25 Of The Best Songs About Pain, Hurt, And Suffering

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Music is a form of expression that allows us to explore the depths of human experience. Songs about pain can provide comfort in knowing we’re not alone in our struggles. They can validate our feelings and offer solace during tough times.

In this article, we will delve into 25 of the best songs about pain, hurt, and suffering. These songs can also serve as a form of catharsis. They allow us to confront and process our pain through the powerful medium of music. Continue reading for a musical journey that is sure to touch your heart and soul.

1. “Hurt” By Johnny Cash

Starting our list is Johnny Cash‘s rendition of “Hurt,” a poignant exploration of pain. Originally penned by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, the song was later covered by Cash in 2002. He infused it with his own blend of raw emotion and personal experience.

A song with “pain” in the lyrics, “Hurt,” is a stark confrontation with one’s inner demons and past mistakes. It’s a narrative of self-inflicted pain and the struggle to find meaning amid suffering.

The song’s haunting lyrics reflect a profound sense of loss and despair. They paint a somber picture of a man grappling with his own mortality as he questions, “What have I become?”

2. “Pain” By Three Days Grace

Delving into the depths of emotional suffering is “Pain,” a powerful track by the Canadian rock band Three Days Grace. The song was released as the second single from their 2006 album One-X.

The lyrics of “Pain” portray a tormented individual. He yearns to feel pain as an alternative to the hollow emptiness of his current state as he laments, “Anger and agony / are better than misery.”

Throughout the song, it verbalizes his thought process as he seeks out pain as a form of validation of his existence. It’s an exploration of the lengths one might go to escape from the numbness brought on by severe emotional distress.

3. “Hurts So Good” By John Mellencamp

Heartland rock star John Mellencamp captures a unique perspective on pain in his hit song “Hurts So Good.” The track is an anthem of youthful rebellion and the exploration of love that is as thrilling as it is painful.

The song’s lyrics speak of the paradoxical pleasure derived from experiences that are conventionally perceived as painful. It’s a narrative about longing for the intensity and passion of young love, a type of love that is so intense it “hurts so good.”

This track was released in 1982. At the time, Mellencamp was performing under the name John Cougar. Featured in his album American Fool, the song rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

4. “Physical Pain” By Joan Armatrading

Our next song has “pain” in the title — “Physical Pain,” to be exact. This lyrical exploration into suffering is by Joan Armatrading.

The lyrics convey the raw, visceral nature of pain — not just an abstract concept but a tangible, physical entity that permeates every aspect of the narrator’s existence. She laments physical pain, headaches, and not feeling great. Blaming herself for the cause of her suffering, she goes into hiding to “lick [her] wounds.”

In essence, “Physical Pain” is a testament to the human capacity to endure and survive. Despite its theme, it also sings of resilience. It’s a reminder that pain, while often excruciating, is also an integral part of the human experience.

5. “Something For The Pain” By Bon Jovi

Breakups can bring in a whole load of hurt for people experiencing it. Bon Jovi knows how it is in their song “Something for the Pain.” From their album These Days, the song takes listeners on a journey through the emotions of someone who has been burned by love.

The opening lines, “Happiness, it’s been no friend to me / But forever after ain’t what it’s all cracked up to be,” set the tone for the song. The narrator was shown a glimpse of happiness in a past relationship, but it ultimately led to more pain.

Now, he’s feeling desolate as he grapples with his emotions. He wants somebody to give him something for the pain and blues he’s experiencing so he can “get through the night.”

6. “Beautiful Pain” By Eminem Ft. Sia

If there’s anyone who knows pain, it would be Eminem and Sia. “Beautiful Pain” is a bonus track on Eminem’s 2013 album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2. This song is a profound reflection of personal pain and the journey to healing.

The song takes listeners through the tumultuous journey of dealing with emotional pain. It explores the concept of pain as a stepping stone toward growth and transformation, a concept encapsulated in the title itself — “Beautiful Pain.”

The lines “Standing in the flames / It’s a beautiful kind of pain / Setting fire to yesterday” convey the idea of burning past sorrows and emerging from the ashes stronger and more resilient. The song uses the metaphor of fire to depict painful experiences. And yet, it is within this fiery ordeal that a form of captivating beauty is found.

