Happy, No Matter What: A Playlist That Makes Me Optimistic

by: Bobby Crowley

Music is magic. Whenever I hear someone say they don’t really listen to music, I am shocked. I don’t believe a day has gone by in my life without listening to music. I need it. Music isn’t just entertainment to me, it interacts with me. It makes our heart beats change, our breathing quicken, our minds relax. When I find it hard to believe in anything at all, I hear music and I cannot dismiss that there must be something beautiful for life to offer if this melody can survive on string, wood, and air.

There are certain songs that quicken my pace, lift the corners of my mouth, and send a heat rushing to my chest. Songs that remind me of simple, beautiful times from my childhood, make me want to dance, or inspire me. These songs make me happy no matter how I feel or what is happening in my life. For length purposes, this list has been narrowed down to 40 alphabetically listed artists and songs that always lift my mood.

1. Alanis Morissette: “You Learn.”

While, most of Morissette’s work helped unlock my anger as a young girl, this song always helped me accept things that happened as lessons from which I can learn. This made my mistakes easier to swallow.

2. Andrea Gibson: “Leprechaun.”

She is my favorite poet and though Leprechaun is not quite a song, the sound of Gibson on that ukelele is probably the most beautiful thing in the world.

3. Ani Difranco: “Little Plastic Castle” and “32 Flavors.”

Ani Difranco has always been one of my favorite artists ever. While Little Plastic Castle always lifts my mood, 32 Flavors has always been the song with which I most closely identify.

4. Arctic Monkeys: “Dancing Shoes.”

This one is obvious. Always makes me dance.

5. The Beach Boys: “Good Vibrations” and “Don’t Worry Baby.”

As kids, my sisters and I used to dance in the basement to a CD with this song while wearing boas and bedazzled costumes. I always think of those times when this song comes on and have to smile. The second one simply reminds me of Love Actually, one of my favorite movies.

6. The Beatles: “Here Comes the Sun” and “Come Together.”

The first one is probably the most powerful from the list. This song comes on and I cannot help but smile, or think of The Parent Trap. The second is one of my favorite songs by The Beatles.

7. The Cardigans: “Lovefool.”

This song reminds me of my childhood, when I would hear it and sing with my sisters at the top of my lungs.

8. Des’ree: “Ya Gotta Be.”

This song always reminds me that no matter what other people want from or expect from me, I am my own construction. It also reminds me that love will save the day, of course.

9. Eagle Eye Cherry: “Save Tonight.”

This is basically just a brilliant song from the 90s about the importance of every single moment that I absolutely adore.

10. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: “Home.”

This one is obvious. It was also my ringtone for about a year.

11. Fleetwood Mac: “Go Your Own Way.”

Fleetwood Mac always makes me happy. It reminds me of the trips my family would take to New York, driving in a car for eight hours listening to music. This particular song always makes me feel better when things don’t work out as planned or when my love is of the less than requited sort.

12. Florence and the Machine: “Shake It Out.”

If their songs don’t make you feel the intense need to dance, I don’t know what would. “Shake It Out”, in particular, does a brilliant job of helping me through difficult situations and feelings that hold me down.

13. Fun. feat. Janelle Monae: “We Are Young.”

While the lyrics are not the sunniest, the refrain makes me to want to go out and wreak havoc on the world. This song actually inspired a play I have been working on which I have named We Are Young as a tribute to its inspiration.

14. Grouplove: “Tongue Tied” and “Colours.”

Grouplove is a great band to which I have recently been introduced and their music is like the offspring of James and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It makes me want to dance, sing, and do crazy things. All good effects.

15. Harry Nilsson: “Coconut.”

From my favorite movie Practical Magic, this song reminds me of my mother and sisters watching this movie, singing this song, and dancing around the kitchen.

16. James: “Laid.”

This is probably one of my favorite songs ever. With lines like “but she only comes when she’s on top” and “dressed me up in women’s clothes, messed around with gender roles, dye my eyes and call me pretty,” how can it not make you happy?

17. Jamiroquai: “Canned Heat.”

This man is seriously under-appreciated. His music makes me dance around the house like a fool and feel phenomenal about it. This song in particular always reminds me of Center Stage, a movie about dancers I loved growing up.

