The last few months, and weeks in particular, have been…for lack of a better word...difficult. No matter where you land on the political spectrum this has been a time of speaking up and speaking out, blame, shame, activism, charity, community, polarization, disbelief, panic...and that is just my snapshot of the last two weeks. I know I’m not alone in the overwhelm. In a search for how to cope I was sent a great article on self-care during the next four years. One piece of advice that resonated deeply with me was to “use your strengths” moving forward. I’ve decided to do just that.
I’ve spent most of my life listening to lyrics and believing in their impact. So much so that I wrote my masters thesis on lyrics and well-being. I truly believe that now more than ever...words matter. Both the words we say and the words we listen to. I am working on my next recordings, though at 35 weeks pregnant it might take some time to share. So in the meantime here is a playlist of songs to support those who need light for their fire and peace in their souls. I hope it empowers and encourages you. My intention is to support the softening of our hearts and the strengthening of our spirits because we are in this together.
Two things you will notice about this playlist:
This playlist is random AF. It goes from Elvis Costello to The Newsies Soundtrack and Hanson to Shakira. It’s comprised of songs from my musical catalog. You may enjoy them, and I hope you do; however, the genres might not be your cup of tea, and that’s OK! I encourage you to create your own playlist in support of your intentions. When music is connected to meaning, they can work hand in hand to amplify (pun intended) our purpose. The most important part of creating this playlist is to truly be mindful of both the lyrics and how it makes you feel to listen to the song AND your purpose behind the playlist. (Stay tuned for a “positive psychology playlist how-to” if you’re interested in creating your own)
This playlist is not as anthemic as you might expect it to be. Some songs are definitely intended to build and pump up but others; most of the songs on this playlist are actually selected for connection and reflection. I don’t see how we can get through life without that balance. Meaning and purpose aren’t always loud and flashy. If we go in with that expectation, we are likely to burn out or miss the point. The progress of resistance can require a large amount of grit, the ability to use passion and perseverance for a long-term goal.
Some people naturally listen to lyrics and others don’t. There is no wrong way to listen to music (well… unless you have your ears covered…technically that’s not listening…) For those who are interested in why I chose these songs or what the reflection process is like, check out five songs below and my reflection on them.
I feel like now is an appropriate time to mention that this is my interpretation and belief, the artists who wrote these songs may think something similarly and they may not. For example, one of the songs on this list “Great Divide” by Hanson (yup, unapologetic Hanson fan right here) Provide AIDS treatment and research by supporting HIVSA when you purchase the song. So I know that the meaning I’m giving the song right now isn’t the same as the meaning it had for me years ago when the song was released. That is part of the beauty of songs; they are timeless and yet can change with the times.
Song: What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
“Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on”
Reflection: Ah, a classic. I find this lyric particularly fitting for marches and protests. No matter what side of the picket sign you land on, listening is equally important to action so we can really understand “what’s going on.”
Song: American Land- Bruce Springsteen
“The McNicholas, the Posalskis, the Smiths, Zerillis too
The Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews
They come across the water a thousand miles from home
With nothing in their bellies but the fire down below
They died building the railroads, they worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago, they're still dying now
Their hands that built the country we're always trying to keep out”
Reflection: I’m an immigrant. Not from my ancestors (like every American who isn’t Native American) but from birth, I came to the states when I was nine. From living in Scotland (my homeland), Dubai, Canada, Texas, Alaska, and Colorado and from being privileged enough to travel around these places I have learned one thing… though we have differences people at their core are the same and the differences we do have are actually a positive! Ok, ok, that was two things… but they go hand in hand. Lest we forget, we are all immigrants. “They died to get here a hundred years ago, they're still dying now. Their hands that built the country we're always trying to keep out.”
Song: Seize the Day – The Newsies
“Nothing can break us, no one can make us give our rights away. Arise and seize the day!”
Reflection: Yes, The Newsies. Musical theater has long been a source of entertainment and communication. If you haven’t seen the Newsies, it’s based on the newsboys strike in 1899. It was a U.S. youth-led campaign that forced new compensation for the child labor force that distributed the newspapers. It speaks to the power of the people and small voices demanding change.
Song: Great Divide – Hanson
“I find hope and it gives me rest
I find hope in a beating chest
I find hope in what eyes don't see
I find hope in your hate for me
Have no fear when the waters rise
We can conquer this great divide”
Reflection: One of the most difficult aspects of this election cycle and result has been the “us vs. them” mentality. It’s created such polarization and hatred that it’s hard to imagine coexistence and compromise. I’m not afraid of differences, but I am afraid of ignorance. And ignorance can come so easily standing on one side while shaming another. I’m not hopeless, though. This song helps me feel that anxiety while reminding me of courage and determination for hope.
Song: One Voice – The Wailin’ Jenny’s
“This is the sound of one voice one spirit one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice…
This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you
Helping each other to make it through
This is the sound of voices two
This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
surrendering to the mystery
this is the sound of voices three
this is the sound of all of us
singing with love and the will to trust
leave the rest behind it’ll turn to dust
this is the sound of all of us"
Reflection: I couldn’t pick one or two lines from this song. If you are feeling overwhelmed, pulled in too many places, finding yourself hating others more than you normally would, put on this song, close your eyes, listen to the lyrics, and breathe.
You can find the rest of the playlist on Spotify here. I hope this playlists empowers and encourages you to find community and create positive change. We are in this together supported by music, thank goodness because we can’t do it alone.
If you’d like to learn more on lyrics and well-being check out my thesis: Message In The Music. Do Lyrics Influence Well-Being
Tricia Fox is a singer songwriter, thought leader on lyrics and wellbeing, and master of applied positive psychology from the university of Pennsylvania. Join the conversation on lyrics and well-being and to stay up to date on Tricia's music.