Every single one of us experiences good days and bad days, as life is filled with different peaks and valleys, highs and lows. It’s important to maintain a positive outlook no matter how bleak or dreadful things may appear, because it’s typically when you hit “rock bottom,” and you feel you’ve sunken deep into the valley when you will see the peak and recognize the effort has not gone unnoticed.
Some draw wisdom from quotes, others from meditation, and even some from past experiences, but for me, it has always been about having the right music to put you in the right frame of mind. In that spirit, I have served up a little introspective ‘Soup for the Soul,’ with 15 songs that have helped me when I am feeling down and out.
1) “Family Affair” – Mary J. Blige
The Grammy Award-winning classic from Mary J. Blige‘s 2001 album, No More Drama, was produced by Dr. Dre and it’s all about keeping a level head, “before you get loose and start to lose your mind.” According to an interview with The Telegraph, the album was a “prayer” for herself to survive her addiction to booze, cocaine and all the abusive relationships.
Not only is it an inspiring message… but it’s an empowering track that gets the blood pumping and helps motivate me to write.
2) “It Was A Good Day” – Ice Cube
“I didn’t even need my A.K., gotta say it was a good day.” We can all feel like that sometimes. That the world is out to get us. It feels nice to get a win. This is a good reminder, even on those days when you wind up putting one in the “L” column, of that triumphant feeling.
3) “Pretty Little Birds” – SZA
I’m in love with the analogies. Right from the start, SZA starts off by singing about how “you are but a phoenix among feathers,” which is a good reminder to listeners about the value of self-worth and self-respect.
SZA sings about this pretty little bird who struggles and even “hit the window a few times,” but is no longer afraid of heights, before revealing that the bird is, in fact, someone she loves and cares about so much that she says, “when the morning comes I hope you’re still mine.”
4) “Gangsta Lovin” – Eve feat. Alicia Keys
What can I say? I really love the sound of powerful women. Eve‘s second consecutive No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. When asked why she chose Alicia Keys to be featured on the track, Eve reportedly replied, “I love Alicia, I mean I think she’s incredibly talented, and I needed a girl on the song, and why not Alicia Keys?”
5) “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
If I could pick any artist to literally wake up to… it would have to be Bill Withers. The soul classic has been sampled countless times over the years and has been an inspiration to musicians all over the globe.
6) “Birdhouse in your Soul” – They Might Be Giants
Apart from its bizarre lyrics, the debut single from They Might Be Giants is a ’90s gem. According to Stewart Mason with AllMusic.com, “lyrically, it’s one of the group’s finest efforts, a tune sung from the point of view of a nightlight that posits itself as the listener’s guardian angel.” Talk about weird. Still, it is a fun, light-hearted tune that is the perfect “feel-good” song.
7) “We Are The Champions” – Queen
You don’t have to win at everything to feel like you’re on top. Queen’s classic is typically reserved for that moment when you do finally pull ahead… but what the hell?
8) “Father Stretch My Hand Pt. I” – Kanye West
Apart from teaching us what Young Metro going to do if he doesn’t trust you… the track from Kanye West‘s 2016 The Life of Pablo is all about those “beautiful mornings.”
9) “Strike It Up” – Black Box
As a fan of the New York Rangers hockey team, this song triggers only one memory, and that’s watching the team’s unofficial mascot “Dancin’ Larry” lose his shit to the Black Box song every time the team is down.
10) “Steppin’ Razor” – Peter Tosh
Sometimes, you just want to feel “dangerous.” Originally written by Joe Higgs in 1967, the cover went on to become a reggae classic and always leaves you feeling “sharp.”