For many people, January is a time to start over. We don’t make New Year’s Resolutions in August for a reason, right?
By the same token, many of the best songs about January address love and loss since we all have a feeling of starting over whenever things end. Here are our top songs with January in the title.
1. “January Friend” by Goo Goo Dolls
Song Year: 1998
The Goo Goo Dolls were the poster band for post-punk pop, and they show what they’re made of with “January Friend.” Dizzy Up the Girl dropped in ‘98 at the height of the band’s fame, and while “January Friend” wasn’t released as a single, it’s still a big deal for fans.
The titular January friend is a woman who seems to consider the narrator little more than a booty call. This song isn’t about the month, but instead about those times (few and far between) when she wishes he would come around.
2. “January Hymn” by the Decemberists
Song Year: 2011
“January Hymn” is a folk-inspired song about looking back on loss. The narrator anticipates the anniversary of when things went south with his lost love, and he reminisces about how good things were as recently as last January.
The Decemberists’ frontman Colin Meloy sounds like his heart is broken on this one, but you hear resignation in his voice as opposed to the raw pain of a recent breakup. It’s a subtle nuance, but it serves the song well.
3. “January” by Pilot
Song Year: 1975
You most likely know Pilot from the band’s 1975 hit “Magic,” a song now associated with a commercial for diabetes medication.
But that same year, Pilot released “Janaury,” a disco-tinged story about a girl named January. The song is bouncy and happy-sounding, for the most part, even though Januaray walks away from the narrator despite his pleas for her not to be cold to him.
4. “January” by Elton John
Song Year: 1997
Another song simply titled “January” made up part of On 1997’s The Big Picture. Like so many songs, this one is about a relationship. “January” looks back at this one month by month.
The song and its parent album are part of the long partnership between Sir Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin, which has lasted more than 50 years. The song isn’t about their work together, but it’s a long-term commitment like the one in “Janaury.”
5. “Black-Dove (January)” by Tori Amos
Song Year: 1988
“Black-Dove (January)” doesn’t have much of a narrative flow to it. If you spend time trying to find a protagonist and antagonist in the lyrics, good luck to you. But that’s not a dig.
Tori Amos herself spoke about the song, saying that it came from a dream she had in which a black dove played an integral part. She wanted to convey more of a mood and feeling than tell a story with the song, and she succeeds pretty well.
6. “January Song” by Billy Bragg
Song Year: 2013
While “January Song” never mentions the month by name, it draws on the rebirth and the new start that the month represents and brings to us every year.
Bragg’s voice, somewhat gravelly and sounding like he’s seen a lot in his life, lays over a swinging acoustic guitar line that’s simple but catchy. It’s a short song, but in it, Bragg mentions how stressful life can be, and how, sometimes, getting a chance to start over can be a blessed thing.
7. “January 28th” by J. Cole
Song Year: 2014
Other than the title and the event that happened on that day, “January 28th” isn’t about the month, but rather all that happened after one specific January 28th.
That’s J. Cole’s birthday, and the song ends up a look at the life he’s lived, the things he’s encountered in it, and the pain and injustice the world has inflicted on him and all of us since birth.
There’s a certain I-never-asked-to-be-born vibe to it. That said, it doesn’t find Cole wallowing in self-pity.
8. “January, April and Me” by Roy Clark
Song Year: 1970
Not every song with January in the title is about the month. “January, April and Me” tells of a father and his two daughters, January and April, as they pack up and walk away from their wife and mother.
It’s a far cry from “Hee Haw” and the feel-good rockabilly and country music Clark picked so much of in his storied career, as it’s a song of heartbreak. He’s leaving his wife, and the title refers to the three people she must say goodbye to.
The lyrics imply that mom has just had enough of this life, and they paint a picture of a very sad drive away from her.
9. “January Gloom (Seasons, Pt. 1)” by All Time Low
Song Year: 2020
“January Gloom (Seasons, Pt. 1)” addresses Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a real mental health condition that afflicts many people during winter. Songs about mental difficulties are hardly uncommon.
The song had extra resonance because it came out in 2020, seemingly just minutes before the world had to lock down and subject itself to isolation and loneliness in the face of a global health crisis.
Even people without SAD knew some gloom that following January.
10. “January Man” by Christy Moore
Song Year: 1975
Irish folk singer Christy Moore is one of those musicians that not everyone knows, but those who do love him and his music desperately. “January Man” is a cover of a similar artist, Dave Goulder, a British singer-songwriter with deep folk roots.
The song goes through the life of a working man, month by month, with the weather warming and cooling again, each change affecting him differently.
The lyrics also outline a man’s life as an adult. As he approaches December, he’s approaching the end. The song isn’t quite as sad as that description makes it sound.
11. “Fire in the Belly” by Van Morrison and Steve Winwood
Song Year: 1997
A late addition to the Van Morrison canon, “Fire in the Belly” dropped in 1997 as part of Morrison’s The Healing Game album.
January represents the cold season and new beginning we all face in the wake of a relationship that has ended, especially when the other person did the ending. The narrator just hopes to make it through cold January, and then things will improve. That’s true about actual and metaphorical January.
