43 Heart-Wrenching and Emotional Songs That Will Make You Cry

Are you making a playlist of powerful emotional songs? 

Well, you've landed in the right place — because we've curated a list of 43 tearjerkers.

Some are about lost love; others touch on self-worth and family matters.

Regardless of the topic, they all have the power to make you cry under the right circumstances.

What's In This Post:

What Kind of Songs Make You Cry? 

When was the last time you were living your life, listening to music, and suddenly the tears started flowing? We've all been there. But why does it happen? What is it about sad songs that make you cry? 

  • Universally Sentimental: While everyone's life unravels differently, some things are experienced by wide swaths of the population. Songs that hit those emotional notes may open the floodgates.
  • Linked to a Memory: Memories are powerful, and songs are often linked to special or memorable times in our lives. When one of those tunes comes on, and you're feeling emotional, it could be enough to cue the tears.
  • Songs Specifically Written To Tug on Heartstrings: Some songs are written with the intention of making people cry — and many of them work!

43 Time-Tested Songs That Will Make You Cry 

We've discussed why certain songs trigger tears. Now, let's dive into a pool of the most emotional songs.

1. Over the Rainbow by Eva Cassidy (Cover)

Written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg for the original Wizard of Oz movie released in 1938, “Over the Rainbow” is an oldy-but-teary.

Judy Garland — the original Dorothy — was the first artist to record the second, but dozens of others have done the tune justice over the years, including Eva Cassidy, who did a rendition for her 1992 album The Other Side. 

2. Creep by Brian Justin Crum (Cover)

The debut single off the band's first album, 1992's Creep by RadioHead is an alternative rock song that transports many people of a certain age back to a time when their emotions were as tumultuous as hurricane season.

Creep isn't a typical RadioHead track, but it's arguably the group's most-known tune. 

We picked America's Got Talent alum Brian Austin Crum's version because it's a more soulful, balladesque rendition that can bring you to tears. 

3. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

Written by the incomparable Stevie Nicks, Landslide is one of Fleetwood Mac's most beloved songs. It first appeared on the group's self-titled 1975 album, and in 2021, Rolling Stone listed it among the “Top 500 Best Songs of All Time.” 

Nicks wrote the song one night while sitting in an Aspen living room and ruminating about her tumultuous relationship with bandmate Lindsey Buckingham. 

When reflecting on the experience, Nicks explained: “Looking out at the Rocky Mountains pondering the avalanche of everything that had come crashing down on us … at that moment, my life truly felt like a landslide in many ways.”

4. The Best Day by Taylor Swift

Initially recorded for her 2008 studio album Fearless, Taylor Swift's “The Best Day” has become a Mother's Day anthem. The best-selling artist recorded the tender tune secretly and gave it to her mother as a Christmas present.

When asked about the song, Taylor's mom admitted: “I've lost it [cried] pretty much every time I've heard that song since.” 

Music Trivia: The Best Day is one of the songs Swift re-recorded in 2021 after getting into a legal battle with her previous label.

5. Butterfly Kisses by Bob Carlisle

Back in 1997, you couldn't escape Butterfly Kisses. Bob Carlisle wrote the song with Randy Thomas for Carlisle's daughter's 16th birthday, and it was everywhere. Honestly? If it were 2017, we probably wouldn't have given Butterfly Kisses the nod. 

Essentially, it was the Happy of the late 90s, and only two decades of distance would've been too soon.

But now we're far enough removed from the initial wave, and Butterfly Kisses is an undeniably sweet song that's earned its spot in the pantheon of tear-jerking tunes.   

6. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Sara Bareilles (Cover)

One of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's masterworks, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, is a sing-along classic.

But Sara Bareilles transformed it into an endearing ballad when she performed the cover with PBS' American Voices orchestra. 

When Elton John was asked about Bareilles's performance, he praised the songstress by enthusing: “I was so blown away by the version of Yellow Brick Road. I've never heard anyone sing one of my songs like that ever. I can't thank you enough, giving your time and blowing my mind with that version. Because when someone sings your songs they usually copy you and she made it her own. That's brilliant–it's a hard song.”

