11 Songs You Should Listen To When You Need Some Hope

I'm not a psychological expert so I give very poor advice. However, I have experienced hopeless and miserable feelings before. There are days when you're looking forward to classes, seeing your friends, going to club meetings, petting a dog--those sorts of things. Other times--from hours to weeks to months--you might feel like the world is against you. Your parents are less than helpful, your relationships are faltering, you're struggling with work or grades, or you simply have no motivation to do anything but cry alone. Some people advise writing poetry or creating art to blow off steam, but when you have no drive to even move, you probably don't have a lot of inspiration either.

Oftentimes, I like to sulk for a while and have a good, long, messy cry when things become seemingly unbearable. However, I don't like to cry in silence. I don't like silence as it is unless I'm focusing on something; it feels as if I'm not alone when a Youtube video offers some white noise.

Over the years, I've compiled long playlists of songs to which I can wallow in heartbreak. While I'm open to sharing those, I thought it would be better to offer a relatively new playlist with the idea of cheering myself (and now you) up. In recent weeks, I, too, have struggled immensely day to day, but because music has usually helped me persevere through awful times, I hope I can help you with music too.

  1. "I Will Survive" - Cake:  I love the band Cake. When I discovered their cover of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive," I'd just experienced my first break up in 10th grade. It was a long relationship which surprised even myself for it being my first real relationship. The lyrics aren't hard to memorize (and maybe sing-yell in the car during commutes) and the various instruments used in this (and any Cake song) add a special uniqueness compared to traditional breakup songs.

  2. "Amber" - 311:  Another gem I found during high school, "Amber" is a relaxing tune. 311 is, overall, a pretty chill band, and they've been around for a number of years, so they've got it down at this point. While listening to "Amber," I imagine myself on a mattress floating in the water near a beach, surrounded by gentle waves and the weather not too hot or stormy. "Amber" basically makes me feel bad for not being calm, but not in a bad way. It makes me want to cool off emotionally and let go of what I was upset about.

  3. "Keep Ya Head Up" - 2Pac:  I think every woman should listen to this song. No, make that everyone. It's a song about treating women as equals and 2Pac acknowledging the disrespect and discouragement they experience. If I ever feel down about whether society may or may not value me, or discouraged when a group of boys is having a heyday with sexist jokes and prejudice, this song can bring me back to my senses and remind me that even an amazing rapper like 2Pac recognized the injustices women have faced even in the early '90s.

  4. "Vienna" - Billy Joel:  I've only known about this song for a few years, which is a shame, but I found it during a time when I needed reassurance. There's a large number of times I've contemplated giving up on something, and I still go through these feelings today. However, "Vienna" makes me feel like somebody is out there rooting for me, telling me that it's okay to slow down if I need to, and that, in time, I'll still be able to accomplish my goals.

  5. "Good Day" - Nappy Roots:  This is probably the only "bop" (as the kids say) on my playlist right now. It's upbeat, has a fun chorus, and it's pretty straightforward. The ending is humorous because it's a relatable skit: the artist, after the song is over, is having car troubles despite wishing for a good day. "Good Day" just sounds like something you'd listen to during the summer with the windows down and your friends in the car.

  6. "Everything’s Okay" - Lenka: ​ Lenka is also pretty new to me, but her voice brings me comfort and her songs are catchy as h*ll. "Everything's Okay" is a song I have needed for years, but never found until recently. It's super relatable in terms of lyrics ("Through this heaviness I feel I just need someone to say, everything's okay"). It's for all of us who, at our darkest moments, feel as if we have no one to turn to.

  7. "Love Yourz" - J. Cole:  J. Cole has to be one of the most down to earth rappers I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. "Love Yourz" is for all of the individuals who have experienced so much struggle in their lives, like poverty, and felt envious of others who seemed happier than themselves. I think we've all been there at least once. Your classmate seems happy every day, but you cry yourself to sleep several times a month. Your best friend has a new car, but you're still driving a hunk of rusty metal. Celebrities have crazy, exciting lives, but you're lucky if you have time for breakfast in the morning and can make it to bed before midnight. "Love Yourz" has taught me that even if I'm broke, not a star student, and lonely, I've accomplished a lot and I do still have a few close people I can count on.

  8. "The World is Ugly" - My Chemical Romance:  Some of the lyrics are hard for me to interpret to this day, but I hear a message when I listen to it anyway: Despite all the crap in the world, you're important to somebody, or, at least, you find someone important to you and you don't want to let go of them. "For every failing sun, there’s a morning after." To me, this means that even if today sucked so hard and you just wanted to quit, tomorrow could be better, and if not tomorrow, the next, and so on. The world is ugly, but you have worth in it.

  9. "I Could Be The One" - Avicii, Nicky Romero:  This song is not only fairly upbeat and very danceable, but it has a lovely video attached to it. In the music video, a woman hates her life and longs for a new direction. We watch her fantasy of quitting her job and traveling the globe and having all of these cool experiences. It's kind of inspiring, so if the song isn't enough for me, I like to watch the video and remind myself that one day, I, too, will start traveling and create a numerous amount of memories.

  10. "Regulate" - Warren G, Nate Dogg:  Nate Dogg has this way about singing. His voice is kind of beautiful, and Warren G's is wonderful in this song as well. The lyrical content is typical '90s rap, but the beat isn't overbearing and would be relaxing even without any lyrics. I don't know why "Regulate" makes me feel better; it must be the artists' voices and the beat alone. Honestly, it's just a chill song that doesn't scream at me, have annoying background music, frighten me, or bore me. I could listen to the story within the lyrics, or tune it out a bit and just appreciate how appealing it is.

  11. "What I Got (reprise)" - Sublime:  This is also a fun song to sing to in the car. It's not something I'd particularly listen to if I'm having a complete breakdown, but if it's a nice day out and I'm alone and need a distraction, this one offers that because I've listened to it so many times since high school that I can try to hit the notes Bradley Nowell hits and ignore my other problems.

As I said before, I'm no mental health specialist, but I've used music to cope for years and while my playlist is still new (and always looking for new additions), it has helped me a bit since its creation. Even if you aren't struggling right now and wanted some new tunes, I'm glad to help.

If you are truly, truly struggling, seek help if possible. Talk to your doctor. There are also numerous text and call lines if you can’t talk to family, friends, church members, a significant other, or an in-person professional. I wish you all the best!


Augustana College Counseling services -- call 309-794-7357 or visit their webpage

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -- call 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website

Crisis Text Line -- text HOME to 741741 or visit their website

Tr​evor Lifeline -- call 866-488-7386, text TREVOR to 1-202-304-1200, or chat live with a TrevorChat counselor on their website

SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline -- call 1-877-726-4727 or visit their website