Last night I sat down to listen to Janelle Monáe’s latest effort, “The Electric Lady,” (it’s a brilliant album, incidentally, and one I recommend in the strongest terms) and it struck me how long it has been since I bought a record and then LISTENED TO IT, to the exclusion of all other things. Just sat down and listened all the way through.
I often have music on while I’m doing something else, but it’s rare today that I look at listening to a song as a single task all on its own. Listening to that album last night was unexpectedly meditative and restorative, even, and not just because it’s some great music. It felt so self-indulgent, just sitting on my bed listening to music. Like when I was in college and would regularly lie on my bedroom floor in the dark, chain-smoking and listening to The Smiths and thinking all the understanding I would ever need was contained in those songs.
I’ve relied on music for most of my life for emotional support, of one kind or another. But music also has a near-magical way of lifting me out of sadness and anxiety and making me feel better, even if it’s just for three minutes. And I always find that there are certain songs that I’ve gone back to over and over, throughout my adult life.
For today’s open thread I’m sharing some of my most often listened to feeling-better songs. Obviously, there’s a lot of subjectivity here -- certain songs that make other people feel happy make me kinda sad (see Nina Simone’s widely known version of “Feelin’ Good”; don’t misunderstand, I love this song, but the context* is a little more complicated than birds flying by and blossoms on the trees) -- so I want to hear yours too.
ALL MY SHIT IS OLD, and mostly obvious, I know. I’m old. And obvious.
Electric Light Orchestra is brilliant for a bunch of reasons -- they’re one of those bands where anytime I meet someone else who loves them, we both high-five and nerd out over it for a few minutes. But “Mr. Blue Sky” is a pretty perfect happiness song no matter where it came from.
You might know this better in its original John Denver version, but when the Maytals play it, I want to run around hugging everybody I’ve ever known. It’s like a home in song form.
It’s true this song spoke to me powerfully as a teenager, what with the whole DESTROY EVERYTHING AND HAVE FUN message. But the part that always gets me as an adult is this:
“but it's much too late,” you say“for doing this nowwe should have done it then”well it just goes to showhow wrong you can beand how you really should knowthat it's never too lateto get up and go
THE CURE: THE BAND THAT KEEPS ON GIVING even when you’re in your mid-30s.
It is actually impossible for me to sing this song and feel badly about myself. Try it. CHALLENGE.
I know, this is a weird one, but at a point in my life many years ago when I was going through some complicated issues and feeling like I was totally foundering on the rocks of my own inability to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, it really, really, really meant a lot to me.
(Spotify link because this song is all but impossible to find online anywhere else.) “PYT” is the most special sacred music magic I have ever known. It’s better than Ativan. I hear this song, and I immediately feel better about everything, and no matter how depressed I was, I’m gonna need to dance.
Your turn, kids. Give me your happy-making music. Links a plus.
* “Feelin’ Good” comes from a 1965 musical called “The Roar of the Greasepaint -- The Smell of the Crowd,” an allegorical tale of class and oppression in British society, and is sung by a character simply called “The Negro,” after his character has unexpectedly outwitted the two main characters. His victory is hardly conclusive, as racism cannot be so easily eliminated by the success of a single individual (*cough*thepresident*cough*), but it captures a moment of a marginalized person having overcome all the odds stacked against him, and his sense of triumph and even, to some degree, relief. Knowing that this is a temporary feeling in the best of circumstances makes me sad.