What words come to mind when you categorize a song "inspirational?" Uplifting? Motivating? Encouraging? Usually, these words come to mind when you hear music from certain artists, but why? Perhaps the lyrics enlighten your soul or brighten your life.
More than likely, when a listener hears an inspirational song from their favorite artist(s); it will ease their spirit. People yearn for songs that could possibly help them overcome life’s biggest battles.
There are many inspirational songs in R&B music that are prevailing and timeless for a number of reasons: melody, words, content, sound, mood, and the actual artist. Singersroom narrowed it down to the top 50… Yes 50!
We’re not perfect, but these 50 really touched us. Feel free to add any we missed in our comments section… maybe can do a continuation!
Hit next and check them out!
We Are the World – Various Artists
Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, and others collaborated on a charity single that sold 20 million copies in the United States. The multi-platinum single won 3 Grammys, an American Music Award, and a People’s Choice Award. The single focused on the critical conditions in Africa. It was a way for these legendary artists to express their humanitarian works for Africa and for the world. The repetitive chorus in the song expressed their compassion and empathy for the callous world we live in when they sang, "We are the world, we are the children; we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let's start giving.”
Lean on Me – Bill Withers
This single is considered to be one of the greatest songs written of all time in music. This is an excellent song to address the importance of friendships, restoring relationships, and making sure reliable people are in your corner. The song has been a staple on various television shows including the biographical film and Martin. Martin and the crew sang the song in the hospital in the episode, "Why Can't We Be Friends.” Everyone loves singing the hook, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.”
Ooh Child Things Are Going to Get Easier – The Five Stairsteps
The Five Stairsteps better known as the “First Family of Soul,” released a song that would send an important message to music lovers because life is too short to be mad at the world. We as people need to be hopeful and it was an awesome song for motivation. You can hear this song when you watch the classic movie, Boyz N The Hood.
I Believe I Can Fly – R. Kelly
"I Believe I Can Fly" was written, produced, recorded, and arranged by the Pied Piper of R&B music, R. Kelly. It was featured on the Space Jam soundtrack and it still one of his biggest hits to date. It’s a beautiful song and it makes people have confidence in themselves when they are facing adversity in their lives. The song is played at every graduation ceremony in all walks of life.
What's Goin On – Marvin Gaye
"What's Going On" was released by Motown hit-maker, Marvin Gaye and it was considered to be one of the biggest political statements, especially in the 1970’s. It was important for Marvin to infuse messages in songs that would make people talk about the current stages in their lives. Some say, including Motown founder Berry Gordy, that releasing this song was a huge risk, but the R&B legend wanted to make music that revealed his empathetic and kindhearted side. This song is still considered to be “the message,” because Gaye was singing about real issues in society.
This Gift of Life – Teddy Pendergrass
This important pioneer released a soft ballad that made people appreciate life, figure out the simple things in life, and appreciate God’s grace and mercy. It is a timeless classic from our “Black Elvis,” because God used him as a vessel to spread an important message to people and it kept their spirits. This is why the lyrics in the song is so powerful, but smoothing at the same time.
Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson
The King of Pop recorded a song that is perfect for young people who are struggling with identity, self-esteem, and acceptance from the outside world. In the song, he says, “I'm Gonna Make A Change/For Once In My Life/It's Gonna Feel Real Good/Gonna Make A Difference/Gonna Make It Right." The song reinforced Diddy’s important saying to Biggie in the movie Notorious when he said, “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves." MJ said people have to start making changes within their inner self in order to feel more accomplished and complete.
I'm Every Woman – Chaka Khan
Chaka released a song that would become an anthem for women as a way for them to remain confident, self-assured, and say to themselves, “we are phenomenal women.” And in case you didn’t know, women have the power and ability to demand respect, authority, and the cream of the crop because of Chaka’s message. Years later, the black Barbie of R&B music, Whitney Houston, recorded it for The Bodyguard soundtrack and her voice was perfect for the song.
Hero – Mariah Carey
The beautiful songbird released an inspiring and stirring song that made us realize that we are “heroes” within ourselves. The song talks about inner peace, hope, and most importantly love and being loved.
Respect – Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin, is simply asking her significant other to give her the respect that she deserves as a woman. Fans were impressed when she spelled the word out in the song, because Aretha says it with so much force. It was a two thumbs up for people! And you can demand respect from anyone if you’re feeling neglected or mistreated. Relationships are a two-way street so you better recognize!
