Shakespeare has given many students their fair share of migraines, but he did say one thing that I'm sure will ring true forever: "If music be the food of love, play on." Music was my first love and is the first point of call whenever I feel anything too much, positive or negative. Undoubtedly, there are particular songs that come to mind with specific feelings. So, I present to you a helpful list of songs to guide your every emotion, whether that be continuing joy or calming your anger. And sure, not everyone has the same taste in music, but these songs and their respective artists are certain to complement and understand your feelings - because, let's be honest, being a teenager can be an absolute roller coaster.
Feeling Joyful? Classic mood-boosters.
Starting on a positive note, joyful music should make you feel even better. You want a good beat to bop to, catchy lyrics to sing to, and a sprinkle of nostalgia to really seal the joyful deal. The late legendary rapper Mac Miller loved to sample in his work, with songs like "Knock Knock" and "The Spins" turning classics (such as Linda Scott's "I've Told Every Little Star" and Empire of the Sun's "Half Mast," respectively) into newfangled musical vibes.
If you'd prefer something a little more classic within itself, Amy Winehouse's "Valerie" is a great song to smile-sing your way through. As someone with a deep affection for 80s music, Tears for Fears never fails to heighten my good mood. Popular hits like "Head Over Heels" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" inject you with that little coming-of-age, indie film main character joy that makes you feel truly on top of the world.
Feeling Powerful? Heavy bass and screaming obvs.
Sometimes, perhaps before or after an exam or interview, you need to feel empowered to get through the more negative feelings creeping up on you. This means turning the volume up past the hearing warning, with both headphones in and blasting an absolute banger so loudly that you come out of it a little disoriented (please don't actually do this, or you won't be able to hear at all).
I love a good bass line or heavy riff in my powerful songs, so Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" and The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" are the ultimate go-to's when I need a little boost. Additionally, the sheer passion in Alanis Morissette's voice in records like "You Oughta Know" makes her a perfect artist to scream along to and really get that adrenaline up.
And why not throw some Beyoncé in there? I don't think there's a soul alive who listened to Beyoncé and didn't feel powerful enough to smash up some car windows "Hold Up" style.
Feeling Proud? Indulge in some karaoke.
If you're like me and your perfectionist tendencies don't allow you to feel pride easily, music is a great way to make yourself feel proud and good about yourself! Perhaps you've passed a test, completed a project, or simply managed to run those errands you've been putting off all week. Either way, you deserve a good old-fashioned feel-good singsong.
For all the newbies to karaoke, my go-to song is David Bowie's "Heroes." I don't think any other song can make you feel so free. It makes me want to stand up through the nonexistent sunroof in my second hand Ford, like Emma Watson in 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower', singing Bowie until my lungs run out of air.
Feeling Content? Nostalgia, nostalgia, nostalgia.
When the future can feel a little uncertain, and we need to be brought down to earth, we find contentment in our happy memories. Obviously, nostalgic songs will be different for everyone, but some music can feel nostalgic even if you've never heard it before. The Lumineers, with popular songs like "Cleopatra" and "Ophelia" gaining much traction on TikTok in recent years, have a tinny, acoustic sound that evokes fleeting moments of happiness. My personal favorite is the heartwarming and wholesome tale "Classy Girls."
For a less folky sound, Frank Ocean has always created relaxing beats with beautiful lyrics for your happy head to get lost in (pun intended). Ocean's album "Blonde" is a great record to put on and rewind, and my ultimate recommendation would be "Pink + White." The slight emptiness in these songs, either found in their acoustic or electric styling, allows you to reflect and calm down from any overwhelming emotions.
Feeling Pumped Up? Try something new.
I am a strong believer in "don't knock it till you try it," so a few years ago, I decided to give K-Pop/J-Pop a whirl—and the results were extraordinary. Korean pop/Japanese pop often receives backlash due to their stereotypically passionate fanbases, but there is something in that music that just gets you ready and pumped up!
