Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Twenty Songs That Inspire Us

Written by Jesse Sposato and Kevin Cooke
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Nas: “I Can”
“I know I can be what I want to be if I work hard at it.”
WTF? How can Nas, the Chosen One in a New York state of mind, who once concluded that life’s a bitch and then you die, come up with the perfect song for save-the-world-loving eighth grade teachers everywhere to play on the first day of school? Yes, the song is a bit edgy and teachers would have to do some justifying to their principals, but the cred and message go a long way.

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“I know I can be what I want to be if I work hard at it.”
WTF? How can Nas, the Chosen One in a New York state of mind, who once concluded that life’s a bitch and then you die, come up with the perfect song for save-the-world-loving eighth grade teachers everywhere to play on the first day of school? Yes, the song is a bit edgy and teachers would have to do some justifying to their principals, but the cred and message go a long way.

The Specials: “Free Nelson Mandela”

“Free Nelson Mandela.”
This biracial Birmingham 2 Tone bunch spent years convincing the world that ska, pop, and post-punk could totally work and be danced to. So, was it a giant leap to try to convince the world to free one of the greatest and most unjustly imprisoned leaders of the twentieth century? You’re damn right it was, and whether or not it even slightly contributed to Mandela’s liberation is definitely up for debate, but when has music attempted to be more inspiring?

The Five Stairsteps: “Ooh Child”

“Ooh-oo child, things’ll get brighter.”
Whether you heard it first in Boyz n the Hood or Over the Edge, (or if you just heard it on your own, then you definitely know your music), chances are this one is going to stay with you forever. This song is a staple on the soundtrack of our lives as an instant pick-me-up when we're feeling down feeling down or unsure.

Animal Collective: “My Girls” 
“I just want four walls and adobe slabs for my girls.”
Too often, bands love to revel in sensationalism, that gratuitous joy of too fast and too young. They often dwell on the journey to love, or love unrequited. AC pulls a rarity here, the celebration of love’s destination. Animal Collective, with their refreshing approach to modern expectations, dispels the myth that domesticity counters art, or that you are only allowed one or the other.
 
A Tribe Called Quest: “Electric Relaxation”
“Street poetry is my everyday./But yo, I gotta stop when you trot my way.”
You know when you listen to a song and you can’t put your finger on how, but all of a sudden you: have your sketchbook in your hand, your tap shoes on your feet, and you’ve started to figure out just what the fuck Virginia Woolf is talking about in To the Lighthouse  While lyrically this song may not try to be conventionally inspiring, it’s the cool ass mood in the beats and delivery that make you want to create something great.

Cocteau Twins: “Lorelei”

“Lift up your toes, in my mouth.”
Inspirational in the classic sense—moon and stars, rainbows and lily pads, ponies and butterflies, the way the sky looks at magic hour, sparkling eyelashes, long drives with your closest friends, beauty in a way that is indescribable and turns the corners of your mouth up without you knowing.
 
Yo Majesty: “Never be Afraid”

“We will never be afraid.”
While it takes an astute ear to decipher the majority of these lyrics, the few accessible sound bites don’t mince words. The repetition here is undeniably hypnotic, and by the time you’re through with a listen, girl, you sure ain’t got nothing to fear, thanks to your homegirls, Yo Majesty.

Huggy Bear: “Her Jazz”
 
”This is happening without your permission.”
Listening to Huggy Bear in your bedroom in high school is what makes you know that you are going to make it out all right. I mean, the pure anger and sensation in the vocals and music alike feels like being smacked upside the head in a way you desperately needed to be but had no idea until the moment it happened. This song is so full of energy and bite, I imagine it would be good motivation for a run, or cleaning the shit out of your entire apartment from top to bottom. I feel amped just writing about it.

The Association: "Never My Love"
“You asked me if there’d come a time when I’d grow tired of you./Never my love.”
Are boyfriends really this awesome? The Association thinks so, or they're just singing about unicorns or mermaids—fantasy creatures. We here at Sadie like to think the former. Girls, don’t settle for a boy who is incapable of showering you with adoration at this astounding level.

