There are a ton of great songs about air, as artists share thoughts about everything from wind and nature to airplanes and breathing oxygen. So in this article, I’m going to provide you my favorite air-related songs, and hopefully you’ll find a couple tracks you’ll want to add to your playlist.
Songs About Air You Will Love
Let’s begin with a song by The Hollies.
The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies
When you find a person you really love, it’s easy to feel like they are everything you’ll ever need, and that’s the theme of this tender ballad by the Hollies. Like the Beatles before them, the Hollies preach that “all you need is love”! Well, that and air to breathe.
Originally performed by Albert Hammond, who was inspired to write the song after a brief but passionate in affair in the smoggy city of Los Angeles, “The Air that I Breathe” is about being with the person that makes your life feel complete. The narrator sings that as long as he has the air he breathes and person he loves, he has all he needs.
It’s not meant to be taken literally – of course survival depends on a bit more than that – but it does a great job of describing the feelings of satisfaction and inner peace that come in the afterglow of perfect love, and it captures a moment of complete fulfillment.
Meanwhile, the lazy, lilting melody makes this song sound almost like a lullaby, which reinforces the feelings of contentment it describes. “The Air that I Breathe” tells the story of a moment in which all needs have been met and rest comes easily, and that makes it a very soothing love song.
No Air by Jordin Sparks feat. Chris Brown
As the Hollies teach us, the person we love can become as essential to us as the air we need to breathe. But what happens when we lose that person? This is the question Jordin Sparks asks in her 2008 hit, “No Air.”
Performed as a duet with Chris Brown, “No Air,” is a song about heartbreak. In it, the narrators face losing their lovers, whom they have come to depend on. The song’s lyrics compare the lovers to air itself, something essential for survival, and the narrators assert that trying to live without their partners would be like trying “to breathe with no air.” “No Air” is at its heart a tragedy, with a sweeping orchestral arrangement and powerful vocal arrangements that heighten its emotional reach.
And Jordin Sparks isn’t just being dramatic. One of the most prominent side-effects of the shock of heartbreak is breathing disturbances.
Air by Shawn Mendes feat. Astrid
On the other hand, our partners aren’t always the breaths of fresh air we need them to be. Sometimes they are the very things that suffocate us.
In “Air” by Shawn Mendes, the narrator confronts a partner who is smothering him and pleads for some room to breathe. He concedes that she doesn’t mean any harm – she may think she’s acting out of love – but he’s desperate to get away. He feels choked by her overbearing behavior.
Mendes plays upon the association between air and freedom. Even though relationships can be wonderful, sometimes they restrict our independence and make us feel like we need to run away just to get some air. Interestingly, this song is also performed as a duet, this time with Norwegian singer-songwriter Astrid.
Perhaps these are two sides of the same relationship, both feeling like they are being suffocated by the other. Or perhaps, they are two separate individuals with the same story to tell, highlighting the fact that the subject of the song is a universal experience.
Love is Like Oxygen by Sweet
In their 1978 hit “Love is Like Oxygen,” British glam rock band Sweet reconciles the differences between the previous three songs on this list nicely and reminds us that both love and oxygen are only good in moderation. They sum up their position succinctly in the chorus, “Love is like oxygen / You get too much, you get too high / Not enough and you’re gonna die.”
Meanwhile, the verses suggest that the narrator may be facing the breakup of a relationship, which explains why he’s musing on the potentially destructive nature of love in this song. True, love is something we need, but we also need balance. Loneliness and co-dependence both have their downsides.
There isn’t much more to the song than that, but it’s a true statement. We often forget how potent both love and oxygen are. We thrive on them, but only in moderation.
breathin by Ariana Grande
Often when life gets tough, all we can do is take a deep breath of air. Yet sometimes even that’s hard to do, and moments like this are the subject of Ariana Grande’s 2018 single, “breathin.”
In this song, Ariana Grande opens up about struggling with anxiety. The opening lines, “Some days things just take / Way too much of my energy,” make it clear that this is a song about confronting the hardships of daily life, and the pre-chorus vividly describes the feelings of loss of control that come with panic attacks.
However, the song picks up and the music swells as Grande segues into the chorus, where she tells us that when things get tough, she is reminded to “just keep breathin.”’ And this is great advice. Regulating breathing is a very effective way to curb a panic attack.
“breathin” deals with a painful subject, but it isn’t sad song. It has a triumphant feel as Grande celebrates her resilience in the face of anxiety. In spite of the chaos of everyday life, Grande’s narrator decides to move forward and “just keep breathin / my air.” The cryptic message at the beginning, which when played backwards tell us, “But tonight’s your special night / To do something magical” sets the inspiring tone Grande carries throughout the song.
- You Might Like: Songs About Breathing
Breathe (In the Air) by Pink Floyd
When we are born, we usually greet the world by taking our first breath, and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe (In the Air)” is about doing just that. Pink Floyd’s experimental 1973 concept album Dark Side of the Moon presents a bildungsroman of human life in stages from birth to death, so it’s appropriate that the first full-length number takes place at the moment of the first breath.