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Before Destiny’s Child released the song, “Survivor,” singer, Gloria Gaynor wrote a song about a time for letting go and being strong when a relationship is no longer beneficial to a person. She made it known to everyone that you can still survive from heartbreak because life goes on!
No More Drama – Mary J. Blige
The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, MJB released the song, “No More Drama,” in 2001 and it gave fans the opportunity to recognize a more mature Mary. This song was an important testimony for the singer because she was no longer accepting self-hatred, abuse, and lack of self-confidence. It was her time to take charge of her own life and more people started to appreciate her level of growth as a person and artist. Many of her fans can incorporate this song in their own lives because there are still people struggling to break away from darkness, bitterness, and/or hostile environments.
Happy – Pharrell
Singer, songwriter, producer, Pharrell Williams recorded the Academy Award nominated song, “Happy,” in 2014 and it was a WORLDWIDE hit. This simplistic song expresses just enduring the thought of being happy, what it means to be happy, and how and why you should have happy days in your life. I guarantee you if someone is feeling depressed, 9 times out 10, their mood will change once they listen to this song.
The World's Greatest – R.Kelly
"The World's Greatest" is another inspirational hit from musical genius, R. Kelly. It was included in the original motion-picture soundtrack for the film "Ali," which exemplifies remaining a conqueror when you witness a few blows in life.
It's My Time – Kelly Price
The song more than likely became a morning anthem for people when they first heard it from singer/songwriter, Kelly Price. Ms. Price is telling everyone to love yourself and omit the drama in your life. She clearly says, “It’s my time to rise/ It’s my time to shine/ It’s my time to live/It’s my time to shine.” You need to move forward with an affirmative attitude otherwise you’re going to get left behind.
Golden – Jill Scott
Jill Scott, the lovely songbird from Philly, wrote a song that speaks the truth because people want to live their life like it's Golden. She mentions the importance of taking your own freedom and not accepting self-pity and nonchalant attitude about life in general. People will fall in love with this groovy song because Jill’s voice is strong, but most importantly, it will uplift their spirits.
Missing You – Various Artists
Taken from the "Set It Off" soundtrack, "Missing You" by Gladys Knight, Brandy, Tamia, and Chaka Khan is a song about losing someone you love. In the film, Jada Pinkett-Smith’s character, Stoney, lost her three best friends to violence, but she knows in the back of her mind that she has to press on without them. She knows she will endure pain, but she will cherish the beautiful memories she had with her friends.
I Look To You – Whitney Houston
R. Kelly really put the "R" in R&B music when he wrote the song, "I Look to You," for the late Whitney Houston. The song was released to let people know that you can overcome life’s biggest troubles by believing in 'him'. You have to look to Him for discernment, understanding, and salvation.
A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
The song's headline speaks for itself! We all need to be ready for change, especially when we're unsure if brighter days are coming. Even though Cooke had his own personal demons, he still fought for others. The record is overwhelmingly beautiful, and it empowers people to embark on a spiritual journey that will change their lives.
Waterfalls – TLC
TLC released their biggest hit to date from their multi-platinum album, Crazy Sexy Cool, in 1994. Fans couldn’t ignore T-Boz, Left-Eye, and Chilli’s fashion sense or their everyday lyrics. In "Waterfalls," the ladies sung, "Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to." It was a perfect metaphor to motivate people to get their life on track. The scenarios about safe sex and drug dealing in the song were perfect.
Boys to Men – New Edition
This underrated hit should’ve been at least a Top 10 hit for New Edition, because the message behind "Boys to Men" was so powerful. Although the title screamed young men, the content was relatable to all. Everyone understand the daily challenges of growing up in a society where the world can be callous at times. The song still touches people's hearts and Johnny Gill’s vocals were perfect!
Greatest Love of All – Whitney Houston
The late Whitney Houston released a song that recognizes the endless possibilities children can bring to the table, but it all stems from recognizing the innocence in children. In the song, she sings, “I believe the children are our future/Teach them well and let them lead the way/Show them all the beauty they possess inside/Give them a sense of pride to make it easier/Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be." The reception from the song was extremely positive and it became one of her biggest hits.
I'm Your Angel – R. Kelly ft Celine Dion
The song will reassure people to return back to their first love, GOD! It was like R. Kelly was a mind reader when he wrote the song, because everyone will always need a moving song that they can listen to intensely. The duet with Celine Dion gave the song its gloss because her voice is so melodious and warm. The song would make you want to cry because you have to put your trust beyond the skies.