Ateez, especially "Guerilla," and Stray Kids, particularly "God's Menu" and "Case 143," have been regulars on my workout playlists, actually motivating me to get up and moving—a very difficult task in my case. If you've tried this genre and it just isn't your thing, Nicki Minaj, Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, and Cardi B are good starting points for feel-good motivation. There's no shame in being a full-on Barb at the gym and running your way through Nicki's legendary verse on Kanye West's "Monster."
Feeling In Love? Swoon baby swoon.
Crushing hard? Whether it's about an actual person, an unattainable celebrity, or a completely fictional character, you need a soundtrack to match your late-night imaginary scenarios. The obvious direction to turn to is Taylor Swift's "Lover" album (I will not address the Joe rumors, as they do not taint the magic of this record). Songs like "Lover," "Paper Rings," and "I Think He Knows" make you want to squeeze your pillow and scream hysterically into it.
For all my fellow English literature and language students out there who need a little more metaphor and unnecessarily flowery language, Scottish singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini's latest album, "Last Night in the Bittersweet," is pure romantic ecstasy. Songs like "Everywhere," "Writer," "Abigail," and "Take Me Take Mine" are slightly synthesized, ethereal ballads that simultaneously make and break your heart.
This album isn't really about pillow-screaming in love; it's more about the pink aura and being doe-eyed in love. Both albums are fitting for either your wedding or your most ridiculous, wildest, Wattpad-like dreams.
Feeling Like Dancing? Mamma Mia!
Sometimes we all need a little dance, and every time we all need a lot of ABBA. I always think ABBA and Queen, with "Under Pressure" featuring Bowie being my recommendation for a crowd-pleasing dance tune, are alike in the sense that you cannot dislike them. It's just not something anyone would ever say.
"Dancing Queen" is an obvious choice, perfected with a fake jump off a pier like in the film. But "Money, Money, Money" and "Waterloo" are also sheer dance classics. For some true cringe but ultimate fun, "Shake It" by Metro Station is a 2000s bop guaranteed to get people on their feet.
Feeling Mopey? Songs to wallow.
For the more negative emotions, it's clearly healthier to try and raise your spirits, but sometimes you just need to wallow in the sadness for a bit. If you're feeling particularly mopey, The Smiths' frontman Morrissey's voice will surely reflect your state. "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and "Asleep" are beautifully melancholic songs to indulge in your case of the blues.
If you're in desperate need of a cry, "Nothing New" by Taylor Swift featuring Phoebe Bridgers has been my personal go-to for the waterworks since the release of Swift's vault tracks of "Red (Taylor's Version)" in November 2021. Bridgers herself has a great discography of mid-west emo/alt/soft rock that is heard at its most profound in a more upset state. Take songs like "Funeral" and "Scott Street," for example.
Don't be ashamed that you need to mope for a while, just make sure to transition into happier music eventually (see above).
Go to the second photo to see Swift and Bridgers after performing Nothing New on The Eras Tour, via Taylor Swift on Instagram
Feeling jealous? Look the green monster in the eye.
Jealousy is not a great color on anyone, but if you address it directly, it can be quickly forgotten. Although mostly heard through distorted drunken ears in damp British nightclubs, "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers tells the story of jealousy overwhelming the song's subject and is perfect to scream along to if envy is getting the best of you too.
"She Likes Another Boy" by British indie artist Oscar Lang is a pretty sad song that allows you to melt away unwanted jealousy and tap into your true feelings of heartbreak, betrayal, or loneliness.
If loneliness is the true issue, lo-fi trip-pop artist Joji has cracked the code for the ultimate lonely song with tunes like "Glimpse of Us" and "Like You Do," which are very different from his former online persona as "Filthy Frank." Jealousy is natural, but we don't have to let it take over us.
Feeling Angry? Then get angry!
Embracing your feelings can often be just as beneficial as trying to calm down from them. If your favorite show has been canceled or plans you didn't want to go to have not been canceled, an angry, heavy metal song might be just what you need. Even if it's a little bit outside of your genre box, Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff" is an angry classic that is sure to make you want to release some frustration.
