The Ultimate List Of Feel-Good Songs
We all have those songs that can put us in a good mood as soon as we hit play. You know, those songs that never fail to make us bust a move and take our minds off the stresses of life. But, what exactly constitutes a “feel-good” song? Well, British electronics firm Alba made it their mission to find out.
Alba took a poll of songs people thought were the best feel-good tunes and contacted neuroscientist Dr. Jacob Jolij to provide a science-backed formula for the perfect track. Dr. Jolij concluded that although you can’t use math to measure such a thing, there’s no denying these feel-good songs shares lots of similarities. These hits were deemed the best feel-good songs of all time — and you’re going to want to make a playlist!
Katrina & The Waves — “Walking On Sunshine”
If you say that you’ve never found yourself listening to this song while washing the dishes and dancing, chances are you’re lying. Kimberly Rew wrote the track for the Katrina & the Waves debut album in 1983. Upon its release, the song reached No. 4 in Australia, No. 9 in the United States, and No. 8 in the UK.
Although the song was initially intended to be a ballad, Katrina turned it into a more upbeat song by belting the lyrics and giving it a little more flair. Because of the song’s high-energy, it became a gold mine for advertisers as well as radio stations. Since its release, it has made an estimated $1 million per year in royalties.
Gloria Gaynor — “I Will Survive”
Any song with disco qualities that’s about self-empowerment after a breakup is bound to get the people going. Written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris, Gloria Gaynor released the track in October 1978. Right off the bat, it sold 14 million copies worldwide and became a disco anthem for its time, becoming certified platinum by the RIAA. The song’s tempo and motivating lyrics earned it a spot at No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received endless airplay.
It is described by some as a symbol of female self-empowerment as well as a gay anthem, usually being played during celebrations. In 2016, the song was preserved in the Library of Congress for its cultural and historical importance.
Bon Jovi — “Livin’ on a Prayer”
Released as the single for their third album Slippery When Wet, “Livin’ on a Prayer” was written by Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child. It was released in 1986, and immediately took over both pop and rock and roll radio stations. The song provided the band with their first No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and their second consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit.
The song was voted as No. 1 out of VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s and is considered to be Bon Jovi’s signature song. The uplifting nature of the song was inspirational to audiences during its initial release and continues to be so today The original single sold around 800,000 copies in the United States, and by 2003 was certified Triple Platinum after receiving over 3 million digital downloads.
Cyndi Lauper — “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”
If you’ve ever been around a group of women that are particularly feeling themselves at that moment, odds are this song was blasting in the background. Although musician Robert Hazard initially released the song, it gained widespread popularity after pop singer Cyndi Lauper released her updated version in 1983. Considered by many to be one of the greatest feminist anthems of all time, it has been covered by over 30 different artists.
The song was Cyndi Lauper’s biggest breakthrough hit and is one of the most popular songs of the 1980s. The song’s production and lyrics have established it as a classic hit for both men and women that will surely last through the ages.
The Monkees — “I’m A Believer”
While some of us may only recognize this song covered by Smash Mouth for the animated film Shrek, this feel-good track far pre-dates the movie. The song was composed by Niel Diamond but was covered by The Monkees in 1966, hitting the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart where it stayed for seven weeks.
The record went gold within two days of its release and was the biggest-selling record of 1967. The song’s tempo, lyrics, and positive attitude towards life make it especially appealing and have secured it as one of the great feel-good songs in recent memory.
Survivor — “Eye of the Tiger”
Now regarded as one of the greatest “get pumped-up” songs of all time, “Eye of the Tiger” was released by the rock band Survivor as the single for their third album.The song was also released as the theme song for Rocky III, which was released the day before the single, making it wildly popular. The song was actually written at the request of Rocky III star Sylvester Stallone for the movie after Queen denied Stallone to use “Another One Bites the Dust.”
The song topped the charts worldwide in 1982 and was certified platinum the same year after selling 2 million copies. At this point, everyone knows the tune to “Eye of the Tiger” and has been used by sports teams, politicians, and athletes as personal theme songs.
Billy Joel — “Uptown Girl”
“Uptown Girl” was written, released, and performed by musicians and performer Billy Joel on September 29, 1983. It appeared on his ninth studio album Innocent Man. The song describes the struggles of a working-class man and his efforts to try to win the heart of a wealthier woman that lives uptown from him. The track peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped other charts worldwide.
Although it isn’t his most popular hit, the energy of the song combined with the struggles of living an ordinary life spoke to the average person who took comfort in the song. As of today, the record has sold over 1.06 million copies.
The Beach Boys — “Good Vibrations”
The track, “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys is widely accepted to be one of the most upbeat and feel-good songs of all time. The song was composed by member Brian Wilson with lyrics by Mike Love. The track was released in October 1966 and was an immediate worldwide hit. The song’s blending of soundscapes, pop, and rock, tied together with the Beach Boys signature touch classified it as one of the most impressive rock and roll masterpieces of all time.
Today, it is still considered to be one of the most essential and inspiring compositions of its time because of the influence that it had on all genres of music. It’s hard to have a bad day when listening to this song and the track is sure to get anybody out of a rut.
ABBA — Dancing Queen”
Potentially every mom over 50’s favorite song, “Dancing Queen” by Swedish pop group ABBA was released as the single to their fourth album Arrival. Within days, it had become a worldwide hit and charted as No. 1 in the United States, Austalia, The Netherlands, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, and countless other countries.
“Dancing Queen” is considered to be the Europop take on American disco music which turned out to be loved by all. To this day, wine drunk moms can still be seen dancing in the kitchen together attempting to hit the high notes while grooving to the songs undeniably catchy instrumentals.
