by Jordan O’Halloran
Some days are easier than others as we all know. In my years of bad days and experiences, I have come up with numerous coping strategies. Cooking, cleaning, going on walks, writing, and so many others have been met with trial and error.
While most of those have worked, there is one that always helps. Singing. Singing loud and not caring. Music fills my ears and heart with joy. Music puts me in another person’s body with their lyrics flooding my bones. It feels like bliss, a hug from a friend. Music brings me hope, comfort, and a healthy way to keep moving forward.
Here are some songs that always help me.
- Halsey, “Nightmare”
Halsey is one of those artists whose songs hit me right in the heart. I have been a huge fan since the release of her first EP, Room 93, back in 2014. ‘Nightmare’ is a song that speaks to the fighting of the patriarchy with lyrics like “I’ve been polite, but I won’t be caught dead/ Letting a man tell me what I should do in my bed.” Halsey creates a power ballad that leaves you feeling empowered and ready to take down society. You’ll be singing along in no time.
- Rilo Kiley, “A Better Son/Daughter”
I first learned about Rilo Kiley back in college. I was living in the dorms and met people from all different walks of life. In those days, people made each other mix CDs (does this make me old?) and a friend I met made me one with this song. The song follows Jenny Lewis, the main singer, experiencing what seems like a manic episode. She communicates this by saying ‘But the lows are so extreme/ That the good seems fucking cheap/ And it teases you for weeks in its absence.’ The end of the song ends on a positive note by saying that once you’re better–you’ll be happy.
- Skylar Grey and Macklemore, “Glorious”
I’ve been a fan of Macklemore since “Same Love” and his support of LGBTQIA+ people. Once I saw the video for this song with him taking his 100-year-old grandma on a day she’ll never forget. The song makes me feel grateful for my life and to seize every moment. When I hear him say, ‘So when I leave here on this earth, did I take more than I gave?/Did I look out for the people, or did I do it all for fame?’, I am immediately full of gratitude. A perfect reminder to give back and make time for others.
- Em Biehold, “12345”
Em has amassed amazing success with her hit, “Numb Little Bug.” After that song came out, I did a deep dive into her and her music on YouTube. So much so that this song was recommended to me a while ago. The song has lyrics that walk you through her in the middle of a panic attack. The lyrics, ‘Floatin’ away like I’m a kite/ Reminding myself I’m still alive/ Try not to panic every night’ always remind me that panic is human and more common than we believe.
- Cat Stevens, “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”
1970s folk music has a big place in my heart. Cat Stevens has a big hold on it, especially with “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”. The song has a tune that you will want to keep on repeat and dance around your house with. Stevens reminds the listener in the song that there are a million ways to be and sometimes simply being yourself is more than enough. ‘You can do what you want, the opportunity’s on/ And if you find a new way, you can do it today’ are things I sing to myself when getting through each hour can feel daunting.
- Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”
Marvin Gaye is the pinnacle of cool for me. The dude started off as a group artist in Motown. He then launched a solo career with a million-dollar contract–something that had never happened for a black artist at that time. That being said, Marvin was full of songs of justice. Mercy Mercy Me fits that bill and talks about the environment. With lyrics like, ‘What about this overcrowded land/How much more abuse from man can she stand?’ The lyrics were relevant back in 1971 and still now.
- Luke Combs, “When it Rains it Pours”
I must admit that up until a few months ago, I wouldn’t be caught dead saying I like country music. However, living in a rural area with 3 radio stations country being one of them, has begun to grow on me. Luke Combs discusses a breakup and unlike the title speaking of bad things coming, he actually has quite the opposite. The lyric, ‘What I thought was gonna be the death of me/ Was my saving grace’ is a great metaphor for life. Sometimes, we get what we needed even if we don’t know it at the moment.
- Tom Petty, “I Won’t Back Down”
When my brain really starts to win with the destructive thoughts, I grasp at anything to keep myself from going over the edge. I discovered Tom Petty at a young age, but in recent years, this song has really stuck with me. We all need a reminder that our mental health doesn’t define us and that we won’t ever back down from life. Petty says it best, ‘In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around/ But I’ll stand my ground/And I won’t back down.’
- Mary Lambert, “Secrets”
Mary Lambert is a queer singer who’s an absolute dream. Her posts are full of vulnerability, advocacy, and kindness. Her song “Secrets” is also the first time that I ever heard the word bipolar used in a positive way. Lambert has bipolar disorder herself and wrote the song for nothing short of self-love. As she says, ‘I know I’m not the only one who spent so long/ Attempting to be someone else/ Well I’m over it.’ We are all more than what our brain wants us to believe. Also, who cares? Live your truth.
- Mama Cass, “Make Your Own Kind of Music”
My final song is one that has actually gained some notoriety with TikTok despite coming out in 1969. Mama Cass is an artist known for her unique voice, but this song is all about the lyrics for me. I have this song on repeat on my YouTube playlists when writing, so I continue to remind myself that my words are original. I am making my own kind of music even if no one else understands it. This song is also perfect for singing and cleaning dishes. Remember: ‘But you’ve gotta make your own music, Sing your own special song/Make your own kind of music even if nobody else sings /along.’