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Image: Time Out

Annihilate Blue Monday with Time Out’s playlist of 14 uplifting bangers

These upbeat tunes are guaranteed to ease the pain

Rose Johnstone
Written by
Rose Johnstone

Welcome to our new series, One Good Thing to Do Today. It’s a guide to little things you can actually do in lockdown London that will provide bits of light in these dark times. In this instalment, Time Out editors select songs that will lift the gloomiest of moods

Apparently, today is Blue Monday – aka the most depressing day of the year. HOW FUN. According to the 'scientists' who coined the term back in 2005, the third Monday of January is cursed: we're skint-post Christmas and pay day is still weeks away, our new year's resolutions are in the bin and the weather's still shit. Sounds about right!

But you know what? By that logic, things can only get better from here – which means all we've gotta do is make it through the remainder of the day. Take that, science. And to help you do that, we've come up with a powerful playlist of tunes so motivational, so upbeat, so toe-tappingly, head-boppingly fun that you'll remember this as the greatest day of your entire life. Or, you'll just feel a little bit better. We'd be satisfied with that too.

Listen to these songs on Amazon Music

1. ‘Good As Hell’ – Lizzo

I will be forever grateful to my friend who bought me a ticket to see Lizzo back in 2018 at the O2 Academy Islington. In the space of two minutes, I went from ‘I think I saw her on RuPaul one time?’ to ‘This woman is a goddess and the antidote to all society’s problems'. I’ve calmed down a bit since then, but her powerful self-love anthem ‘Good As Hell’ reminds of that moment. 
The sing-along moment: That final chorus. It’s impossible not to feel a bit lighter after Lizzo’s asked you ‘Baby how you feeling?’ that many times and you’ve gleefully sung-replied, 'Good as hell!’ Rose Johnstone

2. ‘Walk Of Life’ – Dire Straits

Just try getting through this song without tapping a toe, smashing out some backbeat claps and cracking a smile. It’s just not possible. This is pure, hard-rockin' feelgood music that's built to make you forget your woes. Ignore anyone who says it's dad music – 'Walk Of Life' is as perfect and uplifting a tune as it gets.
The sing-along moment: Others might go for the casual drawl of the chorus, but me, I like to sing the iconic keyboard part at the top of my lungs, whether I'm listening to the song or not. Alex Plim

3. ‘Ponta de Areia’ – Wayne Shorter

The legendary Wayne Shorter, proving here that jazz can in fact provide positivity bangers. 'Ponta de Areia' is from a mid-70s album not many people like called 'Native Dancer', and the whole thing was Big Wayne's attempt to create a kind of 'world music' jazzy fusion sound that was actually kind of ahead of its time. Kind of. If you squint. He enlisted Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento, who lends his high-pitched wailing to tracks like this one. It isn't what you expect. But it is really happy and uplifting.
The sing-along moment: The garbled chorus. It's in Portuguese so it might prove difficult. Joe Mackertich

Image: Time Out
Image: Time Out

4. ‘Paris Latino’ – Bandolero

This is a bit leftfield and probably not to everyone’s taste due to its '80s Euro-pop brashness, but ‘Paris Latino’ by Bandolero is a reet funky little toe-tapper. I first heard it when our film editor Phil played the excellent ‘Call Me By Your Name’ soundtrack at the office during one of his daily ‘Soundtrack Siestas’. Now we’re back WFH I can dance like a twat to it as I slide across the room in my office chair to see what’s in the fridge (again).
The sing-along moment: The bit where it says 'Don't forget me, I'm Doctor B!'. Mostly because it's the only bit of the song that's in English and it's done in that really basic rap style that was popular at the time. Bryan Mayes

5. ‘Out There on the Ice’ – Cut Copy

Brings back happy memories of seeing Cut Copy in Byron Bay years ago and generally wigging out to the barrage of synths and New Order-y vibes.
The sing-along moment: The epic breakdown followed by the huge drum roll and singalong chorus. The sound of a band pressing *all* the buttons at the same time. Phil de Semlyen

6. ‘Les Fleurs’ – Minnie Riperton

Okay, spoiler incoming. Summed up pretty crudely, the end of the supernatural horror film Us goes like this: Lupita Nyong’o’s character is driving into the distance and flashes a sly and unsettling smile to the camera, as if to say, ‘I am not myself – I am my clone.’ It’s a sucker punch; a huge twist that cancels out everything that went before. But the soundtrack to this dark revelation, ‘Les Fleurs’ by Minnie Riperton, is weirdly upbeat. It’s a knowing, joyous wink that insinuates maniacal laughter at the audience having to work backwards and figure out what the hell has actually happened over the previous 116 minutes. That’s what I associate with this very good and very happy slice of orchestral pop: total confusion. Often on my daily walk, I put it on repeat. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why now. But every time, I end up smiling and cackling just a tiny bit; bewildered to the point of insensitivity by the brutal ridiculousness of what we’re all living through.
The sing-along moment: Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na. That bit. It’s a big, rousing fuck you to all that is rubbish in lifeHuw Oliver

