pearlrose: a pearl rose!  (iRukia)
A music post has been running around on some of my friends’ blogs, and I thought I might want to jump in this time. Music has always been something deeply personal and especially important to me. I don’t claim to be a musician, just an occasional singer and sometimes writer who has songs just jump out and speak to me now and again.

For a long time, I never really listened to what songs were about, or cared for them in general. I also thought I didn’t like poetry much, either. Then a teacher once told me that liking music for the lyrics meant I liked poetry, because wasn’t that what song lyrics were?

The simple statement completely blew my mind, and made me really reconsider my feelings toward poetry in general. Now poetry is something I really do enjoy, and as a result my appreciation for songs — and their lyrics — has also increased.

Some songs I like are shallow little pop tunes that rattle around in my brain for a while and make me tap my feet to the beat. But my favorites are usually songs that I relate to or resonate with me for some special reason. Often times, they’ve made me cry or smile or just feel.

So without further ado, under the cut, eleven of my very favorite songs and why (in no particular order).

1.) Ingrid Michaelson, Soldier

And so it goes, this soldier knows, the battle with the heart isn’t easily won. But it can be won.

I see it, yes, as the obvious metaphor for love, but also for life and doing what you love. It’s scary as hell to take that leap of faith. To rely on somebody else — to rely on yourself enough to let go and go for what you really, truly want in life. So you just go and take the risk — fight for what matters, and yeah, you might get hurt, but you can’t win unless you try. And sometimes, trying means trusting yourself — and others enough — to know when to not go through it alone.

I wasn’t expecting her to perform the song when I saw her live last month. But she did, and it was beautiful. It’s such a simple song, but so powerful. Being alone is one of my biggest fears. Weird for an introvert, but it’s like, I need my downtime, but I also need …people and things to pull me from those dark places when I step into them. Listening to this song makes me feel stronger — and braver. Like I really can fight for what matters to me.

2.) Sugarland, Little Miss

Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about.

I confess, I’m not the biggest fan of Sugarland in general. (Country just isn’t my thing, okay?) However, I heard this song live in concert (by accident, really), and I was bawling by the first chorus. It was right after I’d started getting help for my anxiety and depression, and it was so good to hear that I’d be okay. That was all I wanted, really, most in the world at that point. To know that it’s all right to have low spots, but I am okay. I will be okay. Maybe not today, but I will be.

That was what I wanted to know most when I entered therapy. I knew it was a tough step. I knew it was important and that I could manage. But all I wanted to hear—all I wanted was the simple verification that I would be okay. And then …I heard this song, telling me that it would be all right again, that it would be all right in the end, and that’s when I really knew that I could do this. I could and I would be enough.

3.) Jessica Riddle, Even Angels Fall

God knows even angels fall.

This one’s an old favorite. It’s about mistakes — love, life, whatever. Nobody’s perfect, even the angels, and sometimes, you’ve just got to fall. But between the ups and the downs, there’s a certain beauty in the thrill and in the ride. So enjoy the experience and know that there’s always going to be something different to learn from and to grow from.

The song itself feels very big and powerful — it’s such an inspiring song, and make me feel like I can accomplish anything when I listen to it. It’s quiet, but powerful, and I just like to hear the song and think and write and remind myself that it’s okay to fail.

4.) India.Arie, Video

I'm not the average girl from your video, and I ain't built like a supermodel, but I learned to love myself unconditionally, because I am a queen.

This was the first song that I’d ever heard that told me, hey, you know what? It’s okay to be nontraditional. You’re still beautiful. In fact, you’re beautiful because you’re you, exactly as you are. I was fifteen and feeling miserable because I was weird, and this song made me smile. It let me know that I was all right, and you know what? I’d make it through, just as I was.

I still had a long way to go, but it was an important first step — and a major transformation in getting me away from the “I want to be a popular mall rat” phase that made up my tween years, toward “being a nerd and proud of it”, which is pretty much me now.

My high school years were rough. I was biracial, nerdy, awkward, painfully shy, and a teacher’s pet. If that doesn’t scream “pick on me”, I’m not sure what does. So just having this song in my pocket, even then, was the little bit of courage I needed. It’s a comfort blanket in a song, and I find myself listening to it, even now, when I need to remind myself that I’m beautiful, just as I am.

5.) Barenaked Ladies, Too Little, Too Late

I'm gaining strength, trying to learn to pull my own weight, but I'm gaining pounds at the precipice of Too Late

Knowing that sometimes, you can do your best and be your best, and it’s just not enough. I can good, I can be better, but it’s beyond me. It’s better to break things off and let things go rather than let yourself be brought down by negativity and the fact that your best can’t always be enough.

