Uplifting tunes for the resolutely optimistic
March 30, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

What are some upbeat songs that convey a message of hope and happiness and optimism and love for the great wide wonderful world?

Hi Mefites. Life has been tossing me around lately. A chain of terminated relationships has left me a bit depressed about this whole dating thing. Can you recommend me some uplifting songs that can help pull me out of this funk?

To specify, I'm not looking for angry break-up songs - I'm at peace with my past relationships ending, and am fortunate to have had enormous support from my friends throughout all this. But, I would like to recapture that bright, Pollyanna optimism, where I'm awash with gratitude that I'm alive in the great world, that I get to live in a cool place, and that I have the opportunity to interact with all the interesting, kind, and wonderful people I come across.

I'm thinking something happy and poppy and upbeat, maybe along the lines of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours", but without the "dedicated to the girl I love" aspect. Or perhaps Michael Buble's Haven't Met You Yet, but without the "overwhelmingly cheesy" aspect. (A little cheese is ok.) It doesn't even have to be about love or romance.

I should note that I don't really listen to much popular music, so even if you think it's a song everyone and their dog already knows, please feel free to suggest it anyway.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico to Media & Arts (75 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Ozomatli's "Love and Hope" sounds like it would fit the bill.
posted by Crane Shot at 11:01 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

For some reason two U2 songs come to mind. The first and most obvious one is Beautiful Day. To a lesser extent the song Breathe fits the bill too.
posted by Rewind at 11:01 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: Keep on Growing and Anyday by Derek and the Dominos
posted by The World Famous at 11:04 AM on March 30, 2011

"You Get What You Give," The New Radicals
posted by entropicamericana at 11:04 AM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

What a Wonderful World, the classic by Louis Armstrong or this nice version by Victoria Williams. Studio verson on her Loose album.
posted by elendil71 at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depeche Mode - Peace
John Lennon - Oh My Love
New Order - All The Way
The Beatles - Good Day Sunshine
David Bowie - Sound & Vision
posted by kryptondog at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2011

Grrr, that link to Loose should have been this.
posted by elendil71 at 11:10 AM on March 30, 2011

Coldplay: Don't Panic; Everything's Not Lost

U2: Stuck in a Moment; Walk On; Grace; City of Blinding Lights; Where the Streets Have No Name; Moment of Surrender; Get On Your Boots; Stand Up Comedy

A bunch of Innocence Mission stuff is very life affirming: Beautiful Change; When Mac was Swimming; No Storms Come; Bright as Yellow; There
posted by The Deej at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: Do commercials count? Because the Discovery Channel boom-de-yada song captures that sentiment really well. (It even makes me cry a little bit.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:15 AM on March 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

brett dennen blessed
posted by anya32 at 11:21 AM on March 30, 2011

Maybe not upbeat, but it's got a good message: Ben Lee - Whatever It Is
posted by backwards guitar at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2011

Also, along the same lines, Enjoy Yourself - this is the Todd Snider version, which I really like.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2011

I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing.
Bonus points if you can sing it without inserting a Coke verse.
posted by CathyG at 11:36 AM on March 30, 2011

There's "Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World" by Johnny Clegg & Savuka, or "When You're Falling" by Afro Celt Sound System featuring Peter Gabriel. Or there's "Cancer" off Joe Jackson's "Live 1980-86" CDs, or "I'm on my Way" by The Proclaimers...

Actually, I have a whole playlist of songs like this for singing (loudly, badly) in the car. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:37 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: The Kinks - Better Things

(Fountains of Wayne did a great cover on Conan after 9/11)
posted by mr frosted at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Big Girl (You Are Beautiful) - Mika
posted by illenion at 11:39 AM on March 30, 2011

Love Generation - Bob Sinclair
Peace Train - Cat Stevens
posted by VT@MU at 11:40 AM on March 30, 2011

This is a little out there, but the old Sugarcubes song "Planet" always makes me feel empowered in a crazy Bjork-ish way (I'm a planet, and a planet can do anything at all!).
posted by chowflap at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2011

>: "But, I would like to recapture that bright, Pollyanna optimism, where I'm awash with gratitude that I'm alive in the great world, that I get to live in a cool place, and that I have the opportunity to interact with all the interesting, kind, and wonderful people I come across."

