Songs that make you grit your teeth and kick life in the ass
September 30, 2014 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Pretty straightforward, really. What are your favorite songs that speak to grappling with real, significant struggles, keeping your head up, continuing to fight and plug along? Songs that say "things will get better" without minimizing the depth of the current pain? Songs that give you a burst of fight and grit when you're feeling helpless? Not relationship-specific. I've been listening to "Ooh Child" and of course the classic Tupac - any genre welcome.
posted by celtalitha to Grab Bag (58 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
"Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty
posted by christinetheslp at 7:51 PM on September 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

Lose Yourself, Eminem.

Also, for something newer, Pompeii by Bastille, especially the line "How am I gonna be an optimist about this?"
posted by sweetkid at 8:00 PM on September 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

1812 Overture
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:08 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am generally not a Kanye fan, but Stronger fills this niche for me.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:21 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I find Billy Bragg's music more or less universally great for this purpose and Milkman of Human Kindness a rousing entry.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:22 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

100% This Year by The Mountain Goats. "I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me."

I could just end this post right here, but I'll throw in a few more.

Some Nights by fun. does this for me in a pump-up sort of way.

All That We Let In by the Indigo Girls is a gentler one.

And Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
posted by mekily at 8:29 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

A year or so back I was in a really dark place, working an exhausting, stressful job with miserable hours and an endless commute. One morning as the sun was coming up the radio started playing U2's Beautiful Day, and no foolin', it spoke to me so deeply I got chills.

I know everybody is supposed to hate U2 now, but f all that. CAPITAL F it. They've made some pretty amazing music. To me that song seemed to be addressing somebody who was beat down to the ground, and reminding them that there was this whole amazing world out there and there were things worth fighting for still. I was perhaps as low as I'd ever been, and that song was exactly what I needed to hear.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:42 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding This Year! Also try Amy AKA Spent Gladiator.
posted by merejane at 8:44 PM on September 30, 2014

Offspring - you're gonna go far kid
posted by pyro979 at 8:46 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Death by Chocolate by Sia ("Tears on your pillow will dry and you will learn/Just how to love again)

Yes by McAlmont & Butler ("Yes I do feel better, I feel good enough to tell you what to do with what you've got to offer")
posted by oceanview at 8:49 PM on September 30, 2014

"Better Things" is a favorite of mine. Many versions: I like the original by the Kinks and this cover by Dar Williams.

Absolutely the aforementioned "This Year."
posted by lunasol at 8:53 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Come Out Fighting by The Vandals (Pennywise cover, but I like this version).

Better Things by The Bouncing Souls (another cover, as noted above).

The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:57 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I like Jay-Z's Black Album (which is pretty much a memoir of his early struggles) and early Kanye for this kind of mood.
posted by lunasol at 9:04 PM on September 30, 2014

Abba: Chiquitita, I Have a Dream, probably others.
posted by Melismata at 9:06 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is the Sea by the Waterboys always gets me through.
posted by OolooKitty at 9:09 PM on September 30, 2014

Best answer: I've had this one on a near-constant loop for the past 6 weeks or so. It makes me emphatically swing my arms and clench my fists and that seems to help very much.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:14 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great Big Sea, Ordinary Day
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:28 PM on September 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I like Imma Shine, youngbloodz
Hate on me, Jill Scott
Lovely Day, Bill Withers
Lovely Day, Kirk Franklin, if you're feeling religious
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, Kelly Clarkson
For the first time, the script
Empty Words, Christina Aguilera
Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder
Stand, BeBe Winans (if religous)
posted by anitanita at 9:33 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Rollins Band- Shine
posted by EKStickland at 9:36 PM on September 30, 2014

Union of Drunken Upstarts by Amadan.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:36 PM on September 30, 2014

The answer, as it is to all things musical, is Emmylou Harris.

Diamond in my Crown

I have wasted all that life has laid before me
I have watched as all the green fields turned to brown.
But I shall not disavow
All these ties that bind me now
There'll be a diamond, a diamond in my crown


With the passing of the years I will grow stronger
Just as sure as this old world keeps spinning 'round.
Then the closer I will be
To my sweetest victory
There'll be a diamond, a diamond in my crown
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:46 PM on September 30, 2014


I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never gonna keep me down

Does it for me.
posted by caryatid at 10:13 PM on September 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I know we're supposed to sneer at U2 now, but "Walk On" still works for me. Particularly the lines "I know it aches, how your heart it breaks, it can only take so much. Walk on."

