Help me find more personal anthems
June 24, 2013 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to add particular kinds of upbeat and positive songs to a current very eclectic playlist. Details inside.

Songs should have as many of the following characteristics as possible:

  • Positive message - overcoming adversity, perseverance, being/accepting yourself, being accepted, you make your own future, encouragement, etc. (REQUIRED)
  • Musically upbeat
  • Easy to sing along with
  • Little/no profanity
  • Not instrumental
  • Available on Spotify/iTunes in the US

    Beyond that, I don't particularly care about genre, though my typical musical tastes run to folk/Irish/bluegrass/folk-rock. I use this playlist (which I call "Anthems") to pump me up before a improv performance, while I'm walking, and sometimes to dance/clean to. I've seen this question, and I got a few from there, but it didn't quite hit the same note I was looking for. Lazifying my already existing Spotify playlist didn't do it either.

    Right now, the playlist has these songs (bold/italic ones are particular favorites):

    Born This Way - Lady Gaga
    This Little Light of Mine - Sweet Honey in the Rock
    Tubthumping - Chumbawamba [singability]
    SING - My Chemical Romance
    A Change Is Gonna Come - The Dartmouth Aires
    Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
    The Mary Ellen Carter - Stan Rogers
    We Shall Not Overcome - Frank Turner
    Perfect - P!nk [message]
    Guide My Feet - First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn
    Dog Days Are Over - Florence + The Machine
    I Feel Better - Gotye
    Critical Hit - Ghost Mice
    Forest Whitiker - Brother Ali [message]
    Things Can Only Get Better - D:Ream
    Can't Hold Us - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
    Home - Phillip Phillips
    Carry On - fun. [upbeat]

  • posted by booksherpa to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 63 users marked this as a favorite
    The Jam, Absolute Beginners (lyrics here)
    Curtis Mayfield, Move On Up (the Jam's cover version, with a faster tempo, is here)
    posted by scody at 11:52 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Cousins - Vampire Weekend
    posted by mcstayinskool at 11:55 AM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Ain't Got No/I Got Life - Nina Simone

    Roam - B52s

    This Year - The Mountain Goats

    I'm Always in Love - Wilco

    How Far We've Come - Matchbox Twenty
    posted by maya at 11:55 AM on June 24, 2013

    Most things by Andrew WK, I guess start with "It's Time to Party."

    You might like a lot of stuff recommended in this previous question of mine.
    posted by jbickers at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2013

    Beautiful South - Perfect 10
    posted by DarlingBri at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2013

    Milkshake by Kelis!

    Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves

    Ain't No Stopping Us Now by McFadden & Whitehead
    posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: Smash Mouth - All Star
    posted by HotToddy at 12:02 PM on June 24, 2013

    more Weller tracks: Paul Weller, Uh Huh, Oh Yeah, and the Style Council, Shout to the Top
    posted by scody at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2013

    Since I just bought tickets to see them play in Portland in October, how about The Waterboys?

    My particular favorites are World Party, Fisherman Blues, and The Big Music.
    posted by perhapses at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: I really like K'naan's Wavin' Flag--hopeful, uplifting, positive message, catchy chorus, no swears.
    posted by stellaluna at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

    another good florence and the machine: shake it out.
    posted by koroshiya at 12:03 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Float On by Modest Mouse! The ultimate upbeat anthem.


    It's Alright - Pet Shop Boys
    Alright - Janet Jackson
    The Remedy (I Won't Worry) - Jason Mraz
    Hope – Shaggy
    Good Mother – Jann Arden
    The Middle - Jimmy Eat World
    posted by yawper at 12:05 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: This song seems to fit your description exactly:

    Fort Atlantic - Let Your Heart Hold Fast

    I don't know if this qualifies as a self-link or not, but in the interest of full disclosure: I know this guy and helped him put together a Portland-based backing band when he moved here from Birmingham. I had nothing to do with the writing or recording of this song.
    posted by sportbucket at 12:10 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Good Noise - John Gorka
    posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:11 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Reach - New Grass Revival
    posted by Wordwoman at 12:15 PM on June 24, 2013

    I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor?
    posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:17 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: Yes I Will by Michael Franti & Spearhead
    Reach Up for the Sunrise by Duran Duran
    posted by workerant at 12:30 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Kelly Clarkson's Stronger is very positive-upbeat-overcoming-adversity-anthemy, with a chorus good for both singing along and jumping up and down. Seems to be the same general message/tone as "I Will Survive"; they'd go well together on a playlist.
    posted by theatro at 12:30 PM on June 24, 2013

