The Ultimate Playlist: A Song for Every Occasion

If we’re being honest, the “moody teenager” stereotype is getting a little old. Defining an entire generation with a single adjective is like not liking ice cream: it’s just not possible. There’s a lot going on for us teenagers – we’re consistently placed into high-stress and high-pressure situations, at the same time that our brains are still developing. So yeah, teenagers are moody. But these moods and emotions are some of the most raw and unfiltered that we will ever experience.

Speaking as two highly knowledgeable teens, we understand that one of the best ways to channel these emotions is through music. Like all teenagers, we keep our headphones with us at all times (except if you’re that one person who insists on carrying around a speaker like it’s still the 90s) and therefore listen to music constantly, and often use this as a coping mechanism for these emotions.

Nina’s taste in music tends to span from pop classics to indie rock (as well as music your grandparents are familiar with), while Becca likes to dive into alternative, indie rock, and modern-techno pop (or at least according to her 2018 Spotify Wrapped). Well, we combined the two for you, so if you’re ever thinking that you’re probably the only person going through something, indulge in our top Music Suggestions for Every Situation. Happy listening!

When you’re feeling nostalgic:

“Younger” – A Great Big World

Nina: A Great Big World is one of my favorite bands for a lot of reasons, but mainly because their lyrics are so vivid and can be so easily associated with certain points in life. “Younger” is so redolent of the adolescent experience, which makes it a great listen for the days when you’re longing for simpler times.

“Come On Eileen” – Dexys Midnight Runners

Becca: This song was stuck in my head for (and I kid you not) two years before I finally figured out where the catchy “doo ah doo ah” part that kept playing in my head on repeat was from, and if that doesn’t capture the timeless, feel good vibes of this song, I don’t know what does.

When you could use a little hope:

“I Feel Good About This” – The Mowgli’s

Nina: This song is pretty much an anthem. Even if you’re feeling down, screaming “I don’t know what it is/But I feel good about this” seems to take a little bit of your worries away. This is another song that evokes images of youth and good memories, both of which are perfect for when you need a little brightness in your day.

“Higher” – The Score

Becca: This song is a staple of my Hype playlist. It has a powerful chorus that sings about “Fighting for this/ Dream in my soul” that easily motivates its listener to never give and to keep on pushing forth.

When you want to feel empowered:

“Cut to the Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen

Nina: Unlike Becca, who mocked me for putting this song on the playlist, I believe that Carly Rae Jepsen’s discography is highly underrated. This song in particular is the kind that makes you want to jump on your bed and sing into a hairbrush (or maybe that’s just me). I also recommend listening to this song while power-walking (yes, power-walking, because we are suburban moms and we are proud of it) if you want to feel like you can do anything.

“The Greatest” – Sia

Becca: What’s a better song for feeling empowered than a song that literally sings about being the “Greatest of all time” and by one of the most bada** singers (or at least in my opinion)? Nothing, that’s what. This song has an upbeat tempo that gets motivation moving and makes you feel like you can take on the world. There is a chance that this may or may not be on my hype playlist as well (okay let’s be real half of my suggestions are on my hype playlist) and I may or may not listen to it religiously.

That can’t help falling in love feeling:

“Waterloo” – ABBA

Nina: I would like to say that I exercised admirable restraint and only put one ABBA song on this playlist (it was a struggle). “Waterloo,” arguably the best song in existence (totally unbiased), is perfect for when you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that, yeah, you’ve caught feelings and there’s nothing to do about it. Bonus points for the extended historical metaphor. Also, it’s a wall-to-wall banger, so there’s that.

“Absolutely Smitten” – Dodie

Becca: Dodie Clark is an angel human, and you can’t tell me otherwise, and she has the voice to go with it. This song can be described as light and airy, and perfectly captures that “realize you have a crush and you’re not mad about it” feeling. Oh, and for the record, I would like to strongly disagree with Nina’s claim to “Waterloo” being the best song in existence (as well as the “wall-to-wall banger” part but we’ll get to that for later), though as a dancing queen myself, a little ABBA is definitely good for the soul.

When you need a little reassurance:

“Listen to the Man” – George Ezra

Nina: George Ezra’s bass is the kind of thing that you hear and then think, “You could make a religion out of this.” But that aside, this song is so comforting and perfect for the days when you have no idea what you’re doing in life. Don’t worry. There’s always going to be someone to catch you if you fall.

“Be” – Hozier

Becca: When Hozier tells you to “Be/ Be/ Be/ Be/ Be as you’ve always been” with his belting voice, you sit down and listen. This song is a warm hug and the reassurance that you are okay just as you are.

