Adventures in Thrifting Pop Songs That Uplift Your Spirits Laura Owen

During a particularly brutal stretch of a hike this past Saturday, I started singing Whitney Houston’s ‘Queen of the Night’ partially in my head and partially out loud (much to the delight of my hike companions, I’m sure). Hearing about her untimely passing that same night was a particular shock, as I’d just evoked the Kick Ass Spirit of Whitney that same day to help me along.

So I’ve been thinking about those Songs That Really Get You Going. You know, those songs that you sing when you’re stressed out on mile five of an uphill climb. Songs you sing, fingers clutched on either side of the steering wheel, when you’re alone in your car and need a little pick-me-up before you get where you’re going.

As a teacher, I also play music before class gets started or when my students are finishing up some in-class work. Such an atmosphere is an iron-clad test of whether a song really uplifts the spirits or not. You can tell almost immediately if the mood in the class is lightened by the song or if the students are like “What is this?”

So here’s a list of songs I’ve found are pretty solid kick-butt, rev you up, sing-loudly-in-your-car, dance-in-your-seat, get-you-to-the-place-you-need-to-go type jams.

  • As aforementioned, Whitney Houston, ‘Queen of the Night’.
  • If we’re going to go with pop divas, Mariah Carey’s ‘Shake it Off’ also qualifies. A little more mid-tempo, but it works.
  • And if we’re thematically talking about “shaking”, lately Florence + The Machine’s ‘Shake it Out’ has been on repeat in the car.
  • Because of alphabetical song order, Elvis’ ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll’ plays almost immediately afterwards, and clearly qualifies as well.
  • I have to confess I never got the whole Kelly Clarkson thing; I love a good, “f you!” song as much as the next girl, but ‘Since U Been Gone’ never did anything for me. However, the latest jam, ‘Stronger’? That’s a definite “turn up the radio and scream along/now I feel better that I have to go to work” kind of tune.
  • I have a soft spot a mile wide for Britney Spears, and ‘Piece of Me’ never fails to make me my day feel a little more hot-mess-y (in a good way).
  • It may seem an odd entry, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Hysteric’ is also a great jam when you need a boost. I tend to listen to it on repeat when I’m stressed out and have a pressing deadline. The chorus “Hysteric…hysteric…hysteriCAL!” feels both appropriate and strangely calming at such moments.
  • And to give the male vocalists their due, AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ is a miracle worker, as is ‘Thunderstruck’ (they play that tune during speed skating at the Adult Night at my local roller skating rink–it’s the kind of song that makes you want to roller skate very, very, very fast).
  • It’s a classic for a reason, so Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ has to make the list.
  • As does Loverboy’s ‘Working for the Weekend’.
  • Someone put this song on a mix CD for me, and it is magical: Lyrics Born ‘I Like It, I Love It’. I defy you to listen to this song and not a) dance and/or b) smile.

What songs give you a burst of energy when you really need it?

Image from Karaoke Lounge

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  1. I created a youtube playlist of the songs both in the post and the comments– b/c I’m wacky! Enjoy

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEA8A6A9E4063BE22

  2. You Make My Dreams by Hall & Oates, it makes me want to hoover the house while dancing about like a madwoman, in fact, that’s the plan for tomorrow.

  3. Pyromania by Cascada! I always do little 30 second dance parties to it!

  4. We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel!

  5. Katy Perry’s Firework always gets me in the mood to conquer the world. It’s perfect to fist pump to, if you’re into that sort of thing.

  6. “Higher” by The Saturdays remains my most favourite, uplifting, air-punching tune with a singalong chorus to die for. Weirdly, the new Nicki Minaj song “Starships” for all its generic Euroclubmess and sweary lyrics is a good one and if we’re talking Kelly Clarkson, then the rush of ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’ is second to none (even if you’re single, sing it to yourself – it makes you feel amazing) .

  7. Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed by Barry Manilow is literally uh-maaaazing! Sampled by Daft Punk, its a slamming disco choon and the ultimate alarm clock song for sad mornings.

  8. Just about ANYTHING by Ingrid Michaelson. Be Ok, Fire, Solider, The list goes on and on. She’s got this lovely voice that sounds like ice tea and lemonade on a summer day tastes.

  9. Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name does miracles for me!

  10. Checking my running playlists now! Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol is a top pick and I love My Delirium by Ladyhawke and Don’t Go by Yazoo. They always seem to up my pace :)

  11. The Killers “Mr. Brightside.” I am like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday whenever I hear that song!