You are beautiful, no matter what they say: a self-love & self-empowerment playlist

Last year, my then-therapist gave me a “homework assignment” to come up with some tangible examples of how I could better love myself. (Self esteem has been a problem area for me for the better part of 35 years.) So I did what I do, what gets things done for me and helps me feel zen at the same time: I went to my iTunes library and made a playlist. I asked for suggestions from my Facebook friends list as well, and received some good ones. Some I used, some I didn’t; I was fairly picky. I ended up with a playlist of 20 songs, nice & tidy & succint, I think, and all of them apply to me in one way or another. All of them make me feel better, too. YMMV, of course. In alphabetical order by title.

  1. “Baby I’m A Star,” Prince and the Revolution — I mean, if you wanna feel like a rock star, this is the way to go, right?
  2. “Be Good to Yourself,” Journey — More triumphant, fist-pumping-ness from guys who know how to do it better than most. And the gist is right there in the title!
  3. “Beautiful (Peter Rauhofer Extended Club),” Christina Aguilera — I’ve got a story to tell you. I lived in Norfolk, VA from 2000-2004, as some of you know. And during that time, in the early days of blogging, I became friends with (via blogs) a number of gay men in Washington, DC, only 3 hours away. On one trip up in the summer of 2003, I went to some cavernous gay dance club, name unknown and probably closed now anyway, and I had the most transcendent dancefloor experience with Rauhofer’s remix of Aguilera’s self-love anthem. Had it not been for that moment, I might never have connected with this song in this form, but I had it and I did. In my 2003 year-end singles list, I placed this #18 and wrote, in part, “If “Up With People” were actually inspiring, it’d sound like this minor masterpiece. Rauhofer gets much of the credit here, for creating a mega-anthem, yet somehow doing it subtlely.” Still true for my today, almost 15 years on.
  4. “Closer to Fine,” Indigo Girls
  5. “Confident,” Demi Lovato — Perhaps this decade’s “Beautiful”?
  6. “Express Yourself,” Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
  7. “Express Yourself,” Madonna — Don’t go for second-best, baby.
  8. “Greatest Love of All,” Whitney Houston — I mean, mock if you feel the need, if you’re that cynical, but it’s true: it the greatest love of all really is inside of us.
  9. “i (Single Edit),” Kendrick Lamar — In its single (read: clean) edit it’s less about killing racist cops and more about loving one’s self. And the way that sample from the Isleys’ “That Lady” is used is straight fire.
  10. “I Am What I Am,” Gloria Gaynor — Fast version.
  11. “I Am What I Am (from La Cage aux Folles),” George Hearn — Slow, original version. I love Harvey Fierstein (who sang this in the 2011 Broadway revival of La Cage) (and who wrote the book for this show), but Hearn owns this song forever as far as I’m concerned, with a vocal simultaneously heartbreaking and powerhouse. This video of him singing it from a Jerry Herman tribute a decade later is perfection. As is this, from the 1984 Tony Awards (Hearn sings starting at 4:10). Jerry Herman’s lyrics are so gorgeous, so perfect, so true.
  12. “I Love Myself,” Chaka Khan feat. B. Slade
  13. “I’m Beautiful Dammit!,” Uncanny Alliance
  14. “I’m Too Sexy,” Right Said Fred
  15. “I’m A Fire,” Donna Summer — From her final album, 2008’s Crayons, this song is really about being a fire because of the love and passion you have for someone else, but I tend to hear it as “I’m a fire!,” as a big, beautiful house anthem of empowerment. And Summer sings as good as she ever has.
  16. “Just Fine,” Mary J. Blige — Well, you wouldn’t expect me to put together a playlist of songs for self-love and empowerment and not include one from MJB, would you?
  17. “Masterpiece (Mona Lisa),” Jazmine Sullivan — With lyrics like “Every part of me is beautiful/And I finally see I’m a work of art/A masterpiece,” good lord! It’s hard to top this. Sullivan could’ve “diva’d this out,” but wisely chooses to instead undersing it, giving the lyrics more heft.
  18. “Super Bad,” James Brown
  19. “Supermodel (You Better Work) (Ready to Wear Mix),” RuPaul
  20. “Test,” Ministry — This unlikely entry came from my BFF Tim, who didn’t want my playlist to be all pop divas and dance music; it’s the musical equivalent of having a drill sergeant barking “YOU CAN DO IT!” in your face.

About thomasinskeep

I write about music.
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