For those Motivation Mondays:

“9 to 5” – Dolly Parton

Nina: First of all, I will accept criticism from exactly zero people about this song (cough, Becca). Second, if you’ve never tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen to pour yourself a cup of ambition, then what are you even doing with your life? If classic American icon Dolly Parton can do it, then so can you. This working class anthem is the ultimate jam on days when you can barely keep your eyes open. (Much better than the techno ridiculousness Becca has coming up, anyway.)

“Let the Games Begin” – AJR

Becca: Let me preface by saying, I couldn’t not put AJR into this playlist… so I put three (I might be a tad obsessed with their quirky, upbeat songs… shut up, Nina). Anyways, do I visualize destroying everyone at WGI World Championships with this song playing in the background? Yes. And for good reason. This song is honestly such a slap (as the kids say these days). Who knew that a trumpet fanfare could create such a hype? This song is guaranteed to get you going bright and early and help you to take on any challenges. Let the Monday-no-that’s-MY-parking-spot-you-underclassmen-games begin!

When you just need a good cry and a pint of ice cream:

“The Other Side” – Jukebox the Ghost

Nina: Welcome to the song that never fails to bring a tear to my eye! “The Other Side” is essentially a goodbye song, which is especially relevant if you happen to be moving 3,400 miles away from everyone you love (sorry, mom). This song is just the right amount of melancholy for contemplating the way life changes, and how some things will just never be the same.

“Sick of Losing Soulmates” – Dodie

Becca: There’s always that one song that makes you want to stare out a car window on a very rainy, bleak day and pretend that you are in a dramatic movie or music video. This is that song (since it hits right where it hurts the most). “Sick of Losing Soulmates” is about losing your soulmate (romantic or platonic), and trying to do everything that you can do to prevent that from happening. Dodie’s voice is quiet and sad, a complete juxtaposition of her in “Absolutely Smitten”. This song never fails to make me tear up.

For nothing but good vibes:

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – Whitney Houston

Nina: I hate to be elitist, but if this isn’t on your top 10 favorite songs, then we can’t be friends. It’s vintage, it’s catchy, it’s pure happiness – what’s not to like? This is a great song to organize a flash mob to, in my professional opinion. (Or, if you’re crunched for time, jumping around your room at 10 pm  works too).

“Lose It” – Oh Wonder

Becca: Something about this song just screams be happy and dance your heart out in your room (or in public…I may or may not have been in both situations at some point in time). There’s also something about the pre-chorus that I’m obsessed with, and can’t explain it. That’s it, honestly. It’s just a fantastic song, and not all fantastic songs need to be justified. Just trust me on this one.

For when you want to punch a wall (please don’t do that)

“Shake It Out” – Florence + the Machine

Nina: This song isn’t inherently angry, but I find it cathartic on days when everything has gone wrong. The line “it’s always darkest before the dawn” is an especially relevant reminder that things do and will get brighter. Why not leave all the bad energy behind you and just keep on moving forward?

“APESHIT” – The Carters

Becca: Okay, so before you listen to Nina’s recommendation to just let it go, listen to my song so you can acknowledge the anger, channel that energy into some sick beats and lyrics (done by the legends Queen Bey and Jay-Z themselves), and just go crazy (apesh*t?) for a second. Better than punching a wall, that’s for sure.

For those sunset drives with the windows rolled down and music blaring:

“Rollercoaster” – Bleachers

Nina: This song has held a special place in my heart for a long time. It’s a perfect time capsule back to summer days and road trips with your friends. Air-drumming to the beat is also extremely fun. Basically, this song is awesome and I don’t have words to describe it.

“8TEEN” – Khalid

Becca: As a teen, sunset drives with my friends are a summer must, and nothing perfectly encompasses that vibe quite like “8TEEN.” Khalid captures the feeling of what it’s like to be a young, dumb, broke, high school kid in this song, but makes it fun and cool and makes you want to sing about how strict your parents are at the top of your lungs. Kudos to you, Khalid.

For all of the dance parties. All of them.

“How to Be a Heartbreaker” – Marina and the Diamonds

Nina: I’m not sure if this song is satire, but it’s all about loving men and then leaving them. Which, I mean, you do you, I guess. But it’s got an infectious beat, and if you don’t love the sardonic “at least I think I do!” at the end of the chorus, then I don’t know what to tell you.

