This is a question that everyone wants the answer to, so I’m here to explain some of the best music you can listen to when depressed. I suffered depression myself and these are some that helped me. What might make my answers slightly different is that my whole life has been in the music industry, I have two degrees in music and I used to work on film soundtracks. Needless to say, when a scene in a film needs music, I know what’ll work.
if your life needs music, I know what’ll work
If you’d prefer to watch a movie, rather than listen to music, I’ve also made a concise list of great movies to watch when depressed.
Let’s first understand what music does
If you ask someone what music does for them, they’ll usually say something like “It makes me feel something”. At its base level this is totally correct, music can make us feel more happy or sad or motivated. In a film the music can enhance what we’re seeing (think of the romantic sweeping strings you hear as two star crossed lovers finally embrace and kiss. Or the driving beats of a chase scene to add extra energy).
Music, however, can do so much more than illicit emotion. Music can bring back to life a memory from our past. It can help us relax when we’re utterly stressed, it can be a destroyer of silence during a dinner party. Music is used to unite people (such as a national anthem or sports team song). It can also allow us to move our bodies’ in beautiful and funny ways via dancing.
The specific focus of this article is music and emotion
So what’s the best music for depression?
As you know there are a bazillion different styles or ‘genres’ of music, and each person has their own taste. What I may love, you might dislike, but I can recommend some songs and pieces of music, in varying styles, that can illicit certain moods for various theoretical reasons.
I will also show you how you can find your own music if you’re unsure what you feel like listening to. Here are some suggestions of great music when you’re feeling depressed.
Rock / Pop
Stay Alive – Jose Gonzalez
This song first grabbed my attention from the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which is a motivational film about a man who finds himself while traveling. The song slowly builds and is throughly up-lifting. Some choice lyrics are do whatever just to stay alive, and dawn is coming, open your eyes.
Tina Turner – We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)
Tina Turner is a legend in music, having carved her own path after she left her abusive husband (who was her former band partner). This song is strong, powerful, hopeful and basically says “you can do anything yourself”. Tina’s powerful voice will belt this to you in a most beautiful and rustic way. The song is also motivational because if Tina can do this after such an abusive relationship, we too can surely achieve anything we put our mind too. It also featured in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
Gorillaz – Don’t Get Lost in Heaven + Demon Days
This band has a truly unique sound, they do an amazing job of combining electronic beats with weirdly processed acoustic instruments. In the case of this song they also included The London Community Gospel Choir. It’s a joy to listen to, catchy and has a very earthy sound to it. With the choir blasting lyrics like: Pick yourself up it’s a brand new day, so turn yourself round, don’t burn yourself, turn yourself, turn yourself around to the soul, it’s sure to pick up your day.
Electronic / dance
Overwerk – Toccata
This song has a slightly dark feel to it, and is based in the style of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. However it’s done with a magical beat and pumping synths that give it a totally modern, uplifting and gothic feel. This song is sure to get you bouncing to the beat with whatever it is you’re doing.
Nena – 99 Luftballoons
This song you would’ve heard, it’s from a little know German band called Nina which had one hit: this one. It translates to “99 Red Balloons” and I’m honestly not too sure what it’s about, but it’s great to listen to, even just for a laugh. It kicks off in the middle and you can use it as you’re getting ready to do something, or simply to dance around the house in private like a crazy dancing machine.
Various Artists – Best Melodic Dubstep Mix 2014
Okay, I like lots of different types of dance music, and anything with a great beat that’ll get me moving is motivational enough for me. I picked this one because it does just that. However if you don’t like it you can do a search in YouTube for “inspiring dance music” and see what comes up.
Rock / Pop
Powderfinger – Passenger
This song was huge in the late ’90’s by a band equally as big. Passenger is catchy, memorable and great in just about every way. There’s no more really needed to be said for this song. Listen to it and feel the uplifting and “get out there” vibe by someone saying to you “if you want to be a passenger… to see another world…. come with me”.
Electronic / Dance
TheFatRat – Mayday feat. Laura Brehm
A fantastical and subtly reflective song that has beautiful electronic melodies and an angel like voice throughout it. This is definitely one to feel a resonance with, especially some of the things she’s singing about: Lyrics such as help me, is anybody there? Save me, I’m running out of air, calling out mayday! Will resonate strongly with people!
The Chemical Brothers – Swoon
This is an utterly sublime song from the legendary Chemical Brothers which constantly builds over its six minute duration (starting with a slight musical detour before the song really kicks off). It is colourful, beautiful and has a heartwarming lyric that repeats over and over: Just remember to fall in love, there’s nothing else, there’s nothing else. Love is really all that matters in life, and that message said over pumping beats is great to warm the heart.
James Horner – A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics (A Beautiful Mind)
James Horner creates a truly beautiful opening piece of music to the film. It has driving strings and a simple voice melody over the top. About halfway through the track it does slow to a more reflective note, however all the piece has a beauty that needs to be heard.
Rock / pop / indie
M83 – Wait
A beautifully slow song of acoustic guitar and electronic synths with heart piecing vocals. This song is guaranteed to make you shed a tear or get goosebumps. Either way it’ll put you in the mood for a reflective and melancholic experience, delivered with pure beauty.
The Dandy Warhols – Get Off
This might seem like a strange choice, as it is quite upbeat, however for me it’s melancholic. The lyrics Baby, come on yeah, if you have a hard time gettin’ there, maybe you’re gone – were very poignant after I’d broken up with my long ago ex. I was a lot younger but at the time it felt so real and painful – a big and pleading “Baby! Come on?!”.
Other ways to find music
Source music from your own experiences
This could possibly be the best way. If you can remember a piece of music that made you feel happy or motivated anytime during your past, play it. If you have a piece that made you feel sad, and right now you want to feel a bit sadder, then play it.
Our brain can instantly remember a past event by sight, sound, smell or any of our other senses. Remember all those times you’ve said to yourself “this smell reminds me of….”, or “this food so takes me back to….”? Well, it’s the same with music, it can transport you back, so use it to your advantage.
Use music from your favourite film or TV show
If you’re unsure what makes you feel good, or what’s comfort music for you, think back to films you like. Is there a scene which you like? The chances are it has some sort of music playing during it. If you listen to that music outside of the film, you’ll get the same emotional response as if you were watching the film.
If you know the name of the song you could find it on YouTube or Spotify. If you don’t know the name of the song you could use the free app Shazam, which’ll tell you what it is, or you can look in the credits of the film which lists all the songs used.
Do a random search
I do this all the time, which is why I listen to so much music. Go into YouTube or Spotify and just search for things like “inspirational dance music”, “cool slow music”, “experimental electronic music”. See what comes up, if you don’t like it you can forward it. I have found a ton of new music this way, and usually music for every possible contingent of how I’d like to feel.
Ultimately music is completely subjective
What this means is that music is 100% personal taste, there’s no right or wrong – there’s simply what you like or don’t like. As I said in the beginning these are all tracks that I like, and I feel they’re diverse enough for other people to check them out too.
I hope these tracks have opened your ears a little bit to being inspired or motivated. Or even to feel a tiny bit better because music is a very powerful healing tool. Use it when you’re down to get back up, use it when you’re up to get even further up, use it for everything you can.
Please also take a look at tons of other articles that’ll help you with depression and other issues you might have on my self-development page. Articles like rig the game to win: The secret to regain confidence during depression. What does stuck in a rut mean? Also how to wake up fresh using sleep cycles.