There are times in life that often seem bleak, with no hope of overcoming the situations at hand. Being victorious despite facing terrible odds is a wonderful feeling, and music has the exceptional capability of being able to capture that feeling. Here are some of the best songs about being an underdog and overcoming the odds in a victorious way.
Song Year: 1997
There are many iconic songs that define the 1990s, and this track by the British band Chumbawamba is an excellent example. Who hasn’t heard the famous sing-along chorus from this song?
The lyrics of this track are about somebody who consistently spends their nights at the bottom of a bottle, yet despite the lows of always being drunk, manages to get back on their own two feet to repeat the cycle.
Song Year: 2007
This feel-good indie-pop track from the band Spoon is a lyrical response to a situation involving Elektra Records. However, the message can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
Regardless, this is a song about being an underdog in a situation, and prevailing despite all of the doubters and naysayers who couldn’t believe the underdog would win. There are perhaps only a few things in life as gratifying as that.
Song Year: 1986
Back In The High Life Again is a track that is complete with musical cliches of the 1980s. Anthemic lyrics and delivery? Synthesizers? It’s all here, packaging a special message from Steve Winwood.
This track is about somebody who is taking the time to appreciate their life at the present moment instead of constantly rushing around for the next greatest thing. It is a message that most humans would do well to listen to, as finding value in the present moment truly can make you realize that you are living the high life.
Song Year: 1967
Born Under A Bad Sign is a truly classic song by blues guitar phenom Albert King. This song has been covered time and time again by many artists including Cream, Eric Clapton, Kingfish, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and countless others.
This song is about somebody who has seemingly been under the spell of bad luck since birth. Yet, despite the bad luck and limitations of their life, they have a point of view that bad luck is better than not having any at all.
Song Year: 1982
Eye Of The Tiger is a smash hit from the early 1980s about somebody doing everything they can to achieve their goals and see their dreams come to fruition. This song is instantly recognizable and chances are, you’ve likely heard this song at some point in your life.
Ironically, this song was inspired by a boxing movie, only to be prominently featured in Rocky III, another famous boxing movie.
Song Year: 1984
From its recognizable percussion intro to its sing-along chorus, We’re Not Gonna Take it is a massively famous anthem about somebody standing up against the powers that be to live life the way they want to.
We’re Not Gonna Take It has seen placement in a wide variety of video games, movies, TV shows, and political campaigns. With a message like that, it is likely that this song will remain historically relevant well into the future.
Song Year: 1981
Juke Box Hero is a song about somebody who initially missed out on their opportunity to get inside of a concert. But by listening to the concert from the outside of the venue, became inspired to go and buy themselves a guitar and learn how to play because they too, wanted to live the life of a mega rock star.
This song was another massive hit in the 1980s and still enjoys quite a bit of air time on classic rock radio stations today. The message of the lyrics can be somewhat inspiring in itself, as everyone has a dream they likely long to live out in reality.
Song Year: 1986
While You See A Chance is an inspirational song from Steve Winwood encouraging the listener to take a chance to live the life they’ve always dreamed of. Sure, it will take work, because nothing is handed out for free. We might always be alone in this life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for better things.
This Steve Winwood track is another massively famous song from his repertoire. The song is instantly recognizable with the opening synthesizer line that comes in before Winwood begins his vocal delivery.
Song Year: 1999
Country star Toby Keith gained a massive following in the late 1990s with his song How Do You Like Me Now?! This classic song is about somebody who was never good enough for their high school crush and was never quite noticed because they were entertaining too many romantic options. Now that they’re older and the narrator is living his dream, he has to ask his old crush what she thinks of him, especially because she chose someone else that shattered her life dreams.
This song is an anthemic tale that many people often experience when they grow out of their high school years and learn about how life and the “real world” works. All too often, what was once uncool actually becomes everything a person ever wanted or desired.
Song Year: 1978
I Will Survive is one of the most famous songs to hail from the disco era of the 1970s. The song is about being able to survive after mustering up the courage to turn a bad love away.
In true underdog fashion, Gloria Gaynor actually recorded this song while in a back brace after having fallen off of a stage during a performance. How about that for overcoming the odds?
