Soundtrack to my life, part 3: kicking ass and taking names

When I set out to imagine the soundtrack to the many moods and experiences of my life, initially I figured I’d better include a list of my favorite relaxing music (because there are certain songs and even albums that will put me into a medical-grade coma if I listen to them long enough — hi, Sarah McLachlan’s Surfacing), but then I realized that sharing my chill-out playlist would be boring and self-indulgent and decided to just skip straight ahead to a list of songs that make me feel powerful (so — just self-indulgent). So here, in no particular order, are ten songs that make me want to stride forth into the world and take it by the lapels, or whatever.

1. “Telephone,” by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Everything about this song screams lady empowerment. The lyrics are about how Lady Gaga and Beyoncé are sick of your insistent phone calls, everyone. They’re too busy out in da club sippin’ dat bub (I think?) to bother picking up their phones so just give it a rest, okay? This song allows me to imagine what it would be like if I were wildly popular and pursued by many admirers. I think I’d enjoy it. Also, it must be said that the beat is amazing, especially when you’re working out and your energy is starting to flag. This will perk you right up!

2. “Walk Away,” by Kelly Clarkson. I unabashedly love Kelly Clarkson. She is one of the few American Idols that have not been an embarrassment to our country (looking at you, Taylor Hicks). Her songs are consistently catchy and I particularly love the ones where she gets a little sassy. “Walk Away” is one of those.

3. “Burn It Down,” by AWOLNATION. I first heard this song, appropriately enough, on an episode of Sons of Anarchy, during one of that show’s many high stakes motorcycle chase scenes. And that pretty much sums up the tone of the song, which is sort of shout-y and involves clapping, enthusiastic drums, and inscrutable lyrics that I think might be referring to some weird sex thing (but I’m cool with it).

4. “Titanium” by David Guetta, feat. Sia. First of all, I’m a big Sia fan. In case you’re not familiar, she is weird as hell and all of her videos give me the creeps, but dang, lady’s got a pair of pipes on her. This particular song was really popular when I lived in South Africa, and I used to listen to it while working out at my shitty Joburg gym along with some scarily muscled Afrikaans dudes and a smattering of old ladies. With lyrics like “You shoot me down, but I won’t fall; I am titanium,” it’s kind of hard not to get pumped up while listening to it, am I right?

5. “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” by U2. Even though “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” my all-time favorite U2 song, is about resisting violence and promoting peace in the face of the misery of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, something about it makes me want to strap on a gun and march into battle. Any battle! I know that’s not the point of the song — in fact, it’s the opposite of the point of the song — but that infectious, warlike drumbeat — who can resist it?

6. “The Distance,” by Cake. Here’s the thing about Cake: you either love ’em, or you hate ’em. Me? I love ’em. Like I said in my last post, I’m a sucker for a good horns section“The Distance” not only has horns, but it has special meaning for me because it was my high school cross-country team’s pump-up song one year, and what a pump-up song it was! (Incidentally, my own personal pump-up song for the last two years of high school track — and please don’t judge me for this — was Sisqo’s “The Thong Song.” To this day, whenever I hear “The Thong Song,” I want to go run 3200 m. as fast as I can).

7. “Forgot About Dre,” by Dr. Dre and Eminem. I probably shouldn’t like this song, since it has zero relevance to my life and, now that I think of it, zero relevance to probably to 99.9% of humanity’s lives. It’s pretty much only relevant to Dr. Dre’s life. But what can I say? I have a soft spot for Eminem (Detroit, what), despite his many flaws. Plus, this song includes some of my favorite rap lyrics ever (despite the poor grammar involved): “So where’s all the mad rappers at? It’s like a jungle in this habitat. But all you savage cats knew that I was strapped with gats when you were cuddling a Cabbage Patch.” Bless Dr. Dre’s heart for finding a way to incorporate both Cabbage Patch dolls AND gats into one phrase!

8. “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” by Dropkick Murphys. I lived in Boston (okay, Cambridge — lay off me!) for three years and while I lived there, I used to take this amazing spinning class at the law school rec center. The instructor, a real Boston girl, would always play this song during the hardest part of the workout and, needless to say, everyone loved it. It’s catchy AND motivational: imagining a sailor looking for his leg (which he lost climbing up the topsails, by the way) really puts the difficulty of a tough spinning class into perspective. “At least I have both my legs,” I’d always think to myself. “Things aren’t so bad.”

dropkick murphys

9. “Mala Gente,” by Juanes. I wasn’t kidding about being a big Juanes fan. “Mala Gente” is from that same life-changing album as “Luna,” Un Día Normal. “Mala Gente” (“Bad People”) is about Juanes telling a lying woman to take a hike, and also letting her know she sucks. It’s very satisfying.

10. “A Quien Le Importa?” by Thalía. The title of this song translates as “Who cares?” As the title suggests, it’s a ballad about not giving an eff about what people think, and it rocks. Thalía (Mexican pop goddess and wife of Tommy Mottola) has a bunch of great songs (one of which, “Seducción,” has been my ringtone for, like, seven years) but this one is the most kick-ass of them all. Lyrics include: “My destiny is what I choose,” and “I’m this way, I’ll continue to be this way, and I’ll never change.” Go girl!

Well, looking back on this list, I can say with some confidence that it’s totally random and arbitrary. However, every one of these songs, in its own way, pumps me up. What are your favorite blood-pumping ballads? And am I the only one who has that perverse reaction to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday?” Does anyone else like Cake? Let me know.

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