Top 20 Greatest Comeback Songs Ever



Top 20 Greatest Comeback Songs Ever

These comebacks were epic! For this list, we'll be looking at musical revivals from artists who had hit a dry spell, either due to commercial failure, personal struggles, or a self-imposed hiatus. Our countdown includes Mariah Carey, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Britney Spears, Green Day, and more!

Top 20 Comeback Songs

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Comeback Songs.

For this list, we’ll be looking at musical revivals from artists who had hit a dry spell, either due to commercial failure, personal struggles, or a self-imposed hiatus.

Be sure to leave a comment if you think we missed any other memorable returns to music.

#20: “If I Could Turn Back Time” (1989)

For over 25 years, Cher had been in the public eye, and naturally her career had seen many ups and downs. By the early ‘80s, her career reached a stopping point, which paved the way for a successful run as an actress. And then POOF – 1989 brought fishnets, a new album and the powerhouse single called “If I Could Turn Back Time.” Although the catchy tune never reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it became a staple of pop culture over the years and even earned Cher a cameo on “Will and Grace.” Of course, she had another comeback hit almost a decade later with “Believe.” The comeback queen.

#19: “Walk This Way” (1986)

Aerosmith feat. Run-DMC

Unlike the other entries on this list, this song not only served as a comeback single for Aerosmith, but it also helped them break into the mainstream a decade earlier. Originally released in 1975, it first peaked at number ten in the US, but it would take eleven years and a fiery collaboration with hip-hop stars Run-DMC for this track to become an international hit. This new take on the old rocker revitalized Aerosmith’s career, after years of drug-related problems and a steady commercial decline. It merged Aerosmith’s blues-based hard rock with Run-DMC’s hard-hitting rap, reintroducing them to younger listeners and securing for their next album ten times more sales than their previous one. Now that’s how you do a comeback!

#18: “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (1993)

Meat Loaf feat. Lorraine Crosby
Once an understudy of John Belushi on Broadway, Marvin Lee Aday aka Meat Loaf released one of rock’s classic albums in 1977 with Bat Out of Hell. Sixteen years later, the singer wasn’t exactly a hot commodity of the music industry, but one monster ballad from Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell changed everything. With a classic video and constant airplay, “I’d Do Anything For Love” reached #1 in 28 countries, including England where it became the longest song since The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” to top the charts. Not a bad comeback.

#17: “Not Ready to Make Nice” (2006)

The Chicks

With two Diamond-certified albums released in the ‘90s, The Chicks rode into the new millennium on a sky-high tide, but when band member Natalie Maines made some critical comments in 2003 about George W. Bush, they were totally blacklisted by country radio and many fans. Fast forward three years later, the country-pop stars made a resounding comeback with this song, directly addressing the controversy and doubling down on their stance. Although the track was still largely ignored by country radio, it peaked at number four on the Hot 100, won the Grammys for Song and Record of the Year, and eventually sold more than two million copies in the US.

#16: “We Belong Together” (2005)

Mariah Carey
If you’re familiar with the 2001 film “Glitter,” then it won’t come as a surprise to understand why Mariah Carey’s career took a dip in the years after the film’s release. Her 2002 album Charmbracelet bombed with a capital B, but the diva recomposed herself and delivered a smash hit in 2005 with “We Belong Together.” The slow jam about lost love became the second longest number one song EVER and put a cap on the lost time known as “The Glitter Era.”

#15: “Ordinary World” (1992)

Duran Duran

Bursting onto the scene as a part of the so-called Second British Invasion of the early ‘80s, this synth-pop band was thrust into the mainstream primarily through a dominance of their innovative music videos on MTV. However, as the ‘90s rolled around, so did other exciting genres, and Duran Duran’s popularity waned, that is until this warm rock ballad was released. Initially leaked by their record label to a radio station, the track was instantly liked by listeners and released ahead of time, eventually peaking at number three and six in the US and UK respectively, and winning an Ivor Novello award for songwriting. Sometimes it takes an ordinary song to give you that extraordinary boost.