For all my 2000s pop rock enthusiasts, Green Day was the ultimate protest band to blast with your cool cousins. Tunes like "Basket Case" bring back that sense of protest and anger, taking you from 8 years old to 18 in an instant.
If resentment is more of what you're looking for, Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" delivers the bitter, up-yours sentiment that seems to be lacking in the modern charts (for some reason).
Feeling Heartbroken? We got you.
No band understands heartbreak quite like Fleetwood Mac; it's literally woven into the fabric of their success. The song "Silver Springs" was originally excluded from the band's best-selling 1977 album "Rumours," but it later appeared on the super deluxe edition and as the B-side of their single record "Go Your Own Way." Stevie Nicks wrote the song about her former bandmate and ex-boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham, capturing the end of their tumultuous relationship.
Throughout the song, Nicks crafts a narrative of heartbreak, encompassing stages of wallowing, anger, and eventual acceptance, making it a perfect guide for navigating your own heart troubles. If you need to shed some tears, I highly recommend checking out the live performance of the song from 1997; it's guaranteed to evoke an emotional response.
Matt Maltese's piano ballad, "Even If It's A Lie," is a more conventionally heartbreaking song, but no less excellent in its portrayal of a broken heart through its poignant lyrics and music.
Feeling Anxious? Keep it simple.
Anxiety and stress can make you feel at your worst, but distraction can be a powerful weapon. Music, in general, can help take your mind off negative feelings, so turning to your favorite band is a good first step. For me, that band is Brit-pop royalty Oasis.
The aptly titled "Don't Look Back in Anger" is often criticized for being overplayed, so I rarely listen to it by myself. However, when I'm feeling a little down, the lyrics resonate more deeply and have a calming effect. "Champagne Supernova" may seem like pure nonsense on the surface, but give it a try the next time you feel your breathing becoming rapid. I guarantee it will lull you back to normal like a raspy, rock lullaby.
If Oasis doesn't work for you, perhaps you're an enemy—a Blur fan. Keep it simple and try listening to all your favorites. Let yourself get a little distracted from whatever is bringing you down.
Feeling Grief? Pain into Power
This is an emotion that you hope to never experience: grief. It's a challenging feeling to navigate and can make you want to retreat into silence and darkness. However, if you can bring yourself to reach for your earphones, I highly recommend listening to Sam Fender's "The Dying Light." I've been fortunate enough to hear this beautiful song live twice, and its impact on the audience is never lost.
The song is written from the perspective of someone facing death at every turn, starting off slow and solemn before building up into a powerful and impactful instrumental section that guides you on how to transform your pain into strength. I can't recommend Sam Fender enough, and if you find yourself grappling with grief, he is an exceptional artist to listen to. Other songs like "Dead Boys" also resonate deeply.
Sam Fender performing The Dying Light in 2022, image via myself
Feeling sleepy? Let someone sing you a lullaby
Although less of an emotion and more of a state, getting a good night's sleep is well-deserved after a long day of battling these feelings. As someone who struggles to fall asleep without a soothing lullaby, I have a few recommendations to share. These songs are comforting enough to gently sing you to sleep. If you're a fellow Spotify user, make use of their sleep timer feature to ensure you don't wake up to a sudden blast of Metallica trying to kill off your eardrums.
Ode to NYC, Blossoms
All Shades of Blue, Gregory Alan Isakov
Stolen Car, Bruce Springsteen
Necromancer, Joy Again
505 or Only Ones Who Know, Arctic Monkeys
Femme Fatale, The Velvet Underground and Nico
Runaway Horses, The Killers featuring Pheobe Bridgers
Elizabeth my Dear, The Stone Roses
So there you have it, a deep look into the emotions experienced by teenagers today and the best medicine (songs) to address them. Let us know in the comments what your go-to happy or sad song is, as I'm looking to updating some playlists and could use some recommendations before The European Era's Tour Great War of Ticketmaster in 2023.