Words by Natalie Maher
No matter what your a.m. mood is, set your alarm to one of these tunes.
Some mornings require more than others. For the days when the coffee won’t seem to kick in and your alarm clocks snooze button has taken too many hits, here’s a list of songs that will ease you into the dawn of a new day. Whether it’s the optimistic, throwback soul of William Onyeabor and Roy Ayers, or maybe a less-gentle shove from Outkast or Playboi Carti, here’s our list of songs that will make getting up a bit easier.
“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers
Withers’s “Lovely Day” is warm, melodic, and conversational, yet extraordinary and soaring. It’s this approachable dichotomy that makes the song perfect for the day’s start, and what made Bill Withers a lasting staple.
“Jazz (We’ve Got)” by A Tribe Called Quest
Smooth and complimentary, Tribe pulls off a rhythmic track perfect for pushing through the morning routines. “The aim is to succeed and achieve at 21,” Q-Tip spits on the entrance verse, establishing a morning mantra fit for a productive day.
“Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige
For the good of the general public, Mary J. Blige should just belt, “And no time for negative vibes ’cause I’m winning,” into everyone’s ears every morning. “Just Fine” is Mary J. at her best, bopping through a string of affirmations over a track that sounds like a quintessential pop hit with lyrics that feel fit for a Sunday sermon.
“O–o–h Child” by The Five Stairsteps
“O-o-h Child” is a soft, guiding hand for the days that feel a bit heavier. The Five Stairsteps don’t loftily promise when the hypothetical skies will clear, but instead ensure that they simply will, and that’s enough.
“Dance, Dance, Dance” by Lykke Li
Lykke Li sounds like peaking sunshine on a rainy day. With soft airiness, she leans into life’s lightness, but spares cheerleader level energy. “Dance, Dance, Dance,” is made for Sunday morning sways.
“I Think of Saturday” by Moodymann
Sometimes coffee is really just not enough. “I Think of Saturday” is for the mid-week blues that keep eyelids heavy. Moodymann pushes past the lethargy and promises the future of a bright Saturday by lightly nodding to the dancing that’s to come.
“Good Day” by Greg Street feat. Nappy Roots
On the repeated intro of “Good Day,” a ringing chorus of children declare the day’s impending success with crystal-clear positivity. It’s their sweet cadence that’s juxtaposed perfectly next to Greg Street and Nappy Roots’ gruff delivery, but equally unwavering positivity, as they express gratitude for the simple things like waking up to see another day.
“I Love Music” by The O’Jays
This band of classic Philadelphia soul music champions keep things moving for nearly seven minutes straight, which is just enough time to keep the morning on pace. “I Love Music” has drums made for early morning house-wide cleaning, and vocals made for singing along.
“Comme Des Garcons (Like the Boys)” by Rina Sawayama
“Comme Des Garcons” is one of the latest singles from British-Japanese pop up-and-comer Rina Sawayama, and the cut proves why she’s worth all the buzz. “I’m feeling okay, it’s just another day to pretend,” she purrs as a thudding baseline builds beneath her. Rina leans into the best aspects of Y2k pop and makes room to politely apologize for her ego, though it’s hard to believe she’s really sorry.
“Morning Sunrise” by Weldon Irvine
For quintessential storybook Sundays, “Morning Sunrise” is a sonic equivalent of a tall glass of orange juice. Fit for lovers welcoming a morning’s extended stay, the song is winding and simple as Weldon Irvine’s range welcomes the beauty of another day.
“10%” by Kaytranada feat. Kali Uchis
“I wake up, it’s so good to be me / I look in the mirror, it’s good to see me,” Kali Uchis declares, giving listeners a masterclass in unadulterated confidence and unapologetic self love. Kaytranada acts as her invisible hypeman, crafting an updated take on disco and mixing it with a pinch of pop and a punch of house for a perfected blend of easy grooves.
“For Once in My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“For Once in My Life” is a ringing, impossible-to-ignore celebration of gratitude for the people who make waking up worth it. Stevie Wonder gloats freely, declaring, “As long as I know I have love I can make it,” before letting into a rich harmonica solo that speaks volumes with no added lyrics.
“1991” by Azealia Banks
Yes, “1991” is much more likely to be something played with a tequila sunrise in hand, but the ballroom-inspired cut is just repetitive enough to trick sleepy minds into movements, as Azealia raps braggadociously over a hypnotic, undeniably New York beat.
