1. Jay Z featuring Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”
Perhaps the ultimate “go for it” song, everything about it is like aural five-hour energy. From the rags-to-riches lyrics, to Keys’ soaring vocals, it will have you making moves to the big city even if you didn’t even know you wanted to go there.
2. David Bowie, “Space Oddity”
There is something really, really important about this song. Whenever you hear it, you can’t help but feel like you’re about to take off and do something extraordinary yourself, and that the weirdly morose quality is actually just a more measured, human kind of happiness.
3. Asaf Avidan, “One Day/Reckoning Song”
Yes, it was overplayed this year. Yes, it has a very glossy production. But there is something about this song that, despite the mass appeal, manages to stir the soul.
4. José Gonzalez, “Step Out”
This song has everything you need to get over your petty fears, from pounding opening drums to soul-lifting choir singing. Did someone tell Mr. Gonzalez that adding a choir to nearly any song makes it immediately my favorite? I’m suspicious…
5. Jack Johnson, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)”
We’re all used to the old, Uncle-drinking-rum-in-Tommy-Bahama shirt version of this song, and have probably dismissed it. But there is something about Jack Johnson’s soft, warm voice that, when applied to lyrics like this, make you actually listen to the charming message about finding love. Maybe you’ll even post your own personal ad (AKA OKCupid profile) when it’s over.
6. Alicia Keys, “No One”
This is Keys’ second appearance on this list, and for good reason. There is a deeply empowering quality to a lot of her music that gets even the most cynical person excited. And this song, about continuing to love someone despite the mindless chattering of others, is enough to make you call that misguided ex and tell him/her you’re still in love.
7. Of Monsters And Men, “Dirty Paws”
There are certain songs that just make you feel something, that bring up the kind of emotions you don’t often let yourself experience, and this is one of them. The harmony, the sweet, simple guitar that bursts into full color — listening to this song makes you wonder why you let yourself be afraid of anything.
8. Florence + The Machine, “Shake It Out”
Once again with the soul-lifting choirs, we have Florence and her most motivating song to date. The lyrics “It’s always darkest before the dawn” would be enough to get you pumped up — following them up with the kind of chorus that you can’t help but joyfully sing along to makes this the song to listen to before any big event.
9. Janelle Monae, “Tightrope”
For when you’re not feeling good enough, and you need that perfect combination of uplifting lyrics and critical dance beats. It’s the song that will get you shuffling right into that big job interview with zest and vigor.
10. The Verve, “Bittersweet Symphony”
Yes, there is a definite cheese factor to this song, but that should never stop you from loving it. This is the song that will get you to look around reverently while walking down the street and realize that literally anything is a possibility.
11. Rogue Wave, “Lake Michigan”
Both this song, and its video, have a strangely 90s-alt vibe, which is universally recognized as the Music That Get People Feeling Good Again. This song makes me want to get the courage up to talk to the cute guy across the coffee shop, even when I’m alone in my room.
12. Guns N’ Roses, “November Rain”
Though “it” may refer to crying in your car during a thunderstorm, this is the song to get you pumped up to do it. It is 9 minutes of building crescendos, aching lyrics, and face-melting guitar solos. Many songs have tried to recapture the sheer epic — in the pre-internet sense of the word — nature of this song. But nothing will ever be quite like this, especially when you’re trying to pump yourself up to break up with a relationship that hasn’t been working for five months.