The topic of clouds in music can result in songs that are deeply literal or are wildly imaginative. This uniqueness is part of the reason we absolutely love songs about clouds. So in this article, we’re going to provide you with a list of our favorite cloud-related songs, and hopefully you’ll find a couple great pieces of music to add to your own playlist.
Songs About Cloud You Will Love
Let’s begin with a Claude Debussy song.
Clouds by Claude Debussy
Might as well set the scene for this list with a song that perfectly captures the essence of clouds!
“Clouds” (also known by its original French title, “Nuages”) is the first movement of Claude Debussy’s Three Nocturnes, which were composed between 1892 and 1899. Like the other three movements, “Clouds” is an example of programmatic music, meaning it is an instrumental piece meant to conjure a specific image.
In this case, the title tells us exactly what we’re supposed to imagine when we hear this song. Much like a cloud-filled sky at twilight, Debussy’s exquisite string arrangement has a dark romance to it that seems to drift in and out of focus the way clouds scud along the skyscape.
Debussy was a composer of the late Romantic Period, a time when artists, writers, and musicians and Europe and America were paying tribute to a natural world that seemed increasingly threatened by industrialism, and “Clouds” is a poem performed through music, a stirring ode to its subject. Unlike the rest of the songs on this list, Debussy’s piece has no greater message, and it doesn’t mean one. It is enough simply to honor the beauty of a natural phenomenon.
Cloudbusting by Kate Bush
Never one to shy away from a literary reference in her music, Kate Bush was inspired to write “Cloudbusting” in 1985 after she read Peter Reich’s 1973 memoir, A Book of Dreams. Reich was the son of physician, psychiatrist, and inventor Wilhelm Reich, whose pseudoscientific beliefs and dubious political ideologies have made him a controversial figure, and “Cloudbusting” explores the emotional complexity of the father-son relationship A Book of Dreams describes.
Like the memoir upon which it was based, “Cloudbusting” is tragedy about the loss of innocence, focusing on Wilhelm Reich’s 1954 arrest by the FBI and subsequent 1957 death, which occurred when Peter was still a child. Backed by a dramatic string orchestra and a steady marching rhythm, Bush captures the feelings of grief, helplessness, confusion, and anticipation that come at the moment when a child first realizes the fallibility of his parents.
So, what does this have to do with clouds? Well, Bush is referencing “cloudbusting,” a process by which Wilhelm Reich believed he could produce rain with a machine he had created. In Bush’s song, cloudbusting takes on a mythical significance, in which rain represents sorrow and tears as well as power and rebellion.
Cloud imagery produces a feeling of potent anticipation for the coming rain, which in this case, is Peter’s own coming-of-age. To describe Peter’s growth and decision to take control of his environment, Bush brings the song to powerful denoument with the clever weather-themed double-entendre, “Like the sun’s coming out / Your son’s coming out,” and result is an incredibly cathartic and emotionally-rich rock ballad.
Cloudy by Simon and Garfunkel
One reason why people spend so much time talking about the weather is that it’s something we all have in common! We all know how cloudy days feel, and that’s why Simon and Garfunkel turn to meteorological imagery to describe emotional and mental confusion in their simple, melancholy folk tune “Cloudy.”
In “Cloudy” Simon and Garfunkel’s narrator draws parallels between three things: the weather, his own internal state, and his external situation. Like the clouds in the sky, his thoughts drift aimlessly and blend into one another. And he himself seems to be drifting, leading a vagabond lifestyle that carries him from place to place with no sense of direction or purpose.
There might be something liberating about having “no borders, no boundaries,” but cloudiness also signifies a lack of clarity and grounding, and the narrator in this song seems rather hopeless about his situation, singing of the clouds “…they linger there to die / They don’t know where they’re going, and my friend, neither do I.” All in all, this song paints a dreary picture: the weather is gloomy and both the narrator’s thoughts and lifestyle feel out of control.
“Cloudy” is mainly a lesson in empathy. We may not be in the narrator’s head chasing after stray thoughts, but the thanks to the central metaphor, can easily imagine how he feels. That’s what makes nature imagery so popular in music: it’s familiar to all of us!