It's not exactly the sort of sound you're looking for, but my go-to playlist for exactly this features Gogol Bordello pretty heavily. Two favorites:
Ultimate, whose chorus just does not ever fail to make me grin and feel much better about whatever else is happening:
There was never any good old days
They are today, they are tomorrow
It's a stupid thing we say
Cursing tomorrow with sorrow
Undestructable as even more of an anthem:
And so no longer live I in fear
Them are too greedy to pay my asylum bills
This is my life and freedom is my profession
This is my mission throughout all flight duration
There is a core and it's hardcore
All is hardcore when made with love
Love is a voice of a savage soul
This savage love is
posted by Drastic at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: One of my favorite songs, and I think exactly what you're looking for: Stevie Wonder - As
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:49 AM on March 30, 2011

Poi Dog Pondering may be just what you are looking for. Started on the streets of Hawaii, moving to electro-acoustic-pop Austin in the 90's, and ending up in Chicago where they now make themselves available to come cook dinner for you and play music for you and your friends directly.

Possibly the only "Taoist" pop band out there more concerned with being evangelistically happy than selling records.

Here is a performance of Everybody's Trying (to figure it out) on Letterman from the 90's.

And here is a good sampler of exactly the kind of music you are looking for.
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:04 PM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: The Avett Brothers: Kick Drum Heart and Slight Figure of Speech
posted by sic at 12:06 PM on March 30, 2011

Canards Sauvages, by Camille. Just try not to dance.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:08 PM on March 30, 2011

"Tonight" by Jason Anderson
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:09 PM on March 30, 2011

Oops Here's Avett Brothers Slight Figure of Speech
posted by sic at 12:11 PM on March 30, 2011

Postal Service: Such Great Heights
posted by sic at 12:18 PM on March 30, 2011

Another from Cat Stevens: "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out".

Peter Gabriel's guest shot on "When You're Falling" is above, but there's also his own "Solsbury Hill".

I'm standing up and shouting AMEN to U2's "Beautiful Day," and adding "Mysterious Ways."

Miriam Makeba's Embhaceni.

Brian Eno's Lay My Love.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2011

Bob Marley, One Love
posted by mareli at 12:32 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Hoppípolla" by Sigur Rós
posted by Rhaomi at 12:33 PM on March 30, 2011

You can download this song on mp3 from the youtube link, but for now, please turn up your speakers and set aside roughly two and a half minutes to watch this instrumental Legend of Zelda song, which I cannot watch without my heart overflowing with love and joy.

Wind Waker Medley
posted by Greg Nog at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: Really, you should just listen to nothing BUT Stevie Wonder. And Miriam Makeba.

You need the song I recommend in every single song recommendation thread ever, which is the Jason Falkner cover of Both Sides Now. (That isn't even the best version; the one I like has him starting with more of a yeehaw :P)

I had no idea that the song I was going to recommend as a Miriam Makeba version -- I Shall Sing -- was a Van Morrison song! Can't find Miriam just now, but the Boney M version (among others) is pretty good too.

Fantastic Plastic Machine -- well, again, just about anything, but I love the whole Luxury album, especially Lotto.

Journey -- Any Way You Want It

Jamiroquai, Canned Heat (yeah, I liked it even before Napoleon Dynamite, so there)

For cheesy and relentlessly perky (even though the message is "come ON!"), Just Kiss Me by Harry Connick, Jr.

Tom Jones and Mousse T, Sex Bomb (Peppermint Disco mix)

In the slightly-more-edgy camp (but not really angry, per se):
Noisettes, Scratch Your Name
posted by Madamina at 12:42 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You guys... you GUYS! These are amazing. My bum is making squiggly dance movements in my chair as I type. Much thanks to everyone who's posted so far, and please do keep the suggestions coming!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:48 PM on March 30, 2011

If this song doesn't make you smile and cry tears of joy, then you need psychiatric attention (and every word is true!):

Drive-By Truckers, 18 Wheels of Love
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:05 PM on March 30, 2011

Fair warning: I may be too far into rock and/or electronic for your taste.

