Nothing will make moms everywhere cry more on Mother’s Day than a heartfelt, moving song dedicated just to her. But for those of us who aren’t musically gifted, the next best thing is writing our hearts out in a card and playing her a ballad that echoes your sentiment.
From Drake to Christina Aguilera, there are plenty of songs that’ll tug at her (and your!) heartstrings. We’ve rounded up 17 of the best songs that artists have lovingly dedicated to the women who raised them.
1. “Hey Mama” by Kanye West
West’s deeply personal song (from his second studio album Late Registration) describes his love and appreciation for his mother, Donda West, who raised him amid personal hardships. After her death in 2007, West performed the song as a tribute to his mom during several of his concerts.
“There’s nothing that she loved more than to come to the shows and scream louder than any fan, because she was my first fan that was screaming before anybody else, and my first manager,” he said at a 2007 show. “So I just wanna take this time out — I wanna dedicate this to my mother because the words, the lyrics to the song, it really connects to me and it really explains, and then it says exactly what she would want me to do — and that’s not stop believing.”
2. “Mama’s Song” by Carrie Underwood
Underwood features her real-life mom in the video for this track in which she thanks her mother for teaching her to do the right thing and assures her not to worry as she gets married and enters her next chapter.
“Carrie just came out with that first line, ‘Mama, you taught me to do the right things.’ And this was before she was engaged, obviously, but she was in a relationship. We knew where this was coming from,” songwriter Luke Laird told The Boot about writing the song with Underwood.
3. “Ring Off” by Beyoncé
This Beyoncé song pays tribute to her mother, Tina, and specifically her handling of her divorce from her now-former husband (and Beyoncé’s dad) Mathew.
“My biggest hero is and always will be my mother,” Beyoncé told Garage magazine in 2016. “She has taught me about caring for others, working hard and working smart. Everything I know about being a mother comes from the examples she has shown. My mother has instilled confidence in my sister and me and taught us to always be grateful.”
4. “The Best Day” by Taylor Swift
Swift’s emotional ode to her mom will leave you and your own mother feeling teary and appreciative.
“‘The Best Day’ is a song that I wrote without telling my mom,” Swift told Taste of Country in 2011. “I wrote it in the summertime, and I recorded it secretly, too. I had this idea that I wanted to play it for her for Christmas. So when I got the track I synced up all of these home videos from when I was a little kid to go along with the song like a music video, and played it for her on Christmas Eve and she was crying her eyes out.”
5. “Mom” by Meghan Trainor
Trainor’s sassy and upbeat tune, which was featured in the movie Mother’s Day, features an actual recording of her mother, Kelli Trainor.
“With that session, I wrote and produced the song with my little brother at home,” Trainor told Official Charts in 2016. “I then took it to this big producer called Johan Carlsson, who I love, and I asked him to beef it up. We re-wrote the verses and beefed up the production with real horns, because it’s a doo-wop-y song, but we didn’t have bridge for it. He suggested we call her up and record her on a big microphone, so I called her and said, ‘I really love you mum… tell me how much you love me!’, and we recorded her response and cut it up. I’ve played it to a few people, and they just break.”
6. “Mama” by The-Dream
In his debut album, Love Hate, The-Dream mourns his late mother in this melodic tribute song, “Mama.”
In the song, The-Dream sings: “I’ll let you know, I wanna let you know, mother, oh/I wanna let you know how I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout you/How I’ve been thinkin’ of you/Always thinkin’ of you.”
7. “The Perfect Fan” by Backstreet Boys
Throw it back to the ’90s with this BSB song in which the boy banders declare their love and appreciation for their moms.
Member Brian Littrell wrote the song about his mother, and — fun fact — it’s backed by his high school choir. “She bawled like a baby when she heard it,” he told Rolling Stone in 1999.
8. “Dear Mama” by Tupac Shakur
In this song, the late Shakur pays tribute to his mama, Afeni Shakur, who died in 2016.
“The emotional, the sad songs, were his personal favorites,” said Johnny “J,” one of Tupac Shakur’s producers.
