2014 was a big year for the music industry. Artists found new ways to promote their music, with strategies ranging from removing themselves from Spotify to dumping their albums into your iTunes library. Live tours were bigger than ever this year, with 2014 bringing in the most stadium concerts in the last 20 years. The country genre continued to grow, as did the presence of female divas in the top 100.

With all of these strides in the music world, it is important to look past the “Anaconda” music videos and the boozey-themed country lyrics and appreciate those songs that served to move their listeners through messages of hope and strength. To keep with last year’s tradition, here are our top 5 inspirational songs of 2014 to keep on your 2015 playlist!

  1. “Am I Wrong” – Nico & Vinz
    This Norwegian duo became an international success with the release of “Am I Wrong” early in 2014. The lyrics are uplifting and inspiring, with a call to action to think outside of the box and live up to more than the status quo. And if the lyrics inspire you, check out this song’s music video. It was filmed in different parts of Africa, highlighting beautiful images of the countryside as well as dynamic shots of the people who live there, in an effort to combat the negative portrayal of the continent in the news. “Am I Wrong” was followed by another hit from Nico & Vinz – “In Your Arms” – which is equally as inspiring.
  2. “Try” – Colbie Caillat
    Colbie Caillat’s newest single, “Try,” has the same beautiful sound as her past ballads, but this time serves to empower women with its message. Off of her fifth studio album, Gypsy Heart, “Try” is about embracing who you are and not changing yours looks or who you are to please others. Caillat’s message is clear in her lyrics: “Why should you care what they think of you? When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?” The music video, with similar vibes to the Dove: Real Beauty campaign, portrays “normal” women, dressed in white without any makeup on, embracing who they are without trying.
  3. “Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift
    To keep the inspiring ‘girl power’ theme going in this list, it only makes sense to recognize T-Swift in all her glory. Taylor Swift took the world by storm this fall as she moved from country star to pop diva with her newest album, 1989. Rather than falling victim to rumors and celebrity gossip, Swift faced them head-on by acknowledging them through her music. While “Blank Space” makes a satire out of these rumors, “Shake It Off” simply rises above them. Both her upbeat lyrics and her goofy music video make Swift’s message clear: haters gonna hate, but she’s just going to keep being awesome.
  4. “Let It Go” – James Bay
    Sorry Frozen fans, this is a different “Let It Go” we are talking about. Released by British singer-songwriter James Bay earlier this year, this song does a beautiful job of making a breakup something that can inspire and encourage listeners. The chorus – “Come on let it go/Just let it be/Why don’t you be you/And I’ll be me” – is so simple in its message, reminding us that it is okay to walk away and be yourself. Bay’s raspy British voice and acoustic guitar make this track an easy one to listen to on repeat… which explains why it is my most-played song on Spotify in 2014. I think we can expect a lot more inspiration from James Bay in upcoming months as he releases his debut studio album.
  5. “Something in the Water” – Carrie Underwood
    Carrie Underwood has always distinguished herself in the country music world with her empowering songs and Christian roots. “Something in the Water” is yet another success: released in September 2014, it was a hit on both Country and Christian Billboard charts and also received a Grammy nomination. The track is about a person whose life is changed after being baptized, and Underwood’s voice paired with the strong orchestra arrangement emotes such passion and power that it’s hard not to feel inspired after listening to it. Major props to Carrie Underwood for staying true to her values and spreading inspiration through her music, while remaining a superstar in the music industry.

Photo: Prixel Creative