For every mood, turn, turn, turn, there is a song, turn, turn, turn….

I saw this prompt on a while ago, about what music you listen to to cheer yourself up. No inspiration immediately hit me, so I let the question sit in the back of my mind and stew there along with all the other bits and pieces that are simmering in a soupy mess back there: thoughts about the most recent debacles at work, questions about what to buy for Christmas gifts, and so on. This question has been the most subtle flavour in the stew, as I haven’t spent any time thinking consciously about it, (whereas I certainly have spent time consciously pondering the latest debacles at work!) so I still don’t have an answer. But I was pretty tempted by wanting to write something about music, so here I am, answering it anyway!

I realised that I don’t have specific music that I put on to cheer myself up when I’m feeling down. Yet almost always, when I put music on, I expect it will probably improve my mood, either by reinforcing how I’m feeling, (when that feeling is positive) or by distracting me from my own feelings and taking me somewhere else, somewhere that, even if it is dark, or sad, takes me beyond whatever I’m feeling down about.

Also, the range of moods that could come under the “needs cheering up” banner is not just a simple matter of feeling “depressed”. For example, if you come home from work feeling any of the following:

Fed Up

-you might require “cheering up”!

So, therefore, the range of music that is going to lift those various moods is wide and complex. I don’t like listening to “the blues” when I feel blue. I did that in my twenties – and now I find it really hard to listen to Billie Holiday and not be transported back to being twenty and depressed! I also don’t like the idea of reserving any one song or album as the music I listen to when feeling sad – because then that music is for ever associated with that feeling. (see above re. Billie Holiday).

So here’s some of the music I might put on to lift my mood. *Disclaimer: I don’t need to be feeling down to listen to them!



When I want to feel energised (and that might be because I’m feeling low, or already feeling energised!) I put on Lung by Florence and the Machine, or some dance music – maybe Sounds of Silver by LCD Sound System. If I think a few angry karate kicks would best express my mood I might choose some Nick Cave. When I want to be reminded that we are all vulnerable I listen to What Was Left by Claire Bowditch. (I have to admit that sometimes Bowditch’s songs  – not only on this album – actually make me cry, but this doesn’t mean I was already feeling sad, it’s like the way that reading a sad story might make me cry.)

I haven’t so far  got into pure “blues” music, but I have plenty of rock that has its roots in blues music, (eg The Beasts of Bourbon, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Michelle Shocked, Tom Waits, John Spencer Blues Explosion), and plenty of songs about breakups and murders and people being done wrong to (yes alright, I have a lot of Nick Cave albums!). I also have albums by the often acknowledged king of “depressing music” – Leonard Cohen – but I never found his music especially depressing, it is too poetic.

Cohen - not depressing, just poetic

But, just to contradict everything I said above about not choosing one song to listen to, a few years ago I became hooked on one particular song, “How To Disappear Completely” by Radiohead. I played it on repeat on my ipod. I wasn’t actually feeling “low” at the time so much as stressed out and confused. I couldn’t really say, then or now, what it was about that song that made it right for that moment in my life, so much so that I had it in my head almost non stop for about a week. It was right, it was all I wanted to listen to, that was all there was to it.

And isn’t that the beautiful thing about music – that it can provoke in us an immediate, emotional reaction, and we can be transported by it!

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1 Comment

  1. Andrew

     /  December 7, 2010

    I agree entirely about Leonard Cohen



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