Examples of Themes in Popular Songs

Common Themes in Famous Songs

Songs, like literature and poetry, have a tendency to reflect the same themes many times over. Instead of using just words, the musicality of the songs adds another level. Take a look at these ten popular themes in music and the songs that fit right in:

Coming of Age

Coming of age means that someone is growing up and becoming who they are meant to be. This has been reflected in a great number of songs, including:

Dream On by Aerosmith

Every time that I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Isn’t that the way
Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay

Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Mama told me when I was young
Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day
Oh, take your time don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
Go find a woman you’ll find love
And don’t forget son there is someone up above


Death is another popular theme in many songs. Sometimes the only way we can understand someone’s passing is to listen to these familiar songs:

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door by Bob Dylan

Baby stay right here with me
‘Cause I can’t see you anymore
This ain’t the way it’s supposed to be
I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door

Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton

Would you hold my hand
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand
If I saw you in heaven?


Disillusionment is a theme that has become more and more prevalent in recent years. What was once a theme in punk-style music has now become a theme in almost every genre of music today:

American Idiot by Green Day

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.

Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?


Feminism, whether you talk about early, hidden feminism or today’s more in your face feminism, has always been a part of music. From Madonna to Taylor to Etta and Cher, you can easily find it:

I’m Just a Girl by No Doubt

‘Cause I’m just a girl, a little ‘ol me
Well don’t let me out of your sight
Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite
So don’t let me have any rights

U.N.I.T.Y. by Queen Latifah

But don’t you be calling out my name
I bring wrath to those who disrespect me like a dame
That’s why I’m talking, one day I was walking down the block
I had my cutoff shorts on right cause it was crazy hot
I walked past these dudes when they passed me
One of ’em felt my booty, he was nasty
I turned around red, somebody was catching the wrath


While much is made about the songs that chronicle love stories, friendship has been a recurring theme in songs of all genres – whether it be rap, country, show tunes, or even classical music. Friendship is something that is universal, which means most people can connect to the song:

Anytime You Need a Friend by Mariah Carey

Anytime you need a friend
I will be here
You’ll never be alone again
So don’t you fear
Even if you’re miles away
I’m by your side

That’s What Friends Are For by Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for


Heartbreak is a universal theme that almost everyone can relate to. The best singers have the ability to make you feel things for people you haven’t even thought about in ages. When it comes to heartbreak, there are two people that show this theme better than anyone else:

Rolling in the Deep by Adele

The scars of your love remind me of us
They keep me thinking that we almost had it all
The scars of your love, they leave me breathless
I can’t help feeling
We could have had it all

All too Well by Taylor Swift

Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise.
So casually cruel in the name of being honest.
I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here
‘Cause I remember it all, all, all… too well.

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