7. “Looking Out The Window Through The Pain” By Ronnie Milsap

Up next is a soulful country ballad that beautifully captures the essence of longing and heartbreak. “Looking Out the Window through the Pain” by Ronnie Milsap is part of his album 20/20 Vision, released in 1976.

The song tells the story from the narrator’s point of view as he watches his loved one leave. This is echoed in the line, “Once again she’s leaving, but Lord she’s not to blame.”

It is a heart-wrenching scenario, and listeners are certain to hear the depth of emotion in the narrator’s rich, emotive voice. Yet despite this, he’ll “wait for her looking out [his] window through the pain” because of his love.

8. “Feel No Pain” By Sade

Released in 1992, “Feel No Pain” is a song by the English band Sade from their fourth studio album, Love Deluxe. The song continues Sade’s signature style of smooth, soulful melodies layered with jazz influences.

However, it’s the lyrics that truly stand out in this track. The song paints a vivid picture of economic struggle and hardship. The narrator’s mamma, pappa, and brother have been laid off “for more than two years now” and “can’t get a job.”

She’s asking for them to have a second chance so they don’t “stay home and listen to the blues.” She knows that no one can face such hardship and “feel no pain.”

9. “Migraine” By Twenty One Pilots

There’s nothing more painful than the jackhammer-like feeling that pounds at the head people sometimes have. Twenty One Pilots use this pain in their song “Migraine,” released in 2013.

The song uses migraine metaphorically to describe the internal battles one faces, especially in terms of mental health. And like a real migraine, the pain the narrator feels as he struggles with his emotions ranges “from up down and sideways.”

The song is featured in Twenty One Pilots’ album Vessel. It has been appreciated for its fast-paced rapping sections, intricate melodies, and the blend of various music styles.

10. “Love This Pain” By Lady A

Up next is a captivating song of love and heartaches by Lady A called “Love This Pain.” The track is part of their 2010 album Need You Now.

The song presents a narrative of a person drawn to someone who isn’t necessarily good for them. He knows that “she’s a wildflower” and “she’s got a restlessness,” indicating their tumultuous love.

Despite recognizing the hurt he faces, the narrator finds himself continually drawn back to her. But because of his love for her, he “can’t walk away… / It’s like [he] love[s] this pain a little too much.”

11. “Pain Never Looked This Good” By Ann Marie

Just in 2022, R&B singer Ann Marie released a track known for its emotional depth. “Pain Never Looked This Good” delves into the complexities of heartbreak and personal struggle.

The song captures the essence of pain. The lyrics paint it not as a debilitating force but as a transformative experience that can lead to personal growth and self-discovery.

Lyrically, “Pain Never Looked This Good” is about enduring hardships and emerging stronger. The narrator has been betrayed. She’s hurting inside, fighting with depression. But she’s “always bet[ting] on [her]self,” showing her strength to overcome despite the situation.

12. “The Needle And The Damage Done” By Neil Young

Canadian-American singer-songwriter Neil Young released “The Needle and the Damage Done” in 1972. It was first featured in the album Harvest. Later, it was also included in the albums Decade and Greatest Hits.

The lyrics attempt to convey the pain and destruction caused by heroin, drawing from Young’s personal experiences on the road. It serves as a haunting reminder of the toll that substance abuse can take, not only on the individual suffering from addiction but also on the people around them.

Young was particularly affected by the addiction struggles of people he knew, which influenced the creation of this song. The candidness and sincerity of his lyrics make it a profound and impactful piece of music.

13. “Everybody Hurts” By R.E.M.

One of R.E.M.’s most well-known and beloved tracks is “Everybody Hurts.” Released as a single in 1992, it is celebrated for its profound message and emotional resonance.

The song primarily serves as an anti-suicide anthem. It offers comfort and reassurance to those who might be feeling isolated or overwhelmed. The lines “When your day is long / And the night… is yours alone / When you’re sure you’ve had enough / of this life” capture feelings of despair and loneliness that many people can relate to.

