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There are times we need different playlists to complement, soothe or change our moods. I often put together numerous playlists to this end.
Anger is an emotion we don’t often like to talk about in polite conversation. Anger is dangerous. It often calls for change – and sometimes forces it. More importantly, anger challenges the status quo. It threatens authority and privilege, and disrupts the everyday. Sometimes we need to be angry.
Sometimes I’ll get caught in the rain, or be held up by traffic, or get stood up for a date – and those are the moment I turn on my angry playlist. Then it’s often cathartic, and it saves much bloodshed when I don’t have to lay into whichever person I feel is getting in my way. Win-win, really.
Vow – Garbage
Who couldn’t love this? It’s jagged, elegant, electric. Moreover, the song is allegedly inspired by Lorena ‘Castratrix’ Bobbit! Plus, how can you not like, ‘You burned me out but I’m back at your door / Like Joan of Arc coming back for more’? If you could distill rage and slosh it in 90s grunge, this is no doubt what it would sound like.
Oughta Know – Alanis Morossette
Alanis is the Queen of Pain. Okay, her later albums sound like ludicrous psychobabble set to music, but her first two adult albums (she was a teen pop star in Canada) are wonderful. ‘Oughta Know’ has helped many of us through a breakup.
Through Rage – Skunk Anansie
This little known Skunk Anansie B-side is ostensibly about violence. It’s easy to assume it’s about domestic violence and relationships, but there’s another reading: that this is about politics and the loathful ideologues who lead us gleefully towards suffering. It’s these figures – whether lovers or leaders – who make us ‘carry on through rage’.
Army of Me – Bjork
‘Army of Me’ is deliciously dark, twisting and soaring as Bjork threatens her enemies and naysayers with an army of her. The vocal is eerie and haunting, while the music is tortured and twisted.
Smack My Bitch Up – The Prodigy
At first listen, apparently about domestic abuse, further listening reveals other possible meanings (which the band confirm): that this is a song about music itself. ‘Change my pitch up / smack my bitch up,’ Keith sings, implying the need for a hit of something addictive – such as, perhaps, a ferocious track being beaten into shape for an audience. The video also turns expectations on its head by having its protagonist (on a night of hedonism, ending in violence and vomit) finally revealed as a woman.
U + Ur Hand – Pink
At the poppier end of the spectrum, there’s this song by Pink. Pitched as Pink refusing to be seen as entertainment by a man, it’s also about defiance against misogyny and patriarchy in everyday settings.
212 – Azealia Banks
In this riotous debut, Azealia rails against artists who return to the closet once they make it big (Nicki Minaj, Jesse J), men who posture and women who secretly want her to eat them out. I mean, she literally raps, ‘I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten.’ Props, girl. Props.
Ultimately, it’s the familiar rap trope of dissing the competition and laying down the gauntlet, but it’s also a combative piece against the familiar tropes of hip-hop. Yikes!
Standing in the Way of Control – The Gossip
This song is allegedly about the fight for LGBT+ rights. It’s about standing together against a common enemy to ‘live your life / Survive the only way that you know’. Most people remember this song from the iconic trailer for the first series of Skins. In the trailer, the implication was that this rabble of kids were dancing for their lives – to forget, to escape, to move beyond. Though this song is about more than just partying, it lends itself well to headbanging and arm-waving. And it’s a perfect way to vent some pent up aggression.
Rolling in the Deep – Adele
Anger can sometimes be sublime, as Adele shows us in ‘Rolling in the Deep’. This song rages against a person whose deception has disrupted a state of bliss and satisfaction: ‘We could’ve had it all / Rolling in the deep / You had my heart and soul / In your hands / And you played it to the beat.’ While Amy Winehouse was able to transform personal pain into blackly funny dirges which ooze cocky fragility, Adele sublimes her own hurt into glorious ballads that pack as much power into one voice as would a whole choir.
Faster Kill Pussycat – Paul Oakenfold ft. Brittany Murphy
You might ask why this song belongs here. However, while on the face of it this song is an electro-tinged pop song, it ripples with knowing. The music behind Brittany sounds dogged, relentless, focused. When Brittany sings ‘Heaven knows, I tried to let you go’, the music suggests she’s obsessed with and pursuing a lover who isn’t good for her (and likewise, she certainly isn’t good for this person either). The track also seems to contain a distorted cyborg laugh, as if this compulsive stalker is pleased with themselves and their predicament. There’s a moment of revelling in perversion and the loss of control that comes from masochism.
I Bet that You Look Good on the Dancefloor – The Arctic Monkeys
Finally, this song acts as a kind of rounding off catharsis – bringing me back to a more upbeat state of mind. The guitars and drums are quite energetic, which channels your anger, but funnels it into something about dancing and carefree sex. A perfect way to bring you back down!
What songs do you listen to when you’re angry?