Bon Jovi - It's my Life

Honestly, while Bon Jovi does do the love song thing, they really don't do depressing. I'd hit up a lot of their stuff.

Incubus - Wish You Were Here
VNV Nation - Arena
Smashing Pumpkins - Today
BT - The Unbreakable
posted by bfranklin at 1:43 PM on March 30, 2011

Magnetic Fields: Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
Curtis Mayfield: Move On Up
Familjen: Det snurrar i min skalle
Amadou and Miriam: Sabali
Avalanches: Since I Left You
New Pornographers: The Laws Have Changed
posted by benzenedream at 1:46 PM on March 30, 2011

My tastes are more along the lines of dance but ...
: Bloc Party - I Still Remember, So Here We Are, This Modern Love
: The Killers - Human. The first time I heard this was in a yoga class and the instructor said, "If I had a radio station, I would play songs like this all the time." Me too, buddy.
: Alex Gaudino - I'm in Love
: Matt and Kim - Daylight
: Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
: Matisyahu - One Day
: Axwell - It's True
: Eric Prydz - Call On Me
: Los Campesinos - You! Me! Dancing!
posted by kat518 at 1:56 PM on March 30, 2011

I can see clearly now (I'm not sure which one is best, as I listen to a Claremont Shades version that's not widely available).
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:47 PM on March 30, 2011

Maybe 'On the Sunny Side of the Street.'
posted by box at 3:44 PM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: The Playing For Change version of Stand By Me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:04 PM on March 30, 2011

You will like this.
posted by troywestfield at 5:06 PM on March 30, 2011

And if you're in the right kind of mood, this?
posted by troywestfield at 5:08 PM on March 30, 2011

Video of 2 Discovery Channel ads of the theme "The World is Just Awesome."

posted by dondiego87 at 5:48 PM on March 30, 2011

SECONDING "Luckiest Guy in the Lower East Side" by the Magnetic Fields!

Jack Johnson is also good for this sort of thing.

Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

And this is a super-cheery cover of the happiest ever Beatles song.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:00 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Troywestfield, what were the two bands and songs in the clips you linked to?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 PM on March 30, 2011

"Sing" by Travis

And practically all songs by Donna the Buffalo, too many to list! :)
posted by foxhat10 at 7:01 PM on March 30, 2011

And while looking at one of troywestfield's picks, I saw the Bodeans, "Good Things". Great, happy tune!
posted by foxhat10 at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2011

Very surprised to see that no one has mentioned Float On by Modest Mouse! It's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by yawper at 7:12 PM on March 30, 2011

Green Day, Waiting

And yes, for the observant, that is both a musical and a lyrical allusion to Petula Clark's Downtown, which itself is also a good answer to this question.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:42 PM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I have a whole playlist named :) Yes, my playlist is an emoticon. But it describes the music perfectly: They make me smile. Here are a sampling of my favs from that list (some of them are "popular" and some are pretty random from folk to country to christian to alternative, my taste is random I suppose):

• Gotta Get Up from Here, Ellie Lawson **
• She Said, Brie Larson **
• Ain't No Reason, Brett Dennen **
• Ain't No Mountain High Enough, The Temptations **
• Happy, Meleni Smith **
• On the First Try, Libber Schrader **
• Bottom Of The Barrel, Amos Lee **
• Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield **
• Hands, Jewel **
• Suddenly I See, KT Tunstall
• Moments, Emerson Drive
• Okayalright, moe.
• Smile, Uncle Kracker
• My Next 30 Years, Tim McGraw
• Live High, Jason Mraz
• Mr. Brightside, The Killers
• Ok, It's Alright With Me, Eric Hutchinson
• I Found Love, The Free Design
• High Of 75, Relient K
• The Lucky One, Allison Krauss & Union Station
• When I Think About Angels, Jamie O'Neal
• Lucky Man, Montgomery Gentry
• Taking Back My Brave, Carolyn Dawn Johnson
• Survivor, Destiny's Child
• Imagine, The Beatles
• Hope, Jack Johnson

** These ones are my absolutely pick me up off the ground when I'm down songs.
posted by ilikemethisway at 8:21 PM on March 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, ABSOLUTELY, seconding Amadou and Miriam for Sabali (this link goes to their recently released official video, if you want the visuals, too.)

