The sea and ocean can be used as a metaphor for so many things. It can change from calm and soothing to dark and dangerous in the blink of an eye.
And that’s exactly what makes it a great subject to write a song about.
Are you looking for some songs to add to your playlist that make you feel like you’re at sea, enjoying the view and sounds of waves?
Or do you want to find songs that describe the chaos and fear that the ocean can bring?
Here are 30 fantastic songs with references to the sea and the ocean.
1. “Ocean Drive” By Duke Dumont
The British producer Duke Dumont released the song in 2015, and it’s been a big hit ever since.
“We see a storm is closing in
Pretending we ain’t scared.”
A song about reconsidering a relationship and questioning if it’s still working. The couple doesn’t have anything left to say and is just pretending to be happy together. The title might refer to the relationship as chaotic, unpredictable, or scary, which is often associated with the ocean.
2. “Seaside” By The Kooks
The Kooks, a British rock band, released this song in 2006 on their Inside In/Inside Out album.
“Do you want to go to the seaside?
I’m not trying to say that everybody wants to go.”
The song tells the story of two people meeting on holiday at the seaside and falling in love. When they leave, there’s a big distance between them, literally or mentally. The man asks to go back to the seaside to experience it again.
3. “Oceans Away” By Elton John
The song was released in 2013, so it’s one of Elton’s later releases.
“The ones that had to stay
Beneath a little wooden cross oceans away.”
There are different ways to interpret this beautiful song. However, my take is that Elton sings about the older generation that fought in the war and their memories. Some people ‘flew,’ and some ‘fell’ in the war. He mentions those that died and were left ‘oceans away.’
4. “Riptide” By Vance Joy
Riptide was released in 2016, and the song caused a significant rise in Vance Joy’s popularity.
“Lady, running down to the riptide
Taken away to the dark side.”
From the POV of the guy in the song, his girlfriend is absolutely beautiful, and his friends are jealous. She’s amazing, but at some point, her life turns out for the worst. Something is bringing her down, and she’s actively seeking that destructive element in her life.
5. “Life’s an Ocean” By The Verve
Released in ‘95 by the British band formed in ‘90, right before splitting up for the second time in ‘99.
“Life’s an ocean
Too much commotion, too much emotion.”
The band sings about depression and living day by day. Life is overwhelming, chaotic, and painful. There’s too much emotion, but at the same time, they are numb to it.
6. “Ocean of Noise” By Arcade Fire
Ocean of Noise was released in 2007 by the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire.
“Into an ocean of violence
A world of empty streets.”
This beautiful Arcade fire song is about a very toxic relationship. At first, they were mesmerized by this person. They stood out in a crowd but turned out to be the wrong person for the guy. He decides to leave after staying with the person for too long.
7. “Ocean” By Elsa & Emilie
Emilie Haaland Austrheim and Elsie Bay are a duo from Norway that has been active since 2014.
“I had a lot of love for the docks, for the ocean
And I had a lot of love for the beach where I believed in something.”
The duo sings about a relationship that fails. Her self-esteem has suffered from the relationship, and she’s trying to get back on her feet. She was full of life and loved the ocean, the beach, and traveling.
8. “Ocean Eyes” By Billie Eilish
Billie released this beautiful song in 2016, and it’s still one of the most popular tracks released by the pop star.
“You really know how to make me cry
When you gimme those ocean eyes.”
The song is about a toxic relationship. She is hurt by her partner. He makes her cry. However, she is blinded by his eyes. ‘Ocean eyes’ might refer to the partner having eyes that are ocean blue or just eyes so beautiful that she drowns in them.
9. “Surfin’ U.S.A.” By The Beach Boys & Brian Wilson
This pop song was released in 1963 by the American group formed in ‘61.
“Everybody’s gone surfin’
It’s the first song on this list that doesn’t really have a deeper meaning. The Beach Boys sing about everyone in the United States going surfing if they had an ocean near them. Very straightforward lyrics and just an amusing summer song to vibe to.
