Failure is something we all think about—it’s a universal worry that many of us are burdened with. But thankfully, we have music that can sing to our pain—and perhaps lift us up when we’ve been knocked down on the mat.
So in this article, I’m going to provide you with 13 of my favorite songs about failure that will hopefully help you (and perhaps inspire you) the next time you encounter an obstacle that seems too big to overcome. You can overcome it.
Songs About Failure That Leave an Impression
Let’s begin with a song called “Wake Me Up” by Fickle Friends.
Wake Me Up by Fickle Friends (2018)
On this track, the band Fickle Friends perform a song about the reality of a relationship that’s failing. This song follows the story of a couple that just can’t communicate well—and it’s absolutely rotting their relationship from the inside out.
Someone call it now
And pull me away
I’m just waking up and all I wanna say is
We are, we are, we are, we are, yeh
Yeah, we’re absolutely failing
We have got so much, so much to learn
And what am I missing? What is it you’ve heard?
‘Cause we are, we are, we are, we are, yeah
Yeah, we are absolutely failing
Wake me up
At the end of the day, sometimes you’ll connect with someone you love, and for one reason or another, it just won’t work out—despite you really wanting it to.
Wake Me Up speaks to this emotion perfectly. It’s a great song from a highly underrated band.
Note: Fickle Friends provides a few alternate versions to some of their songs, including some acoustic versions. In the case of “Wake Me Up,” I actually prefer the alternative version to the original:
Lose Yourself by Eminem (2002)
Of course, no list of songs about failure would be complete without the 2002 classic by Eminem, Lose Yourself. This three-verse masterpiece has become the definition of turning failure into success.
Eminem’s intro is a question about opportunity that plagues everyone, musician or otherwise: if you had one shot to get everything you ever dreamed of, would you make the most of it?
Anecdote-based, Lose Yourself shows Eminem at the bottom of the rap game with the lyrics “he keeps on forgetting / what he wrote down” and “I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage.”
The song describes his circumstance as having a lack of resources, “he’s broke / … he knows, when he goes back to his mobile home.”
Eminem shows how he reversed this lack of success with the line, “But I kept rhymin’ and stepped right into the next chapter.”
This new chapter led him to sell out shows from coast to coast and become an incredibly successful rapper, with a net worth estimated to be over 200 million dollars.
Sorry, Blame It On Me by Akon (2006)
Rarely do you hear a song where a music artist is outright apologizing for his mistakes.
Akon got caught in some hot water in 2007, and it seemed to prompt this apology song that—while it did address the controversy head on in some choice lyrics, the song worked moreso as a catch-all apology for all kind of wrongs Akon has committed—and even somewhat haven’t occurred yet.
It’s not the best song in the world, but it serves its puporse and is quite catchy, as well.
Live Free by Mac Miller (2011)
Mac Miller has a different take on turning failure into success, taking on his haters in his work Live Free (2011).
Miller describes the aspects of failure created by negative actions of others, rapping in the chorus “they gunna try to bring you down / hating is what they do” and “they gunna try to tell you no / shatter all your dreams.”
Miller practically dedicates this song to his haters with the intro “This is a message to all of you who don’t believe.” The failures that negative actions of others create are juxtaposed with a more positive message that led him to success with lyrics about living free, smiling, and not second guessing yourself.
Miller’s success is represented in this song by comparisons to the legends Picasso, of the art world, and LeBron James, of basketball.
Not Going Back by Childish Gambino (2011)
Childish Gambino is another hip-hop artist that masterfully takes failure, stemming from negative actions by others, and turns it into a success story.
The first line of the song directly takes on the lack of support he feels, singing “It seems like they all want me to fail.” He goes on to rap in his first verse that “I could’ve been a tragedy” and “F*****’ hate me, that’s what I’m used to.”
He even takes the lack of support a step further in the second verse, rapping “I am just myself, AKA: my worst enemy,” creating a sense that he sometimes doubts himself.
However, despite all these references to views of failure, from himself and others, he keeps an underlying message of success with lines like “I’m the boss, Michael Scott,” “couldn’t see me as Spider-Man but now I’m spittin’ venom,” and “Renaissance man with a Hollywood buzz.”
In these lines, Gambino compare himself to various successful characters and emphasize the last rapped line of the song, “I refuse to go back to not liking who I was.”
Never Let You Down by Colbie Caillat (2014)
This is an interesting addition to this list, as this isn’t a song about failing in the traditional sense. In fact, this is almost an anti-failing song—an anthem aimed to show you the power of having a supportive person in your corner.
On this track, Colbie sings of having your back. Of always building you up. Of lifting you up if you’re feeling sad and low.
In short, Colbie’s love refuses to allow you to fail. She plans to be failure’s Kryptonite.
I’m never gonna let you down
I’m always gonna build you up
When you’re feeling lost, I will always find you love
I’m never gonna walk away
I’m always gonna have your back
And if nothing else, you can always count on that
Started From The Bottom by Drake (2013)
The concept of placing artists at the bottom of the hip-hop genre is no stranger to hip-hop star Drake. In fact, he embraces it with the song Started From The Bottom (2013).