- Holger Czukay: Cool in the Pool
- Stevie Wonder: Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing
- Lauryn Hill: Everything is Everything
- Cake: Mahna Mahna
- Sly and the Family Star: Everybody is a Star
- Spoon: The Underdog -- music is sunnier than the lyrics and wins
- ALSO: Keepon dancing to Spoon's Don't You Evah -- just ignore the lyrics, follow the music, and watch the adorable dancing robot
- Talking Heads: Naive Melody/This Must Be the Place (from Stop Making Sense)
- 54-40: Love You All
posted by maudlin at 8:22 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Switchfoot's Dare you to Move is the first one I put on when I need a big lift.
posted by pink candy floss at 8:37 PM on March 30, 2011

I thought of a few more:

Good Mother - Jann Arden - my #1 gratitude song - can't believe I forgot this one!
Thank U - Alanis Morrisette
It's Alright - Pet Shop Boys
New Sensation - INXS
posted by yawper at 8:46 PM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Let's not forget one of the greatest feel-good songs ever: Don't Stop Me Now, by Queen!

Also, while the lyrics are not quite on topic, Fat Bottomed Girls never fails to make me want to dance (badly).
posted by just_ducky at 9:31 PM on March 30, 2011

Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine (even babies can't stop themselves from dancing to this song!)
Alanis Morissette's Hand in My Pocket, too. Maybe even You Learn, too. Not sure about dancing to these two, but they are terrific for driving.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:09 PM on March 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
Don't Worry, Be Happy - Bobby McFerrin
Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What a Wonderful World - Israel Kamakawiwoʻole
Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
posted by hot soup at 11:31 PM on March 30, 2011

Best answer: I understand your question to mean not necessarily songs with inspiring lyrics (though that could surely help) but more like upbeat things that just get you innocently bouncing around and happy to be alive. Here is what I'm coming up with:

* Accidently Kelly Street - Frente! (totally catchy and embodies the kind of spirit I think you're talking about... and yes, "accidentally" is misspelled)
*Fidelity - Regina Spektor (and basically the whole rest of the album "Begin to Hope", the title of which pretty much sounds like what you're looking for, right? Specifically, try the songs "Better" and "Apres Moi," which is probably the catchiest trilingual song you'll ever hear). Also, from her newer album "Far", the song "Folding Chair" sounds right up your alley. (Sample lyrics: "Come and open up your folding chair next to me.")
* C'est La Vie - B*Witched (just fun and young and poppy, from a child's perspective)
*The Frug - Rilo Kiley (simple joys)
*Build Me Up Buttercup - The Foundations (a classic from 1968)
*Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield (both inspirational and catchy. Maybe a little cheesy, but not too much.)
* Speak Slow - Tegan and Sara (and other songs from their album "So Jealous") (more of an indie feel than poppy, depending on what you like to listen to; probably my favorite band)
*Got My Mind Set On You - George Harrison ("It's gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time... to do it right, child.")
* Cecilia - Simon & Garfunkel (can't get enough of that clapping)
* Basically the entire album "Re-Arrange Us" by Mates of State. A couple of really great songs for you to try out: Great Dane and Now
* Rangers - A Fine Frenzy (I don't know what this song's really about, but I still really like it)
* One Toke Over The Line - Brewer & Shipley
* The Christians and the Pagans - Dar Williams (less poppy and more folky, but still upbeat and catchy, and a great message about learning from each other's differences)
* Nada de Esto Fue un Error - Coti (if you can understand Spanish, the lyrics might be appropriate to your situation too, which are basically: what happened between us, I wanted it and you wanted it and it wasn't an accident, or an "error")
* I Hope You Dance - LeAnn Womack
* Sloop John B - Beach Boys
* The Longest Time - Billy Joel
* That's What Love is For - Amy Grant (very cheesy, but pretty uplifting)
* Lucky to Be Here - Blessid Union of Souls
* If you like oldies/doo-woppy stuff, try "The Letter" by The Box Tops, "Sh-Boom" by The Chords, "Get a Job" by the Silhouettes, "My Girl" by The Temptations (which I'm sure you already know), "Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler, "Happy Together" by the Turtles, "I'm Into Something Good" by Herman's Hermits, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" by the Temptations, "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield, and/or "Lollipop" by the Chordettes.
* Begin Again - Colbie Caillat (she does simple, positive songs, others include "Bubbly, "It Stops Today", and "The Little Things")
* Mmmbop - Hanson (?)
* Bonnie Taylor Shakedown - Hellogoodbye
* 867-5309/Jenny - Tommy Tutone
* If you like the Indigo Girls' sound, "Closer to Fine" and "Galileo"
* If you like Neil Diamond's sound, "Cracklin' Rose" and "Sweet Caroline"
* OK, this is explicit lyrics, but it's really really humorous, as well as being a positive-themed, and a catchy pop tune: "8 Miles Wide" by Storm Large. I can't recommend it highly enough, if you're comfortable with the NSFW subject matter.