I listened to this song a lot when I realized I needed to end things with my first boyfriend. I was miserably unhappy, but too afraid to end things and be alone again. (That’s not healthy, folks.) But I was nineteen or so and so very unhappy with myself. I felt like this was the best I could do. Then I realized I was settling, that wasn’t good for anybody, and guess what? Sometimes you have to do the hard stuff to try and do what’s best.

It wasn’t easy. I went into a downward spiral for a few years more. But I still listen to this song, and even sometimes think of it as a sad and lovely ballad, because it’s just so heartbreaking. But without the sadness, there can’t be the light, and …it’s good to have that perspective.

6.) Barenaked Ladies, Falling for the First Time

Anyone perfect must be lying, anything easy has its cost, anyone plain can be lovely, anyone loved can be lost…

Strings are attached to most things in life, and the good stuff is worth working for, despite the obstacles in the way. I’m a bit of an anal-retentive, obsessive, recovering perfectionist, and this song makes me feel like I can get past it. There’s a quirk for everyone, and guess what? That’s okay. I’m able to stop obsessing over perfect and get back to being somebody I like. You’ve got to live with yourself, so stop trying to be so perfect and start trying to be you. Perfect is overrated.

It’s like, to go back to one of my very favorite quotes of all time: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” (Thanks, RuPaul!)

7.) Michelle Branch, Breathe

If I just breathe, let it fill the space between, I'll know everything is alright, breathe

This song is quite possibly the only song I actually like on Hotel Paper. It’s the first song that’s ever made me cry at a concert. I was just sitting there by myself at her show, and she started this song, then suddenly, I teared up. The song isn’t entirely applicable to my life, but it works for me. Just …breathe. It’s a powerful phrase, even though I’m admittedly sometimes not very good at it.

I tend to get worked up over things beyond my control, even as I know full well there’s nothing I can do at that moment to change the situation. I want to fix things—to make everything better. Even at the expense of [the care and keeping of Maggie], so to speak. So sometimes, I’ll just listen to this song to calm down and try and regain some perspective.

8.) The Weepies, I Was Made for Sunny Days

I was made for sunny days, I made do with gray, but I didn't stay

It was really freaking hard for me to pick just one Weepies song, okay? They’re my favorite band, [like Ingrid Michaelson is my favorite singer], and I was just so torn trying to pick one or two songs out of their extensive catalog.

But this song makes me so happy every time I listen to it. Sunshine and life, some days are sunny, some days are gray, but I’ll make it through. I love myself best when I’m the sunshine, quietly glowing. It feels like sunshine and glitter, and I know I can be bright — even on the gray days.

9.) Sara Bareilles, Fairytale

I don't care for your fairytale, you're so worried 'bout the maiden, though you know she's only waiting on the next best thing.

Hi, I’m Maggie, and I have a Thing for fairy tales. (Also folk tales, mythology, and folklore.) This song is cynical, almost dismissive of fairy tales and what they represent. I like the idea of rejecting somebody else’s pre-existing notions in favor of creating your own. It’s your story, so don’t sit around waiting for it to come to you. I like the idea of not settling because it seems like something that you ought to do — instead, go for what is right because it’s what you want — especially after the fairy tale magic settles out for the day to day minutiae.

10.) The Weepies, Hideaway

Even the stars sometimes fade to gray, even the stars hideaway…

It’s okay to be sad. Bad days happen, and tomorrow, well, that’s another day. Maybe you’ll shine more brightly then. Just take things one day at a time. It’s like, I have my moods, and my “stuff”, and some days are just going to kind of be a wash. Go to sleep, zone out and make the best of it. Tomorrow I can go ahead and take on the world with a fresher perspective. It’s kind of back to the idea that sometimes, I really do need to “let go” in order to refocus, and refresh so I can be the person I like to be more often instead.

11.) Ingrid Michaelson, Everybody

Everybody, everybody wants to love, everybody, everybody wants to be loved.

This song comes right after “Soldier” on the album, and although “Soldier” is my hands down favorite song of hers, “Everybody” reminds me that it’s okay to want to love and be loved. By my friends, by my family, even romantically. Love is one of life’s most wonderful things, and it’s something the world needs more of.

Love is love. Everybody deserves it, everybody wants it — and should have it. I’m worthy of it. I deserve to love and be loved in return.

Honorable Mentions:
Sara Bareilles, Uncharted
Ingrid Michaelson, Be OK
The Weepies, Hummingbird
The Weepies, Painting by Chagall
Ingrid Michelson, Parachute
Ash Koley, Mary the Inventor
Sugarland, Every Girl Like Me
Diane Birch, Valentino
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June 2012

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