    Details in the Fabric - Jason Mraz
    posted by genrand at 12:35 PM on June 24, 2013

    Response by poster: Kelly Clarkson's Stronger is perfect except it's about overcoming a bad relationship. I'm looking for more "overcoming naysayers/demons of self doubt", since I've been happily married for a while. :)

    That said, it may be too good not to add, since it really is pretty perfect otherwise.
    posted by booksherpa at 12:39 PM on June 24, 2013

    Loverboy - Turn Me Loose
    posted by smallvictories at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2013

    I love B.o.B. featuring Rivers Cuomo -- Magic as a get-pumped-up song.
    posted by bizzyb at 12:45 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: beauty in the world- macy gray
    posted by sexyrobot at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Yeah, Stronger (and I Will Survive, and others) is about that originally, but I think the chorus is more generally applicable. I mean, technically The Mary Ellen Carter is about raising a sunken ship, until that last verse. But of course, only you know what best moves you!
    posted by theatro at 12:47 PM on June 24, 2013

    (technological limitations mean that I have to post each link in a new comment, sorry)

    Hand in my Pocket - Alanis Morrisette
    posted by jb at 12:56 PM on June 24, 2013

    Safety Dance - Men in Hats (and awesome video)
    posted by jb at 12:57 PM on June 24, 2013

    Despite it's clear original intent to be a break-up song, when I use it as a pick-up or a personal anthem, I always think of I Will Survive as a song directed towards the inner demons and self-doubt that Ms. Gaynor has "locked out".
    posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:00 PM on June 24, 2013

    Curbside Prophet - Jason Mraz
    posted by jb at 1:01 PM on June 24, 2013

    Bulletproof by La Roux - it might be a breakup song, but the lyrics are pretty general.
    posted by k8lin at 1:02 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    I totally take "I will Survive", and the similarly themed "Survivor", as overcoming obstacles songs.

    I noticed that a fair number of songs on your list have been covered by Glee - they like songs with that sort of message. So you could scan what they're covered for further ideas.
    posted by jb at 1:03 PM on June 24, 2013

    This is an awesome song: Rise Up by the Parachute Club. It's also the anthem of World Pride 2014 in Toronto.
    posted by jb at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Great Big Sea will ping your Irish folk tastes like whoa, and their song Ordinary Day will work for this.


    New Radicals You Get What You Give

    Prince, "Baby I'm A Star" (can't find the video)

    For some reason I found Three Dog Night's Shambala worked for this too. Can't say why.
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Two more: The Finn Brothers, Nothing Wrong with You (this is a live clip, but it's from their album Everyone Is Here) and, from the same album, Anything Can Happen
    posted by scody at 1:13 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Destiny's Child - Survivor (not about a breakup; about losing band members/dealing with rumors) and So Good

    Ted Leo/RX always does it for me, too! I'd suggest Biomusicology and Little Dawn.
    posted by fireandthud at 1:20 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Best answer: In spite of how completely ubiquitous and unavoidable and overplayed it was, Katy Perry's Firework has an anthemic power that cannot be denied. It is one of my shameless favorites. (I do not have any guilty pleasures, only shameless ones.)
    posted by fikri at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

    And how 'bout a classic: In a Big Country from (of course) Big Country.

    "Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming.
    Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted."
    posted by fikri at 1:56 PM on June 24, 2013

    And, while we are back in the 80s, check out The Alarm doing "Rescue Me". Specifically, you want to hear the live version that came out on their record Electric Folklore Live. (Sorry, could not find a youtube link...) It includes one of the best, most uplifting mid-song speeches you are likely to hear, when the Alarm's Mark Peters quotes Woody Guthrie:

    “I hate a song that makes you think that you’re not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too thin or too fat or too ugly or too this or too that…. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun of you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling. I am out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.”

    Now, that's an anthem.
    posted by fikri at 2:14 PM on June 24, 2013

    "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen is great for when you need to be a shooting star leaping through the sky like a tiger
    posted by Svejk at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

    There is a lot of 90's house music that fits this category pretty well:

    Aly-Us - Follow Me

    Simone - My Family Depends on Me

    Karen Ramirez - If We Try

    Joe Smooth - Promised Land

    And along the same lines but in a more recent Baltimore Club style:

    Rod Lee - Dance My Pain Away
    posted by mr.ersatz at 2:42 PM on June 24, 2013

    Cee-Lo - Gettin' Grown
    posted by Lorin at 3:10 PM on June 24, 2013

    Huddle Formation - The Go! Team
    posted by lhall at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2013

    Born in the Flood - Anthem

    It may not be exactly your style, but how could I resist?
    posted by balacat at 4:05 PM on June 24, 2013