#14: “Get Lucky” (2013)

Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers
Eight years after releasing the album Human After All, Daft Punk enlisted Pharrell Williams and Niles Rodgers for one of the most successful songs of all-time. “Get Lucky” was the standout track off the Grammy Award-winning album Random Access Memories and reached the Top 10 in 32 countries. Almost immediately, “Get Lucky” became a classic cover song and source for hilarious parodies, but the track’s funky groove never gets old. To cap off Daft Punk’s phenomenal comeback, the Russian Interior Ministry Choir performed “Get Lucky” at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

#13: “Frozen” (1998)


The queen of reinvention herself. Though she would later go on to fill dance clubs around the world with “Hung Up,” it was this 1998 electronica smash hit that reminded the world why Madonna is a force to be reckoned with. After taking a break from music to birth her daughter and star in the film adaptation of “Evita,” Madge infused her newly found spirituality into her music, delivering this stunning operatic ballad about a cold and emotionless lover. It gave the Queen of Pop her first UK number-one single in eight years and peaked at number two in the US. It may have been a new musical direction for the pop star, but this was Madonna at her truest self.

#12: “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” (2013)

Fall Out Boy

These pop-rock superstars were a staple in the emo movement of the 2000s, churning out two platinum albums and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. However, in 2009, the band decided to go on a much-needed break to decompress after their fourth record, making a sudden return with this track four years later. Recorded in relative secrecy, Fall Out Boy swapped their signature emo-pop for a darker, more radio-friendly sound in hopes of reinventing their image from scratch. Whether this was successful or not is up for debate, but this song dominated alternative radio, spending twelve consecutive weeks in the Top 20 of the Hot 100 and becoming the go-to anthem at several sporting events.

#11: “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (2001)

Kylie Minogue
As a former Australian soap star turned chart-topping performer, Kyle Minogue knows how to make an entrance. But what happens when the door slams shut? By the late ‘90s, Minogue’s musical productions became “commercially challenged.” However she managed to reinvent herself, Madonna-style, and released a highly-addictive single called “Can’t Get You Outta My Head.” With an eye-popping music video and unforgettable chorus, Kyle Minogue’s comeback resulted in one of the best-selling singles of all-time. It’s all in the title.

#10: “Suspicious Minds” (1969)

Elvis Presley

Following massive success and two years of military service, Elvis transitioned to movies and soundtrack albums in the early to mid-60s. This period resulted in a steady decline in commercial returns and a personal dissatisfaction by the King with his music. All that changed when he took the original version of this song, written and first recorded by songwriter Mark James, and put his signature spin on it, elevating it from relative obscurity to a huge hit. Detailing a yearn for an ex-lover, this groovy rock-and-roll track hit number one in the US, his first in seven years, and revived his success on the Billboard charts. A testament to Elvis’ Midas touch, it remains one of his signature songs to date.

#9: “Womanizer” (2008)

Britney Spears

If there ever was anyone who needed a comeback following a turbulent period, it was Britney after the events of 2007 and early 2008. From shaving her head to losing custody of her children, to being hospitalized, then getting placed under a conservatorship, the Princess of Pop had quite the rough year or so. She was somehow able to put all of that aside to deliver this global smash hit. Topping the charts in the US and several other countries, “Womanizer” was her first number-one single in nearly a decade and showed a more fun and hashtag-free Britney. The critically acclaimed track went on to secure a Grammy nomination in 2010, her first nomination in five years.

#8: “Thunderstruck” (1990)


Formed in 1973, Australian rock band AC/DC melted faces for years until the untimely death of lead singer Bon Scott in 1980. Even then, the musicians continued on with replacement, Brian Johnson, immediately releasing the earth-shattering “Back in Black” but had slight commercial difficulty through the decade. But AC/DC once again shocked the world in 1990 with a thrashing new album and energetic single called “Thunderstruck.” The opening riffs are now unmistakable and have inspired some of the best guitar performances the world has ever seen. Behold the power of Angus Young.

