23 Of The Best Songs About Time

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The saying “Time is gold” is so overused that it’s already a cliche. But nothing is clearer when it comes to time. When it has passed, we cannot bring it back.

Since time is a construct that governs us all, it’s no surprise that musicians have been writing and singing about it for years. You’ll find time-related songs that date back to time immemorial.

Here, we found 23 of the best songs about time from a few musical genres. Enjoy reading!

1. “Time After Time” By Cyndi Lauper

Let’s start our list with a classic about time from singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper. “Time After Time” became her signature song, reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984.

The song is about a woman waiting for her love to come back to her, no matter how long that might be. She’s telling him that no matter what happens in the course of their relationship, he will find her waiting for him.

From the lyrics, one can tell that the couple has been in a relationship for a long time. They’ve seen the good and bad sides of each other. Despite the challenges, she expresses her devotion to him.

2. “Yesterday” By The Beatles

One of the most popular songs of all time, The Beatles‘ “Yesterday,” is about wanting to go back in time, essentially. It’s funny how this poignant song was given “Scrambled Eggs” as a working title before being given a more appropriate one.

In the song, the singer laments the breakup of his relationship. If he could reverse the clock and make it back to yesterday, his beloved would still be with him. McCartney sings about believing in yesterday since that was the time he was happy.

The song was a worldwide #1 hit and has become one of the most covered songs in music history. The sparse guitar paints a sad picture right in line with the lyrics.

3. “Remember The Time” By Michael Jackson

From Michael Jackson‘s 1992 album Dangerous came the R&B song “Remember the Time.” The song was a hit, making it to #1 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song features lyrics surrounding happier times and recalling a happy relationship. The singer implores his past lover to remember how they fell in love when they were “young and innocent.”

Though they did not end up together to the present time, the singer finds solace in recalling the past. The good parts of their relationship somehow assuage some of the pain.

4. “Sign Of The Times” By Harry Styles

Shortly after One Direction disbanded, Harry Styles released his debut solo single, “Sign of the Times.” Off the album Harry Styles, it showed the world that he was much more than a boy-band castoff. More than a billion views on Youtube are proof that his fans are eager to know what he’s got as a solo artist.

While Styles demonstrates an impressive vocal range and a soulful sound to his voice, the lyrics reflect on the passage of time and the hope and despair that often accompany that phenomenon.

The singer admonishes his listeners to “stop your crying” and instead make the most of their life. This is the right time to do so, knowing that things will eventually get better.

5. “Clocks” By Coldplay

Claiming a spot on our list is Coldplay with their 2003 song “Clocks.” Included in the album A Rush of Blood to the Head, the song contains a prominent piano riff and explores themes of loneliness and the ever-present passage of time. It won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 2004 and was a global hit.

Throughout the song, the themes of urgency and contrast permeate. The lyrics reflect the singer’s laments about being in a toxic relationship. However, he doesn’t seem to want to get out of it.

In fact, despite the “closing walls and ticking clocks,” he still wants to take her home. She’s the home he wants to go to.

6. “Nothing Compares 2 U” By Sinead O’Connor

The 1990 hit song “Nothing Compares 2 U” was an original by singer-songwriter Prince. But it was Sinead O’Connor‘s rendition that made it a worldwide hit. It was the “#1 World Single” at the 1990 Billboard Music Awards.

O’Connor begins the song with these famous lines: “It’s been seven hours and 15 days since you took your love away.” Since then, she has done whatever she wanted, even met other people. The sadness from his absence in her life compels her to spend nights partying and days sleeping.

The words reflect how she has lost hope in the wake of a relationship’s end. Even the idea of fun lost its appeal as only he can make her happy.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” is widely considered one of the best songs from the 1990s. Truly, nothing compared to the hit that this one was.

7. “Time” By Pink Floyd

If you’ve watched the 2021 film Eternals, you might have recognized the intro music. That was none other than Pink Floyd‘s “Time,” from their seminal album The Dark Side of the Moon.

In this song with “time” in the title, the singer deals with the passage of time. That is made obvious by ticking clocks and alarms going off at the beginning of the song, letting the listener know that time is ever passing.

The lyrics echo the ticking clock’s message, and they also delve into the way time seems to govern and control our lives.

8. “Time Is On My Side” By The Rolling Stones

Bet you didn’t know that this song was a cover. “Time Is On My Side” was originally recorded by a jazz trombonist named Kai Winding in 1963. A year later, The Rolling Stones got a hold of it.