Alicia Keys – Superwoman
Many women put the letter “S” on their chest when Alicia Keys released the song, “Superwoman,” because the song boosted women’s confidence. It was an empowering song for women and it will encourage girls and young women to understand and acknowledge their self-worth. They will learn to appreciate the women that came before them as a way to give back to their female fore leaders.
Walking – Mary Mary
Contemporary gospel recording duo, Mary Mary, released their upbeat-tempo groove in 2011 from their Something Big album. "Walking" was an instant hit when people first heard it on the radio because you are walking in God’s light and glory. The Campbell sisters weren’t preaching to their fans, but they were spreading a message that will remind people that God has your back even though people have forsaken you in your life.
Fly Like an Eagle – Seal
Seal re-recorded Steve Miller’s song, "Fly Like an Eagle," and it became a huge hit because it exemplifies humanity and morality. In the song, he says, “I want to fly like an eagle/To the sea/Fly like an eagle/Let my spirit carry me/I want to fly like an eagle/Till I'm free/Fly through the revolution." Seal is a fantastic artist for this song because the mood and tone is so mellow, and it has a dreamy feel to the record.
Survivor – Destiny's Child
It was a perfect for Destiny's Child to record the song, “Survivor,” after overcoming professional and personal challenges throughout their career. People were skeptical if the ladies were going to stand on their own two feet when LeToya and Latavia left the group. But, that question was answer when you first saw "Survivor," on television. The song expresses Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle’s ongoing request to work hard and ignore the naysayers in the music industry.
When You Believe – Whitney Houston ft. Mariah Carey
It was great to see two legendary divas in R&B music record the song, “When You Believe,” from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack. Whitney and Mariah’s voice were magnificent in the song, especially when they sang, “There can be miracles when you believe/Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill who knows the miracles/ You can achieve/ When you believe, somehow you will you will/ When you believe.” More than likely, this song brought peace and prosperity in people’s lives.
If I Believe – Charlie Wilson
Uncle Charlie wrote an inspiring and moving ballad that informs everyone about the importance of faith, staying strong, and keeping God first in your life. 30 years later, Uncle Charlie continues to record beautiful music that touches people each time he performs on stage.
Unpretty – TLC
TLC songstress, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and producer, Dallas Austin wrote the song for their 1999 album, Fanmail. The song started off as a poem from T-Boz’s poetry book, which turned out to be a top-selling hit. The single addresses the struggle with self-image and unrealistic concepts with beauty in the media. This empowering song encourages women to overcome physical inadequacies that do not blend with society’s expectations for women. This is truly an anthem for self-worth!
Video – India.Arie
The Grammy nominated "Video" was from India.Arie’s 2002 debut album, Acoustic Soul. The song informs girls, teenagers, young women, and grown men to love themselves despite what other people think about you. It can be categorized as a “song with meaning,” because it addresses self-esteems issues and lack of confidence. Women must learn to love themselves before they can expect anyone to love them back. Love yourself with all of your heart. In the song, India says, “I’m not the average girl from your video/And I ain’t built like a supermodel/But I learned to love myself unconditionally/Because I am a queen.
Each Tear – Mary J. Blige
The Queen of Hip-Hop soul released her second international single from her 2010 album, Stronger, with "Each". For some fans, the song, “Each Tear,” is a wish for a better tomorrow in a dark today. MJB is singing the truth because she is spreading positivity and have an affirmative attitude about life.
Fabulous – Jahiem
Jahiem’s song, “Fabulous,” is a great song for students who are graduating from school. It empowered children to remain optimistic during adversity.
One Step at a Time – Jordin Sparks
The soulful ballad was released on Jordin’s self-titled debut album, and it was used for so many advertisements because of the song’s vibrant tone. The video exemplifies how young people can spread a powerful message that will change people’s outlook on life. Fans love Jordin’s eloquence and her optimistic personality, which is why she is highly respected in the business. This song gave her the extra boost in her career because she is letting everyone know one day at a time, step by step.
Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology) – Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye’s second single, “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology),” was the ideal anthem for talking about forlorn moments in any given environment. It also talks about how pollution poisons the air and water, and kills wildlife.
Strength, Courage, and Wisdom – India.Arie
This song will influence someone to have a deeper relationship with God because they will discover their inner strength from the man above. Ms. Arie is definitely the truth. She encourages people to boost their confidence when she says, “It's time to step out on faith, gotta show my faith.” It will put a smile on your face because it encourages listeners to get in tune with their spirituality.
Work That – Mary J. Blige
"Work That," is from Mary J. Blige’s album, Growing Pains, and the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul talks about feeling comfortable in your own skin and quite frankly she coos, “Work with what you got.” It’s essential for people to embrace themselves because you have to be the number one cheerleader for yourself, especially when people want to see you fall flat on your face.
