When I was writing my first batch of college admission essays, I had Iggy Pop's "Search And Destroy" playing on repeat through my headphones. Fueled by the raw rock of Iggy and the Stooges, I pumped myself up enough to fill in one personal statements with a single line. "I'm a street-walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm," the essay said about my triumphant, illegible signature. I did not get into that school. But I got into the next one.
My point is that music, for good or ill, has an amazing, almost miraculous power to affect how we perceive and interact with the world. The right song can turn a crappy day into a beautiful one, laziness into pure adrenaline, and the risk we most fear into the objective we most strive to overcome. To help get you pumped for Confidence Pants Week, we've compiled the following playlist of 11 hyper-positive, ultra-catchy songs, lovingly plucked from over 40 historic years of butt-strutting bravery. They aren't the greatest or most important songs ever—there's a lot of epic music out there we simply couldn't fit in one post, and we hope you drop us your favorite links in the comments—but they are 11 damn good tracks aimed to make you think with your Confidence Pants instead of your Pessimist Penny-Loafers. Enjoy:
Cake - "The Distance"
Anyone whose ever been on stage or asked a foxy peer out on a date knows too well the "bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse." Hopefully you've never had to clean up after one. Cake's bass-driven groove about a really terrible racecar driver who doesn't take "uh, you lost like four hours ago, dude" for an answer is a parable for the self-assured. Does one defeat get our protagonist down? Nay! This hardheaded hero doesn't quit the race until his goal is met, no matter who, if anyone, is there to applaud him at the finish line. In the end, your goals are your own. Do yourself right, and achieve them. Then do something about those shaking bowels.
Cast of Mulan - "I'll Make A Man Out of You"
We all have metaphorical Huns to defeat in our lives. That cutie you can't quite muster the courage to ask to prom? That's a Hun. Your oral midterm in Spanish class? Hun. Learning to drive, finding a job, applying to college? Hun Hun, Hunnity-Hun.
Puff out your chest, put on your bravest face and rock those Huns 'til they call you Jimi Hundrix! The great moral of Mulan is that, no matter who the world thinks you are, you will always have a phenomenal inner strength capable of achieving whatever you set it to. And that's more powerful than a thousand quipping Eddie Murphy dragons.
Styx - "Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)"
Back in the day when synthesizer keyboards were an exciting new technology and not merely issued to aspiring new bands along with their indie startup flannel, the musical landscape bloomed with roving troupes of progressive rockers playing keytar, singing tales of robots, and fluffing their voluminous tumbleweed locks. For a brief time in this bygone age, Styx reigned supreme. On this classic tour de wonky-skronky-synth, Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung reminds us to not be such grumpy cynicfaces and instead focus on the bright future; a future where you are grown and happy, and where men and women with synthesizers for arms and legs totter about and speak to each other in fluent MIDI.
M.I.A. - "Bad Girls"
Just to be clear, we are not suggesting that you "die young," or that you flip America the bird during the country's most televised event in history. (Though if you find yourself in a position to do so, good for you!) We simply implore you to "do it well," whether "it" means driving a muscle car sideways down a desert highway or simply securing a learner's permit. Get it, girl, and always ghostride the whip responsibly.
Survivor - "Eye of The Tiger"
Fun fact: This 1982 pump-up classic was originally commissioned by Sylvester Stallone for Rocky III because he couldn't secure the rights to the Queen song he really wanted. Funner fact: This playlist includes both "Eye of The Tiger" and Queen. Because you're worth it. *triumphant freeze-frame fist pump*
The New Pornographers - "Sing Me Spanish Techno"
Frontman A.C. Newman sings: "The hourglass spills it's sand / if only to punish you / for listenin' too long to one song." Translation: You will grow old and totes bummed if you never try to switch up the routine now and then. Take a new path home, listen to a band you judged prematurely, or talk to the weird kid—and if you think you might be the weird kid, don't worry: everybody's weird. We don't know how to sing Spanish techno (Elfish dubstep? Now that's another matter), but we do know that the only way you'll ever master it is by hitching up those Bravery Breeches and just trying. In any case, vaguely Latin gibberish certainly beats the twelve squillionth replay of "Party Rock Anthem," don't you think?
Kanye West - "Amazing"
You don't need to be a much maligned millionaire music mogul to make an impact on people. Did you hug someone today? Did you make someone laugh? Did you, fair reader, emit from your innards a unique combination of coded vibrations that inspired the euphoric release of endorphins in another, totally different person? Now that's amazing.
Florence and the Machine - "Shake It Out"
There's an old saying that goes, "It's hard to dance with a devil on your back." There's a slightly newer saying that goes, "Jinkies! Replay that Florence track again, will you? I feel PUMPED **punches devil right in the mustache**." In a voice worth selling your soul for, Florence Welch reminds us that shaking away our inhibitions and historical hangups is the only way to ensure a free and beautiful tomorrow. The next time you're nervous about taking a chance, imagine Florence's voice soaring through your soul like so many paper airplanes at a substitute teacher.
Eminem - "Lose Yourself"
Say what you will about this dude. He dreamed of becoming a professional rapper, and then he became one, despite the disadvantages of a growing up in a low-income household without a father and being a white kid from Missouri in a predominantly African-American industry. This song about seizing the moment reminds us that if Eminem can be a wealthy rapper, you can literally do anything you want to. Also, anyone else agree that "Marshall Mathers" and "Slim Shady" are both awesome cowboy names? So there's that, too.
Katy Perry - "Firework"
"After a hurricane comes a rainbow," and after a spark-flinging brassiere malfunction comes a trip to the burn ward. Don't follow Katy Perry's example in this video. But follow her message. Baby, you are original, and you always will be whether you feel the strange impulse to scream it from the rooftops or not.
Queen - "Don't Stop Me Now"
We promised there'd be Queen! Really, if you're looking for a confidence boost you can't go wrong with a good ol' Freddie Mercury glam ballad—even that one about fighting ogres works pretty well. This particular song is great for three primary reasons: 1) It's about "havin' a good time," "trav'ling at the speed of light," and "floating around in ecstasy," which are generally rewarding ways to spend your time, 2) It boasts a now-legendary association with that one scene in Shaun of the Dead, and 3) Forget it. Let's all just go watch Shaun of the Dead right now. I'll bring the Spanish techno.
What's on your con pants playlist?