Captain Bleeding Obvious here, locked down in Sydney and, like most others everywhere, cursing the pain and misery a certain virus has wrought on so many.
At least we live in an age when we can easily make playlists of the songs that provide food for the soul and put joy in the heart.
If the following list doesn’t do it for you like it does it for me, don’t worry – you can make your own!
Anyway, if that’s the case, as a great pop star once said, it’s not me, it’s you.
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher – Jackie Wilson (1967)
From the opening bassline alone, this soul classic stirs something inside. After that, if Wilson’s impassioned vocal and its startlingly deployed falsetto don’t seduce you, the soaring horns about halfway through surely will.
Shake It Off – Taylor Swift (2014)
Pop is not a dirty word around here, and it especially wasn’t when Taylor Swift erased the last remnants of her country-sweetheart past with this flat-out banger. That goofy giggle after she sings “I go on too many dates” still charms every time.
New Sensation – INXS (1987)
Everyone has their favourite INXS song but few are as instantly gratifying as New Sensation. With its killer guitar riff and irresistible optimism, you can actually hear them taking the step to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world.
You Get What You Give – New Radicals (1998)
If you’re going to be a one-hit wonder, this is the kind of hit you want: a glorious blast of pop-rock sunshine. It doesn’t hurt to hear lines like “this world is gonna pull through” and “you’ve got a reason to live”, either.
You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (1980)
With respect to the many blistering anthems Bon Scott sang, this first AC/DC single after his untimely passing remains a snarling, strutting rock’n’roll peach. If it costs listeners some dignity as they break out the air guitar and the duck walk, that’s a small price to pay.
Catch My Disease – Ben Lee (2005)
The jury’s out as to whether it’s wryly appropriate or on-the-nose to include a song with this title but Ben Lee’s, er, catchiest song – a past ARIA Single of the Year, no less – has aged delightfully (references to Good Charlotte and the Sleepy Jackson aside).
Take Me with U – Prince and the Revolution (1984)
Clearly, there are dozens of bona fide classics in the Prince canon but he rarely sounded more purely uplifting than on Take Me with U. With its iconic drum intro and breezy synths, it sweeps along without a care in the world, and the feeling is contagious.
Juice – Lizzo (2019)
If anyone can make you feel like you could take on the world and have a good time while you’re doing it, it’s probably Lizzo. Few combine attitude and fun like the singer-rapper and she’s at her inspirational best on a funk-soul jam like Juice.
Love at First Sight – Kylie Minogue (2001)
Is this dance-pop gem Kylie’s most underrated single? It was overshadowed at the time by Can’t Get You Out of My Head but has proved in many ways more enduring – at least partly because of her unbridled, infectious joy in the video clip.
Escapade– Janet Jackson (1989)
Of course, we can’t actually go anywhere at the moment, but by taking up Janet Jackson on her invitation to this Escapade, we can at least feel the liberation that courses through its sparkling funk-pop. Hang in there, folks, the world will open up again soon.
Get Lucky – Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers (2013)
Take the production genius of Daft Punk, add Rodgers’ signature guitar sound, sprinkle on top the redoubtable charisma of Williams and voila! One of the most perfect feelgood pop songs of all time, let alone the past decade.
A Community Service Announcement – Jonathan Boulet (2009)
Sydney muso Jonathan Boulet seemingly came out of nowhere with the blissful alternative pop of A Community Service Announcement. It not only still feels like the aural equivalent of a reassuring embrace, it provides a nice mid-playlist comedown …
Solar Power – Lorde (2021)
So we can now gently wind up again with Kiwi prodigy Lorde, who returned a couple of months ago with this typically insouciant but attractive slice of modern pop. All it’s missing are the horns from Primal Scream’s Loaded (which would, incidentally, fit perfectly over the closing bars).
Great DJ– The Ting Tings (2008)
No one did feisty if derivative pop fun in the 2000s like the Ting Tings. If you’re missing live music especially, for now just take a leaf out of their book and do as this song says: imagine all the girls … and the boys … and the drums, the drums, the drums, the drums …
Once in a Lifetime– Talking Heads (1980)
You would have to be exceptionally well adjusted not to have the occasional moment of existential angst in these times. Thankfully Talking Heads set theirs to an otherworldly alternative/dance soundtrack that still sounds incredible more than 40 years later.
Magnolia– Gang of Youths (2015)
The closest thing Australia currently has to a young stadium-rock band sounded enormous even in 2015 when they were playing epic tunes that make you feel invincible, like Magnolia, in clubs. It’s already a timeless pick-me-up.
Holy Mountain – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2017)
This might be the biggest anthem the elder Gallagher brother has written since the heady peak of Oasis a quarter of a century ago – yet sounds nothing like his old band. Holy Mountain is an unashamedly exuberant beast of a rocker that can barely contain its glee.
Someday – The Strokes (2001)
It was either this or Mr Brightside and let’s face it, the Killers track, while wonderful, might have been played to death by now. Someday, on the other hand, is a relatively underappreciated alt-rock diamond. It’s wistful and hopeful and utterly disarming.
Wish You Well – Bernard Fanning (2005)
Even, maybe especially in times of sadness, it’s nice to send out good vibes to the universe. Fanning was going through difficult times when he wrote this bittersweet but upbeat folkish rock tune and got a Triple J Hottest 100 topper out of it. Feels like there might be a good lesson somewhere in there.
Join the Club – Hockey Dad (2018)
It’s all well and good to close a playlist with something poignant and evocative, but I say finish with a bang. Step forward, Windang urchins Hockey Dad and their energetic, effervescent take on garage rock. Hope lives!
Here are all the tunes in Spotify playlist. Enjoy!
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