Queen — “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Featured as the single on British rock group Queen’s 1978 album Jazz, “Don’t Stop Me Now,” was written by frontman Freddy Mercury. The song is based on mercury’s piano playing with Queen’s classic flair for using multi-track harmony vocals during their unmissable chorus lines.
Although the song wasn’t an instant hit, over the years, it grew in popularity for its drive, message, and is now considered to be one of Queen’s most memorable tracks. In 2005, it was voted as “The Greatest Driving Song Ever” by television show Top Gear and was voted as the most uplifting song by the Alba survey.
Bobby McFerrin — “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” are four of the most calming and reassuring words that you can say to someone, and Bobby McFerrin repeats these to his audience throughout his song. On top of his lyrics, the song is full of light-hearted whistling and harmonizing, as well as endearing stories to remind the listener that everything will be alright. When McFerrin released the song in 1988, it became a worldwide phenomenon.
It was also the first a capella song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it remained for two weeks. This track is sure to bring anyone out of a funk and begs to be played at the beach with Pina Colada in hand.
Earth, Wind, & Fire — “September”
“September” by Earth, Wind, & Fire was recorded while writing their album I Am in 1978 and was included as a single. It was also included on their album The Best of Earth, Wind,& Fire, Vol. 1. Upon its release, it was No. 1 on the US R&B chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and has only grown in popularity since.
What makes the song so catchy to listeners is the chord progression, taking the band over a month to complete. Today, “September” is also referred to as an R&B classic that is bound to be played on the dance floor at any major celebration.
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel — Ain’t No Mountian High Enough”
Everyone loves a good love song, which is exactly why people still listen to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as much as when it was first released. The song was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson for a division of Mowton Records. However, the song became a hit when it was recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. The song broke the top 20 of the Billboard Pop Charts and was No. 3 on the R&B charts.
This version of the song is considered to be the most pop-oriented, easy to dance to, and showed the most affection between its two singers. Today, the song is still regarded as one of the most important records ever recorded by Mowtown.
Louis Armstrong: “What A Wonderful World”
“What A Wonderful World” is a song that can make anyone appreciate the world around them. It’s what makes the tune such a memorable and peaceful song to listen to. Although it may not have the tempo or energy as some other feel-good songs, its effect on an individual’s mood is undeniable.
Although Bob Thiele and George Weiss initially wrote the song, it was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released in 1967. It topped the pop charts in the UK, and the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. The song has been used throughout popular culture and has been covered countless times since it was first recorded.
Sonny and Cher — “I Got You, Babe”
Much like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s song, Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” is a love duet that is guaranteed to put people in a good move. To hear two people proclaim their love to each other in such plain terms should make anyone happy. Along with the lyrics, the songs use of instruments and melody makes it that much better.
The song was the single from the pair’s debut studio album Look at Us in 1965 and was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The song has become a staple tune for lovebirds young and old and has set the bar for all of its predecessors.
Jackie Wilson — “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”
“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” is an R&B track written by Gary Jackson, Carl Smith, R. Miner, and produced by Carl Davis. However, it was first performed and made a No. 1 R&B hit by Jackie Wilson in 1967. The track was ranked No. 246 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
The song’s lyrics about the influence of love doubled with the song’s upbeat instrumentals and Wilson’s incredible vocals make it a homerun feel-good tune. You’re sure to find this on any pre-made uplifting playlist around.
Bill Withers — “Lovely Day”
Released December 21, 1977, “Lovely Day” was written by Withers and Skip Scarborough and appears on the album Menagerie. The song peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the Top 10 in the United Kingdom. One of the most notable aspects of the song is the 18-second note that Withers holds at the end of the track.
This displayed Wither’s natural talent and perfectly caps off an already incredibly relaxing and beautiful song. The mellow funk components of the track backed by Withers velvety vocals and backup singers make it a must-listen on the drive to work. Nothing can prepare you for a day more than Withers telling you that it’s going to be a lovely day.
Outkast — “Hey Ya!”
Although Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” a little more recent than some of the other songs on our list, there’s no denying that this song gets the young and old moving. The song is so exciting and cheerful because it’s the perfect blend of funk, rap, and rock music. The track was released in 2003 on the album The Love Below. After its release, it won the award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance at the 46th Grammy Awards and became a commercial success.
Billboard named it the 20th most successful song of the 2000s in the United States. PopMatters called the song “brilliantly rousing” and “spazzy with electrifying multiplicity.” What more can you ask from a feel-good song by Outkast?
Wham! — “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”
You know you’re in for a ride when you hear the unmistakable opening organ and words “Jitterbug” to the hit track “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! The song was released as a single in the UK in 1984 and became their first UK, and US No.1 hit.
Wham! member George Michael commented that he “just wanted to make an energetic pop record that had all the best elements of 1950s and 60s records.” This helped give the tune the upbeat and carefree vibe that it’s known for. The song even saw a resurgence after it was featured in the 2001 comedy Zoolander, and became popular among younger crowds.
Journey — “Don’t Stop Believin'”
Some people have described “Don’t Stop Believin'” as overplayed, which is basically just a testament to its feel-good properties. People love to get together and belt this song in unison whether on a road trip or at their local dive bar at closing time. The song was released as the second single to the album Escape and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
AllMusic has described the track as “a perfect rock song” and the hit is often played in athletic stadiums, in popular culture, and just about any event (from high school proms to weddings). It gets the crowd going, and the majority of people know most — if not all — of the words.