“Burn the House Down” – AJR

Becca: So I don’t know what kind of dance parties Nina is attending, but if you actually want to raise the roof with an all out banger, than my suggestion is where it’s at. I can not fully express how much I adore this song. I’m honestly speechless, because how am I supposed to capture something so upbeat, funky, and powerful in a few mere sentences? What I can say though, is that this song’s epic beat really does make you want to “burn the whole house down” with your fire dance moves.

For those mellow vibes:

“Northern Downpour” – Panic! At the Disco

Nina: I was once told that this song is my aesthetic, so call that what you want too. This song is almost like a lullaby – the fading “sugarcane in the easy morning/weather vane’s my one and lonely” at the very end is pretty much guaranteed to put you to sleep. “Mellow”? More like “pillow,” if we’re being honest.

“Sing” – Travis

Becca: This is the song that plays in the background of the Jim and Pam montage in that one episode of The Office where Pam thinks that she isn’t enough for Jim and he makes a highlights reel of their best moments. Need I say more? “Sing” isn’t quite happy or sad…it’s a perfect in between that allows you to just sit back and chill and appreciate the song. And think about how cute Jim and Pam are (obviously).

When you’re missing someone:

“Have It All” – Jason Mraz

Nina: Jason Mraz has described this song as a wedding toast, but I prefer to think of it as saying goodbye to someone and wishing them the best. (Which is also helpful for when you move 3,400 miles away.) It’s a bit of a reprieve from all the vengeful songs that are like, “Goodbye, you suck.”

“The Night We Met” – Lord Huron

Becca: This song is straight up depressing (but beautiful and great, nonetheless), I’m going to be honest. It’s melancholy and the lyrics “oh take me back/to the night we met” make the listener recall when they first met whoever they are missing most. Perfect opportunities for this song include for when your best friend is leaving for two years without coming home and with very minimal contact and you’re feeling some type of way because of it.

When you need a little stress relief:

“Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj

Nina: Bonus points if you can rap along. For some reason, this song is the most cathartic thing in the world for me. There’s something about losing yourself in the booming-system-top-down-AC-with-the-cooler-system and all that good stuff. Give it a listen. You’ll thank me later. Also, Becca has another AJR song coming up, so maybe just hit the repeat button on Nicki. (You’ll thank me for that too.)

“Alice by the Hudson” – AJR

Becca: I told you there would be more AJR here (ignore Nina’s commentary. AJR wins every time). I don’t know why, but something about this song always relaxes me and eases any anxiety that I may be feeling. Maybe it’s the slow, swinging rhythm or the reminder that we are in our golden days that makes this song so soothing.

When wanderlust has you caught up in your feels:

“Anything For You” – Ludo

Nina: The general gist of this song is that the narrator loves someone so much that he would give up anything for them. While that’s not really anywhere close to wanderlust, the things the narrator says he will do are so outlandish (cutting down sequoias planted by his ancestors, giving back moon rocks) that it definitely unlocks some sort of desire to grab your passport, hop on a flight, and never look back.

“Paradise” – Coldplay

Becca: Ah, there’s nothing that Coldplay and an epic bass drop (if you’ve heard the song, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then what are you doing? Go listen!) can’t fix, or convey in this case. This song is literally about dreaming of paradise (unlike Nina’s unrelated suggestion), so if you are planning a stay-cation, then definitely add this to your playlist so you too can feel like you are in paradise rather than lying in bed staring at your ceiling and contemplating which Netflix show to binge next.

And, as a bonus from us to you, a song that works in every situation, guaranteed:

“Africa” – Toto

Nina: Don’t laugh, Becca. At least I didn’t put Lil’ Yachty on this playlist. This song is so iconic, words can’t even describe it. There’s a reason why it’s still a bop, having been released in 1982. Happy? Listen to “Africa.” Sad? Listen to “Africa.” Lonely? “Africa.” It’s foolproof.

“Pretender” – Steve Aoki (feat. AJR and Lil’ Yachty) (the acoustic version is also quite nice)

Becca: Okay, since Nina roasted me for judging that she was putting in a Carly Rae Jepsen song, I get to roast the fact that she always makes fun of me for loving this song ( but I doubt she’s actually heard it). Which, might I add, is a shame, because this song is a BOP! It’s got a sick beat, meaningful lyrics, a catchy chorus, and a guest verse by Lil’ Yachty (Nina, stop snickering). If someone made a formula for a perfect song, this is what the product would be. And if you don’t see how this could fit all situations, guess what? There’s an acoustic version which is also amazing! It works in every situation (or will change your mood for the better) or your money back, guaranteed.