#7: “Still D.R.E.” (1999)

Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
Aww, yeeeah. This Compton-born rapper released one of the definitive west coast rap albums with 1992’s “The Chronic,” but left everybody without a dope beat to step to for years after. But just before the dawn of a new millennium, Dr. Dre teamed up with his old pal Snoop Dogg and released “Still D.R.E.” – the lead single of his sophomore effort. Truly a pop-culture event, Dre took us on a ride with a relentless beat and reintroduced himself as one of the surviving kings of hip-hop. It’s still D-R-E.

#6: “American Idiot” (2004)

Green Day

Riding on a high of three multi-platinum albums in the ‘90s, these punk rockstars released their fourth studio album, “Warning,” to disappointing sales and a mixed reception. They, however, made a brash return to the music scene four years later with this protest song about misinformation and media propaganda. The song reintroduced Green Day to the younger generation and was instrumental in the number one debut of its parent album of the same title on the Billboard 200 - their first career number one album. American Idiot received four Grammy nominations and remains one of the most popular political songs to date.

#5: “Maria” (1999)


In 1982, new wave hitmakers, Blondie, decided to call it quits after their sixth album underperformed. Around the same time, guitarist Chris Stein was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. Over the next fifteen years, some of the band members, including frontwoman Debbie Harry, would go on to establish solo careers to little success. After reforming in 1997, Blondie released this poppy rock song as their first material in seventeen years. Written by keyboardist Jimmy Destri about his teenage desires, this track debuted at number one in the UK, giving them their first chart-topper in nineteen years, and reached the top twenty in several other countries. With Maria, Blondie returned to the charts looking, feeling, and sounding better than ever.

#4: “Smooth” (1999)

Santana feat. Rob Thomas
In 1992, Santana’s album Milagro peaked at 102 on the charts, but seven years later, they reached #1 with this scorching collaboration with Matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas. Released one week into summer, the opening lyrics set the stage for a complete conquest of radio airplay. “Smooth” ultimately spent 12 weeks at number one and gave Carlos Santana his biggest hit since “Black Magic Woman.” While many rock legends his age disappeared years prior, the supernatural shaman continued to shine in smooth fashion.

#3: “Tears in Heaven” (1992)

Eric Clapton
As one of the most brilliant guitarists of all-time, Eric Clapton enjoyed tremendous success early in his career but fell on hard times during the mid-80s. After releasing the well-received 1989 album Journeyman, the musician had to cope with the tragic death of his young son. As a result, Clapton composed the heart-breaking “Tears in Heaven,” which allowed him to confront his pain in the best way he knew how. The song won three Grammy Awards, but Clapton later decided to close out a dark chapter in his life and removed “Tears in Heaven” from live performance setlists.

#2: “Hurt” (2003)

Johnny Cash
Well, you probably didn’t see this one coming - in the early 2000s, that is. After an almost 50 years in the music industry, Johnny Cash shocked the world by covering Nine Inch Nails’ 1995 single “Hurt.” With arguably one of the most powerful music videos of all time, Johnny Cash offered a stripped-down approach as clips of his extraordinary career accompanied the track. Just months after filming, both Johnny Cash and his wife would pass away, but this unforgettable comeback song reminded listeners of all they accomplished over the years.

#1: “What’s Love Got to Do with It” (1984)

Tina Turner

The King may have already made an appearance, but no comeback list is complete without the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll herself! After leaving a rocky marriage plagued by years of pain, Tina Turner worked tirelessly to get her career back on track, but struggled to achieve much success as a solo artist. With the release of this synth-driven pop track in 1984, she shot back into the spotlight, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and winning three Grammys, including Song and Record of the Year. At the age of 44, it made Turner the oldest female solo artist at the time to land a number-one single in the US. Sorry LL Cool J, but you can definitely call this a comeback.