The song begins abruptly. In fact, it opens with an anguished female vocal wail, setting the scene for the chaos that typically surrounds birth before the song resolves into an eerie calm. The remaining lyrics describe a sense of anticipation, detailing the things the newborn subject will do, the choices they will face, and the experiences, both good and bad, that they will have.
There’s also an element of uncertainty present in this song. The melody and lyrics are elusive, and it’s hard to tell whether this is a moment of joy or of sorrow, for everyone is assured their fair share of both when they come into the world. We aren’t yet told who this person will become and whether or not they will have a good life, but those things are never known in the beginning. We can’t predict how a life will unfold and end, but we know how it usually begins: with a breath of air.
Up In the Air by Thirty Seconds to Mars
Speaking of uncertainty, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s “Up In the Air” is full of it. When we say that something is “up in the air”, we usually mean that its fate is not guaranteed, and in their 2013 single, Thirty Seconds to Mars sings about a whole life being up in the air.
The throbbing electronic beat and Jared Leto’s impassioned vocals set an angst-ridden tone for this rock anthem. Meanwhile, the lyrics describe feelings of regret and anxiety as the narrator contemplates the instability of his life. “Up In the Air” is largely a song about introspection. The narrator questions the choices he has made and the volatile places to which they have brought him. Even his dearest relationships are “up in the air” and unhinged, and he describes wrapping his “hands around your neck so tight with love,” suggesting his tendency toward violence.
The story in “Up In the Air” is vague and open to interpretation. There are quite a few possible situations to which this song could apply. Perhaps this is a coming-of-age tale about a young person coming to terms with the cruel world that greets them in adulthood.
Perhaps this is the song of a villain being forced to reckon with the horrible things he has done. Then again, perhaps this song is about all of us. One might interpret “Up In the Air” as a song about humanity in the modern world, facing a new set of problems and existential threats of its own making.
Love Is in the Air by John Paul Young
On a lighter note, Scottish-Australian singer John Paul Young brings us a joyful celebration of love with his 1977 pop hit “Love Is in the Air.” In this song, air represents the atmosphere, that which is all around us and colors our environment.
Anyone who has ever been in love can relate to the phrase “love is in the air,” which captures how lovesick feelings tend to permeate our whole lives when we develop a romantic connection with someone. In “Love Is in the Air,” John Paul Young describes a world saturated with love, for better or for worse. This song uses a lot of nature imagery, such as “the whisper of the trees,” “the thunder of the sea,” “the rising of the sun,” and “when the day is nearly done” to convey the far reaches of the narrator’s infatuation.
“Love Is in the Air” is about the strength of love. The narrator acknowledges that his feelings may be unwise, but they are all-encompassing and guide him all the same.
In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins
“In the Air Tonight” is perhaps Phil Collins’s most famous song, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s a truly haunting piece of music, and it’s all about creating an atmosphere.
Both lyrically and musically, this song builds feelings of anticipation and tension. We don’t quite know what, but something dark and dramatic is about to happen, and the narrator can sense it. Phil Collins captures a moment on the precipice of a turning point, the build-up to the climax.
Lyrically, we never reach the climax – we never find out exactly what the narrator feels in the air tonight – but, musically, the climax comes in the form of Phil Collins’s famous drum fill about two thirds of the way through the song, which brings the tension to its highest point before fading away.
The story told here is incomplete. We don’t have a full picture of what is happening in this song or who these characters are, but we do get hints of betrayal, anger, and regret. Some have speculated that Phil Collins wrote this song after witnessing a real-life tragedy, but he claimed he composed “In the Air Tonight” following the break-up his first marriage as a way to deal with the pain he was experiencing, and he had no specific narrative in mind – only emotions to work with. Perhaps that’s one of the things that makes this song so great: we don’t have the full story, so we get to fill in the blanks however we choose.
Thin Air by Pearl Jam
We don’t always think of air as something in and of itself. Sometimes we use it as a shorthand for nothing, such as in the idiom “thin air,” which is the basis for Pearl Jam’s 2000 track.
“Thin Air” is a poetic love song about finding someone who makes you want to be a better person. The refrain, “And I know she’s reached my heart in thin air,” suggests that a miracle has occurred. The narrator’s lover has touched a deeply vulnerable part of him and pulled something out of nothing. She’s made him feel things both beautiful and unfamiliar to him.
This along with lyrics like, “It’s not in past to presume / Love can keep on moving in both directions. / How to be happy and true / Is the quest we’re taking on together” tells a story of two people who may have come from a troubled history finally finding peace in their partnership with one another.
“Thin Air” is simply an honest and authentic love song, and what makes it beautiful is its vulnerability. This is a very personal song, and it seems likely that when Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard composed it, he was writing from his own experience.
So there you have it: ten songs about air, each with its own lesson to teach us. Perhaps the most important takeaway we can gather from these songs is that we should be more mindful and appreciative of our surroundings. After all, in our busy lives, sometimes it’s important to take a deep breath, feel the air around us, and collect ourselves.
Ironically, we usually appreciate the air most when we are suffocating, so maybe it’s time to take stock of the things we have that keep us alive and say thank you. Remember, air may be silent and invisible, but it still has ways of making its presence known if we pay attention, and we’d sure be lost without it!