Scars, whether the emotional or physical kind, have provided the inspiration for hundreds of songs over the years. Regardless of genre, style, decade, or anything else, countless artists over history have used their music to reveal their scars or to try and help others heal their own. Here, we take a look at 10 timeless songs about scars.
10. Scars – James Bay
Speaking about the inspiration behind Scars, James Bay has said “Scars is about somebody very close to me, who had to move away. It took her coming back and me addressing the whole thing to be able to finish the song.” A beautiful, touching song that’s as far removed from a typical breakup song as it’s possible to get, it’s one of the many gems of Bay’s 2015 Grammy-nominated debut, Chaos and the Calm.
9. Scars – Rush
According to Neil Peart, Scars is about how the positive and negative aspects of life can all leave their mark. “I think it’s part of everyone’s experience that a certain record reflects a certain period of their life, and that’s a pleasurable scar, you know, there’s a mark left on you, a psychological fingerprint left by a very positive experience. And music is an easy one, but it translates to so many other parts of life,” he told SongFacts.com.
8. Scars – Papa Roach
According to Papa Roach’s lead singer Jacoby Shaddix, Scars is about a “Horrible night in Vegas that changed my life.” Released in November 2004, it became the band’s first (and so far, only) single to reach the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 15. It’s still a staple at their concerts, with Shaddix often introducing it as the song that saved him from self-destruction.
7. Scars – TobyMac
Speaking to Billboard about the inspiration for Scars, TobyMac revealed that although he had a few people in mind when he wrote the song, it was primarily written for his son, Truett, who’d been struggling with addiction. “I wanted him to know that he’s not alone when the world might get the best of him from time to time,” he said. “When he looks up and he’s got some scars, I wanted him to know that we all face those things and that he’s not alone in it.” Tragically, Truett died just one year later from a drug overdose.
6. Scars – Collin Raye ft. Miranda Lambert
After six years away from recording, Collin Raye returned in 2020 with a new album, Scars. For the melancholic but still empowering title track, he enlisted the help of Miranda Lambert, whose nuanced performance adds an extra layer of poignancy to lines like “Love was never meant to be that easy /and it don’t just disappear / With these scars/ But the pain that I remember / Is the pain that makes me stronger / I’ve had to look at life that way.”
5. Old Scars / Future Hearts – All Time Low
Future Hearts, All Time Low’s sixth album, is the band’s most commercially successful LP to date, reaching number 2 on the US Billboard 200, number 1 in the UK, and breaking into the top ten in both New Zealand and Australia. Speaking about the album’s final song, Old Scars / Future Hearts, to Kerrang, singer Alex Gaskarth explained “It’s the perfect closure to the story on the album, because it’s the conclusion. This is how far we’ve come, this is what we’ve achieved and we’re damned proud of it. We don’t plan on going anywhere.”
4. Battle Scars – Guy Sebastian & Lupe Fiasco
Described by music journalist David Lim as a “massive bruised ballad with a titan hook that just beats you down with no mercy,” and by Kate Winch from Mosca Media as “a catchy pop, hip hop track” with a chorus that “will become firmly entrenched in your head after just one listen,” Battle Scars became a huge hit for Guy Sebastian & Lupe Fiasco back in 2012, taking the pair to number one on the Australian charts and certifying platinum in the US. It also managed to pick up a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Duo, Group, or Collaboration.
3. Garbage – Bleed Like Me
Making their fourth album proved such a difficult experience for Garbage, they ended up splitting up for four months during the recording process. Fortunately, the split didn’t last, and the album subsequently became one of the most successful releases, taking them into the top ten of the Billboard 200 for the first time. Bleed like Me, its title track and centerpiece, is, according to frontwoman Shirley Manson, “about a search for empathy. We can forget so easily that people are the same regardless of their sexuality, religion, color, or moral values. I think we’re all guilty of believing that our problems are more important than somebody else’s.”
2. Broken, Beat & Scarred – Metallica
For Broken, Beat & Scarred, Metallica took Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” layered it with riffs, added a title that, according to the band, caused some major strife between James Hetfield (who hated it) and Lars Ulrich (who loved it) and in the process, created a heavy metal classic. Released in April 2009 from the album Death Magnetic, the song reached number 15 on the US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.
1. Scar Tissue – Red Hot Chili Pepper
Four years after the critical and commercial disappointment of 1995’s One Hot Minute, the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s came back with Californication, an album that returned John Frusciante to the fold, sold over 15 million copies across the world, and reminded us all why we fell in love with the Chili Peppers in the first place. The return of Frusciante helped push the band’s sound in a new direction, resulting in a mellower, more melodic brand of rock than we’d heard from them before. The new style is represented to the fullest on the Grammy award-winning Scar Tissue, a song that quickly established itself as a favorite with fans and which, over 20 years later, is still a concert staple.