Top Five: Songs That Make Everything Better

5 April 2014 by 23 Comments

Imagine that you’re having the shittiest fucking time. You’re at that point in the sneaky hate spiral where you’re about to snap and start yelling at the wind or maybe just sit down and cry, a lot.

Then you hear a song. A beautiful numbness starts to spread through your limbs, diffusing whatever was making your day shitty and sending it away. You don’t know where. Just away, and that is good. Maybe you even feel a little sprout of happiness trying to work its way up.

There are songs that make everything better almost immediately, aren’t there? It’s like being on a really good narcotic, except it’s free and it (probably) won’t become life-destroyingly addictive. These are my top five songs that make everything better:

1. “Man on the Moon” by R.E.M.

When I was about 10 and wanted to learn to play the guitar, this was the song I started with–partially because those two first chords are easy as hell to play (I still remember them), but mostly because I love this song. The rhythm lulls me into a place of calm like one of those ocean machines.

2. “Dry the Rain” by The Beta Band

If you’ve ever heard this song, you know exactly why I included it here. It’s incredibly mellow, and those Hawaiian-like (possibly steel guitar?) chords make you feel like you’ve just stepped off a plane to get lei’d. By the time the tempo and volume start to build toward the coda, I am feeling fine.

3. “F-Train” by David Usher

I discovered David Usher back in college, when everyone was Napster-ing and you could go through a person’s entire music collection to find shit you didn’t know about yet. “F-Train” grabbed me immediately; it’s short, sweet, and I’ve put it on repeat a whole bunch. It’s not only a song that makes everything better, but also a song that transports me back to my college days at the University of Kentucky; true story, I am kind of getting to the age where it’s nice to think about having once been young.

4. “Dreams” by The Cranberries

Speaking of blast from the past songs . . . my dad and I stole this album back and forth from each other so much when I was in middle school that I’m frankly not sure who ended up with it. I think I did. I AM THE CHAMPION.

This song sounds like a lazy summer day to me, maybe because I spent so much time during my summers then lazing around outside with my Sony Discman (shut up, I’m old, I know).

5. “Give Me One Reason” by Tracy Chapman

I’m a big fan of the blues anyway, so when Tracy Chapman became the hot thing way back when, I thought, yes. Yes. I dig this right down to the ground. “Give Me One Reason” builds so smoothly that it will almost trick you into feeling happier. By the end, I’ll be singing and dancing no matter how shitty I felt when it started.

Those are the songs that make me feel better, always. What are yours?


Susie is the Bitch-in-Chief at IB and is also a contributor at Book Riot. She's an ice cream connoisseur, an art fanatic, a cat-mommy of three, and a wife. She runs the @thebooksluts Twitter account and may be slightly addicted.

23 thoughts on “Top Five: Songs That Make Everything Better

  1. Well, looking at your list makes me feel old – the oldest ones look new to me. Here’s Five that spring to my mind. It might be a different five tomorrow, but these have been favourites for over thirty years, so they are well road tested. Most (all) are from the late seventies so that probably date-stamps me as effectively as my passport.
    Punky Reggae Party – Bob Marley
    King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown – Augustus Pablo
    Ghost of a Chance – The Blades
    Uptown Top Ranking – Althea and Donna
    Gangsters – The Specials
    Playlist here:

    • 70s music is amazing for being all calm and whatnot. Probably I’d also put America’s “Horse With No Name” and a bunch of others on this list, but the format only calls for five! :D

  2. Good list! This is going to sound really random, but I actually tried playing “F-Train” and “Dreams” at the same time, and it was kind of a weirdly good duet…apparently Marshland has totally changed the way I think about music. I even started a playlist on my mp3 player called “Soundchronicity Walks.”

    Some of my feel good tracks at the moment are:

    Voyage, Voyage,” by Gregorian (with Sarah Brightman) — I love the melody that the men sing, and of course Sarah Brightman has that sweet, dreamlike voice. I Amazon’d the song because it sounded pretty, but I really got into it one day when I really was feeling shitty and needed something to drown out my mind.

    Yor Uzga,” by Karen Gafurdjanov — one of the tracks from my Putumayo Gypsy Groove cd. I’ve developed some sort of Pavlovian response where, the moment the song starts, my head is bobbing along with the beat. And listening to that crowd shouting along makes me feel like I’m at some awesome party.

    Pasveikinkit Vieni Kitus” (“Greet One Another”), by Marijonas Mikutavičius. This song, in Lithuanian, is literally about forgetting your sadness and knowing that everything will get better. The opening lines are “One, two, three — our drums are sounding; we’re arriving loudly, like an atomic bomb…” (I was about to write “We are coming loudly,” but…yeah ^_^;; ) and the refrain means: “How are you doing? Good! / How do you feel? Happy! / I want it to be like this forever, / for all of time. / How are you doing? Good! / How do you feel? Happy! / I want it to be like this forever. / No one on our street is going to sleep today.”

    And, of course, I’m preeeetty sure “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams, is going to join the list :)

      • Right? It’s kind of a neat clash — there are even moments when one song is at an instrumental section, and the other is at a vocal one, so it sounds like the former is an accompaniment for the latter.

  3. Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes.” Fiona Apple’s “Never is a Promise.” Pink’s “Glitter in the Air.” Just a few that come to mind.

    When I’m having a shitty day, I don’t want to listen to anything too cheery. Songs that normally put me in a great mood are likely to piss me off. So instead I go for a more melancholy feel and just sort of bask in it.

  4. I have weird ones because I have the most eclectic taste in music ever:

    1) When the Rain Comes by Third Day — and I know I KNOW! Anyone who knows me is like WTF? They are a Christian group and that is SOOOOOO not my thing (not that there is anything wrong with Christian groups.. they’re just… not my thing in general) but but BUT I fuckin love this song because it is so validating. “I can’t stop the rain from falling down on you again, I can’t stop the rain– but I will hold you ’til it goes away” It’s like having your best friend there to give you a hug. Almost.

    2) Titanium by David Guetta — I like to screamsing this at the top of my lungs. Because I am titanium. “Shoot me down but I won’t fall I AM TITANIUM!!!”

    3) Not Alone by Patty Griffin — It just makes me feel warm

    4) Let the Rain by Sara Bareilles – cuz… I dunno I just love this song.

    5) Totally Fucked from the musical ‘Spring Awakening’ — cuz its amazing and you get to scream Fuck at the top of your lungs.

    • I TOTALLY used to love Third Day. (I mean, I grew up in a town overrun with Southern Baptists so, y’know, I went through that whole Christian rock phase.) Some of those bands were good, I just can’t even anymore with the lyrics. :\

  5. When I am angry, sad, whatever, Janet Jackson is my go-to pick-me-upper. I just put her whole collection on shuffle on my iPod and go to town (the figure of speech kind of going to town).

  6. I typically break out the Disney/Broadway showtunes and give the finger to the world, wallowing in my nerdom, but I love your inclusion of Dreams and Give Me One Good Reason :)

  7. I also like R.E.M. when I’m in a mood – specifically, “Nightswimming,” “Try Not to Breathe,” and “You are the Everything.” I also find myself seeking out Regina Spektor when I’m cranky, because her music makes me smile.

  8. Ben Lee – Catch My Disease This is pretty much my go-to “man, I feel like shit and I need to sing and dance to gtfo out of this mood” song.

    Rilo Kiley – With Arms Outstretched

    somedays, they last longer than others
    but this day by the lake went too fast
    and if you want me, you’d better speak up
    I won’t wait

    In fact, I’ve been having a shitty quarter, and just listened to both of these. Kinda amazing how much better I’m feeling already.


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