Read Next: Songs About the Beach
10. “Only the Ocean” By Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson, the American singer-songwriter, released Only the Ocean in 2010.
“When this world’s too much
It will be
Only the ocean and me.”
The song appears to be about someone who finds refuge in the ocean. It’s an escape from the pressure of life. He sings about how the ocean doesn’t expect anything from him, it just is.
11. “Rock the Boat” By Hues Corporation
The song was released in ‘74 by the American trio formed in ‘69.
“Your touch has thrilled me like the rush of the wind
And your arms have held me safe from a rolling sea.”
A beautiful song, seemingly about an amazing relationship. However, the trio sings about how to partner is rocking the relationship. Maybe they are doing and saying things that cause chaos and uncertainty in an otherwise steady relationship. Like a boat on the ocean.
12. “Ship Out On the Sea” By The Be Good Tanyas
Ship Out On the Sea was released by the Canadian group in 2003. They have been active as musicians since 1999.
“I’m a ship, I’m a ship, I’m a ship
out on the sea.”
The song is a bit chaotic and completely up to interpretation. It could be about life and how we’re just going along with the stream, going through the many ups and downs.
13. “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” By Otis Redding
Otis Redding was an American Soul-singer who wrote the song right before passing away in ‘67 at the age of 26.
“I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh.”
Otis sings about sitting on the dock just watching the water and letting time go by because there’s nothing else happening for him. His life is stagnant, and he’s just watching.
14. “Wish You Were Here” By Incubus
The American metal/rock band Incubus released the song in 2002. The group has been active since ‘91 and is still around to this day.
“The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn across a blue blanket.”
The band sings about thinking about someone when spending time near the ocean. They are trying to enjoy the view, but all they think about is how much they miss this other person.
15. “Oceans” By Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam is a very popular American rock band, active since ‘90. They released the song ‘Oceans’ in ‘91, so it’s one of their first songs.
“The oceans away
Waves roll in my thoughts.”
This is a love song. It’s about being crazy about someone and wanting to be near them and touch them.
16. “Down to the Waterline” By Dire Straits
The iconic band released “Down to the Waterline” in 1978. It’s an upbeat song written by the lead singer and guitarist.
“She can still hear him whisper
Let’s go down to the waterline.”
You can interpret the song in any way you want, but it seems to tell the story of a secretive young couple walking along the coastline with nothing but each other by their side and the girl looking back at that time of her life.
17. “Down by the Water” By Ocie Elliott
Ocie Elliott is a band, a duo, to be more exact. They are from Canada and released the song ‘Down by the Water’ in 2017.
“And we’re out, down by the water, singing our songs
My darling, the loving sun’s going down.”
A beautiful love song about being near the water, drinking, singing, and having fun. Cars are passing by in the background. They are out all night together, having the time of their lives.
18. “Nightswimming” By R.E.M.
R.E.M is another American rock band, formed in ‘80 and inactive since 2011.
“Nightswimming deserves a quiet night
I’m not sure all these people understand.”
This song is about enjoying the night and the water and reminiscing about life. It’s something they used to do, sneaking off to go night swimming. This person feels like they deserve some peace and quiet.
19. “Tidal Wave” By Old Sea Brigade
Tidal Wave was released in 2017 by the American singer-songwriter. Ben Cramer started out as a musician in 2015 and has been active ever since.
“Don’t wait up it’ll be okay
Though it’s coming at me like a tidal wave.”
The song is completely up for interpretation, but it appears to be about a stagnant relationship. They aren’t moving forward and can’t find comfort in one another.
20. “An Ocean in Between the Waves” By The War on Drugs
The American indie rock band was formed in 2005. They released the song ‘An Ocean in Between the Waves’ in 2014.
“And I can barely see you
You’re like an ocean in between the waves.”
The meaning of this song is a bit harder to grasp because it’s not completely clear what it’s about. They seem to think about someone every time the night falls, but it’s hard to imagine them clearly.
