motivational songs
Music can have a huge impact on your mood and outlook on life; these songs will be sure to spark motivation. (Illustration by Francesca Mahaney, Pratt Institute)
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motivational songs

Here are 10 motivational tunes that will get you through the upcoming school year.

Well, guys, it’s about that time. College goers are preparing to head back to campus to labor through morning lectures and crappy dorm room conditions. Not to mention the homesickness and overwhelming stress that come with college life. For the young adult who cringes at the thought of a new school year, here are 10 motivational songs that will get you through the anxiety-provoking semesters.

1. “On My Own” by Jaden Smith ft. Kid Cudi

“Icon” rap star Jaden Smith teamed up with Kid Cudi to make a record that helps listeners realize their potential and fosters individuality. Through striking lyrics that hit hard over a low drumbeat, Smith and Cudi produce an indomitable nature that can motivate listeners to stay confident in a setting where self-doubt is often experienced.

Hearing Cudi sing how “we can go up” and Jaden advising his fans to “make sure you got that power” are just a couple of lines that makes the record motivational. Confidence and knowledge is the moral message of the 15th song on Smith’s “SYRE” album and will uplift the average college student when facing challenges that seem impossible to overcome.

2. “Sky Walker” by Miguel ft. Travis Scott

How many times have you questioned if you’re behind in life? Have you ever pushed yourself to work harder to the verge of a mental breakdown? Such actions are normal but are also unhealthy.

Contrary to Smith and Cudi’s rhetoric, it’s time for a song that promotes motivational relaxation. “On Your Own” strives for knowledge and self-empowerment, motivating students to work hard in their endeavors. However, academics are equally important as taking a break.

College is inevitably stressful but that is all the more reason to prioritize yourself and “celebrate every day like a birthday.” Understandably, you want to prepare yourself for the real world but tackling everything at once only leads to more stress and, in the long run, more failure.

The song can teach college students that taking time out to live in the moment is necessary. If you’re currently in your bed gazing into the light wondering how you are going to build Rome in a day, this song is perfect for you. College students need to know that it will take a while before we attain the lives we are working toward. Like Miguel says in the song, “Good things come to those who wait up.”

Life is full of struggles and inevitable oblivion. Train your mind to stay calm no matter the situation. In the meantime, “Take a shot, make a friend and just enjoy the moment.”

3. “Hall of Fame” by The Script ft. will.i.am.

If this record doesn’t inspire you to become the best version of yourself then nothing will. The single consists of reassuring lyrics that will inspire you to pursue your dreams in faith that you will be remembered for your grand accomplishments.

“Hall of Fame” is the perfect song for staying motivated and remembering the reason you decided to pursue a degree. After hearing lead singer Danny O’Donoghue state how “You burn with the brightest flame,” the overwhelming stress that comes with a heavy course load will be seen as a challenge worthwhile.

More importantly, the song is not some cheesy motivational statement that gives a naïve approach to perseverance but simply expresses how it takes dedication to be successful. The song gives a realistic approach to galvanize listeners into working hard for what they want.

 4. “Hundred” by Khalid

What’s special about this record is that it helps you stay calm yet remain productive in times of controversy. Khalid’s song introduces the moral message that, although “life is never easy when you need it to be,” it is no excuse to give up.

Maybe you just broke off a long-term relationship. Perhaps you are not as close with your friends back home now that you are away at college. There might be a possibility that you are on the brink of failing your classes. The song is in an indication that with each setback there is always a reason to “keep it moving.”

No more feeling bad for yourself! Turn this song up to maximum volume and begin to accept the highs and lows and work on the other hundred things you have to do today.

5. “Find Your Way Back” by Beyoncé

The multi-hyphenated artist has given the world countless records. It’s no wonder her latest album, inspired by “The Lion King” film, is no different. On “Find Your Way Back” Beyoncé shares a more personal tale of the lessons she has learned from her father, which can be applied to the average college student.

Throughout college, young adults struggle with the sudden transition from childhood to adult life. It might seem like you are obligated to handle several tasks without help from anyone. You realize that in this dog-eat-dog world, nobody owes you anything. However, the “Bow Down” superstar tells us that in this “big big world,” “you got it baby!”

You might feel incapable at first but eventually, you will grow to be a responsible, level-headed and respectable adult. The lyrics “find you way back” indicate that everyone can find their place in this world. Don’t get discouraged by the world’s ugliness, or as the queen bluntly puts it, “Don’t let this life drive you crazy.”