7. In My Daughter's Eyes by Martina McBride

James T. Slater wrote In My Daughter's Eyes for Martina McBride's eponymous album. It peaked on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at number four in 2004.

The delightful diddy about her baby girl is a surefire way to open the floodgates of a mama missing her daughter.  

8. Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell

Written by Joni Mitchell and first recorded by Judy Collins in 1968, Both Sides Now is a lyrically and musically beautiful song that urges listeners to consider life's lessons.

Mitchell said the song's inspiration was a passage in Saul Bellow's 1959 novel Henderson the Rain King. 

Though Collins was the first singer to record the tune, Mitchell went on to do several iconic renditions, both live and in the studio.

9. You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins

Winner of the 1999 Academy Award for Best Original Song, Phil Collins' You'll Be in My Heart was the theme for Disney's animated Tarzan movie.

Producers picked the renowned drummer to compose the tune because they wanted something with “a strong jungle beat.” 

But the musician’s inspirations were a lot dearer. 

Collins wrote it for his daughter, who was ten years old at the time, to convey “how love is a bond that cannot be broken.”

10. When You Come Back Down by Nickel Creek

Composed and written by Danny O'Keefe and Tim O'Brien, Nickel Creek's When You Come Back Down is a bluegrass cover ballad that tugs at the heartstrings.

Pregnant with sentiments of hope and unconditional love, the song has helped many people whose lives have been touched by addiction.   

11. I'll Be by Edwin McCain

Edwin McCain's I'll Be was another late 90s classic that dominated the airwaves, and in the subsequent decades, it's become one of the top car-singing and wedding songs of all time. 

When asked about his songwriting process when crafting the tune, McCain explained that “it's really more of a prayer” that he wrote after a difficult breakup.

He continued: “It was this admission of failure and this prayer that I could be a better person, wrapped up as sort of the end of a relationship kind of thought.”

12. The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli

Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli each recorded English and Italian versions of The Prayer for the 1998 film Quest for Camelot. Later, the pair did a duet that appeared on Dion's These Are Special Times and Bocelli's Sogno albums.

A magnificent ode, Billboard's Chuck Taylor praised it as “a breathtaking, ultra-lush song, and the tour de force combination of Dion and Bocelli [which] will send a half-dozen chills up your spine.”

13. Forever Young by Rod Stewart

Written by Jim Cregan, Kevin Savigar, Bob Dylan, and Rod Stewart, Forever Young is a song written by a loving dad to his growing kids.

Stewart once called the tune one of his favorites “because [it's a] real heartfelt song about my kids. I suddenly realized I'd missed a good five years of Sean and Kimberly's life because I was so busy touring all the time.”

14. You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban

Rolf Løvland composed the music, and novelist Brendan Graham wrote the lyrics to You Raise Me Up, a song recorded by hundreds of artists and first performed at Løvland's mother's funeral.

When legendary producer David Foster heard the tune around 2004, he decided to produce a version with then-up-and-comer Josh Groban.

With its undeniable Irish influences, Groban's silky voice, and bellowing instrumentals, it's a tune that can bring a tear to one's eye for no particular reason. 

15. Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi

It took Lewis Capaldi to write Someone You Loved as a dedication to his grandmother after she passed away.

Capaldi's deep and distinct voice elevates this tune about the hardships of losing someone you love, and it may cause “the cries” for someone struggling through the pain.

16. The Scientist by Coldplay

After listening to George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin, began noodling around on an old piano and came across a “lovely chord” that blossomed into The Scientist.

When reviewing the piece, Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield wrote: “The fantastic piano ballad ‘The Scientist'… [has] a cataclysmic falsetto finale that could raise every hair on the back of your neck.”

17. All I Want by Kodaline

Written by James Flannigan, Steve Garrigan, Vincent May, and Mark Prendergast, All I Want by Irish rock band Kodaline is a slow, sweet song with falsetto punctuations that immediately transports listeners to an emotional and dewey-eyed place.  

18. Say You Love Me by Jessie Ware

Soulful sophisti-pop artist Jessie Ware's Say You Love Me is the kind of song that allows you to lean into your most romance-related pains.