21. “Wellerman (Sea Shanty 220 KID x Billen Ted Remix)” By Nathan Evans
This remix by 220 KID, released in 2021, is amazing, but so is the cover of the sea shanty by Nathan Evans, which was also released in 2021.
“There once was a ship that put to sea
The name of the ship was the Billy of Tea.”
The original song, so not the cover by Nathan Evans, is a sea shanty or sea ballad from New Zealand about a ship.
22. “Seaside” By Ozark Henry
Ozark Henry, aka Piet Goddaer, is a Belgian singer-songwriter. The song ‘Seaside’ from his album ‘Birthmarks’, was released in 2001.
“This seaside is our home, babe
A shelter from a world.”
Piet sings about a couple finding shelter at the seaside. It’s the one place they can always go back to hide from the world and take comfort in each other.
23. “Tenerife Sea” By Ed Sheeran
The iconic British singer-songwriter released this song in 2014.
“The way it brings out the blue in your eyes
Is the Tenerife sea.”
It’s a love song that tells the story of someone admiring their girlfriend’s beauty. It’s basically a love letter to their partner. Tenerife is a Spanish island with beautiful views all around.
24. “The Ocean (feat. Shy Martin)” By Mike Perry
Mike Perry is a DJ from Sweden who’s been active since 2006 and still is. This deep house song was released in 2017.
“I can never get enough
Diving deep into the ocean.”
Finding someone we can fully trust and rely on is something most of us have probably experienced. The song is about having someone you feel completely comfortable with, someone who is your safe place.
25. “Cake by the Ocean” By DNCE
The song from the American band DNCE, with their main singer Joe Jonas, was a big hit after its release in 2015.
“I keep on hopin’ we’ll eat cake by the ocean.”
Eating cake by the ocean is a way to subtly talk about having sex by the ocean. The song is incredibly fun and uplifting, a perfect summer hit.
26. “South of the Border” By Ed Sheeran, Camilla Cabello & Cardi B
The iconic artists collaborated on this hit song in 2019. It’s sung in English and Spanish and is the perfect summer song.
“Jump in that water, be free
Come south of the border with me.”
A song about going to South America from the United States to get away with a romantic partner. They sing about jumping in the water to be free, meaning they’d have to cross the Gulf of Mexico, a part of the Atlantic Ocean.
27. “Oceans” By Coldplay
Coldplay is a British band formed in ‘96. They released the song ‘Oceans’ in 2014.
“And I’m ready for it all, love
I’m ready for the change.”
They sing about someone who’s in a dark place in their life. The person undergoes life and just lets everything happen to them. It could even hint at someone not wanting to be here and moving on to better places.
28. “The Sea” By HAEVN
HAEVN is a Dutch duo that formed their group in 2015, and they have been active ever since. HAEVN released ‘The Sea’ in 2018.
“Don’t follow the change of the tides
Hold steady, hold steady.”
This is another song in which life is an ocean; we’re just floating on it to get to where we want to go. However, they tell you not to simply go with the water flow because it won’t get you where you need to be. It will only hold you back.
29. “Beyond the Sea” By Bobby Darin
‘Beyond the Sea’ was released in ‘59 by the American singer-songwriter Bobby Darin, who has a spot in The Hall of Fame. The original version is actually a French song called ‘La Mer’.
“Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waitin’ for me.”
Bobby sings about two people who have been separated and want to see each other again. The sea is in between them.
30. “The Wave” By R3HAB & Lia Marie Johnson
Lia Marie Johnson is an American singer and actress that became well-known after being a recurring guest on Kids React. R3HAB, aka Fadil El Ghoul, is a Dutch DJ. They released the song in 2018.
“I’m waiting at the shore with my arms wide open
Wind blowing in my hair, let the sea salt soak in.”
It’s a rather romantic song with continuous sexual innuendos.
The ocean is a sanctuary for many people, a getaway from stress and responsibilities.
The waves’ sound and the sea’s smell can be incredibly relaxing. For other people, the ocean is chaotic, lonely, and scary.
Whatever feelings you get when you think about the sea and ocean are depicted in many songs, some of which you might have discovered in this list.