However, the song also provides solace. The narrator reminds listeners that “Everybody hurts” and to “take comfort in [their] friends.” These encourage them to reach out to others for support in the midst of their suffering.

Over the years, “Everybody Hurts” has become a beacon of hope for many. It proves that music can indeed provide comfort and understanding in times of pain and distress.

14. “Tears In Heaven” By Eric Clapton

Losing someone dear to your heart is a kind of pain Eric Clapton knows well. Written in collaboration with Will Jennings, “Tears in Heaven” is a heartfelt ballad created as a tribute to Clapton’s son, who tragically passed away when he was four.

Though the song does not mention “pain,” its story is such a poignant reflection on grief and loss that you can hear and feel it the moment you listen.

The song captures Clapton’s struggle to come to terms with his loss and find strength in his pain. As he sings, “I must be strong and carry on,” listeners get a glimpse into his determination to persevere despite his overwhelming grief.

15. “Jar Of Hearts” By Christina Perri

American singer-songwriter Christina Perri really struck a chord in the hearts of listeners when she released her debut single, “Jar of Hearts,” in 2010. Its relatable theme of heartbreak and recovery helped her rise to fame.

The lyrics depict a woman trying to distance herself from a person who has caused her significant emotional pain. This individual is metaphorically described as a collector of hearts, leaving a trail of broken relationships in his wake.

But the narrator refuses to be lured in. Angry and hurt, she questions him, “Who do you think you are?” to think that he can come back like nothing happened. In the end, she tells him to “don’t come back at all.” This universal narrative has likely contributed to the song’s enduring popularity.

16. “Broken” By Seether Ft. Amy Lee

Our next song about pain is “Broken.” This emotive song is by the rock band Seether, featuring Amy Lee, the lead singer of Evanescence. It first appeared on Seether’s debut album Disclaimer, in 2002, and was reworked and recorded in 2004.

The song is a poignant exploration of heartbreak and leaving someone behind. The collaboration between Seether and Lee resulted in a powerful duet that beautifully conveys the raw emotions associated with love and loss.

This is particularly evident in the lyrics. It describes the protagonists as “broken” and “lonesome” as they deal with the pain of separation. They struggle to move forward now that their significant other has “gone away.”

17. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” By My Chemical Romance

Let’s dive into the world of emotional turmoil with “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” by My Chemical Romance. This 2004 track is a candid portrayal of pain and personal struggle. The song resonates with anyone who has ever felt dismissed or overlooked.

The lyrics describe the narrator’s feelings after he thinks he has found someone he can love and admire. However, she isn’t really interested despite having told him that she ” read [him] like a book.” Hurt, he says that he’s okay, but honestly, he isn’t.

In essence, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” is a great song because it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of emotional distress. It openly discusses feelings of betrayal, loneliness, and mental health struggles, making it a relatable track for many listeners.

18. “Back To Black” By Amy Winehouse

Released in 2007, “Back to Black” is considered Amy Winehouse‘s signature song. It serves as the third single from her second and final studio album of the same name.

The song’s title is often interpreted as a metaphor for returning to a state of despair or depression after a period of happiness or stability.

The lyrics detail the harsh reality Winehouse faced after her then-boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil left her for an ex-girlfriend. It led her to fall back into a cycle of destructive behavior, symbolized by the “black.”

However, it’s not just the lyrical content that makes this song stand out. The musical arrangement also plays a significant role. The Motown horns and the girl-group romance vibe contribute to the overall appeal of the song, making it a timeless classic in soul music.

19. “Behind Blue Eyes” By Limp Bizkit

One of the most popular songs that came out in 2003 is “Behind Blue Eyes” by Limp Bizkit. This is actually a cover of the original song by The Who.

Limp Bizkit stayed largely true to the original lyrics but brought their own flavor to the classic rock anthem. The song still resonates with themes of inner turmoil, loneliness, and the struggle of being misunderstood.

The opening lines of the song, “No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes,” set the tone for the narrative. It speaks of the protagonist’s internal struggles and his sense of isolation.

He often perceives himself as the “bad man” and the “sad man.” Despite feeling misunderstood, he won’t allow his pain and woe to show through.

