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Top 10 Songs That Evoke Powerful Emotions

by Estelle
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Music stirs emotion.

Different melodies evoke feelings of sadness, joy, defiance, relaxation, fear and more. Researchers are even conducting ongoing studies to solve what they call “the mystery of how music can evoke so many nuanced emotions.”[1]

On this list are just a few of the songs that have made people cry, laugh, feel victorious, and stand united all over the world.

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10 For a chuckle – “Pretty Fly For A White Guy” – The Offspring

The Offspring – Pretty Fly (For A White Guy) 1998 Live Video HQ

There are quite a few hilarious songs out there, guaranteed to get a least a chuckle or two from even the most hardened music fan. These include “Axel F” by Crazy Frog, “I Can’t Dance” by Genesis, “Witch Doctor” by Cartoons and “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. Some feel that “I’m On A Boat” by Lonely Island featuring T-Pain is one of the funniest songs ever written and performed. Others prefer “White & Nerdy” by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Those who love the 90s (and punk rock in particular) however, pretty much agree on The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly For A White Guy.” for a little amusement.

9 To be instantly annoyed – “Baby” – Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber Baby Live concert

There are hundreds of contenders for ‘most annoying song ever’. They are listed on the internet in dozens of articles and include songs such as “Who Let The Dogs Out”, repetitive dance tunes like “I’m Blue” by Eiffel 65, “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus, and just about anything ever sung by Nickelback. Of course, there is also “Friday” by Rebecca Black that evoked such strong feelings in music fans around the world that the comments cannot be repeated here (fun fact: four years later she was redeemed by a brilliant performance on a TV talent show).

But for a list like this, we should probably look to the one person that seemingly had the ability to p——— off the entire world in 3 minutes and 39 seconds, at the tender age of 16. Yep, it is Justin Bieber and his song “Baby.” (The official music video has 11 million dislikes on YouTube)

8 For a chill-out moment – “Pure Shores” – All Saints

All Saints – Pure Shores (Official Music Video)

If you need a time out and a bit of a calming tonic after being annoyed by the previous song, why not give “Weightless” by Marconi Union a try, or chill out to “Watermark” by Enya. If you’re not into instrumental music, you can always listen to “Strawberry Swing” by Coldplay. These songs are all part of a list of 10[2] that scientists came up with and are said to be the most relaxing songs in the world. Adele also made the list with “Someone Like You”, but if you need a dreamy vibe to shake off all thoughts and sounds of Bieber, “Pure Shores” by All Saints might just be the song for you.

7 To get pumped up – “Immigrant Song” – Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song (Live)

There is nothing like a good rock song to get you amped up (once you’re done chilling to the sound of the All Saints, that is.) Just think “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC and “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Some people like listening to a medley of rap artists and whatever rock band they love, while others stick to hard rock or even heavy metal. There are an infinite number of options for a list like this, because there are so many amazing bands and singers out there.

If you need a song to get you pumped before an exciting event or just to kick your exercise routine into high gear, “Immigrant Song” will probably suffice. Especially this live version from the 70s.

6 For that rebellious streak – “They Don’t Care About Us” – Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson – They Don’t Care About Us – Live Auckland 1996 – HD

Over the years, many bands and solo artists simply couldn’t stand by and let atrocities happen without protesting. These protests usually took the form of songs that became instant classics worldwide. Well-known protest songs include “Imagine” by John Lennon, “Idioteque” by Radiohead, “Zombie” by The Cranberries and “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan.

If you feel like raging against the machine and feed your rebellious side for a bit, you may want to add “American Idiot” by Green Day to your playlist or perhaps “Take The Power Back” by Rage Against The Machine. One of the most popular protest songs still played on radio stations around the world, is “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson. The lyrics hold up to this day and might just satisfy your defiant streak.

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5 For goosebumps (not in a good way) – “Sweet Dreams” – Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (Alt. Version)

Horror movies use eerie soundtracks to amp up the fear factor. Besides these soundtracks, there are also some truly scary songs out there, with terrifying lyrics. This includes the ominous “Hamburger Lady” by Throbbing Gristle, “One” by Metallica and “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide.

In 2010, an online poll put Marilyn Manson’s music video of his cover of “Sweet Dreams” at the top of a list of scariest music videos. Add his very creepy vocals to that and you have a freaky song you might want to listen to in broad daylight only.

4 To celebrate a victory – “We Are The Champions” – Queen

Queen – We Are The Champions (HQ) (Live At Wembley 86)

Sometimes life goes so well in general, that people just feel like breaking out into song. And there are perfect songs to amplify those types of moments. For instance, if you’ve struggled to find a new job and out of the blue you are offered a dream position. Or you are given a travel opportunity of a lifetime. Some triumphs are far more personal; perhaps you have survived a terrible disease or started a new life after a messy divorce. Tunes such as “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John would make for an awesome life theme song in situations like these.

This best soundtrack for any type of victory, however, must be “We Are The Champions” by Queen. Freddy Mercury possessed the perfect vocal to create the stirring melody, especially during live performances. The song is so awesome, scientists back in 2011 declared it to be the ‘catchiest song’ in music history.

3 For a little happiness – “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina & The Waves

Walking on Sunshine – Katrina formerly of Katrina & The Waves

Some songs just put a smile on your face. Neuroscientists have determined that the ‘happiest’ songs are always slightly faster than the average song and the lyrics are either utter nonsense or about a happy event. Their ultimate feel-good playlist includes “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys and “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. The ultimate happy song however, is the one that will have you tapping your toes in no time: “Walking on Sunshine” – Katrina & The Waves.

2 For those days when a good cry is in order – “Fix You” – Coldplay

Coldplay – Fix You (Live 2012 from Paris)

It’s customary for many people to put on a sad song when they’re feeling down, and just have a good cry. People who are lonely often listen to sad songs because they identify with them and it sometimes makes them feel less alone and less misunderstood. Sometimes a person doesn’t even have to feel down, for a song to release all kinds of emotions and cause tears to flow involuntarily. Whether you are feeling the need to cry it all out to a sad soundtrack or just love melancholy music, a song like “Fix You” by Coldplay is bound to get your tear ducts going.

“Fix You” is universally accepted as one of the saddest songs ever written. Chris Martin wrote it for Gwyneth Paltrow to comfort her after the death of her father.

1 For a ray of hope – “We Are The World” – Artists for Haiti

We Are The World 25 For Haiti – Official Video

2020 was definitely a year in which many people lost their hope that things will ever get better. Covid-19 followed us into 2021, and there is just no telling when this pandemic will finally be over. Throughout history, whenever hardships and disaster struck, music would be the one thing that united the world and inspired people to make a difference. If you are in dire need of a little hope and inspiration to make the start of 2021 just a little brighter, even if just for a few minutes, listen to this live version of “We Are The World” as sung by Artists for Haiti. The song was recorded by several music artists in 2010 and released as a charity single after the Haiti earthquake. The song and music video exemplify the strength of the human spirit in the face of dire circumstances and might just provide that little bit of inspiration we all need right now.

+ “We Are The World” – USA For Africa

USA For Africa – We Are The World (HQ official Video)

“We Are The World” was originally written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and recorded by supergroup USA for Africa in 1985. The original version is still the most beloved, and when watching the video of all the well-known artists singing together, it is easy to see why.

We may even get a new version in lieu of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as the suggestion was already put forward by Lionel Richie early in 2020.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater

Estelle is a regular writer for Listverse.