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Cloud Nine by the Temptations
When we say we’re on Cloud Nine, we usually mean that we’re in a state of bliss, as if we were on top of the world. That’s because in 1896, British meteorologist Sir Ralph Abercromby labeled cumulonimbus – the biggest, tallest, puffiest cloud of all – as Cloud Nine in his manual of cloud classifications. With that in mind, you might be expecting a light-hearted and celebratory ditty with a title like this, but that’s not quite what you’ll get.
The Temptations’ 1969 Motown hit “Cloud Nine” is actually a story about escaping from the hardships of an impoverished and dysfunctional situation. The song begins with a harsh description of a deprived childhood in a city slum before segueing into the chorus, in which the narrator escapes to “Cloud Nine,” where he’s “doing fine” in “a world of love and harmony.”
Some of have argued that “Cloud Nine” is a metaphor for drug abuse, and this certainly makes sense, but the Temptations themselves have denied this interpretation, claiming instead that “Cloud Nine” is simply a generic term for euphoria, having been around since Sir Abercromby coined it in 1896. Perhaps Cloud Nine in this song is simply a metaphor for an outlet for a passion, a fulfilling personal relationship, or an inner fantasy. Perhaps the Temptations are singing about their own success as a band, which makes them feel like they’re on Cloud Nine
The “Cloud Nine” to which the Temptations refer may be up for debate, but either way, this song is notable for a couple reasons. First, it represented a departure from the generic, poppy style that made the Temptations famous, to a more distinctive, mature, and soulful sound. Second, behind the Motown beat, it delivered some hard-hitting truths about the realities of poverty and inequality in America – truths that are, unfortunately, still relevant today.
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Cloud 9 by Beach Bunny
With its catchy, fast-pasted tune, it’s not hard to understand why Beach Bunny’s 2020 song “Cloud 9” has garnered so much success on TikTok. It has a similar title to the Temptations song, and it expresses a similar sentiment, albeit in a different context.
Beach Bunny’s “Cloud 9” is also a song about escape, this time from personal dissatisfaction via a reassuring relationship. The narrator begins the song by describing her lack of confidence and feelings of failure, but by the time she’s reached the chorus, she’s back on Cloud 9 with someone who “remind(s) (her) how to fly.”
This song is all about finding the person who makes you feel good about yourself. The lyrics never include the idiom, “Cloud 9,” but they do describe the euphoria that comes with feeling loved. It’s no wonder this song resonates so strongly with teenagers, because that’s exactly how young love feels!
Get Off Of My Cloud by the Rolling Stones
In this busy and crowded world, sometimes the best thing about being on Cloud Nine is that you get to be there all by yourself. It’s a little harder to enjoy your accomplishments without any peace and quiet.
The Rolling Stones recorded “Get Off Of My Cloud” in 1965 following the massive success of their single “Satisfaction,” and it deals with some of the less enviable aspects of fame. At that time, the Rolling Stones, most of whom were barely adults, were living in London – the busy, noisy, cultural capital of the world – and suddenly having to deal with the stresses of being public figures.
With the good humor and charisma only he can pull off, Mick Jagger sings about solicitous visitors, noisy phone calls, 3am partiers, and a barrage of parking tickets, and his message to all of them is “Hey, you, get off of my cloud!” The Rolling Stones present a colorful image of “Swingin’ London,” and it’s hard not to imagine them scurrying through Where’s Waldo-like assortment of partiers trying to find a bit peace and quiet.
Overall, this is a song about wanting to be left alone from a group that probably found solitude an increasingly rare commodity. The titular cloud is a fanciful representation of that little slice of treasured privacy ever-encroached upon by the public. But the Rolling Stones avoid too much whininess in this song. The catchy, danceable rock beat and Jagger’s high energy keep “Get Off Of My Cloud” from sounding like self-pity. There’s far more humor here than angst.
Just a Cloud Away by Pharrell
We all know Pharrell Williams is a master of the happy song, but it’s easy to be optimistic when things are going well. In “Just a Cloud Away,” from the 2013 Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, Pharrell sings about keeping the faith when times get tough, and he takes the opportunity to be a little philosophical.
In this cheery, nostalgic tune, Pharrell sings that both the good and the bad are “temporary” and “everything is cyclical.” No matter how difficult things seem, they will improve, and even on rainy days “the sun shining through is just a cloud away.” His weather metaphor is apt here. Rainy days can be unfortunate, but we all know they aren’t the end of the world.
