The future of music

30 Best Acapella Songs of All Time

May 4, 2023
acapella songs

Acapella music, also known as “a cappella,” is the art of creating music using only the human voice without instruments.

The beauty of acapella music is the pureness and authenticity of the human voice, as well as the incredible harmonies and rhythms that can be achieved.

Over the years, there have been countless acapella songs that have captured the hearts of music lovers worldwide.

In this article, we’ll take a look at 30 of the best acapella songs ever recorded, highlighting the incredible talent and creativity of acapella musicians and groups.

Whether you’re a die-hard acapella fan or just discovering the magic of this unique musical genre, these songs will leave you in awe of the human voice’s potential.

1. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens

The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is a classic song originally recorded by the South African group Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds in 1939 under the title “Mbube.”

The Tokens released their version of the song in 1961, featuring their signature harmonies and intricate vocal arrangements.

The track quickly became a massive hit, reaching the top of the charts in several countries and earning its place as one of the most iconic acapella songs of all time.

2. “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye

“Somebody That I Used To Know” was released in 2011 as a single from Gotye’s third studio album, Making Mirrors.

Gotye and Kimbra both sing about how hurt and betrayed they feel after a relationship ends.

The song’s stripped-down instrumentation and unique vocal harmonies lend themselves well to acapella arrangements, and many groups have put their spin on the music.

Some notable acapella versions of “Somebody That I Used to Know” includes performances by Pentatonix, Walk off the Earth, and The Backbeats.

3. “Lost Without You” by Freya Ridings

“Lost Without You” became a breakout hit for Ridings, charting in several countries, including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

The lyrics describe a deep sense of longing and vulnerability, with Ridings singing about feeling lost and incomplete without the person she loves.

Since its release, “Lost Without You” has gained a lot of popularity and recognition, and numerous acapella groups and choirs have covered it.

Its raw emotions and simple structure make it a good fit for acapella performances, where singers can show off their vocal skills and get across the song’s raw emotions.

4. “Hello” by Adele

“Hello” was written by Adele and Greg Kurstin and features Adele’s powerful vocals and emotional lyrics.

The song is a ballad that showcases Adele’s vocal range and emotional depth.

It is a heartfelt reflection on lost love and the desire to reconnect with someone from the past.

The song’s lyrics are relatable and have resonated with many listeners who have experienced similar feelings of regret and longing.

5. “MMMbop” by Hanson

The title “MMmbop” is a reference to the ephemeral nature of life and relationships, with the word “MMmbop” representing the sound of something passing quickly.

The lyrics of the song are about the fleeting nature of relationships and how time can change everything.

The song’s catchy melody and upbeat tempo make it a fun and engaging choice for acapella groups.

6. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver

Take Me Home, Country Roads” is about the beauty of the West Virginia countryside and the longing of the narrator to return to the place where he belongs.

The lyrics describe the beauty of the countryside and the many things that the singer loves about their home, including the rivers, mountains, and even the moonlit nights.

Over the years, numerous artists have covered the song, making it an enduring classic that generations of music lovers continue to adore.

7. “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor

“Fire and Rain,” tells a deeply personal story of Taylor’s experiences, including his struggles with addiction, the suicide of a close friend, and his time spent in a mental institution.

The title of the song is a metaphor for the many problems Taylor has had to deal with in his life. 

“Fire” stands for his drug use, and “rain” stands for his sadness.

The song’s haunting melody and poignant lyrics have made it a timeless classic, with many people still singing along to its memorable chorus today.

8. “Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn

“Moon River” is a song composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics written by Johnny Mercer.

It was first sung by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” a romantic comedy from 1961 in which she played Holly Golightly.

The song won an Academy Award for Best Original Song that year.

Lots of acapella groups have covered the song and put their own spin on it, often incorporating vocal percussion, intricate harmonies, and creative arrangements to make the song their own.

9. “I Say A Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin had a special way of putting emotion and soul into her music, and “I Say A Little Prayer” is a great example of this.

Her version of the song is one of the most memorable and beloved versions of the classic tune.

The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and was originally released in 1967.

The lyrics tell the story of someone who is in love and is praying for their partner’s happiness and well-being.

10. “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” is a popular folk song written by John Denver in the 1960s and made famous by the group Peter, Paul, and Mary.

While the original version features acoustic guitars and simple harmonies, the song could be arranged and performed as a cappella piece.

The song’s lyrics tell the story of a person who is leaving their loved one and promises to return.

The simple and heartfelt lyrics combined with Travers’ emotive delivery have made “Leaving On A Jet Plane” a beloved song for generations.

