Forget everything you’ve been told about breakfast setting the course for the next 16 or so hours. The way that entire days play out is decided in a single moment and it comes well before you chow down on some farm animal by-products of your choosing. How your day goes largely sprouts from the way in which you roll your groggy self off your bed, pallet, couch or pile of old clothes. Therefore, the sounds that rouse you are vitally important.
But who needs the pressure of actually picking those songs out for yourself? That’s the sort of thing that can keep someone up at night. Seems a bit self-defeating. So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled some of the best songs to wake up to.
15. Empire Bakuba – “Ya Yongo”
It’s always good to choose a song that has a distinct back half, to act as a sort built-in snooze function. If you hear the end of the song coming up, you know that you should be up and out of bed already. This Zairean act will wake you up gently with a lilting guitar line and soft vocals, but the “eyyy mama” that closes out the song will snap you to attention if you decide to linger in your sheets.
14. Bill Withers – “Lovely Day”
Cliche? Probably. But cliches become so for a reason. Bill Withers soothing voice, impossibly smooth backing band and ultra-positive message make for a great way to rouse.
13. Kirk Franklin – “I Smile”
This is the anti-“Lovely Day” if ever there was one. If you’re going through a rough patch and think that happy proclamations of how great the world will be might ring a little false, then this track from gospel titan Kirk Franklin is for you. It’s more than willing to admit that the day might be terrible, but Franklin and his choir meet that adversity with row upon row of pearly white teeth.
12. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – “Matador”
Sometimes gentle tracks just won’t cut it. Every once in a while, the need arises to wake up feeling like a badass who can run through brick walls and come out with their jacket still looking fresh as the day they bought it. Los Fabulosos Cadillacs militant march and whistles coupled with vocalist Vicentico’s tale of a revolutionary on the run is the perfect mixture of loud, bright and impossibly cool.
11. BLK JKS – “Zol!”
BLK JKS 2010 track “Zol!” was built to get people going. The track was made as sort of an unofficial anthem for the South African World Cup, taking in the sounds of Johannesburg-house music and turning into a sunny stadium chant. And anything good enough to get thousands of soccer fans on their feet should be enough to get the average person to stand up and turn off their alarm.
10. Les Breastfeeders – “Mini Jupe Et Watusi”
The happiest song ever written about mini-skirts (and believe me, that’s a category with quite a bit of competition). These Montreal garage-rockers work best if you need to hop on a Vespa, light a cigarette and get rolling.
9. Nappy Roots – “Good Day”
To keep this list from being a stew of sprightly sounds from elsewhere, let’s bring it back to the U.S. to show we can do posi morning music just as well as anywhere else. Nappy Roots bouncing piano ode to just having the best day imaginable is a stand-out among the Kentucky group’s catalog and a perfect alternative for people who don’t want to wake up thinking about how broke they are.
8. Kes The Band – “Wotless”
“Wotless” is a Trinidadian word that means “not caring about anything at all.” First thing in the morning is far to early to be stressing, so give in to this Soca Monarch winner and wake up feeling like you “just won a million dollars.”
7. McLusky – “Alan is a Cowboy Killer”
This song is a time-bomb. Once you hear the slack as hell strumming and vocals of this Welsh group, you have about 30 seconds to get up and switch it off. After that, the song becomes a mix of shouting and screeching guitars. Recommended for folks who care what their roommates think.
6. Arcade Fire – “Haiti”
This isn’t a dodge to avoid going too literal and picking “Wake Up.” Nope, not at all.
5. Modest Mouse – “Sh*t Luck”
Some people have serious trouble knocking the sleep from their eyes. Soft strums and sweet voices are more likely to annoy them than fully wake them. For those folks, the jarring scream of Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock and the racket that his band makes to back him up is like a coffee IV.
4. Trash Talk – “Explode”
Only to be used by the heaviest of sleepers. This is the wake-up track for folks who can sleep through Brock’s yelps “This building’s totally burning down!” without so much as rolling over.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”
Let’s get back to the positive tunes. The saxophone peal that kicks of Carly Rae’s new classic E•MO•TION is so distinct and wonderful that the internet meme-ified it to signify all kinds of greatness. If you wake up to Carly’s pleading to “take me to the feeling” and not feel like you’re going to own the world by the end of the day, then your heart is made of stone.
2. Chance The Rapper – “Blessings”
We could have put any Chance The Rapper song here and it would have worked just as well. But who doesn’t want to start their day thinking that blessings are raining down on them?
1. Stevie Wonder – “As”
This song belongs on all playlists, always and forever, regardless of the purpose. But it’s particularly good for waking up to. In fact, it’s the perfect alarm jam. Its long, slow build is the exact sort of thing that science says is good for waking up. The promise of eternal love is always good for a smile in the morning. He brought a choir for back-up in case you need some extra motivation to start moving and it contains that all-important internal clock. If Stevie starts getting raspy and you’re still in bed, you have lingered for far too long.