A couple of other picks: Frightened Rabbit's "Things" and Typhoon's "Summer Home."
posted by yasaman at 10:27 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lauryn Hill - Everything Is Everything
Foo Fighters - The Pretender
Ani DiFranco - Willing to Fight
Feist - I Feel It All
Dave Matthews Band - Dancing Nancies
Pat Benatar - You Better Run
La Roux - Bulletproof
John Lennon - Instant Karma!
Grateful Dead - Box of Rain
The Clash - I'm Not Down
posted by flex at 10:37 PM on September 30, 2014

Argent - Hold Your Head Up (This cheers me up just with that rediculous double-necked guitar. And the sunglasses. And the overalls.)
P.P. Arnold - Everything's Gonna be Alright
The Impressions - Keep On Pushing, We're A Winner
Neko Case - Man
posted by hydrophonic at 10:46 PM on September 30, 2014

Heh. I started going through my iPhone playlist and all the songs that really help me get going seem to be from anime, particularly sports anime. They tend to be all about gutting it out. I'm not sure if you need to actually watch them for context or not.

Hey! Say! from bon bon (OP for Lovely Complex)

Yowamushi na Honoo by Dirty Old Men (OP for Yowamushi Pedal). This is my JAM right now.

Breakthrough (OP for Eyeshield 21)

Hana no Iro (OP for Hanasaku Iroha)

All the Stereopony.


OK, non-anime stuff. Often its lyrics rather than the music that help me ground myself and roll up my sleeves.

Reality used to be a Friend of Mine by PM Dawn

We Know Something by DJ Format and the Jurassic Five

Follow Me from 2NE1

Lots of Girlyman, especially Supernova.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:50 PM on September 30, 2014

I'd already been creating a list, with links, in Evernote for just this purpose. Everyone's already covered the best of my list (and is giving me lots of add to my own) but I can add (some albeit poppy):

Jon Bon Jovi -- It's My Life
Matthew Wilder -- Break My Stride
Destiny's Child -- Survivor
David Guetta (Featuring Sia) -- Titanium
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 11:05 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Paul Stanley, Live To Win
posted by johngoren at 11:32 PM on September 30, 2014

Radiohead - Optimistic
posted by moorooka at 11:57 PM on September 30, 2014

Old but great: Fight, by The Cure.
posted by srednivashtar at 12:16 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm Still Standing by Elton John is my go-to song for this.

A couple others:
Fighter - Christina Aguilera
This Is The Day - The The
Heart - Damn Yankees soundtrack
posted by SisterHavana at 12:29 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Basically everything ever by The Roots. Especially How I Got Over (the whole album). But especially the title track.
posted by stinker at 1:28 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you understand German, Böhse Onkelz are the go to band. They have a lot songs about not giving up, going against the odds and not compromising. They cover specific subjects like overcoming addiction, depression and loss in some, others are more general and - what I find important - they always sound honest and from the heart (because they are all based on personal experience).

Lieber stehend sterben
Der Himmel kann warten
Nie wieder
Finde die Wahrheit
Angst ist nur ein Gefühl
Jetzt oder nie (English translation)
posted by MinusCelsius at 2:33 AM on October 1, 2014

Veruca Salt - Volcano Girls
Liz Phair - Human Supernova
posted by dinoworx at 2:38 AM on October 1, 2014

Raise Your Glass by P!nk
♫ So raise your glass if you are wrong
In all the right ways
All my underdogs!
We will never be, never be anything but loud
And nitty-gritty dirty little freaks
Won't you come on and come on and
Raise your glass! ♫
Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance
♫ Do or die
You'll never make me
Because the world will never take my heart
Go and try
You'll never break me
We want it all
We wanna play this part
I won't explain
Or say I'm sorry
I'm unashamed
I'm gonna show my scar
Give a cheer for all the broken
Listen here because it's who we are
I'm just a man
I'm not a hero
I'm just a boy who had to sing this song
I'm just a man
I'm not a hero
And I! don't! care! ♫
The Impression That I Get by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones
♫ Have you ever been close to tragedy?
Or been close to folks who have?
Have you ever felt the pain so powerful, so heavy you collapse?
I've never had to (knock on wood)
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if I could?
It makes me wonder...
If I've never had to (knock on wood)
And I'm glad I haven't yet, because I'm sure it isn't good,
That's the impression that I get ♫
Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
♫ Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions!
Feel the rain on your skin! ♫
So What by P!nk
♫ So what?
I'm still a rock star
I got my rock moves
And I don't need you
And guess what
I'm having more fun
And now that we’re done
I'm gonna show you tonight
I'm alright!
I'm just fine! ♫
The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
♫ It just takes some time
Little girl, you're in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be alright, alright ♫
Love Generation by Bob Sinclair
♫ Just look to the rainbow you will see,
The sun will shine 'till eternity
I've got so much love in my heart
No one can tear it apart!
Feel the love generation
Don't worry about a thing
Gonna be alright ♫
Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
♫ Cause love's such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure ♫
I also recommend the lyricless "Flying Home" theme from the Kick-Ass soundtrack. Listening to it makes me feel like a superhero ready to take on the world, which is why I have it as my morning alarm ringtone.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:40 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, for something newer, Pompeii by Bastille, especially the line "How am I gonna be an optimist about this?"

