not in our stars, but in ourselves
Let’s change pace a bit, shall we? Reader, I don’t know about you, but I work out a lot – six days a week, most weeks, never fewer than five. I do it because it makes me feel good, because it makes me look good, and because it takes care of some of the boundless energy that gets pent up if I’m still for too long. (I am a chronic leg jiggler, knuckle-cracker, hummer, etc., and probably quite annoying to be near, honestly.) For the past ten years, I’ve been an avid gym-goer, and I can honestly say that I love it.
That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Oh, no. And in fact, it shouldn’t be “easy” – it should, ideally, be challenging every time. (I’m making myself sound like a dog on an obstacle course here; not exactly the wrong mental image for you to carry of me.) There are some who can perform Herculean feats through sheer willpower and force, without any tricks or mind games. I am not one of those people. If you ask me to run without listening to music, I will ask you to stick a fork in an electrical socket.
And so, dear reader, I would like to share with you some of my very favorite workout songs. Whether you’re looking for some new additions to your own gym playlist, your driving mix (I like to call driving mixes “traffic jamz” because I am very very clever), or your stomping-around-public-transport soundtrack, I hope you enjoy some of the following.
Three out of those six days, I lift weights. Big weights. Heavy weights. Weights that make my hands go owie. It can be a somewhat meditative practice, really, but I find it helpful to listen to things that either lull me into forgetting about how painful everything is; or things that straight up make me feel like a badass. Some favorites:
“Why So Serious?” by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard (from The Dark Knight)
The metal scraping against the guitars. The rumbling. The musical recreation of guns firing. The sense of a madman’s heart beating furiously under the floorboards. Listen, guys, if you want to feel like a true B.A.M.F., you cannot do much better than emulating the one and only Joker.
“Feeling Myself” by Nicki Minaj ft. Beyoncé
When you’re as talented, popular, and powerful as these two, you get to brag about it. When you want to be as talented, popular, and powerful as these two, you listen to them bragging about it – and look at the ways you can brag about yourself, too. Female empowerment, yo. It’s a beautiful thing.
“Win Again” by Nicki Minaj
More bragging, and why not? “Not that I don’t got good vision, but I don’t see competition” / “Can’t tell me nothin’ about it, your opinion is invalid” – I mean, seriously, I kind of want to get these tattooed on my forehead.
“212” by Azealia Banks ft. Lazy Jay
Foul-mouthed, funny, tough-as-nails with an extraordinary gift for wordplay and great flow – it’s too bad most people know her for her various Twitter feuds with those less talented and interesting (*cough* Igloo Australia *cough* *cough*).
“Trance Figure” by School of Seven Bells
Downright hypnotic, with intertwining vocals and an ever-thump-thump-thumping beat. Listen to this, let your mind go, let your hips go further, and let yourself feel like a goddess. It works wonders, trust.
“Drizzled Him Good” by Cliff Martinez (from The Knick)
Everything from this soundtrack is great, and I often listen to the whole thing when I’m lifting. I especially like this one, for how burbly it is at the start, and how frenetic it gets at the end.
Running is terrible. Running is the opposite of fun. But running is quite beneficial, and so I do that the other three days of my six-day workout week. In order to knock out the five miles, however, I need music that absolutely whips me into carrying on. If I can hear myself think, I’m done for. Here are some particularly useful spurs:
Ask yourself: would Queen Bey ever give up? No. No, she would not. Honor her work ethic by listening to some of these.
“Move Your Body”
This is a reworked version of “Get Me Bodied” for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign – and I frickin’ love it.
“Why Don’t You Love Me”
Just try to escape either her wrath or that disco beat. Hint: you’re gonna need to run a lot faster.
“***Flawless” ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
BOW DOWN, BITCHES.
And of course, “Flawless (Remix)” ft. Nicki Minaj
I listen to the studio version, but it’s fun to watch the entire city of Paris lose its merde over these two.
“Run the World (Girls)”
Has anyone else ever considered a reproductive rights march on Washington, with this song blaring as thousands of women remind those shriveled up old white men in Congress that they’re exactly as insignificant as their useless genitals? Only me? Oh, too bad.
Another forehead tattoo: “I can do whatEVUH I want!”
Say what you will about Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, but you must admit that the soundtracks are kickass.
“Like a Dog Chasing Cars”
Again: you can hardly do better than the Joker, if you want to go for total badassery. Unless…
…you try Bane instead. Listen to that fear rising, rising into panic, panic rising into psychopathy.
“Imagine the Fire”
The nice thing about this one – aside from the driving force and the deep thrumming that starts somewhere around 2:42 – is that it’s just over seven minutes long. Good for those long, difficult, bleak stretches of your run.
I’m not afraid to say it: I’m extremely uncool. And I listen to uncool music. And it helps me to run faster, sometimes. So there.
“Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways
Get down, ladies, you got nothing to lose.
“Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler
Bonnie Tyler has somehow figured out the secret to singing in caps lock. It’s a gift. “I CAN FEEL HIS APPROACH LIKE A FIRE IN MY BLOOD!”
Et caetera, et caetera, et caetera
Slightly newer hodgepodge that seldom fails to kick me in the butt when I need to up my game.
“Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga
Remember when Lady Gaga was weird and daring and interesting and did bizarro performance art? Sigh.
“D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice
I’m always amazed by how much this song motivates me, because it’s so cute! And happy! And running is neither of those things! Go figure!
“Monster” by Kanye West ft. Bon Iver, Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj
Listen to the pure rush of adrenaline that is Nicki’s verse. Now keep running.
“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj
A friendly reminder that workouts should never be about joining the legions of “skinny bitches” if that’s not your body type. Remember: he luhh dis fat azzzz.
“Bad Girls (N.A.R.S.) Remix” by M.I.A. ft. Missy Elliot and Azealia Banks
So the original version is pretty good. This remix is pretty good. Missy’s verse is pretty good. And then along comes Azealia, and she eats her verse alive. My rule when this song plays: I am not allowed to stop, or slow down, or even stay at the pace I’m going. Speed up, keep going, be hard af.