Sing. Dance. Laugh. Cry. Hope. I’ll teach you to be happy! These are the words I used to describe this playlist, one I put together back in 2010. To this day, it’s the CD I listen to the most in my car. The reason? It is full of emotion, the kind of emotion that makes me really feel this music. I’ve been listening to this a lot lately, and making mental notes on the emotion each song brings to me. Here, then, is a summary of those notes.
Cake: The Distance. The first popular single from my favorite band. This is the perfect way to start this playlist, with a sense of optimism right out of the starting gate. Reluctantly crouched at the starting line, engines pumping and thumping in time…
The Apples In Stereo: Sunndal Song. Happy. What can I say? This song makes me bounce around when I hear its uplifting chorus, especially when they invoke the moon. I love me some moon.
MercyMe: God With Us. I have faith. I’m not terribly religious these days, because I’m tired of the hate that fills too many churches today. I do love Jesus Christ, and I believe he’s really upset with what he sees said and done in his name. This song does him proud.
Liz Phair: Extraordinary. This is a powerful female anthem, balancing strength and sexy. Liz Phair tends to be pretty racy with her lyrics, but she tones it down a bit here. There’s a reason this song was used in commercials promoting female power. It’s that good.
XTC: Making Plans for Nigel. One of my favorite 80s bands, XTC’s songs typically had a sharp edge to them (remember Dear God?). This song was different, and was the reason I always wanted to name my firstborn son Nigel. Ryan my boy, you’re lucky we don’t live in England!
Green Day: Waiting. A happy song of hope from an otherwise gritty band. Green Day rocks hard, but they sure do write some mean pop hooks. This is another song that has me bouncing around inside the car when it comes on.
Chris Isaak: Wicked Game. Sexy. Chris Isaak’s voice is enough to make you melt, but when you pair it with a haunting guitar and seductive lyrics, you’ve got trouble. It doesn’t hurt that the girl he was pursuing in the video was smoking hot!
The B52s: Strobe Light. Speaking of sexy, who hasn’t fantasized about making love under a strobe light? Fred Schneider is no Chris Isaak, but his silly voice and driving beat do the trick here. I wanna kiss your…pineapple!
The Beatles: If I Fell. Love. The Beatles wrote a lot of love songs, and this is my favorite. John and Paul’s harmonizing on the chorus blew my mind as a teenager. I used to walk down the street with a friend, and we would try to replicate the harmony. I always sang the high part. Good times.
U2: Love Is Blindness. Speaking of love, U2 nails it with this song of devotion. What starts like a church hymn winds its way into your heart. This hypnotic tune makes me feel the love in it’s darkness.
Van Halen: Ice Cream Man. Shifting gears, we have David Lee Roth at the height of his showmanship with this fun song full of double entendres. Say what you will about Eddie and Alex and Sammy Hagar – David Lee Roth was the soul of Van Halen. End of story.
Blind Boys of Alabama: Amazing Grace. What do you get when you take a bunch of older black fellas and have them sing a traditional spiritual song to the tune of House of the Rising Sun? You get one powerful piece of music! I still get goosebumps when I hear it.
Don Ho: Hukilau. I am a Tiki guy, after all, so I had to slip at least one Hawai’ian song into this mix. It doesn’t get much more Hawai’ian than Don Ho! Instant good feeling in paradise. We throw our nets out into the sea…
Fantastic Plastic Machine: Bachelor Pad. Dance, right now! This catchy tune from the Pink Panther’s Penthouse Party is what I would always play in my basement Tiki Lounge to get my pre-teen kids to dance. And dance they did – like nobody was watching.
Live: The Beauty of Gray. This is an anthem for tolerance, which we really need in this day and age of polarization and hatred. Ed Kowalczyk was never afraid to wear his heart and his politics on his sleeve, which is quite refreshing to hear. Uplifting.
Squirrel Nut Zippers: Prince Nez. What a fun band, with a sound that’s difficult to classify. They sound old-fashioned but this song is very young at heart. It always reminds me of my first dog, Barney the beagle. I don’t know why, but that makes me happy.
The Oasis Band: You Are Beautiful. Another tribute to Jesus, this time by the incredibly talented Brently Groshong and the contemporary worship band from First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem. I miss hearing his inspirational music live on Sundays.
The Rolling Stones: Happy. A classic Stones tune, and one of the few sung by Keith Richards in the lead. This is a happy love song in its own way. I had to put it in this mix just for the title song! I need a love to keep me happy.
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Go Daddy-O. I said dance, bitches! If this song doesn’t make you want to dance, it’s because you can’t. I can never forget the climactic scene in Swingers where John Favreau and Heather Graham find each other to this song. Inspired.
The Doors: Take It As It Comes. I’m building to the end of the playlist, and Jim Morrison inspires a sense of urgency with this tune. Although the lyrics seem to be telling you to slow down, I believe this song is more a call to action. At least that’s how it makes me feel.
Warren Zevon: Keep Me in Your Heart. Before David Bowie famously wrote his own requiem, there was Warren Zevon, creating his final album while he was dying. This is the last song on the album, a love song to his wife. It makes me cry every time. So sad. Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house, maybe you’ll think of me and smile…
There you have it. 21 songs that evoke strong emotions in me. I hope they do the same for you. Aloha.
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