I don’t know about you, but the first week of this new school year pummeled me into the ground, kneed me in the crotch, and then spit on me for good measure. The amount of commitments I’ve made for this upcoming academic year excites me, but it’s all a bit daunting. The first week of class allowed reality to set in (special shoutout to Susie Harsley for always being there to listen to my panicky rants). Crying and venting help, yes, but my number one go-to for stress relief has always been music. If you felt as overwhelmed as I did the first week back to school, here’s some jams to hopefully provide you with some brief mental relief throughout the rest of the school year.
- “A-O-K” by Tai Verdes
Favorite Lyric: “When I see trouble come my way, I be makin’ lemonade. I know I’ll be A-O, A-O-K.”
Even though this song has been out since May, I only just discovered it on the first day of class this semester. Let me tell you: it was precisely what I needed that day. The Spotify gods had answered my prayers. Its carefree energy echos that of Surfaces’ songs, so it makes perfect sense that Verdes recently collaborated with the duo on “Sheesh!”. As I was getting ready that morning, I had “A-O-K” on repeat – not only was it super catchy, but it calmed any nerves that I had going back to school.
- “Come Alive” from “The Greatest Showman”
Favorite Lyric: “‘Cause you’re just a dead man walking, thinking that’s your only option. But, you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day.”
One day after work, I was particularly sweaty, hungry and exhausted. All I wanted to do was go home and take a nap, but I had to walk across campus to go to one last meeting of the day. I listened to this song on the way to the SUB and my spirits lifted right away – it’s the epitome of “putting a spring in your step”. I was mouthing the words, playing imaginary drums, dancing on the sidewalk…passersby probably thought I was insane. C’est la vie.
- “Take It Easy” by the Eagles
Favorite Lyric: “Lighten up while you still can. Don’t even try to understand. Just find a place to make your stand, and take it easy.”
Personally, I have awesome memories associated with this song from this summer. Not only did my coworkers and I listen to this song on repeat in the workroom, but my parents and I blasted it in the car on our trip to Glacier National Park. Even if our summers weren’t identical, this song is undeniably a classic. For an optimal listening experience, close your eyes, belt the lyrics and imagine you’re whizzing through the desert on a road trip. Instant serotonin boost: guaranteed.
- “Daft Pretty Boys” by Bad Suns
Favorite Lyric: “The gates of heaven are open now, and my one true love has just waltzed right out. Yeah, there’s one thing about me that you should know: that I can’t help from speaking my mind.”
My friend from back home (thanks, Cat!) introduced me to this song over the summer and every time I listen to it, I feel like I’m in a coming-of-age movie. The sick bass and drums will improve your mood almost instantly. Think “Anna Sun” by WALK THE MOON, but about half the length. 10 out of 10, would recommend.
- “I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” by Elton John
Favorite Lyric: “Don’t wish it away. Don’t look at it like it’s forever. Between you and me, I could honestly say that things can only get better.”
This is one of my favorite rainy day songs. It’s mellow, it tells it like it is and it’s so therapeutic to listen to. It’s not overly sugary or optimistic – if you want to wallow in your stress, go for it – but it lets you know that there is hope. In my experience, listening to melancholy music while I’m sad works wonders for my mood. The piano is killer (what Elton John song doesn’t feature killer piano?), the rhythm is perfect for step touching your way around, and to top it all off, there’s an awesome harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder in the middle.
- “Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks
Favorite Lyric: “Just like the white-winged dove sings a song – sounds like she’s singing, ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh.’”
Few things make me feel more capable and powerful than listening to Stevie Nicks sing this song. It also makes me think back to watching season four, episode three of “The Crown”, in which this song is featured. In the show, Lady Di and her friends play the song while driving around London in the middle of the night with the windows down and the wind blowing through their hair. Come on, what could be better than that?
- “Maneater” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
Favorite Lyric: “She’s deadly, man. She could really rip your world apart. Mind over matter – ooh, the beauty is there, but a beast is in her heart.”
Although Hall has confirmed that “Maneater” isn’t about a woman, but rather New York City in the ‘80’s, listening to it still makes me feel like a certified badass. Any time I hear this song, it makes me want to put on a wicked red lip, leather jacket and sunglasses and just strut down a sidewalk. Sandy from “Grease” post-makeover would love this song. All of my worries fade away, and yours hopefully will, too.
- “Hard Times” by Paramore
Favorite Lyric: “Where do I go? Give me some sort of sign. You hit me with lightning! Maybe I’ll come alive.”
I’m a total sucker for upbeat songs with sad lyrics. I’ve had many a solo dance party to this song, and it hasn’t failed me yet. I’m listening to it as I write this, and I didn’t realize that I was tapping my foot and bopping my head in the middle of Common Grounds until, well, right now. Screaming the words in your car or shower at the top of your lungs work wonders, but for best results, give yourself space to dance it out.
- “Walking on Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox
Favorite Lyric: “The sun’s still shining in the big, blue sky, but it don’t mean nothing to me. Oh, let the rain come down; let the wind blow through me.”
Based on the above lyric, you’d think this would be a pretty depressing song. It feels so vibrant with the layers of strings and the infectious beat, I promise. Lennox’s famous contralto paired the awesome instrumentals always cheers me up, even though the lyrics are all about heartbreak. Walking on broken glass sure is painful; this song is anything but.
- “Alright” by Supergrass
Favorite Lyric: “We are young, we run green, keep our teeth nice and clean – see our friends, see the sights, feel alright.”
Famously featured in the soundtrack of “Clueless”, this song makes you forget all of your problems. The jaunty piano and guitar solo always make me feel better, no matter how upset I may be. Take your troubles, toss them to the wind, and embody Cher and her friends as they have a photoshoot in front of their school’s fountain.
It can be quite the adjustment coming back to school after a blissful summer, but you are more capable of tackling this school year than you may think. Hopefully, these songs will lift your spirits and encourage you when life gets you down. Good luck this semester, and Sic ‘em Bears, everyone!