Taking setbacks now and then is part of life. What’s really important here is not to let them throw you off track and take you off the path. Failures are processed by each person in very different ways. The artist takes up pen and paper – in 21.
In the twentieth century, he took to his laptop and got his grief off his chest. Failure can also be just an intermediate step to truly great success, as the following 71 songs on the subject demonstrate.
1st place: Loser – Beck
The hymnal swan song to any form of perfection is not to be understood literally: A good portion of irony should keep the listener from wanting to kill Beck just because things aren’t going so well. In his capacity as a musician, singer, producer, self-taught artist, and seven-time Grammy Award winner, Beck can hardly have a say when it comes to the tiresome subject of failure.
However, he also started out quite modestly: The single “Loser” started in 1993 with a less than optimistic first run of 500 copies. The meteoric success of this super hit not only earned Beck a contract with Geffen Records, which u. a. who promoted one-hit wonders like Guns’n Roses, but unfortunately he also soon had the reputation of being a classical artist One-Hit-Wonder to be. Critics and music journalists see it differently, but the commercial success remained after the ode to the failure, unfortunately, out.
2nd place: The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
With unsparing honesty, ABBA has also scored many of its biggest hits. Authenticity clearly resonates with the audience. “The Winner Takes It All,” as nearly all of the Swedish couple’s songs, was penned by Benny and Björn, who penned one superhit after another on the vocal cords of their longtime wives.
Irony on the side: The most successful hits come from the most difficult times of the band, which could only disband after decades of struggles, first privately, later also professionally. The song was released in 1980 as the first single from the successful album “Super Trouper”. The musical end of a love placed ABBA in 21 countries in the top ten, also commercially the album was extremely successful.
In this song, only the loser is left empty-handed, while the winner – as in real life – actually gets everything.
3rd place: Hurt – Johnny Cash
You should clearly be in an emotionally stable state if you want to listen to “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. The black-robed man with the deep voice pulls in this melancholic Blues ballad the balance of his life, which certainly knows how to tell first-hand about failures, private and professional failures, but also the everlasting new beginnings.
Hard to believe, but true: The song was not written by Cash himself, but is an original version Cover version of the “Nine Inch Nails. The original, however, could not match the success of Johnny Cash’s version. No wonder: Cash looks back on his life’s work, which he calls “Empire of Dirt” and wishes he had the chance to start all over again. Cash’s unsparing reckoning with his own life appeared on the 2002 album “American IV: The Man Comes Around”.
But “Hurt” was not only able to score numerous top 10 chart placements for itself. Rolling Stone Magazine honored Cash’s version of “Hurt” with number 15 of the 100 best songs of the decade.
4th place: I Fought The Law – The Clash
The unruly punkers of The Clash delivered numerous hits with their constant rejection of the establishment. Thus also the fight against the legal system sung about here became a chart success, which was brought on board for numerous film soundtracks. This fast-paced cover version by the Clash is originally based on a rockabilly classic by the “Crickets” from 1960.
The song was covered again and again, so u. a. of the Toten Hosen and the Dead Kennedys, one of the most influential and politically Punk bands of the USA. Thinking about the failed life as a criminal while knocking stones in the execution seems to appeal thematically especially to representatives of the punk veterans. For The Clash, this song was included as part of the album “The Story of the Clash Vol.
1” (1988) certainly partly responsible for its chart success, at least in the UK.
5th place: The Boxer – Simon & Garfunkel
A lost fight doesn’t have to mean the end. Even if the first-person narrator in the cult song by Simon & Garfunkel has already had to carry a lot of suffering and hardship around with him.
In search of sympathy and a place to sleep, he tells his life story; the boxer serves as a metaphor for failure, which, however, can only be a c.O. means until he gets up again and faces the challenges (of life). The catchy ballad, which is mainly carried by the voices and an acoustic guitar, is one of the most famous hits of the duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Formed in 1957 as a school band, they managed to score numerous hits during their career together.
In 1969 “The Boxer” was released, it remained in that year the only musical sign of life of the duo. Rolling Stone Magazine lists the folk ballad on place 105 of its 500 best songs of all times.