While many people feel that time ticks away and works against them, “Time Is on My Side” takes a different approach. Here, the narrator is sitting back, waiting for his love to come back to him.

There’s a certain “I can wait as long as it takes” mentality on display. But that’s because he’s got the right kind of love that his lover needs. Time works in his favor, knowing that she’ll come back to him.

9. “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” By Chicago

One of the first tracks the world heard from Chicago was “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is.” It quickly became one of the band’s many signature hits.

The song basically says that time goes pretty fast. We are busy with work and all the things we must do that we fail to stop for a while and appreciate the things that really matter. All we care about is hurrying from here to there.

The singer asking the titular question begs listeners to slow down. He is saying that we have plenty of time to cry and die.

10. “Too Much Time On My Hands” By Styx

The American rock band Styx was known for making classic album-oriented rock tracks and ruling the world. One of their most successful singles was “Too Much Time On My Hands,” a top ten hit in the US.

When you have too much time on your hands, it’s usually because you’re bored. Or unemployed. Either way, the singer finds himself with “nothing to do and all day to do it.”

The singer’s dilemma reflects a modern man’s boredom, wondering why it hasn’t turned him crazy yet. With nothing else to do all day, it’s a wonder that he’s not in jail. But with the boredom comes the realization that time is ticking away from him.

11. “Time To Get Away” By LCD Soundsystem

Another song with “time” in the lyrics is from the American rock band LCD Soundsystem. “Time To Get Away” appears on their 2007 album Sound of Silver.

The song features lyrics that touch on themes of escapism and disillusionment. The singer keeps repeating the line, “It’s time to get away from you.” Apparently, the “you” here undermine him and have done something terrible.

But he catches up to what the other person does and can’t wait to get as far away as possible. According to rumors, the frontman is referring to the band’s old manager, with whom he had a falling out.

12. “If I Could Turn Back Time” By Cher

From Cher’s 1989 album Heart of Stone, “If I Could Turn Back Time,” featured the then-novel use of autotune. Admittingly, it created a distinct sound. These days, it’s an old hat when someone slaps autotune on their vocals. But when Cher did it, it was all but revolutionary.

But with autotune or not, we cannot deny the appeal that the song has lyrics-wise. The singer laments a relationship that ended, wishing she could go back and fix past mistakes.

She’s also willing to correct bad deeds she had done that drove her lover away. She will do anything, even “reach the stars,” to prove to him that she’s worth a second chance.

13. “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” By Green Day

For a band known for its punk sound and aesthetic, Green Day wrote a sentimental and nostalgic acoustic ballad that shouldn’t have worked. But “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was a timeless piece of music.

The contemplative lyrics find the singer imparting his good wishes for someone important to him. He tells them that time is what leads us in the direction we should go. We should not be questioning such but instead make the most of it.

The song tells us to enjoy the good times when we have them, as they will not last. There are always changes ahead, which sometimes tend to be for the worse.

This message contrasts with the inspiration behind the creation of the song. The band’s frontman penned the song and titled it “Good Riddance” because he was angry at his then-girlfriend for moving away.

14. “Time Stand Still” By Rush

When rock band Rush‘s drummer and lyricist Neil Peart wrote the words for “Time Stand Still,” he was drawing on the band’s experience touring in the 1970s. They’ve been so busy on the road that they neglected their loved ones.

The song looks at how time passes by. In the context of the band’s experience, they surely enjoyed touring and making music. But they started to think of the people back home, their families and friends.

One realization the band made was that even if you love what you’re doing, it can displace the more important things.

15. “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” By Otis Redding

Our next entry is one from Otis Redding, recorded just three days before his untimely death. “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” was released posthumously in 1968.

The song describes a lonely man sitting on a San Francisco Bay dock and reflecting on his life. With him spending days just watching ships come in and go away, he feels like he’s “wastin’ time.”

That feeling is intensified by the situation he finds himself in. He has left his home in Georgia, and the loneliness followed him to San Francisco. His depressive state persists, as he has no energy for anything else but passing time on the dock.

16. “Time Is Running Out” By Muse

In our next entry, the song mentions “time” in the context of someone’s last moments on Earth. The song appeared on Muse’s 2003 album Absolution and made the Top Ten in the US and the UK.

The song revolves around the emotions the singer feels in his last moments. The feeling of drowning and suffocating is like his woman casting a spell on him. But lo and behold, despite her hold on him, he can’t give her up. He’s addicted to her and has no plans of breaking out of his fixation.

Nevertheless, the singer recognizes that their time together is running out. And even if he’s on the edge, he won’t let her do away with his life.

