It can feel like a little miracle. You’re having a bad day and, suddenly, a favorite song comes on the radio or the speakers at a coffee shop.
The worries from a moment ago are just, magically, gone. You could’ve been the grumpiest version of yourself, but now, what’s that? An involuntary smile has taken over your face and a jig has taken over your shoulders. This feeling carries with you after the song ends. And just like that, your bad day got a little better.
This won’t happen with any tune. It has to be a top-tier feel-good song, one you intimately know the words to and one that has a special personalized power.
When I’m feeling down, I have the tendency to wait for something like this to happen to me instead of intentionally seeking it out, somehow forgetting I could play that feel-good song anytime I wanted thanks to things like Spotify and YouTube. I’d like to get better about that.
We all have some of these songs. My friend Kalyn’s go-to is “Real Love Baby” by Father John Misty. My mom’s favorite feel-goodies include songs like Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “Call Me” by Blondie and, more recently, “You Say,” by Lauren Diagle.
In the name of trying to make 2022 better, I went on a search for my best-of-the-best feel-good songs from different years in my life. I was surprised to find so many and delighted at the memories they brought back.
Let’s start with my early teenage years. I first thought of a song from the “Mulan” soundtrack called “I’ll Make A Man Out Of You.” The mix of silly and empowering lyrics proved perfect for pre-race singalongs for my high school cross country team. After a run-through of this song, we always felt pumped up and a little less nervous. Another one that came to mind was “Goodbye Earl” by The Chicks, a special song between my cousins and I that we always play in the car and at weddings. Other go-tos from this era are “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, “Bring on the Rain” by Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw and “Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson.
It’s easy to come up with feel-good music from college, because we had plenty of impromptu dance parties. When you’re living with five other girls in one house, someone is often stressed about something. Our solution was to blast songs like “We are never ever getting back together” by Taylor Swift or “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston or “Let the Good Times Roll” by Ben Rector. I also remember listening to “Flowers in Your Hair” by The Lumineers for a pep in my step.
I guess this is the time to come to terms with how long ago I graduated college, since it’s longer than the two years ago it perpetually feels like. But in the last several years, plenty of feel-good songs have entered my life at just the right times. Shortly after getting my first newspaper job, “Pursuit of Happiness” by Lissie became a high-energy reminder to pursue career dreams along with things like friendships and hobbies and personal goals that hopefully make up a happy life. Shortly after a significant breakup, Taylor Swift released a song called “I Forgot You Existed” and even though it’s not easy to forget, it’s fun to pretend when singing this song. After the swings of tough times during 2020 and 2021, a song like “Silk Chiffon” by Muna and Phoebe Bridgers was a gift from the feel-good song universe.
Recently, I’ve noticed the surge of joy I get when my best friend and I sing “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers. The other day, I went on a walk and played a song called “The Sun is Shining Down” by JJ Grey & Mofro. I felt the sun on my face and I smiled. Looking back on how these songs made me feel better at different chapters in my life, I’d like to play them all more this year.