Song Year: 1981
Perhaps one of the most enduring power ballads to ever come from the 1980s is Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. This anthemic ballad was a massive hit upon its release and still holds the hearts and minds of current generations.
Don’t Stop Believin’ is a message about not losing hope and daring to live a life unrestricted by society. From its iconic piano intro to its soaring guitar leads, this is a song that quite often has people singing together in unison.
Song Year: 1977
David Bowie is one of the most iconic musical artists of all time and is notorious for reinventing himself through various stages of his career. His song Heroes is a song about two lovers who are not meant to be together but take the time to revel in the moment of each other’s love.
The song was written after David Bowie caught two of his friends kissing near the Berlin Wall. Bowie was inspired by this sighting, particularly because one of them was married.
Song Year: 2001
Destiny’s Child came onto the scene in 2001 with their massive Survivor, which tells a tale of somebody that is getting along just fine without somebody despite them thinking that they would never make it on their own.
The song was supposedly written in response to old members of the group who had an issue with the lineup change. The song would go on to prompt a lawsuit from some of the former members over some of the lyrical content.
Song Year: 1975
Simon & Garfunkel are well known for creating lush and atmospheric folk songs accompanied by their beautiful vocal harmonies. The Boxer is a fine example of this and is often thought of as one of Paul Simon’s greatest works.
The Boxer tells a tale of an impoverished child who goes through years of toil and hardship. The child looks to a boxer for inspiration, noting that the boxer has been beaten time and time again, but nevertheless, the boxer still remains.
Song Year: 1991
The Show Must Go On is a truly powerful song that can easily be identified as a song that was created from the bottom of one’s heart. The song was written while singer Freddie Mercury was in the deep throes of battling HIV/AIDS.
The Show Must Go On delivers a powerful message that no matter what hardships one may face, it is important to never lose the ability to smile. A new day is always on the horizon, and it’s always best to get on with the show rather than calling it quits.
Song Year: 2020
Underdog, from the 2020 release A.L.I.C.I.A., was a track co-written by Alicia Keys, Foy Vance, Johnny McDaid, Amy Wadge, Ed Sheeran, and Jonny Coffer. The song is seemingly dedicated to those who spend each day working towards building a better future and walking towards the kind of life they long to live.
The everyday working person who clocks into their job, despite the fact that it might not be what they want to do (but is what they need to do), can likely find Underdog to be a very powerful song.
Song Year: 2013
Started From The Bottom is an autobiographical track from Drake’s album Nothing Was The Same. The lyrics go to tell about how he came from nothing and describes the journey he embarked on to become the famous musician he is today.
This track is something that any successful person can likely relate to, especially musicians. Often, it takes a community to be able to achieve success, and Drake goes on to mention that if it wasn’t for his family and friends, he would not be where he is today.
Song Year: 1972
Loser, from the Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia’s debut solo album, is a tale about a gambler at the end of his rope. The song is rich with metaphorical language, giving a glimpse of the gambler’s mindset. The gambler might be in a losing slump, but one win against the odds could make it all better.
This is a powerful track that often found itself in the setlists of Grateful Dead performances. It gives a great perspective of how rich and diverse some of the band’s material could be. Quite often, the song would feature a guitar solo by Jerry Garcia that perfectly emoted the losing gambler’s affliction, crying out in agony.
Song Year: 1977
We Are The Champions is one of the most iconic underdog songs of the last 50 years. Any child that grew up in the 1990s will likely associate the song with the classic underdog story in Disney’s 1992 film, The Mighty Ducks.
The lyrics of We Are The Champions are about somebody celebrating victory after a long and hard-fought battle. The song perfectly conveys the feeling of standing atop a mountain after having to push a heavy rock over the hill.
One of the least enjoyable feelings in life is being stuck in a situation that seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel giving a hint of better days to come. Fortunately, we have music available to help in times like these, as the right song can certainly provide a potent dose of well-needed musical medicine. The next time you feel yourself in a slump, play one of these songs and you’ll soon be victorious against all odds.