By: Dani Kessel
Everyone understands the world through their own unique lens. I relate to most things–emotions, events, experiences–through theatre and music. It helps me process the world around me. Many others, particularly those with an affinity for the arts, also find immense value in music, lyrics, and performance musicality. Broadway is the perfect culmination of these things and can provide motivation for oneself.
If you are looking for Broadway tunes to inspire self-love and pursuit of your dreams, these songs are the right way to go!
Corner of the Sky – Pippin
Pippin centers around themes of adventure and belonging. While also being a common audition song, Corner of the Sky has inspired daydreamers to find where they belong for almost 5 decades. If you listen to the musicality in Matthew Lee Robinson’s voice (who played Pippin at the Sydney Theatre in 2007), you’ll feel the passion and longing of the title character. Just like Pippin, this song can inspire you to find your corner of the sky.
Astonishing – Little Women
Fifteen years ago, Sutton Foster first belted out this Act I finale number as Jo March and brought the crowd to cheers. This song explores the mental and emotional journey of Jo as she realizes that she is meant for more than marriage and the perfect life. By the halfway point, she knows that she needs to follow her dreams. You can feel it through your bones when she sings, “Here I go. And there’s no turning back. My great adventure has begun. I may be small, but I’ve got giant plans to shine as brightly as the sun.” This song brings strength and passion to the idea of following your own path.
I’ve Gotta Be Me – Golden Rainbow
Most people know this song for the Billboard Hot 100 and Top 40 version by Sammy Davis Jr. However, this song originally came from a Broadway musical called Golden Rainbow. While the musical was not well renowned, this song transcends time and is still a popular jazz ballad to this day. It’s lyrics urge a love for oneself. It’s hard not to hear this song and feel like you are good enough just being yourself.
In My Own Little Corner – Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella
If you’ve ever dreamed of being something different than what others think you are, this song will be relatable. The truth is that daydreaming gives you routes to be anything you want. Whether it’s Brandy singing or Julie Andrews (who played the first version of this Cinderella), I’ve always loved that In My Own Little Corner encourages imagination. When you get to be whatever version of yourself that you want, you become a more authentic person. Listen to this song and imagine all the things that you want to do. Then go make it happen!
Freak Flag – Shrek the Musical
One of the best things to come out of Shrek the Musical is this song. This upbeat melody is an anthem for being different. If you’ve ever been an outcast and been made to feel lesser due to your uniqueness, you’ll be embraced by this cast of fairy tale characters for exactly who you are. There’s one overwhelming message in this song: be yourself, and love yourself.
Seize the Day – Newsies
If you need a call-to-action, “Seize the Day” provides a motivation to take action today instead of waiting until tomorrow. Be like the newsies of 1899 (whom the musical is based on) and make something happen, use your voice, be a force for change. Play this song on the way to a work meeting. Make it your wakeup alarm. Use it as a battle cry for fighting injustice. This song provides just the right amount of emotion and urgency to inspire you throughout your day.
Raise You Up/Just Be – Kinky Boots
How can you resist an empowering, supportive, full-company Broadway song written by Cyndi Lauper? This song not only tells you to love yourself, but reminds you that others will be there to raise you up when you are struggling. It’s beautiful watching every person on the stage embrace each other with dancing and joy.
A Change in Me – Beauty and the Beast
Whereas many of these other songs sing about embracing yourself as you are, this song from the Broadway version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is about embracing change and personal growth from within. As we go through life, it is important that we embrace the person we become instead of holding onto an old version of ourselves. This song reminds us that we are changing and that’s a part of us we need to love too.
I’m Here – The Color Purple
In this beautiful song, Cynthia Erivo sends a message to every dark-skinned Black American woman who has ever been told she isn’t beautiful. You are beautiful. And, the most wonderful message in this song isn’t just that someone else can find her gorgeous; it’s that she can accept herself as gorgeous. The character of Celie and her unfettering self-love can be a wonderful role model for any person looking to embrace themselves.
The Impossible Dream – Man of La Mancha
Everything about this song screams, “FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!” The character of Don Quixote spreads an empowering message through the lyrics. Be brave. Be strong. Be amazing. Be someone that pursues and fights for your dreams no matter how hard they seem. The world will be better off for your efforts. Don’t give up.
She Used to Be Mine – Waitress
This song’s a little different than most of the ones on this list. It is a heart wrenching song which evokes the emotions of missing yourself. Sometimes that sadness and the pain of remembering is all you have in order to continue fighting. I am not going to lie. This song makes me bawl any time I am hearing it and not singing it. In many ways, I have lost who I used to be. But, when I listen to “She Used to Be Mine,” I know that I can continue fighting to bring back the person I was.
Defying Gravity – Wicked
This is one moment where the lyrics really need to speak for themselves. There is no way to summarize how powerful this song is in inspiring aspiration towards dreams.
“I’m through accepting limits ’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change but ’til I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love, it comes at much too high a cost!”
Don’t accept the limits others give you. You are capable of greatness.
I Am What I Am – La Cage Aux Folles
I saved my favorite and one of the greatest songs on this list for last. La Cage Aux Folles has been in the theatre world since its inception in 1983. Most folks wouldn’t expect a musical written in the early 80s to be so empowering, but the Act 1 finale song “I Am What I Am” is the biggest call to loving oneself that I’ve experienced from Broadway. This song is renowned as a gay anthem. Its message extends to more than just the LGBTQ+ community though. Anyone can find inspiration in Zaza belting out her lines, “I bang my own drum. Some think it’s loud; I think it’s pretty. So what if I love each sparkle and each bangle? Why not try to see things from a different angle? Your life is a sham ‘til you can shout out, ‘I am what I am.’” Put this song on when you need some self-love and indignant anger at those who would judge you.
I hope listening to these Broadway songs gives you a strong passion for embracing yourself and your dreams. You are worth the effort. Relisten to them anytime you need another reminder that you, your hopes, your dreams, your passions are all extremely important. Remember to extend to yourself the compassion that you would towards any of the characters in these productions.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Do you think I am missing any great Broadway songs for self-love? Let me know in the comments below!