“John, I’m Only Dancing” by David Bowie
For the outfit change portion of the morning, bump Bowie and pretend you’re the protagonist in your own movie makeover montage. “John, I’m Only Dancing,” is a coy ode to being a bad bitch, a perfect song to dance to while you look at yourself in the mirror and mutter your daily affirmations.
“Good Morning” by John Legend
For a cut that’s a bit more literal, let John Legend sultry baritone lead the way. And while mornings are meant for movement, Legend is much more likely to have you and yours staying in bed for just a bit longer.
“Ordinary Pleasure” by Toro Y Moi
Chaz Budnick leans fully into the dance tracks that he’s always toyed with, making a loop-able gem that doesn’t take itself too seriously or try too hard.
“Gnarciss” by Jeff Parker
Jeff Parker’s Suite For Max Browne is an expertly crafted blend of technically-sounding jazz that doesn’t get tied down in traditional expectations. Parker offers a glowing gift of approachable experimentalism to non-jazz listeners and skeptics alike with sounds that are sunny and sweet, smooth and delectable.
“She Moves in Her Own Way” by The Kooks
The Kooks achieve universal likability via jangly guitar and elementary love-ridden lyrics on “She Moves In Her Own Way.” It’s a shining display of early 2000s Brit pop, a sunshine-y track that instills just enough hand claps to keep it moving—and keep you awake.
“If Only” by Raveena
Raveena is the closest we have to an on-earth angel. The R&B singer delivers vocals that are swelling and light, while affirming her worth in a way that’s much stronger: “It’s too late to hold me,” she asserts plainly, while letting dazzling piano keys flutter along with her, keeping the mood soft.
“Burning Up” by Donnell Pitman
Consider this an essential disco cut to keep morale high.
“Shake” by Santigold
“I won’t buckle under pressure/ I’ma be alright,” Santigold assures on “Shake,” a single from the veteran tastemaker. The track is a funky, bass-heavy, pick-me-up about overcoming what makes us tired and apathetic, and physically externalizing the stress by simply shaking it out.
“Sky” by Playboi Carti
“Wake up / it’s the first of the month,” Playboi Carti urges on the playfully sinister track “Sky.” The song is marked by a dark and heavy beat and a booming 808, courtesy of South Korean producer and longtime Carti collaborator Art Dealer.
“What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes
Leave it to iconic singer songwriter (and former 4 Non Blondes frontwoman) Linda Perry to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of waking up, and immediately hitting a hard wall of existential dread: “And so I wake in the morning and I step outside,” she begins. “And I scream from the top of my lungs: ‘What’s going on?’” It’s an evergreen sentiment, yet there’s something about its universality that makes it reassuring, and perhaps even comforting.
“Yellow Brick Road” by Sudan Archives
On “Yellow Brick Road,” Sudan Archives acknowledges the weight of trauma that women (especially women of color) too often have to carry, and then lets them know that it’s okay to let go sometimes. “We got this / we know we want this,” she assures brightly.
“Fantastic Man” by William Onyeabor
William Onyeabor’s “Fantastic Man” is a psychedelic pick-me-up from the ever-elusive African king of funk. “Tell me how I look,” he flirtily asks, before a woman’s voice answers: “You look so good, fantastic man.”
“The Rooster” by Outkast
If you’re looking for an entirely authentic experience, may we suggest getting woken up by the sound of a literal rooster, punctuated by an electric guitar and 90’s-style record scratches? Look no further than Outkast’s “The Rooster,” which takes unexpected sonic chaos and makes it into something fresh.
“Take On The World” by Wavves
After listing a myriad of things that suck in his life (“I hate my writing”), Wavves frontman Nathan Williams eventually gives into a wave of optimism: “To take on the world would be something,” he admits, almost reluctantly. Not only does “Take On The World” work as an emo-friendly pick-me-up, but the interpolation of high-pitched “ooh’s” throughout the track work double-time as a melodic alarm clock.
“Steal My Sunshine” by LEN
Nauseatingly optimistic and upbeat, “Steal My Sunshine” is a campy track about trying to cheer up a sad friend, but also trying to preserve some personal sunshine.
“Everybody Loves the Sunshine” by Roy Ayers
Roy Ayers is undeniably cool on the laidback jam that is “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Since its debut, the sun-soaked track has been sampled over 150 times, a testament to its timeless swag.
“Reaching for the Sky” by Peabo Bryson
“I feel like reaching for the sky,” Peabo Bryson croons on this easy-going soul single from 1977.
This article originally appeared in harpersbazaar.com