20. “Life After You” By Daughtry

A powerful ballad that tugs at the heartstrings is up next. “Life After You” by Daughtry delves into themes of regret, longing, and the pain of lost love. It explores the aftermath of a relationship, with the lyrics reflecting the narrator’s struggle to move on.

What is painful about this song is that the narrator realizes the fault in the relationship was his. He had told his significant other that they weren’t “meant to be,” and she was “just wastin’ [his] time.” Now his last words “Burns like an iron in the back of [his] mind,” and he regrets it immensely.

21. “Black” By Pearl Jam

When it comes to emotional depth and lyrical complexity, we have “Black” by Pearl Jam. This rock ballad was written by lead vocalist Eddie Vedder and has become one of Pearl Jam’s best-known songs.

“Black” encapsulates a story of lost love and the lingering pain that follows. The protagonist grapples with the memories of a past relationship, his emotions oscillating between fond reminiscence and profound sorrow.

Lyrically, the song is rich with vivid imagery and poignant metaphors. The lines “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life / I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky / but why… can’t it be… mine?” convey the protagonist’s heartache and longing for a love that has moved on. This raw expression of pain and longing makes “Black” a deeply relatable song for many listeners.

22. “Mad World” By Tears For Fears

Up next is “Mad World” by the British band Tears for Fears. Written by Roland Orzabal, the song was released in 1982. It delves into themes of despair, alienation, and mental anguish.

It portrays the narrative of a young individual grappling with depression and feelings of displacement in the world. The protagonist perceives life as being devoid of meaning and seeks ways to escape the pain.

“Mad World” is featured in the band’s debut album, The Hurting. Upon its release, it reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart, demonstrating its immediate impact and popularity.

23. “Unfinished Sympathy” By Massive Attack

Our next song carries a title that perfectly encapsulates its theme. “Unfinished Sympathy” by Massive Attack soulfully explores love, loss, and the lingering pain that often accompanies emotional upheaval.

The song, released as part of their Blue Lines album in 1991, has since been hailed as one of the greatest songs of all time.

The lyrics speak to the torment of unrequited love and the profound pain of longing. The protagonist is caught in a cycle of desire and despair. “Like a soul without a mind” and “a body without a heart,” he yearns for a love that remains tantalizingly out of reach.

24. “Somebody That I Used To Know” By Gotye Ft. Kimbra

From Gotye‘s 2011 album Making Mirrors comes a duet with Kimbra. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a haunting exploration of heartbreak and the aftermath of a failed relationship.

The narrative of the song unfolds from two perspectives, that of Gotye and Kimbra. Each expresses their side of the story following a painful breakup. Gotye sings of his hurt and confusion when a once-intimate relationship suddenly turns distant. On the other hand, Kimbra’s verse rebuts his accusations, providing a counter-narrative to the tale of love lost.

Overall, “Somebody That I Used to Know” is a powerful commentary on the complexities of love and loss. Its relatable lyrics make it a standout song about pain and heartbreak.

25. “Wish You Were Here” By Pink Floyd

Last but not least is a song that profoundly explores longing and loss. “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd is a timeless anthem that resonates with listeners worldwide. The song was primarily penned by Roger Waters. It reflects on the feelings of alienation and the pain it brings.

The lyrics are deeply personal. They were inspired by Waters’ friendship with Syd Barrett, a former member of Pink Floyd. Barrett’s struggles with mental health and his subsequent detachment from the world pained Waters, and this sentiment is beautifully encapsulated in the song.

“Wish You Were Here” was the title track of Pink Floyd’s 1975 album. It is considered the band’s greatest song on the Critic’s Picks of Billboard, though it did not rank in the chart itself.

Summing Up Our List Of Pain Songs

These songs, each unique in their expression, encapsulate the universal experience of pain and longing. They remind us that such feelings are an integral part of being human. There is a certain beauty and strength in acknowledging and expressing them.

We hope that these songs have resonated with you and perhaps even provided a cathartic release or a new perspective.

As we conclude, we would love to hear from you. Are there other songs that you feel should have been on this list? Let us know, and we’ll add them here!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.