Put A Spring In Your Step With Our Favorite Pump-Up Tunes

Featured clockwise: Erykah Badu, Public Enemy, Cleaners from Venus, Alanis Morissette, and Janelle Monae. (Illustration by Eddie Cepeda)
Featured clockwise: Erykah Badu, Public Enemy, Cleaners from Venus, Alanis Morissette, and Janelle Monae. (Illustration by Eddie Cepeda)

Spring, is that you? Have you really arrived? We've been anxious (and if we're being honest, a little depressed) while waiting for you! Now, you've brought the sunshine — albeit at intermittent intervals — but that's better than standing in front of our SAD lamps every evening, wondering if you're a myth.

To celebrate how our circadian rhythms are regulating, here are The ARTery's staff picks of no-fail, favorite songs that motivate us, lift our moods and always pump us up.

Maria Garcia, Arts Reporter:

Pacific, "Hot Lips"

Cheers to you if you're an older millennial who came up in the electro-pop scene in the late aughts and early 2010s! Before we were parents, my partner and I spent our free time bike-riding and dancing to heavy-synthesized tunes, like this gem. Every time I hear this, I can't help but dance, except now I do it while giggling with a pre-schooler in my arms.

Beyoncé, "Grown Woman"

Anytime I'm dealing with impostor syndrome, I listen to this battle call anthem by Queen Bey and feel better REAL QUICK. When Beyoncé sings "I'm a grown woman, I can do whatever I want," all I can picture is my own self-actualization and the inspiring women around me.

Cleaners From Venus, "Only A Shadow"

Cleaners from Venus was a truly underground lo-fi '80s dream-pop band from the U.K. that released its music almost strictly on cassette tapes. This song was probably recorded in poet Martin Newell's bedroom and the jangly, upbeat pop guitar inevitably brightens my mood.

Amelia Mason, Music Critic:

Erykah Badu, "Get MuNNY"

I only recently discovered this track off of Erykah Badu’s 2010 release “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh),” when it cropped up on a Spotify playlist. I was immediately and utterly charmed, mostly, I think, thanks to that little throwaway “la la la la” in the refrain. Every time I listen to this song I spend the whole time waiting for that moment, and it never fails to delight.

Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream"

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “Teenage Dream” is a perfectly-constructed pop song. Its genius lies in its simplicity: two chords and no (harmonic) resolution. Even if you know nothing about music theory, chances are you’ve blissed out to that endlessly rising feeling of euphoria, which is precisely what makes this song such a jam.

Janelle Monáe, "PYNK (Feat. Grimes)"

It didn’t take long for this song to win me over. One, it’s a banger. Two, the subject matter is extremely in my, uhm, wheelhouse. “PYNK (Feat. Grimes)” is destined to be the queer anthem of the summer.

Andrea Shea, Arts Reporter:

Alanis Morissette, "All I Really Want"

I've been re-discovering “Jagged Little Pill” in the lead up to the American Repertory Theater's soon-to-premiere adaptation of the iconic album into a musical. When it arrived in 1995, “Jagged Little Pill” exploded onto a scene dominated in many ways by male, grunge-heavy indie bands. Morissette's wrenching songs stood out. They were raw, feminine, angry, fearlessly vulnerable, tight, probing and deeply human. Plus, they rocked. And still do. “All I Really Want” isn’t as wrought as many of the others, and its determined plea is inspiring.

Courtney Barnett, "Pedestrian At Best"

I can thank my colleague Amelia Mason for introducing me to this Australian word smith/guitarist/vocalist. I've become an ardent fan of her musical prowess and sound. There's something about a line like, “Give me all your money and I'll make some origami, honey,” that always put a perky kick in my step.

Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"

I was torn between this song and “911 is a Joke,” but I think the first 30 seconds of “Terrordome” drive my legs a little harder. As a whole the tune is so layered and radical. That said, this entire album has the motivational power to keep me running far longer than I probably first set out to do.

Ty Segall, "My Sunshine"

After this too-long, often ghastly winter I've been craving a type of energy and glee that I can only receive from the sun. This song provides it. “Would You Be My Love” and “Thank God for the Sinners” are close seconds.

Amy Gorel, Digital Editor:

Janelle Monáe, "Make Me Feel"

Since the morning this video popped up on my phone (the bright side of the internet paying too much attention to how many of Monáe's "emotion pictures" I watch), I haven’t stopped listening. The Prince-inspired guitar licks are now integral to my morning routine. It's a slight departure to reality (albeit a supposedly inclusive ‘80s reality) from her other fascinatingly nerdy creative projects that revolved on a deep knowledge of science fiction and pointed thoughts on our society from afar. This beautiful and vulnerable song is so familiar yet so refreshing.

BTS, "Silver Spoon"

I'll admit it took me a while to give K-Pop — with the unabashed commodification of young, single-gender groups — a chance. But the classic boy band beats from BTS (the Bangtan Boys) in this song layered with some melodic vocals is just too catchy. From what I can gather, the lyrics of "Silver Spoon" ("Baepsae") are a bit rebellious — challenging the status quo of doing things the way the generation before did. (A newer BTS song, "Blood Sweat & Tears," which was apparently inspired by German author Hermann Hesse, is also worth a listen.)

Sweet Crude, "Little Darling"

This truly sweet group from southern Louisiana has had my whole heart since I saw them light up The Sinclair last fall. The boisterous trumpet sounds and pure joy pulsating through this song can lift even the dreariest of days. Somehow they're able to bring the punch of a big band to a song that seamlessly blends the loving English and French lyrics for a fresh take on New Orleans' musical heritage.

Phaedra Scott, Arts Journalism Fellow:

Naia Izumi, "Soft Spoken"

Not sure if this counts as pump-up music, but after Izumi was chosen in the 2018 Tiny Desk Contest, I've been listening to his music non-stop. I really love his blend of soulful singing with a really inventive use of guitar. Honestly, everyone should check him out.

Lo-Fi Hip Hop channel

Not exactly a song, but it's a YouTube channel that just plays chill hip-hop music that I love listening to when I write. I've yet to hear a single thing on the channel that I didn't enjoy, and it's just great to have some ambient music playing in the background. I also love how the channel often remixes classics from the '40s and '50s with really inventive beats. I can't gush enough about this channel.

Paolo Nutini, "Coming Up Easy"

I spent a lot of time this weekend finally putting all of my CDs onto iTunes. This was one of the albums I listened to religiously in high school, and I forgot how much I love Paolo Nutini. I really love the lyric, "It was in love I was created, and in love is how I hope I die." It resonates with me in a way that always drew me back to this song in particular.

Listen to The ARTery's playlist below, or click here to open in Spotify.


Headshot of Maria Garcia

Maria Garcia Managing Editor
Maria Garcia was WBUR's Managing Editor and the creator of "Anything for Selena."



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