6th place: Creep – Radiohead
Very much more beautiful suffering than Radiohead with “Creep” hardly goes. Generations of people with life or lovesickness served this song as a musical outlet.
Creep” was only the first single of the band at all, which however in its year of release 1992 did not yet score significantly. Many radio stations found the song too depressing, for the American market a line of lyrics had to be changed, exchanging the f-word for the youth-free v-word. In the following year, the debut album “Pablo Honey” was released.
Radiohead had cleverly solved the fact that the melody of their hit had similarities with the Hollies classic “The Air that I breathe”. Its creators Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood were named as co-authors from the start, which prevented any unpleasant disputes from arising in court. However, the epic work achieved real respect success only years later and through frequent use as a film score and in television shows.
7th place: King Midas in Reverse – The Hollies
If you believe the Hollies here, everyone who meets them should run away as fast as possible. The song refers to the legendary King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold. Every listener of this Hollies classic is welcome to imagine the opposite of gold for themselves.
However, the Hollies did not take this idea to its logical conclusion: King Midas had to starve to death in the end, since he really did turn everything, including all food, into gold as soon as he touched it. So only at second glance a successful life. This song did not bring true success to the Hollies, it is one of the lesser-known songs of the band.
Midas” was released in 1968 on the album “Hollies’ Greatest”.
8th place: Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? – George Michael
Spoiled by success and kissed by the sun of life, George Michael was mainly in the stages of the 1980s and 1990s. In his private life, however, the charismatic singer could really sing a song about what it meant to have to fight a lifetime of loss and rejection. Yet his solo projects after the breakup of “Wham!” are quite worth hearing and remarkable.
The album “Songs from the Last Century” from 1999, however, was ironically the only George Michael album that did not reach number 1 in the UK album charts. The compilation of jazz classics and other cover versions, on the other hand, was received with favor by critics and fans alike, as George Michael was once again able to showcase his musical diversity and versatile voice. “Brother, can you spare a dime?” is about a beggar on the street who asks passersby for money, offering glimpses into his life story.
9th place: Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight & The Pips
When success just won’t happen far away, sometimes the only way is to go back home. Even more so when the man of your heart and family and friends are waiting for you there.
So or so similar could be the message of this Soul classic summarize from the year 1973. The song made #1 and furthermore a Grammy in the category R&B as best song. In 1999, the accolade came with their induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
You can hardly package and process a failure in a much better way.
#10: The Kids Aren’t Alright – The Offspring
A band that likes to sing about the sobering things in life are The Offspring. The 1998 album “Americana” was able to follow the groundbreaking success of “Smash” and gave the Californian rockers 3 noteworthy chart successes on the international stage. The song depicts the singer’s impressions of one of his home visits to the small town of Garden Grove.
There was no trace of the American dream – youth unemployment, no-future mood, and existential fears characterized the cityscape. For the movie “The Faculty” the bleak mood picture served as the title song and was also released on the soundtrack album.
11th place: My Favourite Mistake – Sheryl Crow
If women have to miss the mark when it comes to men, then at least they should do it properly. One who should know is Sheryl Crow.
The song about their favorite human error comes from the album “The Globe Sessions” (1998), which managed to impress charts and critics alike, but commercially could not match their worldwide success “Tuesday Night Music Club” from 1994. The content of the sobering self-knowledge in Earworm quality tells of justified doubts about the relationship with a man, which shows amazing similarities to Crow’s intermezzo with grandmaster Eric Clapton. However, the single proved to be more successful than the relationship: Among other things, it gave the singer her 5. Top 20 hit in the USA.
12th place: Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
In 2002, the American rockers Wheatus created an anthem to the horrible teenage life with “Teenage Dirtbag”. The musical childhood memories of the band were not only successfully processed, but they also commercially exceeded all expectations: 4 times platinum was achieved, in 2000 “Teenage Dirtbag” conquered in the ranking of the best-selling songs of the year number 2. The “scumbag” in the storyline is not so lucky: His beloved turns down an invitation to an Iron Maiden concert with him and prefers to go out with a rich guy.