Eventually the clouds will part and we will see the sun again, and this is true of most things in life. Pharrell also reminds us that rainy days serve a purpose. “The contrast is why we got ‘em,” he sings. And that’s true. Just as we wouldn’t appreciate the sun as much without the rain, the good days wouldn’t seem as valuable without the bad.
“Just a Cloud Away” is a great song to listen to on hard days when you need a pick-me-up. Sometimes bad days and disappointments are unavoidable, but it helps to have a sympathetic friend to remind you not to give up hope, and that’s exactly what Pharrell Williams does here.
Little Cloud by the Incredible String Band
Speaking of cheery tunes, the Incredible String Band gives us a nice little fable about a happy cloud in their 1967 song “Little Cloud.”
Composed by Mike Heron, this song tells the story of a man who is visited one night by a cloud, who befriends him and takes him to “distant lands wondrous and fair.” The only problem is that this cloud is too happy, and the other clouds admonish her to learn to cry. In the end, as she returns the man to the ground, she learns to cry tears of joy, and a rainbow appears.
In a manner characteristic of Mike Heron’s compositions, “Little Cloud” has a certain whimsy to it that turns it into a fun fairytale. Through childlike eyes, the Incredible String Band imagines clouds as magical beings with a world of their own, and through this song, they take us there.
Through their parable of tears of joy and rainbows, they also tell a meaningful story about the duel nature of clouds, and by extension, of life. Rain can be cold and wet, but it can also bring rainbows. Tears can mean sorrow, but they can also mean joy. And clouds can bring storms, but they can also be gentle and peaceful.
Cloudy Sky by the Cardigans
We all try to make our loved ones happy, but sometimes this is harder than it seems, and that’s the theme of the Cardigan’s dreamy 1994 song, “Cloudy Sky.”
Front-woman Nina Persson sings from the point of view of woman who would do anything to make her lover happy, only to find that she can never predict what he wants and keeps making him miserable. She sings that she would gladly “paint the grey sky blue” for him before learning that he would prefer a cloudy sky.
In essence, “Cloudy Sky” is a song about frustration and fallibility in relationships. The narrator can do anything for her lover except the right thing. And it isn’t her fault. She tries her best, but the truth is, we don’t always what our loved ones needs. There’s a lot of irony in this song.
The blue skies, which are supposed to bring the lover joy, actually make him “blue,” and the rain, which usually symbolizes sadness, “wash[es] away the pain.” If there’s any lesson we can learn from this songs, it’s that things are a lot more complicated then they seem, and the right answer is often obscured behind cloudy skies.
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Both Sides Now (Clouds) by Judy Collins
One thing a lot of these songs have in common is the theme of duality. Just like life itself, a cloud can be both good and bad. More realistically, it’s all of the shades of grey in between. It’s appropriate that this song has two titles, because in “Both Sides Now (Clouds),” the narrator takes a philosophically dualistic view of clouds, life, and love.
Originally written by Joni Mitchell, “Both Sides Now (Clouds)” became a hit for Judy Collins in 1967. In it, the narrator reflects upon her idealized view of clouds as such whimsical things as “Bows and flows of angel hair / And ice cream castles in the air / And feathered canyons everywhere,” before discovering a darker side to clouds, which also “block the sun” and “rain and snow on everyone.”
Following the same pattern, she muses about the similar dualities in the nature of love, and finally, life itself. There’s a twinge of sadness as the narrator’s idealism is disappointed by reality, but each verse ends with a note of acceptance when Collins admits, “I really don’t know [clouds], [love], [life] at all.”
This elegantly literary song leaves us with a sense of catharsis as it gently prompts us to acknowledge the fact that life is complicated. Things are never what they seem; there are at least two sides to every story, but usually there are many more. Clouds stand as an appropriate metaphor for duality because, as this list shows, they can represent both the good and the bad depending on your point of view.
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So, what can we learn from these songs about clouds? Well, one of the things they teach us is that life is full of nuance. In fact, the word nuance actually comes from nuage, which is the French term for “cloud” or “shade.” For every clouds that blocks the sun, so the cliché goes, there is a silver lining.
Then again, as the Grateful Dead famously taught us, for every silver lining, there is a “touch of grey.” So when you listen to the songs on this list, you’ll find both joy and sorrow, but more often, you’ll find something in between. That’s because just like clouds, life isn’t black and white – it’s a spectrum of shades of grey.
This article was written by Rachel and edited by Michael.