18. Jimi Hendrix: “Foxy Lady.”

It makes me feel foxy.

19. Jimmy Eat World: “The Middle.”

This song always gives me hope that I’ll get to the other side of my problems soon.

20. Kansas: “Carry on My Wayward Son.”

This song. Just, this song.

21. Kimbra: “Cameo Lover.”

Kimbra always makes me happy. This song, in particular, is about (as it says repeatedly) opening up your heart.

22. Madonna: “Like A Prayer.”

This is my favorite Madonna song and it always reminds me of how I would dance and sing to it for the woods behind my back porch as a kid.

23. Mariah Carey ft. Jay Z: “Heartbreaker.”

I get really into this song every time I find myself falling for someone. Now I associate the song with stomach butterflies and unbreakable smiles.

24. Meatloaf: “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”

My mother and I are proud to know all of the words to this entire song. Therefore, of course, we sing it together in the car all of the time. I love these moments because they are the epitome of our relationship.

25. Michael Buble: “Everything” and “Haven’t Met You Yet.”

While one helps me express myself when I fall in love, the other consoles me when I crash and burn. Buble is perfect. That is all.

26. Michael Jackson: “Black or White”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, and “PYT.”

Okay, I know three songs are a lot to pick for one artist, but come on! It’s Michael Jackson. These three songs always make me feel happy, sassy, and completely in love with life.

27. Moulin Rouge cast: “Love Medley.”

As odd as it sounds, my sister, Allison, and I used to sing this together because it is one of our favorite songs. Of course, I never cared whose turn it was to be the girl, because I was always at least the moon at the end.

28. New Radicals: “You Get What You Give” and “Mother, We Can’t Get Enough.”

This band was amazing. Unfortunately they decided to disband after their first major hitting CD because they didn’t want the fame. This is a tragedy but I will always listen to these songs when I want to be happy.

29. Night Ranger: “Sister Christian.”

Somehow this ridiculous song has become one of my all time favorites. My sister, Kelly, and I just adore it. Maybe it has something to do with Superstar.

30. Paula Cole: “I Don’t Wanna Wait.”

Dawson’s Creek. Best show ever.

31. Prince: “Kiss.”

Really all of Prince’s songs get me going, but this is definitely the one that makes me happiest. Also, it makes me think of Julia Roberts taking a bath.

32. The Proclaimers: “I’m Gonna Be.”

This song perfectly describes all I would do for those I love.

33. R.E.M.: “Losing My Religion.”

This song is not a happy one. However, it makes me happy because it has helped me a lot in times that I am losing my faith in the world, the “beyond,” and faith itself.

34. RENT cast:” Take Me or Leave Me.”

My best friend and I have watched RENT a disgusting amount of times. We always sing this song together and it is definitely my favorite because even though they are stubborn, there is something so amazing about asking others to accept you for who you are.

35. Rusted Root: “Send Me On My Way.”

Not only is this one of the most fantastic songs EVER and has mass appeal despite its almost indistinguishable lyrics, it’s in the movie Matilda.

36. Tal Bachman: “She’s So High.”

The most joyful expression of defeat and inferiority in existence.

37. Tegan and Sara: “Back In Your Head.”

I LOVE all that is Tegan and Sara. I picked this one because it is my favorite to sing.

38. Tsunami Bomb: “Negative One to Ten.”

Unfortunately disbanded, this band was a key player in my life. This song, in particular, expresses how passionately I feel about music and how it can transform our lives.

39. Disney:

This is a category, but really all Disney music reminds me of my childhood and makes me extraordinarily happy.

40. 90s classics:

This is also a category, but most 90s boy and girl bands do it for me. Savage Garden, Spice Girls, N*SYNC: they all made my childhood bearable… and rockin’.

This is my Thank You to all of these musicians who have no idea how much they help me when I cannot accept or express my own emotions. When the world is more than I can deal with, these songs give me a hand. So Thank You.

Bobby Crowley is a Queer woman with a love for all that is fabulous. She is currently working on her Creative Writing degree at Loyola University where she is also on the board of Advocate and a writer for the alt. magazine LUChameleon. She is in love with Andrea Gibson, her labradaniel puppies, and singing loudly in the shower.

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