6. “MOOD 4 EVA” (feat. Oumou Sangaré)

Beyoncé charts on this list once again for top 10 motivational songs. On the aforementioned album, the singer produces another record that celebrates life how “everyday above ground is a blessing.” In college, it’s easy to become lonely and overwhelmed. On top of the loneliness, class assignments and involvement in extracurricular activities, students experience heartbreak and deep disappointment for the first time.

Such instances make it difficult to cope especially when you stay far from home. Beyoncé’s song, which features Childish Gambino and Jay-Z, encourages optimism in spite of life’s downfalls. “MOOD 4 EVA” indicates that your thoughts have to be more powerful than your emotions to stay optimistic and happy. The song allows you to gain a new perspective on life that focuses on your blessings rather than shortcomings.

6. “Here’s 2 Us” by “Victorious” Cast ft. Victoria Justice

“Victorious” is a late Nickelodeon show targeted to teenagers but the message behind the song can be applied to young adults as well — particularly, students who overachieved in high school but find trouble reaching those same heights in college.

The reality of failure hits in college. In a setting that is more diverse than high school, you will come across people who are smarter, prettier and more outgoing. There will be times where you won’t get the grade that you want or miss deadlines and sleep through classes.

Victoria Justice belts out the pop song that not only acknowledges failure but celebrates it. Despite its pessimistic rhetoric, the song is an artistic statement that numbs the disappointment that results from failure.

Nobody is perfect and failure is inevitable. In every part of the motivational song, failure is anticipated rather than discouraged.  “Here’s 2 Us” opposes self-pity. That same attitude should be reflected in college students by bouncing back from mistakes and growing into wise individuals, prepared to experience what the world has to offer.

7. “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder

The living legend’s 1973 funk record is a timeless motivational song that encourages listeners to persevere until they are successful, which the prominent musician refers to as “the highest ground.”

In college, it’s easier to throw in the towel or slack off when tending to the innumerable responsibilities. In even worse cases, students will drop out. Wonder believes that we should not give up and repetitively starts his lines with “keep on” throughout the song.

As long as the world is turning, we have to keep trying. If the clock hasn’t gone out then neither should you.

8. “Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera (feat. Demi Lovato)

Aguilera and Lovato’s collaboration is possibly the best feminist song of the decade. “Fall in Line” is dedicated to girls and women. In the age of the #MeToo movement, Aguilera partnered with Lovato by mashing their strong soprano voices to inform girls and young women of their value and confronts how women were made to fall under a patriarchal system.

The lyrics in tune with a high-intensity beat highlights female empowerment but can serve equally as a message to any gender. Especially, a group in their early years of adulthood on a path of self-discovery.

Aguilera’s song is meaningful to any young adult who is trying to find their place in this world. “Fall in Line” will motivate you to stand firm on your beliefs and challenge those who do not accept or understand your differences. Whether you’re a young woman who has been degraded by toxic masculinity or a young man who is figuring out his identity, “Fall in Line” is the go-to song.

9. “Not Afraid” by Eminem

The 2010 single from the rap star’s “Recovery” album addresses Eminem overcoming his obstacles and encouraging his fans to do the same. Additionally, Eminem tells his fans to be fearless when confronting their issues and to not steer off the path of recovery.

Although Eminem’s words were referring to his drug use and raising his daughter, the message of the song is meant for anyone who has “been down the same road” of emotional pain.

The song can be for people who aren’t suffering from a traumatic experience and for those who need to know that that they are not alone. This song can help college students cope with the homesickness and loneliness that comes with leaving home.

Even more so, the song sparks confidence and fearlessness, which is essential for successfully managing college life.

10. “Barbed Wire” by Kendrick Lamar ft. Ash Rider

In this song, Lamar compares making it out of his home city of Compton to trying to escape through barbed wire. At the end of the song, the rapper prides himself on the fact that he was able to overcome poverty and racial stereotypes by becoming a successful entertainer.

The Grammy award-winning artist tells listeners that being born into unfortunate circumstances does not mean that you are incapable of creating a comfortable future. Particularly, this song is targeted to first-generation college students suffering from self-doubt while striving to break generational curses.

In another sense, the song is for any student who has been told that their goals are unrealistic. Lamar’s musical testimony proves that it is possible to turn dreams into reality no matter your circumstances. You cannot control where you come from, but you do have a say in where you end up.

College is an emotional rollercoaster. Now and then, students need a motivational song that is relatable and cathartic. Next time you find yourself freaking out over exams or overthinking in your dorm room at 3 a.m., turn on this playlist to remember the reason you applied to college in the first place.

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