New Day – Patti Labelle
"New Day" was an important record for Ms. Labelle because it was considered to be a "comeback single" for the R&B veteran. She wanted to let her fans know — don’t let anyone steal your happiness and inner peace because life is too precious and short.
The Storm is Over Now – R. Kelly
When the Pied Piper of R&B released this song in 2000 from his fourth studio album, TP-2.Com, he took his fans to church. I know people said, “Amen,” or “Can I Get a Witness,” when they heard this song. The song was so beautiful and inspirational because it gives people a source of hope and flourishes their spiritual walk with God. The inner message behind this song is “Let Go and Let God.”
Love Set You Free (Remix) – Various Artists
Love Set You Free (Remix) – Kelly Price ft. Dru Hill, Playa, Montell Jordan, Case, LovHer & Kandice Love
The single was released in early 2000 with several Def Soul label-mates featured on the remix. Teddy Riley produced the track and the song spoke about the significance of love, setting people free, and loving each other as people. The song originally featured Aaron Hall and Kelly Price.
Ain't No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye ft Tammi Terrell
This classic song was written by the dynamic husband/wife music duo, Nick and Valerie Simpson. The song depicts that nothing would stop this couple from loving each other despite all the odds. In the song Marvin and Tammi said, “No mountain's high enough, no valley low enough, no river wide enough.” — Great words for our everyday struggles!
Everything is Everything – Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s neo-soul hit, “Everything is Everything,” is from her solo debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The song is so unique, because so many musical genres are conjoined on this record: soul, funk, soul, gospel, and lastly rap. This song also recognized John Legend’s musical talents as a pianist when he was a teenager. People were also intrigued by the message in the song, because Hill talked about injustice and struggles amongst youth communities in America.
Just Fine – Mary J. Blige
Jazze Pha and Tricky Stewart co-wrote Mary’s upbeat tempo song, “Just Fine,” from her 2007 album, Growing Pains. Mary wrote the Grammy nominated song to express her good days, and simply just enjoying life despite adversity. Blige expresses her acts of empowerment and change when she says, “Feels so good, when you’re doing all the things that you want to do/Get the best out of life, treat yourself to something new/It’s a really good thing to say/That I won’t change my life, my life’s just fine.”
Heal the World – Michael Jackson
The song was from MJ’s album, Dangerous, in 1991. The King of Pop was proud to record and compose the song; He wrote the record as a way to recognize James Bulger’s charity foundation. The foundation was launched for children who have been bullied or have learning difficulties. The song exemplifies Mike’s act of kindness!
Bravo – Ledisi
Anyone can make a positive change in their life after listening to “Bravo” from Ledisi because the song lends the motivation to discover a new purpose. It’s just a beautiful song and the first two lines in the song are so beguiling. In the song Ledisi says, “I gotta a new walk and a new point of view/A new purpose for everything I do I gotta.”
Numb – Usher
The dance/electro-pop song is from Usher’s album, Looking for Myself, and it's about letting go and moving forward in life. There are scenes in the music video where he is taking care of his sons, standing towards a microphone unable to perform, and lying together with a sick woman in a hospital. You can tell the song was coming from a very insecure point in Usher’s life, but he managed to stay positive and embrace life in a very deep way.
Hold On – Various Artists
Hold On – James Fortune, FIYA, Fred Hammond, and Monica
The gospel song is about telling people to hold on and have faith during troubling times because God will seek you through any situation. God knows his children are human and stumbling blocks may come across your way. But, we have to stay strong and be encouraged.
U Saved Me – R. Kelly
This gospel song is from R. Kelly’s Happy People album and he narrates four real-life stories based on trials and tribulations of individuals and how they turned it over to God, so that he can save them. It also gives listeners a better understanding about giving God a second chance at life so, they will be able to redeem themselves.
Tomorrow (A Better You, A Better Me) – Tevin Campbell
Fans fell in love with Quincy Jones’ former protégée, Tevin Campbell, in 1991. He was cute as a button. However, it was his voice that grabbed people’s attention. When he sang his song, “Tomorrow,” his melodic voice sets the mood. It sets a serene and calm mood when he expresses the importance of bettering yourself, helping others along the way, and never giving up on your dreams.
Win – Brian McKnight
Brian McKnight sings about never giving up, believing in yourself even when things look weary and dismal in your life. This song will definitely give people courage and hope to remain strong despite the fact that you’re going through hell in your life.