OOOOOH! If you are at all a fan of Tony Stark / Iron Man, you HAVE to watch the fanvid set to this (password: tonystark). Very inspirational.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:42 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

U2 has a bunch. (And I agree with the comment upthread: fuck the haters.) just a few:
Walk On
Where the Streets Have No Name
Stuck in a Moment
Every Breaking Wave
posted by The Deej at 6:36 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Shake It Out by Florence & The Machine
Punch In and Out by Seven Mary Three (in a weird way)
posted by Nyx at 6:46 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel
Ain't Got No, I Got Life by Nina Simone
My Life by Shirley Bassey
That's Life by Frank Sinatra
posted by sevenofspades at 7:04 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hold Your Head Up-Argent-1972-(Long Version) - YouTube
posted by Gor-ella at 7:20 AM on October 1, 2014

Generation X here. Anthems we relied on: Flashdance (What a Feeling) in all its tawdry glory, and Fame in one or all of its many, many incarnations.
posted by seabound_coast at 8:05 AM on October 1, 2014

Best answer: Tubthumping.

I rather find Taylor Swifts "Shake it Off" works for me. Though it's more for getting past things that gritting through them.

Florence & the Machines "Shake it Out" also works. Hmm apparently the shaking symbolism works for me.

Queen "The Show Must Go On"

Passenger "Keep on Walking"

Woodkid "Iron" It's probably more the music & the video for this one more than the lyrics.

Dixie Chicks "Not Ready to Make Nice"

"Defying Gravity" from Wicked the Musical.
posted by wwax at 8:53 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not all 'kick life in the ass', but all of the following give me a 'you're going to be ok' feeling. (some of them are not great versions, sorry.)

Steady On, Shawn Colvin (also The Story, Diamond in the Rough, Another Long One, that whole album and many songs from her other albums)

Adventures in Solitude, The New Pornographers

Comfort, Deb Talan

Wondering Where the Lions Are, Bruce Cockburn (also Pacing the Cage, Get Up Jonah)

After All, Dar Williams (also Spring Street, Better Things, Travelling Again...)

Heaven When We're Home and Beautiful Dawn, The Wailin' Jennys

To My Bones, Wallis Bird

On the Right Track, Pippin soundtrack

Here Comes the Sun, the Beatles

On My Way Home, Mike + Ruthy

Peace of Mind, Mindy Smith

If I Had a Boat, Lyle Lovett

Come a Long Way, Michelle Shocked

Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel

(and Tubthumping and Shake it Out and lots of others.)
posted by you must supply a verb at 9:32 AM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

My absolute favourite for this purpose: Better Must Come, Delroy Wilson.
posted by alaaarm at 11:06 AM on October 1, 2014

Last year for me it was "I Knew Prufrock Before he was Famous" [SLYT] and "I Still Believe" [SLYT] and "Reasons Not to be An Idiot" [SLYT] all by Frank Turner, sung at throat-shredding volume while driving home from work each night.

Goddamn, Frank Turner dragged my lame ass clear through 2013, and I am forever grateful.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:17 PM on October 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

Some of Shelley's Blues
posted by mmiddle at 1:38 PM on October 1, 2014

better link for Shelley's Blues - Linda Ronstadt
posted by mmiddle at 1:44 PM on October 1, 2014

Umpteenthing the suggestions of Florence + the Machine's Shake it Out. It's helped me kick my ass into gear when dealing with depression and anxiety and leave two crappy jobs.

Also on my ass-kicking personal soundtrack:

- Tightrope by Janelle Monae.
- Extraordinary Machine by Fiona Apple.
And most recently I Lived by OneRepublic.
posted by bgal81 at 5:12 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Broken by Lifehouse.
posted by anderjen at 6:56 PM on October 1, 2014

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Crane Takes Flight. It hits the right amount of hopeful while honestly dealing with pain and struggle.
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:57 PM on October 1, 2014

Eminem - Lose Yourself
posted by thegoldfish at 10:39 PM on October 1, 2014

Civ - Can't Wait One Minute More
Survivor - Eye of the Tiger
Twisted Sister - Stay Hungry
Tomoyasu Hotei - Battle Without Honor or Humanity (Soundtrack for the times you need to put on your big-girl boots, kick Life in the soft-parts, and announce "On this day no fucks were given, no shit was taken.")
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:41 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cake - The Distance
(for me, anyway)
posted by getawaysticks at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yesterday's Girl, Nerissa and Katryna Nields
posted by you must supply a verb at 1:33 PM on October 2, 2014

I like Work (Gang Starr), which has a similar kind of feel to one of the songs you linked.
posted by slidell at 1:11 AM on October 6, 2014

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