13th place: I’m a Loser – The Beatles
They are still known as the biggest pop band of all time This lip service is truly hard to believe for the Beatles, who were considered the greatest pop band of all time. The classic Beatles song is about the loss of a girl and the corresponding dent in the male ego.
The song was originally intended as a single from the album “Beatles for Sale” (1964) until John Lennon wrote “I feel fine”, which the record company finally gave preference to.
14th place: Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home – Sinéad O’Connor
Sinéad O’Connor gives us a different perspective on the win-loss balance of life with her melancholy ballad “Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home”. The single from the 1992 album “Am I Not Your Girl?” describes how success at work can derail one’s personal life.
The song is – like all of this album – a cover version, originally written for and performed by Loretta Lynn.
15th place: I’m a Loser – UFO
Hard times on the streets, homelessness, and a life without perspective are the ingredients of this tragic-beautiful classic of British rock music Rock band UFO. The album “No heavy Petting” is from 1975, the heyday of UFO.
The band was led to success by none other than Scorpions legend Michael Schenker on lead guitar. Neither the single nor the album achieved commercial success or chart positions worth mentioning, the protagonists were faced with a changeable career that has lasted until today. The losers clearly look different.
16th place: Even the Losers (Get Lucky Sometimes) – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
In German, this song by Tom Petty reminds us of the metaphor of the blind chicken and the grain. This upbeat pop song from Tom Petty’s earlier years with the Heartbreakers appeared on the 1979 album “Damn the Torpedoes”. It is supposed to cheer up, motivate and always spur on to keep going.
The album reached number 2 in the US album charts, but for Tom Petty himself the song proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because his greatest success was still ahead of him at that time.
#17: The Sound of Failure – The Flaming Lips
If you appreciate fake blood, experimentation, and stylistic diversity born out of solid 1980s rock, you’re sure to love the Flaming Lips. There is hardly a genre around a classic rock that the formation around frontman and excessive self-promoter Wayne Coyne, founded in Oklahoma City in 1983, would not have tested in a self-experiment.
Said similarities to the Blue Oyster Cult and America did not stop the Flaming Lips from constantly reinventing themselves musically. The mystical rock ballad “The Sound of Failure” is one of the band’s late works, the single was released in 2006 on the album “At War with the Mystics”. The plot of the song – loss of a loved one to cancer – carries autobiographical overtones and portrays the irony of cheering words and well-intentioned advice when the inevitable is actually unspeakable.
18th place: The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
The great hero of country music created his “signature song” with “The Gambler” from the 1978 album of the same name. The song not only won a Grammy Award in 1980 but was also selected in 2018 for preservation in the Library of Congress’ index of U.S. sound documents.
The character of Gamblers was further developed for a successful television series, which additionally honored Kenny Rogers in the lead role with an Emmy nomination in 1980. The song itself is clearly Rogers’ supreme discipline, country, and at first, glance provides a step-by-step guide to successful poker playing. Tips a pro will gladly give to a youngster for a free drink and a cigarette.
However, the lyrics can also be read in between Playing poker and life have a lot in common. As the song teaches us, you have to know when to walk and when running is indicated. But above all, one should never let one’s cards be read.
19th place: Lonesome Loser – Little River Band
The Australian band “from the little river” landed a worldwide respect success with the lonesome loser in 1979. The single from the band’s fifth studio album, “First Under the Wire,” ultimately made it to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 with some encouraging runaways to the top in their native Australia and New Zealand.
The story is about a lonely hero who doesn’t give up despite all his failures.
20th place: Bad Day – Daniel Powter
One bad day does not make a failure in the balance of life – one hit, however, does. “Bad Day” from the album of the same name provided the previously rather unknown Canadian singer not only gained worldwide fame overnight, the single also topped the charts and earned him numerous notable nominations, including a Grammy and a Billboard Music Award for Best Pop Song. The message of the catchy one-hit-wonder: Cheer up, even when things are going badly.
Places 21 – 71 of the best loser, failure, and failure songs:
Losers, Failure, and Failure Spotify Playlist:
With the failure to chart success
Failure is not for cowards. With luck and talent, however, a setback can be musically gilded.
The message these songs have in common is: falling down is not a disgrace, staying down is.