In this article, we’re going to share what we believe are the best songs about water. So sit back, grab a tall and refreshing glass of water, and let’s have some fun.
Songs About Water You Will Enjoy
Let’s begin with a song by Kanye West.
Water by Kanye West feat. Ant Clemons
Water is one of life’s most basic needs, and as such, it holds a lot of spiritual significance. Consecrated water as a means of cleansing plays a central role in Christianity, and Kanye West explores this in his song, “Water.”
This song comes from West’s 2019 Christian-themed album Jesus is King, and it pursues themes of spirituality and personal reflection using water imagery. West uses water as a symbol of baptism, the Christian ritual by which a soul is cleansed of sin with holy water. Lyrics like, “Let Your light reflect on me / I promise I’m not hiding anything / … / We are water / Pure as water” reference the positive cultural associations with have with water. In “Water”, water represents transparency, purity, and rebirth through spiritual cleansing. Comparing themselves to clear water is West and Clemons’s way of bearing their souls to God and describing spiritual rebirth.
Like its subject matter, “Water” has a cool, easy, flowing feel bolstered by Clemons’s smooth vocals in the verses. Meanwhile, the steady bass creates a rippling sound reminiscent of water droplets. Overall, the song has an appropriate liquid feel as West and Clemons tell a story of faith and spiritual self-discovery.
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The Water Song by the Incredible String Band
British-Scottish folk group the Incredible String Band also explores the spiritual significance of water in their music, this time from the perspective of Western paganism and mysticism.
In their song “The Water Song”, off of their masterful 1968 album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, the Incredible String Band pays tribute to water as the source of life. They personify it as “wizard of changes”, “Dark or silvery mother of life,” and “heaven’s daughter” and beseech it to teach us its wisdom. Water is often seen as a symbol of change and flexibility, and these seem to be the lessons it teaches in this song.
The Incredible String Band sees water as its own kind of music, and they use it to bring this song to life. The strings plucked during the bridge imitate the sounds of water droplets, and water sound effects are incorporated through the piece. Meanwhile, the pipe and flute organ played during the verses echo the music of Medieval Europe and make “The Water Song” feel like a sacred hymn to nature.
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Water by Lynsey De Paul
Water can hold you back, but if you know how to swim, it can also propel you forward. In her 1973 song “Water”, English singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul boasts about her ability to go with the flow.
De Paul references the zodiac, in which water is one of the four classical elements. In the zodiac, water represents emotion and intuition as well as the willingness to go with the flow in life. All of these qualities are embodied strongly in this song about a woman who navigates the issues bubbling under the surface of life by swimming right through them. The woman in this song doesn’t let criticism hold her down. She lets it roll off her back like droplets of water, hardly even noticing it. “Sticks and stones may break my bones / And harsh words come between us / I can keep my head up while you’re drowning in your / Water!” sings De Paul.
The forceful tango rhythm and brass instrumentation help establish dominance in this song, but it’s made even more compelling by De Paul’s slick vocals and the triumph of her message. This is a song about confidence and self-respect in which others’ criticisms are nothing more than water under the bridge.
Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne
In fairness, it isn’t always possible to be as cool-headed as Lynsey De Paul claims to be in “Water.” When life throws challenges our way, it’s easy to feel like we’re drowning. Pop rocker Avril Lavigne sings about confronting this kind of adversity in her 2019 single, “Head Above Water.”
“Head Above Water” tells of a woman’s battle with the pressure of ill health, and it was inspired Lavigne’s own battle with a life-threatening case of chronic Lyme disease. In the song, she reckons with the possibility of losing her life to illness and describes her struggle to maintain strength. She also appeals to higher power. She sings “God, keep my head above water,” asking God to give her the strength to survive the flood of adversity.
What is most inspiring about “Head Above Water” is Avril Lavigne’s refusal to give into her suffering. She details the pain and fear she faces, but she also asserts her will to live. Knowing how personal the song was to Lavigne makes her stirring vocal performance even more cathartic.
Water Me by Lizzo
Lizzo is a master of the self-love anthem, and she brings us yet another ode to the self in the form of her 2017 single, “Water Me.”
In “Water Me,” Lizzo preaches the importance of personal freedom, self-acceptance, and self-care. In the lyrics, she celebrates her own beauty and independence. Most of all, she advocates for her right to flourish, the way water allows the natural world to flourish. “I am free / Come water me,” she sings, staking out her own place in the world and asserting her right to be nurtured and grow.
Many of us struggle to put ourselves first and ensure that our own needs are met, and songs like “Water Me” remind us that we deserve to love and care for ourselves. Lizzo is a great role model for people that are learning the art of self-acceptance and advocacy, so it’s no wonder “Water Me” was nominated for a BET Her Award when it was released on Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You album in 2019.
Water by Brad Paisley
For land-based creatures, humans sure do love spending time in the water. We often think of water as a place to relax and play. In his 2009 song, “Water,” country singer Brad Paisley sings about water as a source of pleasure.
“Water” offers a retrospective of a well-spent youth. Each verse is a vignette describing a joyful memory involving water. Paisley sings about splashing in the pool as child, diving into the lake, retreating to the water to escape the heat, watching a wet t-shirt contest on spring break, and finally, a romantic rendezvous in the water.
