What a rare thing it is to truly express raw, unfiltered emotion. As humans, authentic emotion is sometimes hard for us to comprehend, let alone to describe. Somehow, though, musicians possess an incredible, unique gift to capture this raw and true emotion in just a few minutes with songs. Whether they express love, joy, or frustration, musicians string together lyrics to shower us in comfort. It’s almost as though we have a melodic friend sharing those passionate feelings that resonate in our souls.
If you are looking for the perfect song to exemplify exactly what you are feeling, here is a list of six songs that best capture some of the world’s most powerful emotions.
1. Love: “Speechless” by Dan + Shay
There’s a reason why love songs fill our musical history and contemporary radios. Known as some of the most accurate writers on love, duo Dan + Shay uses their feelings for their respective wives to capture love. “Speechless” walks through that uplifting moment when you see your spouse for the first time on your wedding day. In that short glimpse of time, you see your whole future as one person, one with your best friend, your partner-in-crime, and the person who knows all about you. To you, this person is love. Remember, though, that the beauty of love is that it is not a mood, but rather a daily choice that will continue to grow as long as you nurture it.
2. Nostalgia: “I Don’t Want to Be” by Gavin DeGraw
If you’re like me, there are certain songs that are essentially tiny time machines. The iconic song, “I Don’t Want To Be,” was not only the theme song for the CW’s One Tree Hill, but it was also the theme song of my generation. With his unique voice and sound, DeGraw addresses the endless questions about identity and self-assurance in uncertain times. The last of us 90s kids heard this song weekly on one of our favorite shows. Now, it is a nostalgic throwback that takes us back to a time “where everything’s better and everything’s safe” (thanks, Karen).
3. Peace: “Clean” by Taylor Swift
When I first heard “Clean,” I immersed myself in all of the song’s emotions. I felt myself drowning, heard myself screaming, and saw myself disappearing until no one could even hear me. At the time, I was holding on to someone that I should have been releasing. When we finally called our relationship what it was, I went downstairs, got ready for the day, and listened to “Clean.” Despite the pain of finding an ending where I imagined a forever, I felt the sweet peace of a fresh start I didn’t know I needed. I was finally free. I was clean.
4. Heartache: “Still Hurting” by Anna Kendrick
If you haven’t discovered this sensational musical yet, pause everything you’re doing and watch The Last Five Years immediately. In this sung-through musical – that is, a musical with no dialogue – Cathy and Jamie take us through the beginning, middle, and end of their relationship. Cathy’s plot line begins at the end of their relationship, whereas Jamie’s starts at the beginning. With these contrasting, rarely-intersecting songs, Cathy and Jamie share the incredible highs and lows of their relationship. “Still Hurting,” the first song in the musical, is Cathy’s heartbreaking ballad. With an orchestra as backup to Kendrick’s superb live vocals, this song personifies the ache of an ending and the pain of trying to understand why it all happened.
5. Comfort: “Save Myself” by Ed Sheeran
When Ed Sheeran released Divide in 2017, he boldly chose to end a love-filled record with a slow song about self-realization. Sometimes, we give everything we have to others, which leaves us empty in return. We have no air in our lungs; no life in our hearts. A simple nothingness radiates throughout our bodies, creating numbness and dissociation. Sheeran recognizes that in those moments, you – yes, you – deserve to take care of yourself. It is OK to put yourself first and leave behind the toxins that spark your numbness. This song reminds us that it is perfectly fine if the person you save, is you.
6. Joy: “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire
It doesn’t matter where I am; whenever I hear “September,” I feel full of pure, undiluted joy. This bubbly song, which expresses love and happiness is a nice interruption from the darkness of our modern world. “September” reminds us to let loose, to breathe, to love without delay or convention. With its upbeat brass and unique vocals, “September” is a staple for all generations. Perfect to play in grocery stores, on road trips, on your Spotify playlist, or at your wedding, this song is sure to bring a smile to your face and a bounce into your step.
Whatever emotions you may be feeling, always know that with music, you are never alone. You are surrounded by a history of people that have been feeling and experiencing the same things as you. It’s OK if you can’t say what you feel; your playlist can speak for you. I hope these songs help make constellations of your feelings and help bring you peace and comfort.