12. “You in January” by The Wonder Years
Song Year: 2015
“You in January” is another in a long line of songs about January that are also about the loss of a great love.
The Pennsylvania-based band, fronted by Dan “Soupy” Campbell, crashes through this song as the lyrics tick off all the places they visited together, and as great as they all were, they now haunt the narrator.
His favorite memory is seeing his love in the pale January light one afternoon.
13. “June in January” by Bing Crosby
Song Year: 1934
The movie industry is littered with films whose plots have been reworked for new audiences. Disney turned Hamlet into The Lion King, minus the adultery. George Lucas took Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, added lightsabers, and came up with Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Such was the case with Here Is My Heart, a 1934 film adaptation of The Prince and the Pauper. It’s got Bing Crosby in it, and Kitty Carlisle, but it’s not very good.
What was good about it was “June in January,” sung by Crosby, a song that took our collective thoughts about June— brides, love, the leisure of summer— and used them to evoke a man’s love for a woman. It went to number one and has since become a standard.
14. “The Month of January” by June Tabor
Song Year: 1983
British folk singer June Tabor took “The Month of January,” a traditional folk song, and sang it almost entirely a capella, though a mournful cello enters on the last verse to punctuate her sorrow.
Sorrow? Yes. The song is about a woman left holding a baby. She got pregnant out of wedlock, and her father, in a fit of rage and embarrassment, bribed the baby’s father to disappear.
One cold January day, the song’s narrator meets this young woman, who then tells her the sad story of loss and longing.
15. “January February” by Barbara Dickson
Song Year: 1980
Before the 1980 release of “January February,” Barbara Dickson was a well-known Scottish folk singer. The song, with its electric guitar and bass and even a little synthesizer, represented a new direction for her career, and the deviation paid off. “January February” was a global top-twenty hit.
The song is about the narrator’s love interest who keeps deciding to leave and then changing his mind. It’s a jaunty, happy-sounding song, but there is real frustration and fear in the lyrics.
16. “Miss January” by The Procussions feat. Talib Kweli
Song Year: 2006
The Procussions and master rapper Talib Kweli weave rhymes about Miss January, who was presumably not a calendar girl of Playboy bunny, but rather the First Love, hence associating her with the first month. The narrator tells about other loves he had, but he keeps coming back to Miss January.
He had to leave her for reasons he doesn’t state, but he values the things he learned during their time together.
Adding Kweli to the mix may not have been a calculated attempt to get The Procussions’ music out to more ears, but collaborations like this one often do just that.
17. “Jan2Jan” by Rod Wave
Song Year: 2018
“Jan2Jan” is an ode to the narrator’s friends and loved ones doing time in prison. But it’s also a song about guilt.
Rod Wave raps about how, from month to month, he’s out in the world doing his thing, and during those same months, some of his running buddies are in prison, where every day is the same as every other day as time ticks away.
He refers to some of the actions that might have put him behind bars with them, but due to fate and the vagaries of the justice system, he’s out in the world. He doesn’t want to join his friend in prison, but he does feel some guilt that he’s free and they’re not.
18. “January Stars” by Sting
Song Year: 1993
As a bonus track Sting recorded with the material from 1993’s Ten Summoner’s Tales, “January Stars” is one of those songs that not many people heard, but that doesn’t make it lesser-than.
It’s a tongue-in-cheek trolling of astrology, with the narrator questioning how, exactly, the location of unfathomably large balls of flaming hydrogen and helium trillions of miles away could have any effect on his life.
It’s also the same music that backs another bonus track, “Everybody Laughed But You.” Same chords, and the same backing musician tracks, but a different melody and lyrics.
19. “January 19th” by LucianoTheLegend feat. T.Evin$
Song Year: 2022
There aren’t many more final ways to say that it’s over than the phrase “the flame is gone,” and that’s one of the key moments in “January 19th.” The song recounts the anniversary of a breakup.
When you’re still hurting a year after a split from a significant other, you know the relationship meant something to you. LucianoTheLegend commemorates the day by reflecting on the good times and how badly he has been hurting since that cold day.
20. “January’s Child” by The Alice Band
Song Year: 2002
The Alice Band was a short-lived trio (just one album) consisting of two Irish women and another from Florida.
“January’s Child” paints a vivid picture of how difficult January can be, referring obliquely to the unhoused in an unnamed city and how they struggle to survive the brutal cold nights.
For the narrator, she’s saved from her own (though metaphorical) cold nights by January’s child, the man who came in and warmed her heart and bed.
21. “January Rain” by Hunters & Collectors
Song Year: 1986
This melancholy song is the best to round up our list of songs with January in the title. Hunters & Collectors are an Australian band who first came on the scene as a rock band in the early 1980s.
“January Rain” works both as a love song and as a commentary on the banality of everyday life. The narrator feels lost in a world where everything passes them by.
The lesson of the song is that you can never take too many precautions against the world when the January rain is falling and all is not well.
Top Songs About January, Final Thoughts
Songs about January are often sad ones, but Sir Elton John sang effectively about how sad songs can say so much, and he was right. Whether you love the cold or long to escape it, January is a month related to starting over. The best songs about January can get you started on that.