I Will Face God and Walk Backwards into Hell: The Soundtrack
February 6, 2017 3:56 PM   Subscribe

Suggestions for songs that are about risk-taking - particularly ones where the narrator is still anxious or scared about said risk, or where the song is more ambivalent/ambiguous than "You Can Do It!"?

I'm about to embark on a trip that has been described as both brave and foolhardy. (I'm going to the US on a not-banned-yet Muslim passport. Yes. I know.) This trip has me flitting from DETERMINATION to fear to "why the fuck am I doing this" to "I cannot let the bastards win" to sick to my stomach to I Will Survive on and on and on.

I've been seeking out songs that can capture that mindset, though a lot of songs have been way more motivational/pep-talky than I need, or tend to be about pursuing a relationship. The closest I've gotten so far to that sentiment is MIKA's "Relax Take It Easy", because the lyrics talk about being scared and terrified but also there's not a lot that can be done anyway so might as well just chill.

Other songs on there: "Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1" by The Mountain Goats, "All The Way" by the Gregory Brothers/Jacksepticeye (which is way more You Can Do It but is so silly about it that it makes me laugh), "Storm Song" by Phildel, "Who's Going To Stop Me Now?" by Aviators, maaaaybe "That's Alright" by Laura Mvula, "Poetry of the Deed" by Frank Turner, "Level Up" by Vienna Teng, and "I Didn't Plan It" by Sara Bareilles.

I care more about lyrics than genre, though out of that entire list MIKA's my favourite sonically (slightly weird alt dance-pop). But am open to suggestion!
posted by divabat to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
"Defying Gravity" from Wicked?
posted by likedoomsday at 4:04 PM on February 6, 2017

It's cheesy but I love "I Have Confidence" from The Sound of Music for this (it's about defying your fears and self-doubt to pursue adventure/a new experience).
posted by lovableiago at 4:04 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by littlewater at 4:21 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Carry On," by fun.
"This Year," by the Mountain Goats.
"Float On," by Modest Mouse.i

And, on behalf of the not-awful parts of America, thank you for taking a chance on us. Welcome!
posted by gideonfrog at 4:35 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like a lot of Billy Joel songs for this type thing: Only the good die young; Piano Man; An Innocent Man; My life.

IIRC, he was a hotshot young star, got pwned by some record company, said "Fuck it. I am not working for you anymore, even if it means I cannot sell records." and he worked as a piano man in a bar or something until his contract with them ran out. He then got rich, then got robbed blind by his accountant or something and had to start his fortune over.

Many of his songs are written about those experiences and he isn't bitter and he isn't wallowing in self pity, but he does strongly embrace the fact that no matter what shit life hands him, he still can make his own decisions about some piece of it and he isn't going to contort himself out of shape trying to pretend that he can somehow get other people to not be shitty to him. They are shitty to him and then he decides what he will do in the face of that.

I really love a lot of his songs for inspiration for how to face the fact that life is full of unknowns and sometimes other people shit on you, and how to remain your own person in the face of that.

I also like the song "Hold your head up" by Argent.
posted by Michele in California at 4:40 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fiona Apple - "Extraordinary Machine"

Song on YouTube
posted by Doleful Creature at 4:48 PM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Alright", Kendrick Lamar
"Little Dawn", Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
"Do It Anyway", Ben Folds Five
posted by quadrilaterals at 5:05 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Metric - Help I'm Alive
The Submarines - You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie
Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous

Hope you have a wonderful trip!
posted by eponym at 5:23 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on your decision. Welcome in advance to the US!

I'll be watching this post for songs to add to my own list. Here are a couple of my less cornball choices. I hope these are the sort of thing you're looking for.

"Move in the Right Direction"--Gossip

Chorus: So I hold back tears/Move in the right direction/Face my fears/Move in the right direction/I'm doing fine/One step closer every day at a time/I won't lose my mind, lose my mind/Uh-uh

"Optimistic"--Sounds of Blackness

Sample lyric: You hear the voice of reason/Telling you this can't never be done/No matter how hard reality seems/Just hold on to your dreams
posted by zorseshoes at 5:29 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'll Take My Chances - Mary Chapin Carpenter
posted by Grumpy old geek at 5:46 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman
posted by dilaudid at 6:06 PM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Two by Prinze George capture this feeling really well, I think:

Upswing ("I am always scared / But I always rise")

We Are Dreamers ("Wish I could open my heart to everything / But when I look at the things in this life / I see strife" ... "We are going downstream / But no one outlasts the dreamers / We don't know where we'll be / But no one outlasts the dreamers")

These feel especially right at 35,000 ft.