Drake begins the song with the first lines of the chorus, “Started from the bottom, now we here / started from the bottom now my whole team f*****’ here”, embracing the lack of success he had when he first started.
Drake describes his situation, specifically living with his mom and working nights to make ends meet. He turns this situation into a success story in his song, moving to the lyrics
“Now I’m on the road, half a million for a show”.
502 Come Up by Bryson Tiller (2015)
With the come up mentioned in the title, it is no surprise that 502 Come Up by Bryson Tiller turns his circumstance and the haters’ views of failure into a success story.
Tiller raps about his haters reminding him of his circumstances when he was broke and turning it into success, rapping the lyrics “And some say there’s levels to this s*** / damn look at all the levels that I skipped”.
The anticipation of success from failure is a large part of Tiller’s chorus, emphasized with the lines “For years and years we waited on this / livin’ in a place folks didn’t know exist”, referencing his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
Milk by Brockhampton (2015)
Milk, the fifteenth track of Brockhampton’s album Saturation, is a song that dives into several different circumstances of failure and turns them around into a success story.
Ameer Vann begins the song by rapping about his circumstance and doing a bunch of drugs. Merlyn Wood follows it up, rapping about dropping out of school buying food stamps.
Kevin Abstract takes over on the bridge and raps about being broke and not feeling anything. Dom McLennon brings the outro through his anecdote to success with the final line
“And all the skeletons are ready for your story” regarding their opportunity now to tell their stories on stage.
DNA by Kendrick Lamar (2016)
This unique two verse song, with a bridge, is another excellent example of turning circumstance and lack of success into a soaring rap career.
Lamar raps about having many different qualities in his DNA, different aspects that make up his life. This includes where he started and where he is as a musician.
Rapping with the lines “my expertise checked out in second grade / I was 9, on cell, motel, we didn’t have nowhere to stay” Kendrick Lamar takes us through the circumstances of his youth through his young adulthood where “At 29, I’ve done so well, hit cartwheel in my estate”.
Toward the end of the work Lamar raps about winning Grammys and diamond ceilings, showing the success of his career, despite his initial circumstances. The album this song is featured on, DAMN., went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Congratulations by Post Malone (2016)
Another hip-hop song dedicated to haters is Post Malone’s track from his debut album, Congratulations (2016). The chorus of Congratulations is an excellent representation of his success story, turning the failure that his haters believed in into success.
Post Malone sings about his dreams of becoming big and how his haters said he’d never make it with the lyrics “I dreamed it all ever since I was young / they said I wouldn’t be nothing”.
He also raps the lyrics “But they didn’t know me last year”, referencing his beginnings at the bottom of the genre now turning into successes through hard work and dedication.
Kids by Rich Brian (2019)
The Indonesian rapper, born Brian Immanuel, creates his failure to success story with his song Kids (2019).
As the fourth track on the album Sailor, Rich Brian’s success story plays with the words of the album’s title, rapping “Started off as the sailor, look at me, now I’m the captain”.
Much of Rich Brian’s beginnings at the bottom in this song start with his arrival in the United States. He has several lines regarding feelings of foreignness including the lines “‘Member my first days here when it was all foreign” and “They told me I ain’t welcome”.
Rich Brian counters these comments, and emphasizes his success, with lyrics like “I won’t lie, this s***is fun / tell these Asian kids they could do what they want” and “I used to be the kid, now the kids wanna be me”, referencing his influence on the Asian population, as well as the universal line “everyone can make it, don’t matter where you from”.
Forever by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Eminem (2009)
To complete this list of songs about failure, turning that failure into success, is a united work by Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem entitled Forever (2009).
With four incredible verses about the come up and driving to the top of the rap and hip-hop genres, Forever mixes different styles and different stories yet comes up with a central idea “I want this s*** forever”. This idea is consistent, sung through the chorus by Drake, and represents the dream of each of the rappers.
Each of the rappers take a verse discussing their failure to success story. Drake thanks his haters for his success with the lines “Started off local, but thanks to all the haters” and references explicitly the labels in the music industry, rapping “Everybody got a deal, I did it without one”.
Kanye West raps about his “hood dreams” and compares his success to Barack Obama with the lyrics “You would think I ran the world like Michelle’s husband”.
Lil Wayne references his hometown of New Orleans in his rap, emphasizing where he came from and how successful he is in the song “Life is such a roller coaster, then it drops / But what should I scream for? This is my theme park”.
Eminem has the most aggressive flow, creating an animated final verse. Filled with entendres and word play, this last verse takes the listener from almost overdosing to challenging those who doubted him while rapping “For the way you doubted me, how’s it taste / When I slap the taste outta your mouth”.
Mixing four different success stories, Forever creates a timeless song about failure.
Music is made from musicians with a drive and a passion to take failure and turn it into a success story.Whether you feel down on your own luck or feel like you just can’t get out of your own way, I hope these songs about failure that I talked about today help out you in the right mindset to start thinking positively and make some big changes.
If you enjoyed this article, please “like” our new Devoted to Vinyl Facebook page!
You Also Might Like:
- Songs About Depression
- Songs About Betrayal
- Songs About the Beach
- Songs About Secret Love
- Songs About Wolves
- Songs About Lies