Rock stars know a thing or two about winning. They’ve got the swanky cars, the flash houses, the model boy/girlfriend, and the armies of adoring fans. The thing is, they don’t much like talking about it. Maybe they’re afraid they’ll lose some of those adoring fans if they start shouting about how great their life is. Much better to sing about struggling and being a loser and artists like Elton John and Queen know it. Still, not every artist shies away from victory. Here’s our rundown of the top 10 songs about winning.
10. Elton John – I’m Still Standing
As Time Out notes, I’m Still Standing might originally have been written as a kiss-off after a breakup, but it’s since become an anthem of resilience for just about any occasion. It’s all about perseverance, defying the odds, and survival – three things Elton John knows more than a little about. Released in July 1983, I’m Still Standing became a big hit on both sides of the pond, soaring to #1 in Canada, #4 in the UK, and #12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
9. Nicki Minaj – I’m the Best
Even back in the early days of her first album, Nicki Minaj already had global domination in her sights. “I hear they comin’ for me / because the top is lonely,” she sings on I’m the Best, the standout highlight from Pink Friday. Anyone who says self-belief can only take you so far should listen to this and reconsider. It certainly worked for Nicki.
8. Destiny’s Child – Survivor
Beyonce wrote Survivor after a radio DJ alluded to the fact three members of Destiny’s Child had left the band by making a jokey comparison between the group and the reality game show “Survivor.” Beyonce took the negative, turned it into a positive, and created the ultimate motivational R&B banger in the process. It won the group Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 2002 Grammy Awards and has been named among Billboards 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.
7. David Bowie – Heroes
Taken from the second album in David Bowie‘s Berlin Trilogy, Heroes was written after Bowie became inspired by the sight of his producer-engineer Tony Viscontito embracing his lover by the Berlin Wall. A story about two lovers, one from East and one from West Berlin, it’s become a symbol of hope and endurance – some have even said that Bowie’s emotionally charged concert at the Reichstag in 1987 played a part in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Whether it did or didn’t, it’s still hugely impactful.
6. Daft Punk – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
If you find yourself in need of a little motivational lift, Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is the song to give it to you. It may have been co-opted by gym bunnies, but this isn’t a song purely for the treadmill. It’s one of the most ingenious, iconic songs of the past 15 years. The moment it comes up on the playlist, defeat stops being an option.
5. Santana – Winning
Russ Ballard, the lead singer and guitarist for Argent, wrote Winning and recorded it as the titular track of his 1976 solo album. Santana heard it, liked it, and five years later decided to record their own version. They give the tale of a man who goes from rock bottom to the top of the world an 80s makeover, stuffing it with synths and overlaying it with enough slick arrangements to sink a ship. Still, it’s a great tune, with vocalist Alex Ligertwood’s soaring vocals making light work of lines like “I’m winning/And I don’t intend on losing again.” Somewhat ironically, it would be Santana’s last big hit until the late 90s.
4. Rolling Stones – Winning Ugly
Few bands have been winning ugly for quite so long or quite so successfully as the Rolling Stones. But they do it well, with a smirk and a swagger and more bombast than strictly speaking necessary. Taken from the deservedly scorned 1986 album Dirty Work, Winning Ugly might not be the best song of the band’s career, but the sentiment, which sees Mick Jagger compare the band to a shady sports team that will do anything to win (“Forever on the up and damn the competition. I never play it fair. I never turn a hair. Just like the politicians. I wrap my conscience up. I wanna win that cup and get my money, baby”), is a piece of sardonic genius.
3. Oasis – Live Forever
When Nirvana released I Hate Myself and Want to Die as the B-side to Pennyroyal Tea, Noel Gallagher was having none of it. “Kids don’t need to be hearing that nonsense,” he said before promptly returning with one of the most optimistic victory cries of the 1990s. Live Forever has got all the arrogance and swagger you’d expect of mid-1990s Oasis, along with quite possibly one of the greatest solos in rock history. According to azlyrics.com, this was the song that helped the band get a record deal with Creation Records, with its director Alan McGee saying “It was probably the single greatest moment I’ve ever experienced with them.”
2. Bruce Springsteen – Thunder Road
As Ultimate Classic Rock says, Bruce Springsteen has spent most of his career chronicling the struggles of losers – or at least, people who tend to draw the short straw. But on Thunder Road, there’s still a chance of escaping the inevitable and emerging victorious. The protagonist “ain’t no hero” but he’s got a car, a tank of gas, and a better future in front of him. “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win,” he proclaims as he puts his foot to the gas.
1. Queen – We Are The Champions
Obviously, Queen had to be the band to top our list of the 10 best songs about winning, and We are the Champions had to be the song they did it with (although Another One Bites The Dust and We Will Rock You put up a strong fight). There’s aspirational, and then there’s declaring yourself “the champions of the world.” It’s doesn’t get more motivational than this. Neither does it get catchier – back in 2011, a group of scientists with too much time on their hands declared that, mathematically, We Are The Champions was the catchiest song ever written. In every way, it’s unbeatable.