There’s no “deeper meaning” to this song, but it doesn’t need one. It’s just an ode to water, and its simplicity is what makes it such fun song. Lyrics like “Inflatable pool full of dad’s hot air” and “Drive until the map turns blue,” present strong, concrete images that will be familiar to most of us, and there’s so much joy in this song that it’s hard not to smile when listening to it.
Dirty Water by the Standells
The Standells’ 1965 garage rock song, “Dirty Water,” is the unofficial anthem of Boston, Massachusetts, but you may be surprised to learn that the Standells were actually from Los Angeles and had never been to Boston before this song became a hit. Their producer, Ed Cobb, composed the song as a mock ode to Boston after a chaotic visit to the city with his girlfriend.
While in Boston, Cobb recalled being mugged and frustrated by the 12 am curfew his girlfriend had to observe (the curfew was a measure by the city to protect women from the Boston Strangler, a serial killer active in Boston in the 1960s). It’s safe to say Cobb didn’t exactly feel welcome in Boston, so in response, he wrote “Dirty Water,” a sarcastic “love song” to the city.
The titular “dirty water” refers to the Boston Harbor and the Charles River in Boston, which were notoriously polluted with industrial waste in the 1960s. Ed Cobb uses the bodies of water as symbols of Boston, and that alone should tell you how he felt about the city.
The Standells may have been being ironic when they sang “I love that dirty water!”, but the people of Boston have embraced this song with good humor. It’s played regularly at Boston sporting events, and virtually every Bostonian is familiar with it. The Charles River and the Boston Harbor have long since been cleaned up, but the song’s popularity endures. Nothing says “Boston” like the iconic guitar riff in “Dirty Water”!
Buried in Water by Dead Man’s Bones
Rock duo Dead Man’s Bones, consisting of actor Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields, enlisted the help of a children’s choir to create their 2009 self-titled concept album, a morbid, supernatural love story told through song. The whole album has a ghostly feel to it, and a prime example of the eeriness is the song “Buried in Water.”
Ushered in by a dark and dramatic piano flourish, “Buried in Water” describes the discovery of a drowned ghost town populated by the spirits of those that once inhabited it. Lines like “It died so that other towns could live” and “Like a lamb to its slaughter / Buried in water” hint that the drowning may have been a heroic act of sacrifice on the part of the town, but we never get the full story. And that’s the point. The fact that so much is left to the imagination only adds to the mysterious atmosphere. We’re left to fill in the blanks with whatever horror our minds can conjure up.
The creepiness is further bolstered by dark marching rhythm and the mournful sound of the children’s choir. The juxtaposition of childlike innocence with sinister imagery is perhaps one of the spookiest things about the song. All in all, “Buried in Water” is a novel piece of musical horror that evokes a drowning feeling both musically and lyrically.
Waterfalls by TLC
Water can be beautiful, but it can also be dangerous. In the same vein, chasing pleasure can be deeply rewarding, but it can also lead you down destructive paths. In their 1995 R&B song “Waterfalls”, TLC reminds us to stay on the straight on the narrow. It’s a deeply poetic song with a powerful message for anyone in a dysfunctional situation.
In the song, “waterfalls” represent vices, things that are pleasurable and alluring but dangerous. TLC admonishes the listener, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls / Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.” The verses present brief cautionary tales, describing a young man who breaks his mother’s heart by turning to a life of drugs and violent crime, and another man who suffers from AIDS after a risky sexual encounter.
The song is ultimately a tragedy about people who pursue destructive ambitions, and the conclusions is that sometimes a life of gratitude and stability is better than one of danger and extravagance. Escapism is tempting, but it can pull us away from the truly rewarding things in life.
Anyone who has ever loved someone with self-destructive tendencies understands what is meant by “Waterfalls.” It’s a profound piece of music with a tragic message, but somehow the smooth R&B vocals make it accessible as a pop song. So if you’re looking for songs about waterfalls, you probably won’t find a better song than this track by TLC!
Glass of Water by Coldplay
British rock band Coldplay love getting philosophical in their lyrics, and “Glass of Water,” off their 2008 album Prospekt’s March, is no exception.
The song tells of a man who attempts to see both his future and his own soul in a glass of water. The lyrics also lament to consumerism and inauthenticity of modern culture and conclude that when artifice is stripped away, all that remains in a glass of water. Coldplay references a glass of water as a symbol for perspective.
The chorus, which contains the lines “Son, don’t ask / Neither how full nor empty is your glass,” alludes to the old trope in which an optimist and a pessimist disagree about a partially filled glass of water. The optimist claims it is half-full, while the pessimist claims it is half-empty. Perspective always plays an important role in music, as there are often as many interpretations of a song as there are listeners, especially in a distinctly philosophical piece like this one. On one hand, it may be misguided to try to see your future in a glass of water, but on the other, it may lead to some meaningful self-reflection.
Ultimately, it is up to us to decide what lessons we can learn from this song, and from glasses of water. Perhaps greater value lies in the questions in poses than in the answers it provides. It asks us to consider what a glass of water really means, to look deeply into ourselves and world around us and discover what we see.
Water is a force of nature with a music of its own, so it’s no wonder it’s inspired so many talented songwriters to feats of poetry. It’s a potent symbol in art and literature, and each of the artists on this list has something powerful to say about what it means to them. Once you’ve given these songs about water a listen, you may gain some perspective of your own and discover new sides to the world.