11 Old School Songs That Have Kick-Ass Messages About Life
I grew up in the 90s/00s and, depending on who you talk to, music was either questionable or absolutely on point.
Recently, one of these songs sneakily slid into one of my Spotify playlists; it led to a full-on old school music rewind. Listening to some of the bangers from my childhood I realised that some of them have absolutely awesome messages about life that I wish I’d appreciated more at the time!
So I thought I’d put together a little list of some of the best. You know, just in case you need a bit of a music pick-me-up.
Des'Ree: You Gotta Be
Best lyric: LITERALLY THE WHOLE SONG
Message: This is not just probably one of the most empowering songs from my childhood, but dare I say it, of all time. Seriously, listen to some of the lyrics: “Challenge what the future holds, try to keep your head up to the sky (-y -y)… Stand up and be counted, don’t be ashamed to cry.” I mean, this is literally years of life wisdom wrapped up in one song. THANK YOU DES’REE!
Gloria Gaynor: I Will Survive
Best lyric: “I’ve got all my life to live and I’ve got all my love to give”
Message: So this was the song that inspired me to write this piece. I was in a gay bar a few weeks ago when all of a sudden this song started blaring. As I danced away, I could stop listening to the words, the ones about survival, the ones about optimism and living a full life. In a gay bar, a place where people often cast aside by society can just be themselves, it has a truly empowering feel to it!
Baz Luhrmann: Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen
Best lyric: AGAIN, LITERALLY THE WHOLE SONG
Message: I remember the first time I listened to this song. It had a really profound effect on me, and I had it on loop for days! There’s something really humbling about getting advice from someone who has made mistakes, and that’s exactly what this song is. A heartfelt piece of advice to anyone who wants to listen to it. No matter what you’re stressing out about, there’s something in this song that’ll cheer you right up: “In 20 years time you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.”
Alanis Morissette: Ironic
Best lyric: “Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right”
Message: I’ll admit it. This one is a little cliché, yes. But it’s powerful nonetheless. To this day, we still don’t know if any of the things in the song are actually ironic, or whether that’s Alanis’ real irony to us all. But still, ironic or not, this one basically says: shit happens in life, but just deal with it.
New Radicals: You Get What You Give
Best lyric: “Don’t give up, you’ve got a reason to live”
Message: This one’s a song for all the skeptics out there. When life’s getting you down, when you’re feeling frustrated and start questioning what it’s all for, put this banger on! It’s essentially a song about keeping on keeping on, and I love that.
Whitney And Mariah: When You Believe
Best lyric: “There can be miracles when you believe”
Message: Ok. Now even though I’m not a religious person myself, and this one does have a certain Biblical undertone (particularly given that it was the soundtrack to the epic Prince of Egypt film), this song needed to be on this list. No matter what you call it, a miracle or whatever, it’s basically saying just believe in yourself and you can do whatever you want to, and I’m all for that!
Bon Jovi: It's My Life
Best lyric: “I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd, you’re gonna hear my voice when I shout it out loud”
Message: This is one that needs to be played loudly. I mean, like, really loudly. It’s a song for anyone who’s ever felt pressured, or buillied, or marginalised, or like they’re not good enough. It’s about taking ownership of our own lives, and being ok with that!
Destiny's Child: Survivor
Best lyric: “After of all of the darkness and sadness, soon comes happiness”
Message: Come on, you knew there’d be a Destiny’s Child on here somewhere! This is the 90s/00s we’re talking about! This might be, specifically, a song about a breakup (“I’m better than that”), but the point — about being a survivor — stands true no matter what hardship you’ve been through. Because it’s true, after darkness comes light. I’m here for that.
Christina Aguilera: Beautiful
Best lyric: “I am beautiful in every single way”
Message: This is the ultimate, the queen bee, when it comes to messages about self-acceptance and self-love. This was old school Christina, waaay before The Voice, Candyman or that amazing Whitney tribute. This was nose-ring, I’m-struggling-to-find-myself Christina. The message is simple: you are beautiful, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
Ronan Keating: Rollercoaster
Best lyric: “Life is a rollercoaster just gotta ride it”
Message: I wasn’t sure whether to include this one or not. It’s about two people who found love, and we’re supposed to be all happy for them. And we are, sure. But actually, the lyric of life being a rollercoaster, and so in essence the whole song, I’ve got a lot of time for. Life IS a rollercoaster. There are ups, and there are downs, and Ronan was kind of right. We sort of do just have to ride it!
Stacie Orrico: (There's Gotta Be) More To Life
Best lyric: “There’s gotta be more to life than chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me”
Message: Stacie Orrico was underrated in my opinion. Hugely underrated. Nowadays, we’re all so quick to jump on our phone, to distract ourselves, to find any sort of temporary high to keep us satisfied with our lives. Stacie knew, even back then, that there’s more to life than that. The message is about seeing past the trivial things, and connecting with what’s really important in life. I love that, and that’s why it’s the final song on my list.