their most popular songs – if not their most popular song – since. The song talks a lot about the void that you experience when you’re no longer with someone, and how that feeling can be almost overwhelming to experience.
While it’s a common phrase that “time heals all wounds,” this song touches on the fact that not all wounds may heal with time – especially if they’re made from love.
“Pain” by Three Days Grace Is A Song About Pain
Song Year: 2006
If you’ve ever experienced depression, you may relate the 2006 song, Pain by Three Days Grace. Depression (and the feeling of numbness that often comes with it) is a major focus in this song, and the singer talks about how they’d rather feel pain than be numb or feel nothing at all.
With this track, the singer is also speaking to a potential lover, who is also numb from their sadness and depression. Rather than feel nothing, the songwriter wants them to experience pain – and love – together.
Song Year: 1982
For another song about the pain that love can cause, John Cougar Mellencamp doesn’t cut any corners with the 1982 hit, Hurts So Good. The track tells the story of an older man going after a younger woman, who’s more experienced than he would like.
Their connection is intoxicating, but it’s also toxic too – and the singer describes their relationship as something that “hurts so good.” While the story behind this song may not be something everyone can relate to, many people have still experienced infatuation with toxic or unhealthy relationships.
Song Year: 1992
Have you ever felt like an outsider who just didn’t fit into the world around you or feels misplaced? If so, the pain talked about in Creep by Radiohead is one you’ll know all too well. The songwriter uses the term “creep,” to describe how they’re viewed by society and those around them.
The loneliness and isolation that comes with feeling like you’re on the outside looking in can certainly be painful, and it’s a subject that Radiohead embodies well in this song. Despite how popular the hit has become, Thom Yorke, who wrote the song, says that he doesn’t feel the need to perform it anymore because he’s no longer that misplaced “creep” he used to feel like.
Song Year: 2016
Past mistakes can sometimes come back to haunt us, and that’s exactly what Matt Maeson is singing about in Go Easy. This is a more recent song, and it’s just one of many that serves as a written record for Matt Maeson’s life-long struggles with drugs.
In the song, Matt Maeson talks about being unable to even look at his own reflection, but he also touches on how painful it can be for people to abandon you when you’re at your lowest. We all need someone to “go easy” on us sometimes, and that’s exactly what this artist captures in this 2016 track.
Song Year: 2009
From Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, Her Diamonds is all about dealing with a loved one that’s suffering from a debilitating disease. Unfortunately, the song has plenty of real life inspiration to draw from: Rob’s wife, Marisol, suffers from an autoimmune disease that has affected how she functions in everyday life.
In the song, the main character can’t do anything but stand by and watch the person they love struggle and suffer – which is its own form of pain. If you’ve ever had to take care of someone who’s sick or suffering, you’ll already know all about the painful feelings Rob expresses in this song.
Song Year: 2006
We all know life has its highs and lows, but not everyone talks about it as beautifully as Gary Allen does in his 2006 hit, Life Ain’t Always Beautiful. The song went on to become one of Gary Allen’s top ten hits, and it’s not hard to see why.
The lyrics express how awful it can feel when life knocks you down and you end up at your lowest, but the message isn’t completely cynical – even when things get unbearably hard, the song talks about the inner power everyone has that can help them climb out from rock bottom.
Song Year: 2007
After a bad day, how many times have you had to force a smile and pretend everything is okay? In this 2007 track, Clay Walker talks about how tiring and painful this facade can be, but also how much relief you can get from letting go with someone you care about.
Fall reminds us that it’s okay to let go and share your insecurities, doubts, and other burdens with a partner. When it was released, the track reached the top five on the US Country charts, but even after all these years, it’s still a bop worth giving a listen to.
Song Year: 2009
There’s a certain pain that comes with experiencing a life with love and then having to deal with life without love, and that’s exactly what Life After You by Daughtry is about. The character in the song makes the impulse decision to leave a relationship they think they’re not happy in, but afterward, they have immediate regret about their decision.
The point of the song is that spending time alone can offer perspective, especially about how painful life can be without being loved and having someone to love.
Song Year: 2016
Being in love can feel like agony, and the song, Hurts by Emeli Sande, does a great job of portraying this through the lyrics and music. While some songs about pain may feel like a ballad, this one feels like you’re listening to a conversation.
The character is trying to express to her lover how hurt she is, especially because she thought he saw the real version of her. When things don’t go the way you planned in a relationship, love can hurt, and this 2016 track is a great reminder of that pain.
Song Year: 1974
If you’re a big fan of the classics, you may want to check out Love Hurts by Nazareth, which was released in 1974. While there are plenty of songs that portray love as a source of happiness, this one does the opposite. This track talks about love not only as a source of pain in life, but also as a scam that doesn’t really exist.
“Let it Hurt” by Rascal Flatts Is A Tune About Feeling Pain
Song Year: 2012
Another song from Rascal Flatts, Let it Hurt doesn’t try to run away or avoid pain. Instead, this track is all about embracing pain and “letting it hurt.” Even if the heart feels numb to pain, the lyrics suggest that there’s still an emptiness and loneliness that won’t disappear. You can’t escape that pain, especially if you try to avoid it.
The song isn’t trying to convey that pain lasts forever, but it does send the message that getting rid of pain means letting yourself feel it – even if it hurts. It can feel like second nature to put on a smile and pretend like everything is fine, but sometimes, the only way to move on is by letting yourself feel all that pain and hurt you’ve been avoiding.
From songs about having a bad day to sad lullabies that tell heart-wrenching stories, there’s a track that everyone can relate to on this list. Pain may be unpleasant and uncomfortable to experience, but if the songs listed above teach us anything, it’s that you’re not the only person in the world going through or experiencing pain.