    Try This At Home - Frank Turner
    Constructive Summer - The Hold Steady
    posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:01 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Smiley Faces - Gnarls Barkley
    posted by clearly at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2013

    The The - This Is The Day
    David Guetta / Sia - Titanium
    posted by candyland at 6:47 PM on June 24, 2013

    Best answer: Fat Boy Slim - Drop the Hate
    Cold War - Janelle Monae
    Jump for my Love - Pointer Sisters. Which makes me think of this, which makes me smile.
    Born at the Right Time - Paul Simon
    World, Hold On - Bob Sinclair
    Let Love be Your Energy - Robbie Williams
    Love has the Power - Jimmy James
    Wings - Little Mix
    Peace Train - Cat Stevens
    Uprising - Muse (perhaps a bit cheesy, but it's definitely upbeat with a positive message)
    Canvas Bags - Tim Minchin
    Rocks and Water - Deb Talan
    I'm Beautiful, Dammit - Bette Middler
    posted by bunderful at 6:56 PM on June 24, 2013

    on the dance-renaissance fusion side - Coming - Jimmy Somerville, from the film Orlando. It meant a lot to me when I was a teen.
    posted by jb at 7:47 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Best answer: Seconding This Year by the Mountain Goats: "I am going to make it through this year if it kills me." My go-to "I'm having a rough time and I need to get energized" song.

    Better Things is another good one with a ton of versions. I like this one by Dar Williams; the Kinks' original version is also great.
    posted by lunasol at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2013

    The BoDeans

    Closer to Free (which I didn't know before now was used as a theme for that awful show Party of Five, bleh)

    Good Things (a song about love, but not your typical love song, if that makes sense -- about being worthy of someone's attention/desire)
    posted by emcat8 at 8:49 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Seconding jb's suggestion to look up Glee songs. I think this cover fits your criteria pretty well: You Can't Stop the Beat.
    posted by monkeys with typewriters at 9:30 PM on June 24, 2013

    Follow Your Arrow - Kacey Musgraves

    Ain't Nothing Wrong With That - Robert Randolph & The Family Band

    (I was just about to say You Can't Stop the Beat! I like the version from the Hairspray soundtrack even better.)
    posted by one little who at 9:36 PM on June 24, 2013

    I once mentioned Avery Sunshine - I got Sunshine (Remix) when a similar question popped up.
    posted by KMB at 6:08 AM on June 25, 2013

    Guided By Voices - Bulldog Skin
    posted by banwa at 6:17 AM on June 25, 2013

    Bad Reputation - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (although it does have the word "damn" in the main chorus.)

    I mean, you can't get any more personal anthem-y than "A girl can do what she wants to do and that's what I'm gonna do!"
    posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:46 AM on June 25, 2013

    Response by poster: (although it does have the word "damn" in the main chorus.)

    "Damn" doesn't even register on my profanity meter, so no worries. I don't mind the occasional "fuck" in my music, either. The profanity limitation was more to avoid songs that are absolutely littered with it, especially since I like to sing along.

    These are great suggestions! I haven't had a chance to listen to them all, yet, but I've already added a few to my playlist.
    posted by booksherpa at 7:38 AM on June 25, 2013

    The Aquabats - Look at me (I'm a Winner)
    Four radios blastin' classic rock
    And they're pointing at you
    With your fist raised high
    And a hitch in your step
    You've got it all
    I've got no reason to lie
    Look at me look at me look at me I'm a winner
    (You're a winner)
    It's just as simple as that
    Don't you agree don't you agree don't you agree that I'm a winner?
    (You're a winner!)

    You just can't argue with that
    posted by namewithoutwords at 8:35 AM on June 25, 2013

    "Video," India Arie
    "Yet Still I Rise," Yolanda Adams
    "Stand," Donna McClurkin

    (The last two not necessarily upbeat but meet all the other criteria).
    posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:13 PM on June 25, 2013

    Coldplay - Paradise
    posted by ohforf at 12:10 PM on June 29, 2013

    Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I had fun listening to all the suggestions. I discovered that upbeat was more important to me than I realized, that I like my instruments more in the background and my lyrics clearly understandable, and that I shy away from drug references more than profanity. Oh, and that you can find almost any song on Spotify. In the end, it did end up being very much "what moves me", as theatro suggested.

    Anyway, my anthem playlist has doubled thanks to y'all!
    posted by booksherpa at 3:27 PM on July 2, 2013

    « Older Is my employer legally allowed to track where I go...   |   iOS app for my son so he can message a restricted... Newer »
    This thread is closed to new comments.