7. ‘450’ – Bad Boy Chiller Crew

I've listened to this song roughly 20 times in the past 48 hours. It's by a group of lads from Bradford and it's basically them rapping over a riff that sounds suspiciously like Whigfield's Saturday Night. I'm not 100 percent sure why I find it so vibey. I think the '90s club classic backdrop reminds me of being out in town up north, while the lyrics – 'trying to kick it like Lampard', 'PC Plonker drives like my grandad', 'big-boy lines of that naughty stuff' – just really crack me up. 
The sing-along moment: Whenever they say 'big goose parka'. Kate Lloyd

Image: Time Out
Image: Time Out

8. ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ – Deftones 

Ah, the halcyon days of nu-metal. Sure, I struggled to dry the bottoms of my extra-wide jeans, but life was simple back then. All I had to be frustrated about was my S.A.T exams and maybe the fact my mum and dad refused to buy me a multi-disc CD changer. I spent one summer screaming out the lyrics to this Deftones tune on repeat, with a mixture of angst and joy-de-vivre. Now I'd like to scream them at Bo-Jo, Matt Hancock and his cronies – now that'd make me feel really good. Perhaps summer 2021 is the time for a re-release.
The sing-along moment: 'Shove it! Shove it! Shove it!', obviously. Samantha Willis

9. ‘Bas Ismaa Meny’ – Moving Still 

I don't know where this comes from or what it is, but it's impossible to listen to it and not feel like you can run through walls. It sounds a bit like you're hearing it through a wall or something, which to me only adds to its charm.
The sing-along moment: The Arabic refrain. Can't speak the language? Maybe just fist-pump respectfully. Joe Mackertich

10. ‘This Must be the Place’ – Talking Heads 

I might sound like a terrible hipster for saying it, but this was on the radio when I got my first tattoo. The tatt’s a Pina Colada and it makes me smile every single day. As does this song. You don’t even need the weird association to feel like you’ve been marooned on a blissful island when the flutey synthy bits kick in. Plus, it’s a love song for London realists. At least I think it is; the lyrics are fun, either way.
The sing-along moment: 'Home, is where I want to be' - a surprise anthem for lockdownLaura Richards

11. ‘Finally’ – Cece Peniston 

I mean, come on, it's the ultimate feel-good euphoric dance track. After ages waiting for her soulmate to come around the corner, Cece's just met the love of her life and she's having an absolute mad one to celebrate. Full of grunts and shouty bits, it's just one of the absolute best songs to sing with your whole chest while and dance around your bedroom to.
The sing-along moment: The first 'finally' of every chorus. Kate Lloyd

Image: Time Out
Image: Time Out

12. ‘Modern Love’ – David Bowie

Okay, so the opening lyric – ‘I know when to go out, I know when to stay in’ – doesn’t work so well now the answers are a) ‘never’ and b) ‘always’. But from the spiritual engine-rev of Nile Rodgers’s scratch-guitar riff to the relentless one-two pound of the drums to the squiddly Motown horn stabs on the chorus, Bowie’s biggest tune (and yes, I am prepared to go there) is a get-up belter for our and any age. That’s partly because, like the best upbeat songs, it’s got a strong melancholy streak (y’know, minor chords and stuff). But more importantly: two sax solos! This song has soundtracked not one but two ‘running ecstatically down the street’ scenes in arthouse cinema and is essentially irresistible no matter how blue your Monday.
The sing-along moment: ‘Church on time!’ ‘God and man!’ ‘Modern love!’ What does it all mean? And who cares? James Manning

13. ‘Don't Rain On My Parade’, Barbra Streisand from 'Funny Girl'

As far as Broadway bangers though, you’d be hard-pressed to find one as relentlessly, almost aggressively positive than this belter from the 1964 musical ‘Funny Girl’. Barbra Streisand will always be the iconic Fanny Brice in her 1968 film performance, but I didn’t properly appreciate the power of Fanny's defining song until I saw Sheridan Smith perform it live on the West End a couple of years ago. I love that there’s nothing sweet about ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’; it’s a half-singing, half-yelling fuck-you to the haters.
The sing-along moment: To properly nail the crescendo – ‘Hey Mister Armstein, here I am!’ – you’ll need to do a few vocal warmups. Rose Johnstone

14. ‘Double Wahala’ - Oritse Femi

An optimistic tribute to the 1990 Fela Kuti track 'Confusion Break Bone', Nigerian superstar Oritse Femi had a massive hit with this about six years and I think it sounds absolutely lovely. I also enjoy the fact his record label is called Money Stop Nonsense Gang. If only that were true.
The sing-along moment: Well there's one bit in English where he goes 'They hate me, when I'm making money, from Moscow to Malaysia'. So probably that bit. Joe Mackertich

Read more from our One Good Thing to Do Today series

Keep the good times rolling with the 25 best happy songs, turn your living room into a club with the 100 best party songs ever made, or see whether you agree with our list of the 17 best funny songs of all time

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