Many of our favorite songs explore the theme of change, from David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ to Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’. Whether it is personal transformation or a complete social revolution that appeals to us, we can’t deny that there are few other things as powerful as embracing change.
To help you decide which songs to add to your next playlist, here are the best songs about change and transformation.By the way, if you’re a fan of songs about change, you might also want to check out songs about being fast, songs about clocks, songs about drowning, songs about heroes, and songs about making a difference.
Changes – David Bowie
One of the most iconic lyrics in 20th century music, David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ is the quintessential song about change. The entire song focuses on how much life can change when you’re not looking. Bowie investigates the subtle changes as well as the more monumental ones, asking “how long has this been going on?” and imploring everyone to “just turn and face the strange.”
The Times They Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
One of the most overt songs about change, Bob Dylan’s song is a call to arms for social upheaval. The chorus asks “Come senators, congressmen/Please heed the call/Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall.” This opening musical stanza is an urgent plea to politicians and influential people to embrace change, which is echoed in the final verse when Dylan sings “The line it is drawn/The curse it is cast/The slow one now/Will later be fast.”
Believe – Cher
One of the most surprising makeovers in pop music history belongs to Cher, who went from ‘Sonny and Cher’ to ‘Believe’ and became a chart-topping success. Almost 20 years later, her song about change is as poignant as ever. The refrain “and if you believe in life after love/I’m gonna show you how” is an anthem for those who want to thrive after a break up or other heartache.
Gee, Officer Krupke! – West Side Story
One of the most iconic musicals is also one of the best songs about change. A hilarious first-act finale to the ’50s masterpiece, this song has some of the funniest lyrics ever written. The first verse opens with “Dear kindly Judge/Dear kindly Judge/My parents treat me rough/With all their marijuana”. The song then explores the world of young hoodlums and how they are prejudiced against by adults. It ends with the fantastic duet “When you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way/From your first cigarette to your last dying day.”
Hollow Talk – The Knife
‘The Knife’ is an electronic pop duo from Sweden whose dark lyrics explore the complexities of human relationships. One of their most underrated songs, this song about change is full of haunting metaphors like “the lock on my mouth has been erased with a sponge/All the places where kisses should be are infected.” The song ends with a slight ray of hope, but the feeling that it is too late remains.
Only the Young – Journey
One of Journey’s most famous songs, this song about change is all about living life to the fullest. Even though these lyrics were written before Steve Perry joined the band, they have become an anthem for anyone who has ever lived with regret. The song understands the sadness of missed opportunities and asks “Why wait until it’s gone/You can’t rewind/No you can’t rewind.”
A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
One of the most inspiring songs ever written, Sam Cooke wrote this song about change after meeting Bob Dylan in 1962. Originally written as a poem by Cooke, this song now means so much more as it has become an anthem for those who have struggled for equality and freedom. The powerful lyrics “I was born by the river in a little tent/Oh and just like that river I’ve been running ever since” perfectly capture not only how change is inevitable but also its power.
Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You – Frankie Valli
There are few songs more definitive of the ’60s than ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You’. The lyrics about change perfectly capture what can happen when we fall in love and how that changes our life. The song is full of great metaphors like “the sea stays deep, it won’t be strolling through my mind” and “I could wander all night by the pale moonlight/And still not cover what I’m trying to find.”
Back To Black – Amy Winehouse
This song about change is a perfect ode to heartbreak. With one of the best opening verses ever, Amy Winehouse sings “I drowned my sorrows/But they learned to swim, and now I’m drowning in the flood.” The lyrics about change explore what happens after a relationship falls apart and how those feelings can make us feel even more lost.
The End – The Beatles
One of the most well-known songs by The Beatles, this song about change is a perfect end to one of the greatest albums ever written. This song is full of great musical references like “to the elegant loser” and ends with a beautiful chord sequence that has been sampled by Jay Z and Eminem.
What Goes Around – Justin Timberlake
This song about change could have been written by another artist but the lyrics “this too shall pass” make it a song about accepting change, embracing it, and being better for it. Lyrics like “I know my past has left its stains/But I feel brand new” perfectly capture how Justin Timberlake does not want to be defined by his previous mistakes and is ready to start anew.
The Changingman – Paul Weller
This song about change is a love letter to the “wild horses” in our lives. Paul Weller sings about how he will never stop searching for them and neither should anyone else because one day they might come back into their life. The lyrics explore what happens when we break up with someone we love and how we can move on from it.
The Way You Used to Do – Queens Of The Stone Age
This song about change is a perfect parody of the way people are always talking about change. Josh Homme sings “If you want to destroy my sweater/Push my buttons any which way you choose.” The lyrics perfectly capture how it feels when people tell you to change when in reality, the only person who can change is yourself.
Change is Gonna Come – Hozier
This song about change perfectly captures the spirit of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come.’ The lyrics “I was born by the river/In a little tent/Oh and just like that river, I’ve been runnin’ ever since” perfectly capture what it feels like when change first hits you. Hozier’s version is much more upbeat than the original, but the message is still just as powerful.
Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
This song about change tackles a topic that is very important to the LGBTQ+ community. The lyrics perfectly explain how it can feel when you are told that your sexual orientation is wrong. This song perfectly captures the feelings of insecurity and how it feels to finally be yourself.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something
This song about change takes a much more literal approach and talks about how things can change in an instant. It is a song about how the life you knew can just disappear and how it feels to be stuck trying to deal with that loss.
Handbags and Gladrags – Rod Stewart
This song about change is a classic that has been covered by many artists. Rod Stewart’s version is more upbeat than the original but there are some heartfelt lyrics about how it feels to be alone and on your own. The song perfectly captures what it feels like when you finally realize that you have lost everything and had to start completely from scratch.
You Gotta Go There to Come Back – Stereophonics
This song about change is a very underrated track from the band’s best album. The lyrics perfectly capture how it feels when nothing seems right and you don’t know what to do anymore. It’s a beautiful love song that beautifully captures what it feels like to be lost and confused about life.
Changes – Tupac
This song about change talks about how the world is getting worse and warns about how things can go downhill quickly. It is a very powerful track that captures what it feels like when you realize that nothing will ever be the same again.
This Too Shall Pass – OK Go
This song about change is one of the most uplifting and empowering songs in the history of music. The lyrics perfectly capture how it feels when we are struggling with something and we know we can go through anything as long as we have hope. It’s a perfect metaphor for life because nothing will ever end, which is what the song’s video represents