I want to echo gideonfrog - thanks for taking a chance on us. You're making me feel feels over here.
posted by leeloo minai at 6:44 PM on February 6, 2017

I've got a couple that I think might work, including another Mountain Goats song:

The Mountain Goats, Old College Try.

Oysterband, A Fire is Burning.

And then I've got a few "I am now, officially, no longer taking shit" metal songs to recommend. These are some of the things I listen to when I need a bit more steel in my spine, and I think the lyrics suit. (Caveat: As with virtually all lists of metal songs, the following is by no means free of dorkiness. You have been warned.)

Warlock, All We Are.

Accept, Beat the Bastards.

Iron Maiden, Journeyman.

Stratovarius, Still Alive.

Angra, Nova Era.

Amaranthe, Leave Everything Behind.

Bonus, done-taking-shit punk song:

Kids on Fire, Raise Your Glass.

Finally, and this is my best one, here is Sabaton's 40:1. This is special to me. It's by an unapologetically corny, Swedish power metal band that sings the most apolitical songs they can manage about heroic moments in military history. This one is about the Battle of Wizna in World War II, wherein Polish forces put up astonishingly fierce resistance to an invading nazi army.

An anti-imperialist like myself probably should not like this band. An anti-imperialist arch-hippie like my best friend almost definitely should not like this band. Yet somehow, this is the band, and this is the song, that got me through blinding PTSD and got her through a horrible, multi-year divorce with contested custody. It definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I'm passing it along in the hope that it will work some of its magic for you, too. Here you go:

Sabaton, 40:1.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:18 PM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Kare Kare by Crowded House always has that venturing into risk feeling to me.
Float On has already been mentioned but The World At Large by Modest Mouse is moving on but with trepidation.
by Everclear.
Near Death Experience and Orpheo Looks Back by Andrew Bird.
You Are Not Needed Now by Townes Van Zandt.
posted by Candleman at 7:31 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bad Reputation (Joan Jett)?
I don't give a damn / 'Bout my reputation / I've never been afraid of any deviation / An' I don't really care / If ya think I'm strange / I ain't gonna change / An' I'm never gonna care / 'Bout my bad reputation

Happy Up Here (Royksopp)
World / What you got for me? / Just bring it on! / What's it gonna be? / I'm ready for it / People / What you got for me? / Just bring it on! / What's it gonna be? / I'm ready for it!
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:06 PM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Big Music by the Waterboys
posted by perhapses at 8:49 PM on February 6, 2017

Acrobat by U2.
posted by Spinneret at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2017

Sia - Never Give Up
posted by bizarrenacle at 4:49 AM on February 7, 2017

Over The Falls- Primus
...Feeling twelve units shy of a bachelor's degree as he stood by and waited like the others before for his turn to go over the falls...
posted by JulesER at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Normally Disney songs are not my go-to, but I'll admit, the first thing that popped into my head when I read your question was the song Go the Distance from Hercules. And I have not thought about that song in YEARS.

Down an unknown road to embrace my fate//Though that road may wander, it will lead me to you//And a thousand years would be worth the wait//It might take a lifetime but somehow I'll see it through
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:34 PM on February 7, 2017

Songs in my rotation that feel like this feeling to me:

Now We Can See - the Thermals
Aside - the Weakerthans
To the Stars - Erin McKeown
Buildings and Bridges - Ani DiFranco
I Don't Ever Give Up - Patty Griffin
We Are More - Erin McKeown
Island Garden Song - the Mountain Goats
Bulletproof - Amanda Shires
Be OK - Ingrid Michaelson
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:44 PM on February 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hemiplegia by Haerts was my "take courage!" song a few years back, mostly for the refrain: No you can't move up with your eyes down.

The Great Beyond by REM

Amazing by Alex Lloyd is cheese-o-rama, and in the past tense, but still: it does it for me. As does U Will Know, a rousing 90s rnb supergroup track.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:57 PM on February 7, 2017

Goofy is fine (I mean, one of the songs on my list is a remix of a YouTuber), but so many of the songs suggested are perhaps more optimistic than I've intended. Any for "I'm taking a risk and I'm not even sure it's that good an idea (but damnit I'm stubborn)"?
posted by divabat at 2:45 PM on February 7, 2017

(update not really related to the playlist but to the reason for its existence: made it through US immigration with zero hassles :D)
posted by divabat at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yay, divabat! I'm so glad you made it through! Thanks for the update!
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:09 AM on February 16, 2017

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