Pop on the track and a pair of headphones, and let the emotional catharsis begin! Fun fact: Ware co-wrote the song with Ed Sheeran, Ben Ash, and Benny Blanco. 

19. Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime by The Korgis

Many people see Everybody's Got To Learn Something as a romance song. But James Warren wrote it after becoming interested in yoga and meditation.

When asked about the heartfelt and expressive lyrics, Warren explained they were “all about an individual changing and being a different sort of person – trying to find out the root of your inner confusion, dealing with it, and becoming a better person. So it was literally a philosophical lyric.”

20. Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

From the latest remake of A Star Is Born, the duet Shallow, sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a good, old-fashioned love song.

If you're in the midst of an all-encompassing passionate romance, it's the type of song that can open the eye-dams.  

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21. Gravity by John Mayer

John Mayer has referred to Gravity as “the most important song [he's] ever written.” He also called it a “time capsule song.” The probing folk-pop tune isn't about romantic love but instead touches on self-love and self-assurance.

Mayer summed it up thusly: “This is a song about making sure you still love yourself, making sure you still have your head on.”  

22. The A Team by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran was inspired to write The A Team after performing at a homeless shelter when he was 18.

When discussing the song's development, he explained he wanted to infuse the music with upbeat notes since the subject matter was so dark.

23. I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (Cover)

When Whitney Houston bellows out the chorus of I Will Always Love You, it's difficult not to get knocked back — physically or emotionally.

Houston's version was a remake of Dolly Parton's 1973 classic for the 1992 movie The Bodyguard.

24. My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion

Celine Dion's mega-hit My Heart Will Go On will forever be linked to the romance blockbuster of the 1990s, Titanic.

James Horner composed the music as an instrumental motif for the film, and lyricist Will Jennings wrote the lyrics “from the point of view of a person of a great age looking back so many years.” And with Celine's signature voice, the track was an instant classic.

25. Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers

Composer Alex North originally wrote the theme for the 1955 film “Unchained” — hence the title. More than 670 artists have reportedly recorded the iconic love song, but The Righteous Brothers' version remains the gold standard.

26. I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan

I Will Remember You is a hauntingly beautiful song made famous by Sarah McLachlan in the mid-1990s. She wrote it with Séamus Egan and Dave Merend based on the former's instrumental tune Weep Not for the Memories — which the writing trio turned into a prominent lyrical coda in McLachlan's version.

27. Goodbye My Lover by James Blunt

James Blunt's signature falsetto voice floats above the piano track on this bittersweet song about love and loss. Written by Blunt and Sacha Skarbek, Goodbye My Lover was released in 2005.

Interestingly, Blunt recorded Goodbye My Lover in a piano-clad bathroom of actress Carrie Fisher, one of Blunt's early supporters.

28. In My Life by The Beatles

In My Life is one of those songs that fit myriad occasions — but the simple, heartfelt tune is almost always a tearjerker. John Lennon and Paul McCartney crafted the song in 1965, and Lennon called it his “first real major piece of work.”

He got the idea for the song from journalist Kenneth Allsop who recommended penning lyrics related to his childhood.  

29. Nothing Else Matters by Metallica

Like many “hair bands” of the late 20th century, Metallica is probably best known for their metal bangers. But the iconic group occasionally recorded slower tracks — including Nothing Else Matters.

It's a haunting song with evocative chord progressions.

Guitarist James Hetfield wrote the song while on tour in 1990 when dealing with a bout of homesickness. Initially, the tune wasn't supposed to be recorded. But drummer Lars Ulrich heard it and lobbied for its inclusion on the album.

30. Fade Into You by Mazzy Star

Originally released in 1992, Fade Into You by Mazzy Star features the artist's sultry grunge voice over a guitar track. This song was a top “angst tune” of its generation and may still bring people of a certain age to tears. 

31. A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum

At a party in the 1960s, songwriter Keith Reid heard someone say to another guest, “You've turned a whiter shade of pale.”

The phrase stuck with him, and he turned it into one of the day's most recognized and appreciated studio serenades.

The expressive song remains a favorite today, and under the right circumstances, it can open the floodgates.