(Note: I'm in China so I can't easily test the YouTube links, but I copied them from Google, and if they don't work (as well as those I didn't provide links for), just try Googling yourself....)
posted by jef at 12:56 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I Just Want To Celebrate (Mocean Worker Remix, which is quite poppy and bouncy, the original is a bit more rocky).
posted by penguin pie at 6:26 AM on March 31, 2011

Oh, also -
The Style Council:
Walls Come Tumbling Down
Shout to the Top
and Madness:
Wings of A Dove
posted by penguin pie at 6:53 AM on March 31, 2011

ELO - Mr. Blue Sky
posted by stenseng at 10:02 AM on March 31, 2011

"Oh, Atlanta" by Allison Krauss.

Lots of Billy Bragg is vey high-energy and brash and fun, though with a political element that may not work. For example, "All You Fascists" is fun and fast and loud, and so is "Love Gets Dangerous." "Time Heals" by The Gear Daddies is the same way.

There are also witlessly fun songs, like "Hay Wrap" by The Saw Doctors (west-Irish rap?) and "I'd Love to Kiss the Bangles" -- but I'm not sure they fit your criteria.

"Keep The Customer Satisfied" by Simon and Garfunkel is fun to sing to.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:06 AM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I thought about Billy Bragg too - You Woke Up My Neighbourhood, The Great Leap Forward or the more upbeat version of Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key are all good and bouncy (sorry, on my phone now, so no links).
posted by penguin pie at 12:01 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not exactly poppy as in current pop, but it is definitely upbeat - Cat Stevens' Morning has Broken.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 8:47 PM on March 31, 2011

First song that came to mind was Right Place by Monsters of Folk.
posted by mekily at 11:02 PM on March 31, 2011

Best answer: Sweet Caroline is even more fun if you sing along with the backing vocals, Tripod-style.

Supergrass - Alright
Beck - Sexx Laws
Custard - Ringo (unofficial filmclip wtf?) & Girls Like That
The Wombats - Let's Dance to Joy Division
posted by harriet vane at 12:14 AM on April 1, 2011

Best answer: In case you haven't had your fill:
And previously.
Previously again.
Still another previously.
Can you stand it?
Really, I'll stop now.
posted by Paris Elk at 3:19 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Billy Joel, The River of Dreams
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:57 PM on April 3, 2011

It's overproduced pop, but Owl City's Fireflies fits the bill.
posted by Monochrome at 6:49 PM on April 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone. My iPod is exploding with happy.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 12:51 PM on April 4, 2011

My "Happy" Playlist

That is a playlist I created on Grooveshark before you ever posted this question. Hopefully you like 'em.
posted by farmersckn at 1:26 PM on April 4, 2011

I hope you're long out of your funk by now, but I'd just like to add Wavin' Flag by K'naan, which was also reworked as something of an anthem for the 2010 World Cup. I like the lyrics of the original better, but prefer the arrangement of the latter, so take your pick.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:01 PM on October 24, 2011

Response by poster: I am long out of my funk, actually, and I'm 100% serious when I say this thread played a big part in getting me out of it. Thanks for the continued suggestions, hopefully they will be as helpful to others as they were to me! :)
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 1:05 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

oooh, somebody convert this to a Spotify playlist...
posted by mecran01 at 1:55 PM on February 20, 2012

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