My last post on the soundtrack to my life was all about the angst. And while I love Alanis Morrisette as much as the next thirty-one year-old, there is a time (turn, turn, turn) to every season (turn, turn, turn), and so forth, and so now it’s time for a little joy (and pain — sunshine — and rain). [Editor’s note: I have recently diagnosed myself with a disease where I can’t write a sentence without inappropriately inserting song lyrics. It comes and goes.] ANYWAY. In this installment of my life soundtrack blog, I want to focus on the opposite of angst: pure, unadulterated joy. There are certain songs, you see, that I can put on and know that my mood will be boosted. These songs are either great fun to sing along with, or they remind me of a specific, happy time in my life, or they just have infectious, happy-making tunes — or sometimes, all three of the above. Here, then, are ten songs, in no particular order, that never fail to make me smile.
1. “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive,” by Travis Tritt. This was my freshman year dorm’s theme song (what up, Otero 2001-2002?!) and it speaks for itself. If you’re not a country music fan, I ask you to listen to this song and make an exception. Also: name me one other song that involves not one, not two, but THREE full-throated howls (“oww-oooooo!”) followed by banjo interludes? Other reasons to love this song: it references microwave rice, homemade soup, Harleys, Fu Man Chu beards, and the word “goofy.” TRY NOT TO LOVE THIS SONG. I dare you.
2. “There’s Too Much Love,” by Belle & Sebastian. As I mentioned in my last post, this is my “jaunty walking song.” If this song comes on in my earphones while I am walking, you best believe things are getting jaunty. There’s just something about the melody and instrumentation of this song that is like catnip to me. I think it’s the strings. (By the way: if you’re listening to this song for the first time, by all means, make sure you wait until the strings kick in). God, I love a good strings section! But while we’re talking about Belle & Sebastian, they have a whole catalog of really cheery-sounding songs that just perk me right up. Try “Sukie in the Graveyard,” “Funny Little Frog,” or “The Blues Are Still Blue.”
3. “Já Sei Namorar,” by Tribalistas. You can’t spend any amount of time in Brazil and not come out of it with a profound appreciation for Tribalistas, a Brazilian super-group/collaboration of three already famous singers. They only produced one album but dang, it was a good one. “Já Sei Namorar” (which means “I already know how to love”) is one of the best on the album and it is catchy as heck. If you’ve ever been to any gathering at my house, you’ve probably heard this song on in the background, because it’s perfect for any occasion, and it’s nearly impossible to feel bummed out while listening to it.
4. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” by Whitney Houston. First of all, RIP, Whitney. Second of all, this song makes me want to dance — like, REALLY dance — every single time I hear it. Including now. And the video is awesome (Whitney’s neon make-up and crimped hair!! I miss her).
5. “Australia,” by The Shins. I listened to this song on repeat when I was taking a break from studying for the California Bar Exam. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let me assure you that I needed a heavy duty dose of happy to pull me out of the self-pitying misery that defined my bar-studying experience. I used to put a CD with this song on in the car when I drove to and from my yoga class (the other thing that kept me sane that summer) and totally rock out.
6. “Luna,” by Juanes. Maybe I should start a separate list of my favorite peppy Latin songs, but that could take all day, so I’ll confine myself to just a few. Juanes, in case you’re not familiar, is a pop sensation (and all-around good person) from Colombia. I first discovered his music in 2003, when I was studying abroad in Chile and his album Un Día Normal was being played non-stop everywhere in Santiago. My friends and I all jumped on the Juanes bandwagon and never got off. I recall standing in one of my friends’ teeny-tiny bedrooms in her host family’s house and blasting this song, “Luna,” over and over, while shrieking the lyrics at each other. Good times. (Our host families loved us.)
7. “Would I Lie To You?” by Charles & Eddie. This song makes me smile every time I hear it because it reminds me of hanging out with my high school best friend, Rachel, driving around and singing along to this, one of the stupidest of songs ever produced. Yet, you have to admit, there’s something catchy about it — maybe it’s all the “woo!”s? Also, if you can get through the video without laughing, you are a stronger man than I.
8. “Mi Primer Millon,” by Bacilos. Okay, I know this list is Latin-heavy, but come on, there’s a reason for this. And that reason is HORNS. I love a good horn section almost as much as I love a good string section, and “Mi Primer Millon” (“My First Million”) has the horns covered. For those who speaka da Spanish, the lyrics are really fun (I always sing along to the line, “Tranquila, querida, Paulina solo es una amiga“), and for those who don’t speak Spanish, it doesn’t matter. This song is great and undeniably joyful.
9. “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” by The Avett Brothers. Oh, The Avett Brothers: marry me! (Kidding – sort of). This may not be the peppiest song on the list, but I find it uplifting, soothing, and, most importantly, sing-along-able.
10. “California Love,” by 2Pac and Dr. Dre. No explanation needed. Okay, fine: I love so many things about this song. I love that it involves rapping AND singing, and I rap and sing along with it, well aware that I sound like a jackass when I say things like “ever since honeys was wearin’ Sassoon,” especially since I don’t actually know what that means. But listen, I lived in California for a few years, and I feel justified in loving this song unreservedly and letting out my secret West Coast rapper whenever it comes on. RIP, 2Pac. (Also, just because: my favorite Chapelle show sketch of all time.)
Obviously, I have a lot more happy-making songs on my playlist, but these ten are near the top of the list. Stay tuned for my future installments, including songs to chill to, songs for romance, and songs for kicking ass and taking names.