17. “Closing Time” By Semisonic

Bartenders around the world have used clever lines to tell everyone to leave the bar after the last call. Semisonic captured that snark with “Closing Time.” It’s a smash hit that examines the endings and new beginnings that are part of our lives.

The mid-tempo song received critical acclaim and rose high on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart. It was a staple of 1990s alternative rock and still gets airplay today.

In the lyrics, the singer announces that it’s time for everyone to go because it’s already closing time. They can go anywhere else if they don’t want to go home yet. But the place is closing, and they can’t stay.

18. “Our Time” By Lily Allen

British singer Lily Allen’s second album debuted at #1 in 2009, but then she took some time off to pursue other artistic activities. She returned in 2013 with Sheezus, which contained “Our Time” as a single. The song continued Allen’s explorations of synthpop but didn’t crack the Top 40.

The time she’s singing about is the present, and the time to make the most of things is right now. She refers to the end of the week coming along and allowing for a weekend when her time is hers to do what she wants and live life to the fullest.

And speaking of what she wants, she urges her friends to go with her to her house and party “like it’s nobody’s business.” They’ve worked hard the whole week, and now it’s time to let loose and relax.

19. “Cats In The Cradle” By Harry Chapin

Any father would be emotional when they listen to “Cats in the Cradle.” This ballad was from Harry Chapin’s 1974 album, Verities & Balderdash.

The song tells the story of a father and son through the years. Dad rarely has time for his son as he’s busy doing important things. But he assures his boy and himself that there will be time to hang out together later.

Later never comes, and the dad realizes his mistake only after his son is grown and doesn’t have time for his dad right now. There has never been a crueler song masquerading as a folk ballad.

20. “Time Warp” By Richard O’Brien

For all the insane weirdness that is The Rocky Horror Picture Show, its signature song has something to say. Everyone knows the dance you’re supposed to do to “Time Warp,” one of the film’s many songs written by the show creator Richard O’Brien.

But we often overlook the lyrics, in which a time warp is defined as the time you get so involved in a memory that you feel like you’re back in it. It ends up being a silly song with a real message— that time is fleeting.

It’s wild, it’s catchy, and in the film, O’Brien, playing the role of Riff-Raff, sings the bulk of it with rock-star bravura. But again, there’s something borderline serious about its message.

21. “I Got Time” By Letters To Cleo

After landing a song on the soundtrack to the 1990s nighttime soap Melrose Place, Letters to Cleo seemed like they were destined for superstardom. But subsequent singles produced diminishing returns, and the band fell out of favor. Not with fans, though. The Boston band released a third studio album, 1997’s Go!, and “I Got Time” was the opening track.

It wasn’t a single, so airplay wasn’t a thing for it. But frontwoman Kay Hanley uses her powerhouse vocals to sing about taking control of her own destiny— something we all must do.

“I Got Time” means that for the things we want in our lives, we make the time for them. Failure to do so means losing out on the experiences we most want to treasure.

22. “Time Is Your Friend” By dada

In 1996, dada had already been hailed as the heir to the throne of three-piece rock gods. Despite lacking some songs that charted well, the band still maintains a rabid fanbase. That’s mainly due to whip-smart songwriting and great lyrics. Just take “Time is Your Friend” as an example.

This song captures the essence of time. The band did a good job of describing what it is and showing its importance.

Throughout the song, the singer provides analogies for a time, such as it being a Mustang, a ship, and a wish. What the song tells us is that time isn’t something we can control. It will happen, and it will come no matter what.

23. “The Time Is Now” By Moloko

The British-Irish electronic duo Moloko released their album Things to Make and Do in 2000. The top ten hit from that album was “The Time Is Now,” and it was a huge hit throughout Europe.

The lyrics tell the listeners the importance of living in the moment and seizing opportunities. Watching lead singer Róisín Murphy dancing in a forest and also literally in the streets in the video helped the viewer see what living in the moment looks like.

Along with that message is one about taking a risk. There is no time to hesitate, as the singer makes it clear that she has done it for too long already.

Summing Up Our List Of Time Songs

Time does a number on all of us. The songs above showed us that once it passed, you can never seize it back. And many of the tracks showed our propensity to regret some of the things that occurred in the past.

Nevertheless, we hope that these thought-provoking songs helped you wrap your mind around the concept of change, aging, death, and the inevitability of it all.

What we can leave right now is a little nugget of wisdom. Live in the moment and enjoy the here and now. And while you do those things, it won’t hurt to keep listening to these great songs.

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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.