9. “Oh Mother” by Christina Aguilera
Aguilera’s down-tempo piano and string ballad is an ode to her single mother and thanks her for being strong enough to leave her abusive ex-husband.
“I watched my mom have to be submissive, watch her Ps and Qs or she’s gonna get beat up,” she told Paper magazine in March. You can either be, unfortunately, so damaged by it that you take a turn for the worse, or you can feel empowered by it and make choices to never go down that route.”
10. “Look What You’ve Done” by Drake
Not every mommy tribute has to be a ballad, as Drake proves on this track in which he thanks his mother and the rest of his family for making him the man he is today.
The lyrics cut deep too: “You love me and I love you/And your heart hurts, mine does too/And it’s just words and they cut deep/But it’s our world, it’s just us two.”
11. “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton
Parton’s classic song, which has been turned into a children’s book and a film, tells the true story of a coat her mother sewed her that was made of rugs, but stitched with love.
“The song means so much to me personally because it is a true story from my childhood, about a little ragged coat that Mama made for me, and tried to make me feel proud of it by telling [me] the story of Joseph from the Bible,” Parton told the Tennessean in 2015. “The song is really, really special, and we’ve made it into a movie now, and hopefully through the years, people will be able to see that and connect with family. It kind of takes me back in time. That song will always be very special to me.”
12. “Mama” by The Spice Girls
The concept for this ’90s hit from the Spice Girls was initially conceived by Mel B, who was going through a rough patch with her mom at the time. The song discusses how moms are the best friends anyone has no matter how much you may disagree at times.
“We wrote ‘Mama’ when I was going through a bad phase with my mum,” she explained in the book Real Life: Real Spice The Official Story. “The sentiments are really that your mum’s probably the best friend that you’ve got. Whether she’s an over-protective mother or a bit of a landmine, she probably knows you better than yourself in some ways.”
13. “Turn to You” by Justin Bieber
Bieber released this song for his mom, Patricia Mallette, two days before Mother’s Day in 2012.
“[It’s] about the struggles, I say in the song,” Bieber told MTV at the time. “She had me at like the age I am now. [It’s about] just the struggles she went through and how brave she was, and I think the world needed to know that.”
14. “Like My Mother Does” by Lauren Alaina
Alaina performed this song on American Idol as her debut single in 2011. It expresses gratitude for all the things her mother taught her.
“I’ve got her spirit/She’s always got my back/When I look at her/I think, I want to be just like that,” she sings in the song.
15. “Till We Meet Again” by Typhoid Rosie
Just in time for Mother’s Day, Brooklyn-based indie pop-rock band Typhoid Rosie released a tribute to front-woman Rosie Rebel’s late mother.
“It’s the one that moves my soul,” singer Rebel told Livewell in 2016. “‘Till We Meet Again’ is kind of the goodbye that we didn’t have, and when I sing it, I close my eyes, and with all my soul, I sing that one for my mother.”
16. “A Song for Mama,” Boyz II Men
Finish the Mother’s Day-themed playlist with this beautifully harmonized ballad that pays tribute to the No. 1 woman in everyone’s lives: Mom.
You can’t help but belt out the lyrics: “Mama, Mama you know I love you/Mama, Mama you’re the queen of my heart/Your love is like tears from the stars/Mama I just want you to know lovin’ you is like food to my soul.”
17. “Mother Like Mine” by The Band Perry
Released back in 2013, family band The Band Perry wrote a song all about their mom.
“That was the most honest song we wrote for Pioneer,” Kimberly Perry said to Billboard. “We were relaxing, and going through some song ideas. Neil had this one line written on his phone, ‘If the world had a mother like mine.’ We are started to think about what the world would look like if our mother had raised it the way she raised us. The opening line of the chorus says, ‘The wars would all be over, because she’d raise us all as friends.’ Our mother is our personal hero. We are her labor of love. It’s our honor to our mother on Pioneer.”
Now listen to the entire playlist on Spotify:
A version of this article was originally published in May 2016.