The song’s melody is easy to sing along to and has become a staple of sing-alongs and campfires.

11. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a heartbreaking ballad written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and famously performed by Bonnie Raitt.

The song was first released in 1991 on Raitt’s album Luck of the Draw and has since become a beloved classic.

The song is a powerful expression of unrequited love and the pain of knowing that someone you care about does not feel the same way.

The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a relationship that is falling apart, despite the singer’s best efforts to hold it together.

12. “Rockabye” by Clean Bandit

“Rockabye” was released in 2016 as the lead single from Clean Bandit’s second studio album, What Is Love?

The song’s lyrics are about a single mother struggling to make ends meet.

The song’s music video tells the story of a mother and her child living in poverty

This could be the best option if you’re looking for a cappella song that hasn’t appeared on many stages.

13. “Imagine” by John Lennon

“Imagine” is a plea for world peace and features the lyrics, “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

Lennon said that his wife, Yoko Ono, was the major source of inspiration behind “Imagine.”

The song was an instant hit and has since become one of the most popular songs of all time.

“Imagine” has been covered by numerous acapella groups and has been included in many films and television shows.

14. “My Way” by Frank Sinatra

“My Way” is a song composed by Paul Anka and popularized by Frank Sinatra.

Many artists have covered this song over the years, but Sinatra’s version is generally thought to be the best.

The song is about a man looking back on his life and reflecting on all the choices he has made.

Sinatra sings about living life to the fullest and taking risks, even when they don’t always pan out.

The lyrics of “My Way” are empowering and motivational, and the song has become an anthem for anyone who wants to live their life on their terms.

15. “The Wedding Song” by Paul Stookey

“The Wedding Song” is a beautiful and timeless ballad that has been a popular choice for weddings for decades.

The song is simple yet emotional, and its lyrics capture the joy and excitement of a new life together.

The original song’s solo guitar accompaniment made it simple to convert to a cappella.

“The Wedding Song” is sure to fill your guests with happiness and love, and it will be a cherished memory of your special day for years to come.

16. “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin

The message of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is simple but powerful: don’t worry, be happy.

Despite the challenges life may throw our way, we can choose to be happy.

The song was released in 1988, during a time when many people were facing complex challenges.

The global economy was in recession, and there were increasing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.

In the midst of all this, Bobby McFerrin’s message of happiness and positive thinking was a welcome respite.

17. “Hero” by Mariah Carey

“Hero” was released on October 19, 1993, as the second single from Carey’s third studio album, Music Box.

“Hero” is a ballad that features lyrics about believing in oneself and searching for love.

The song has been praised for its lyrics and Carey’s vocal performance.

It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and topped the charts in Canada and New Zealand.

18. “True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper

“True Colors” has been covered by many artists, including Justin Timberlake, Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, and many acapella groups.

The song is about Lauper’s experience of coming out as gay.

It is widely considered to be one of the first mainstream pop songs to deal with the issue of homophobia.

The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Lauper the first female artist to have four top-ten singles from one album.

“True Colors” also received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

19. “I Want It That Way” by The Backstreet Boys

“I Want It That Way” has been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and has sold over two million copies in the United States.

The song is about a relationship that is not working out.

The singer wants to make things right, but the other person is not interested.

Despite the unhappy subject matter, the song is catchy, and its message is relatable to many people, which has prompted lots of acapella versions.

20. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was written by Paul Simon, and it quickly became a hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

The song is about offering support and comfort to someone who is going through a difficult time.

Despite its simple lyrics, the song has a deep and powerful message that has resonated with people for decades.

The song has been covered by many different artists over the years, including Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and John Legend, and it is still popular today.

21. “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen

“Hallelujah” features a haunting melody and poetic lyrics that touch on themes of love, faith, and redemption.

It begins with a reference to the biblical story of King David, who played the harp and sang songs of praise to God.

The chorus of the song repeats the word “hallelujah,” which is a Hebrew word meaning “praise the Lord.”

Throughout the song, Cohen explores the many different meanings and contexts in which the word can be used, from joyous celebrations to mournful laments.

“Hallelujah” became so popular after it was featured on the soundtrack of the movie “Shrek” in 2021.

Since then, it has been covered by lots of acapella bands.

22. “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan

The lyrics of “Slow Hands” talk about a woman who is confident and knows what she wants, and Horan sings about how he is drawn to her slow and steady approach.

The song was a commercial success, peaking at number 11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and reaching the top 10 in several other countries, including Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

The song also earned Horan a nomination for “Best Solo Pop Performance” at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.

23. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Judy Garland

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is a classic song written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg and famously performed by Judy Garland in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”

Over the years, numerous acapella groups and artists have covered the song, which has become an iconic piece of American music.

The song’s lyrics describe a place “somewhere over the rainbow” where troubles melt away and dream come true.

The melody is wistful and hopeful and has become synonymous with the idea of reaching for the impossible.

24. “Wade in the Water” by Fisk Jubilee Singers 

Over the years, many artists have performed and recorded “Wade in the Water,” a traditional African-American spiritual.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers made a version of the song that is one of the most well-known ones.

Their version of “Wade in the Water” is a haunting and powerful acapella rendition, featuring tight harmonies and a driving rhythm.

The song’s lyrics tell the story of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and escaping from slavery in Egypt.

The lyrics tell people to “wade in the water” as a way to get clean and start over.

25. “Imagine” by Pentatonix

“Imagine” is a classic song originally written and performed by John Lennon and has been covered by many artists over the years.

Pentatonix’s version of “Imagine” shows how well the group can blend and harmonize sounds, as well as how creative and unique it is.

The song’s message of peace and unity is especially powerful when it is performed as acapella music, which highlights the power of the human voice to bring people together and inspire them.

Pentatonix’s version of “Imagine” is often played at weddings, graduations, and other events where a message of hope and coming together is wanted.

26. “Nature Boy” by Nat King Cole

The lyrics of “Nature Boy” tell the story of a “strange enchanted boy” who wanders through life seeking wisdom and truth.

The boy is said to be in touch with nature and free from society’s rules.

 He represents a sense of freedom and authenticity that is hard to find in the modern world.

The acapella version of “Nature Boy” focuses on the vocal performance and the intricate interplay between the different voices.

The absence of instrumental backing allows the singers to showcase their technical skill and emotional depth and can create a sense of intimacy and vulnerability that is unique to the acapella medium.

27. “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Pentatonix

“I Just Called to Say I Love You” is a popular song originally written and performed by Stevie Wonder in 1984.

Pentatonix, an American acapella group, released its cover of the song in 2018.

The group’s rendition features their signature tight harmonies and impressive vocal percussion, showcasing their skills as a talented acapella group.

The arrangement starts with a soloist singing the first verse before the rest of the group joins in for the chorus.

The song’s upbeat tempo is maintained throughout, with each member of the group taking turns singing lead at different points in the song.

28. “Homeless” by Paul Simon

“Homeless” features the South African male vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo and is known for its acapella opening.

The song begins with Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s powerful vocal harmonies, which set the tone for the rest of the song.

Simon’s vocals come in after the opening, accompanied by guitar and percussion.

The song’s lyrics talk about the struggles of homelessness and poverty, and Simon’s emotional vocals show how much he cares about those who are going through these things.

The use of a cappella in the opening of the song gives it a haunting and ethereal quality while also highlighting the beauty of the group’s harmonies.

29. “Cups” by Anna Kendrick

“Cups” was released in 2012 as a part of the soundtrack for the movie “Pitch Perfect,” in which Kendrick played the lead role of Beca Mitchell.

The song is a cover of a folk song titled “When I’m Gone” by The Carter Family, and Kendrick’s version features a unique percussive arrangement that involves tapping and clapping.

The song’s lyrics speak about a woman’s desire to leave her past behind and start anew.

The percussive cup routine adds a unique and captivating element to the performance, making it stand out from other acapella arrangements.

30. “Teenage Dream” by Glee Cast

“Teenage Dream” is a song originally performed by American singer Katy Perry.

The song was covered by the Glee Cast for the TV show Glee and was featured in the show’s second season in 2010.

The song arrangement includes strong vocal harmonies, showcasing the cast’s impressive vocal abilities.

The song’s lyrics speak about the excitement and thrill of young love and the desire to hold on to those feelings.

The Glee cast’s rendition of the song captured the youthful energy and emotion of the lyrics, making it a standout performance on the show.

Acapella Songs – Final Thoughts

Acapella music has been a popular music genre for many years and has given us some of the most memorable and iconic songs of all time.

The top 30 acapella songs of all time were not only popular at the time, but are still appreciated by music fans today.

The absence of instruments in acapella music places a greater emphasis on vocal talent and creativity, making it a challenging yet rewarding genre for performers and listeners alike.

These songs are timeless and will continue to inspire generations to come, leaving a lasting impact on the world of music.

You may also like: Best Lip Sync Songs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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