32. Without You by Harry Nilsson

You may not immediately recognize Without You by the title, but most people say something along the lines of, “I love this song” after the first three or four bars.

Slow and sentimental, this Harry Nilsson song was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans for the British band Badfinger.

Nilsson heard it at a party in the 1970s and thought it was a Beatles tune. When he learned it wasn't, he decided to record a cover for his 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson.

33. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel had one of the most tumultuous relationships in musical history, but they made amazing music together. Bridge Over Troubled Water is one of the duo's best tracks, and Simon said it came to him very quickly.

It was inspired by the 1959 song “Mary Don't You Weep” performed by the Swan Silvertones that went: “I'll be your bridge over deep water if you trust in my name.”

34. How to Save a Life by The Fray

Released in 2006 and performed by The Fray, How To Save a Life was inspired by the lead singer's time working at a camp for troubled teens.

He explained: “One of the youngsters I was paired up with was a musician. Here I was, a protected suburbanite, and he was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him.”  

35. Losing My Religion by R.E.M.

With its mandolin melody, Losing My Religion by R.E.M. usually doesn't land on lists of the most emotional songs. For starters, it's more upbeat than other options.

Moreover, the lyrics aren't necessarily about love and other sentimental topics. But the track slides its way into the ear and provokes emotion.  

A reviewer for Music & Media complimented the arrangement, saying, “Hearing such a beautiful song with a striking mandolin arrangement, provides an ample religious substitute.”

36. Run by Snow Patrol

Writer Peter Murphy once called Run by Snow Patrol a “strange hybrid” that was “a lighter-waving anthem drenched in private grieving.”

It was a spot-on analysis, as the band's frontman, Gary Lightbody, explained that he'd written it after reaching rock bottom when he “fell down a flight of stairs.”

Lightbody went on to explain that he “split [his] head open” and “lost a few teeth.” 

37. Yesterday When I Was Young by Charles Aznavour

Yesterday When I Was Young was originally a French song called Hier encore, which means “Just yesterday” or “Not So Long Ago.”

A track imbued with undeniable Francian ennui, Yesterday When I Was Young is ultimately a song about a man's regret and being too hedonistic when young and, as a result, unable to do the things he wanted to do later in life.  

38. Someone Who'll Watch Over Me by Sting (Cover)

Many artists have recorded Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. It debuted as a number in the 1926 Broadway Musical “Oh, Kay!” The original tune was upbeat and jazzy.

Over the years, though, musicians have slowed it down, and Sting's version is an emotional ballad that may cause tears to fall.

39. Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles

Paul McCartney devised the melody for Eleanor Rigby one day while noodling on his piano. As for the lyrics, he said he was inspired by an elderly woman he helped out as a young man.

He would shop for her, and they spent many hours talking in her kitchen. McCartney said of the experience: “Just hearing her stories enriched my soul and influenced the songs I would later write.”

40. For No One by The Beatles

A Lennon and McCartney track, For No One is a baroque-pop song about the end of a relationship. Musically, the French horn motif played by Alan Civil is a standout component of the tune.

McCartney recalls coming up with the lyrics while on a ski vacation in the Swiss Alps with his then-girlfriend Jane Asher after they had “another argument.” 

41. I Can't Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt is a national treasure, and her song I Can't Make You Love Me is one of her best-known ballads.

It's a heartbreaking tune about unrequited love, and it's sure to open the dams when you're feeling the pain of unreturned emotions.

Raitt put down the vocal track in just one studio take. She later explained that the song was so sad she couldn't do another take.

42. Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division

The 1980 Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division was originally conceived as a satirical response to The Captain & Tennille's “Love Will Keep Us Together.” It's about Ian Curtis' difficult marriage and touches on his own struggles related to epilepsy. 

43. With or Without You by U2

People have had different interpretations of U2's With or Without You. Some saw it through a religious lens and the search for spiritual satisfaction.

But Bono set the record straight, explaining: “There's nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other. One, 'cause it's so uncommon these days, and two, 'cause it's so difficult to do.” 

Final Thoughts

Music moves the soul, and sometimes, a good cry is exactly what it needs. So when you're in the mood to let the tears flow, turn up some of these when weeping is in order.