Make-Up: “Free Arthur Lee”

“Free Arthur Lee .”
The badass bass line in the beginning of the song sets the tone for the rest of this jam. There’s nothing like the band you love singing about the band you love. The oft-repeated song title's demand was granted, but Arthur Lee had been burning the candle at both ends long before his false(?) imprisonment. While not possessing the grandeur of “Free Nelson Mandela,” it shows that “movement” music can come out of any cause close to your heart—global, local, and personal.
 
Neil Young: “Tell Me Why”

“I am lonely but you can free me all in the way that you smile.”
This list should not be exclusively filled with upbeat, “Pump Up the Volume” moments where we all walk away feeling really awesome and great with OMGs and LOLs. As Frederick Douglass once said, “Without struggle, there is no progress.” Sometimes you have to “live through this” before you can truly appreciate the details, like this song, whose beauty emerges out of melancholy.
 
Neutral Milk Hotel: “The King of Carrot Flowers”

“This is the room one afternoon I knew I would love you.”
Jeff Mangum seems to have disappeared, last seen lingering in the thoughts of confused teenage love. If you haven’t learned what each other’s bodies are for yet, I would figure it out to this song. Sure, there’s a certain morbidity in the family story backdrop, but this only adds to the credibility. Mangum understands that young love is entwined with confusion and wonder, and sometimes dangerous situations.

Ariel Pink: “Among Dreams”
“Among dreams, we’re best friends.”
This is the cotton candy of Ariel Pink songs, the top of the crop, the cherry spot. Where Camille Rose Garcia declares Darger-warfare on Disneyland and its impressionable surroundings, Ariel tends to embrace LA’s pink plastic wallets and skies and palm tree lifestyle with the spirit of Endless Summer.
 
Battles: "Atlas"
“People won't be people when they hear this sound that’s been glowing in the dark at the edge of town.”
With an entrance torn directly from the limbs of Marilyn Manson and Gary Glitter, you may think we’ve been here before. But alas, this drum pattern has life yet. As scientists have noted, there is a certain physicality to music. “Atlas” preys on the primal in all of us to kick ass, win the race, and come out the shiniest star in the sky.

John Sebastian: “I Had a Dream”

“I dreamed we all were all right, happy in a land of Oz.”
This is the perfect song to listen to while you and your best friend dress up in your moms’ dresses, authentic from the seventies, put on the Woodstock soundtrack you borrowed from them and wish for a better tomorrow as you listen to this song and hope you can one day change the world.
 
TV on the Radio: “Province” 
“Hold your heart courageously as we walk into this dark place.”
“Province” live can be a revelation—slow, methodical, sweet, and thoughtful. A song to rethink ideas and regrets and loves past and love’s future. If you could dream sadness and hope and then translate these emotions to real life, you would be creating the dream team that is Kyp and Tunde…only thing is, it’s real.

Misfits: "Where Eagles Dare"
“We walk the streets at night, we go where eagles dare.”
Eagles are cool and rare and vital and tend to soar over mountains, which is exactly how you feel when this song comes on at the punk club right before some unlucky band has to follow it up with shit that comes out sounding like Hannah Montana when following the mighty Misfits.

TI: "Whatever You Like"

“Baby, you could have whatever you like.”
Where to begin. Pop music is a male run and predominantly male starring industry, a fact reflected in much of its lyrical demands for one-sided sexual satisfaction as the responsibility of the woman. TI wholeheartedly disagrees with this tradition, boasting he can provide ladies the night of their lives, hoping to restore some sexual equality in this biz. Hope he gets out of jail soon to prove it.

Blur: "Tender"

“Love's the greatest thing that we have.”
To be inspired by a song, sometimes you need to share it with the band. Tender is the perfect sing-along. The lyrics are vague and heartening, allowing you to apply a medley of celebratory life situations to your listen—birth of your child, climb of your mountain, or even comb of your hair.

Arthur Russell: "A Little Lost"

“Cuz I’m so busy, so busy, thinking about kissing you and now I won’t do that without entertaining another thought.”
Don't even think about it, just listen to it.

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