Relationships

What Songs Do You Find Comforting?

comforting songs

When I was in middle school, I was forbidden to listen to…

…anything other than Christian music. Still, pop punk was having a moment, and because those tunes were forbidden, that made me want them all the more. Every day after school I’d take off my backpack, sneak into my room with a Snack Pack, quietly click my headphones into my boombox and drift away to the melodic angst of the early 2000s. It was my unwinding ritual.

Every now and then, while I’m in line at Trader Joe’s, a familiar 20-year-old tune will drift from the speakers and a smile emerges under my mask. Because no matter how not-my-taste that song may be, it takes me back to that terrible, wonderful time of life. My heart still skips a beat when I hear “This is the story of a girl…

Here’s my current grin-inducing playlist:
All The Small Things by Blink 182
Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne
Steal My Sunshine by LEN
She’s So High by Tal Bachman
Absolutely (Story of a Girl) by Nine Days

What are the songs you find comforting? Do any of them have a good memory attached?

P.S. What music do you make out to and what’s bringing you joy right now?

(Photo from Smithsonian Institution/National Museum of American History.)

  1. Delia says...

    Days Like This – Van Morrison. Whenever I’m having a bad day, feeling down, or need a little comfort I throw this on. It’s like a warm hug from the ’90s!

  2. Amy says...

    Rilo Kiley! “Breakin’ Up” makes me happy-nostalgic and always makes me smile. And Joni Mitchell is always comfort music for me if I am in a mellow mood—the Blue album in particular.

  3. CG says...

    Semi-charmed Life – Third eye blind
    Fly – Sugar Ray
    Hey Ya – Outkast
    …and everything Jack Johnson (especially the In Between Dreams album)

  4. TAwney says...

    I wish Cup of Jo would create playlists! I have a feeling a collaborative listener playlist would be on nonstop for me as I work and drive. (Spotify has a great collaborative playlist feature ;) )

  5. Elizabeth says...

    Beach House’s album “Bloom” was released weeks before my mother in law passed away and it holds a special place in my heart. While a painful and sad moment in my life, the songs help me to remember what a beautiful woman she was.

  6. Tesia says...

    Oh my gosh, Kim, you just exactly described my own teenage experience! Middleschooler in the early 2000’s? Check. Only allowed to listen to Christian music? Check. Secretly listening to the radio with headphone? Check. Your list of songs bring back so many memories.

    However, my comfort songs are anything by The Beatles and lots of folk songs – the music that we play and sing together at family reunions. Every summer while I was growing up, we would spend the 4th of July in Maine with my Dad’s big family and in the evenings we would sit around and sing together (it helps that there are some very talented musicians in the family). We don’t meet up nearly as often anymore, but when we do, there is always lots of music and singing.

  7. Sally says...

    For me in the pop songs of the late 90s/early 00s, when I was in my teens.
    And then at university, the one song that most takes me back is ‘The Reason’ by Hoobastank. Those songs remind me of a time when I felt like the world was going to be at my feet. I grew up comfortably middle-class, had lots of friends and generally a lot of privilege. I was still young and naive enough to think that if I continued to work hard, my life would continue to be easy. I hadn’t yet seen or experienced anything to burst that bubble.
    Of course, life isn’t really like that, but those songs remind me so much of being young and completely carefree.

    • Did anyone else watch VH1 for music videos? I feel like that song was CONSTANTLY on. I’ll never forget that accident. :D

  8. Kristin says...

    Why Don’t We Fall in Love by Amerie – throwback song that feels like summer :)

  9. Magdalena says...

    The Melanesian Choir Songs from the movie Thin Red Line. I purchased the Blessed Islands CD of the choir’s chants and spent a summer waking up to that music. To this day it transports me to a heavenly place.

  10. Hayley B says...

    “…. who cried a river and drowned the whole world”! What a trip down memory lane!

    Mine would be anything Gin Blossoms, The Calling (“Wherever You Will Go” is a standout), Alanis Morissette (her entire “Jagged Little Pill” album is my life soundtrack circa 1996-97), Matchbox Twenty, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Train, Soundgarden, Garbage, Blur, Offspring, Soul Asylum (“Runaway Train” especially), basically the entire Empire Records soundtrack, and everything from The Cranberries! Dolores O’Riordan’s haunting vocals, especially on “Ode to My Family”, always takes me right back to high school in the 90s and gives me chills at the same time.

    My college years were dominated by more straight-up bubblegum pop (the Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera era) but Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” always reminds me of the time when I was on the cusp of adulthood and full of optimism about the years ahead. Good times!

    • yes, yes, yes!!!!!!

    • Myvoice says...

      Same years,same exact music and I live in India. What a strange, small world!!

  11. Drake says...

    Redbone by Childish Gambino—it slows down my heart and makes me feel warm inside <3

  12. Grace says...

    “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke is my favorite song of all time. The second I hear those swooning violins, I get chills, and when the brass section warms the speakers, I start to weep. Especially in these times, it is so easy to despair, but hearing Sam Cooke gently croon and desperately plead and defiantly declare this song gives me so much hope that there can be beauty and strength when the world feels so dark. Other extremely important artists have sung this song very well, but Sam Cooke’s version will always be my favorite.

    Also, all R&B circa ’95-’05.

    • Laura says...

      Man, all the indie pop I listened to on my iPod in college, circa the mid- to late-aughts. The Shins, Belle and Sebastian, Stars, Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, Motion City Soundtrack, New Pornographers. It’s like the music of my coming of age. These are also the bands my husband and I shell out money to see in concert now, us and the other nostalgic 30-something’s.

  13. Lauren e says...

    I recently got the urge to listen to The Fray last week and it hit the spot! Brought up some high school feelings, before I moved away from my hometown. “Eeeeveryone knows I’m in over my head, over my head…”

  14. Kimberly Uhuru says...

    Charlie Brown Christmas album

    • Sarz says...

      YES! All year round! Everything the Vince Guaraldi Trio did was pretty great. Cast Your Fate To the Wind is one of the jewels of my record collection. :D

  15. Ashley P. says...

    1. I was also raised Christian #nosecularmusic. I would sneak No Doubt

    2. No making out, I was a theatre nerd, but not the kind with an interesting after-the-show life.

    3. We’re living with my folks right now, so every other week, my husband, my toddler, & I pile into my dad’s truck and drive “into town” to grab drive-through breakfast. It’s like a half hour drive through the hill country in Texas. I look forward to it so much.

  16. Django says...

    Taj Mahal Take a Giant Step album
    Anything sung by Ella Fitzgerald
    Ditto Judy Garland
    Anything by a Pizzarelli
    Jack Johnson, the ultimate soothing music
    Bob Dylan The Times They are a Changin’ and the entire
    Blood on the Tracks album
    Collards and Cornbread by Fantasia
    Cornbread and Collard Greens by The Carolina
    Chocolate Drops
    I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits by Little Miss Higgins
    Shoo Fly Pie and Apple PanDowdy by Margaret Whiting
    Foolish Games by Jewel
    Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini
    Hello In There by Bette Midler (live version)
    If I Had a Million Dollars by Miss Erika
    I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today by Randy Newman
    La Vie En Rose by almost any artist
    The Lazy Song by Bruno
    Let’s Stay Together by Al Green
    Midnight Rider by Gregg Allman
    Oh! Darling by Hailey Reinhart
    Powerful Stuff by Sean Hayes
    Rise Up by Andra Day
    Skylark by Linda Ronstadt with the Nelson Riddle
    Orchestra
    A Change is Gonna Come by Adam Lambert on
    American Idol

    • Lori says...

      YES!!! I am still head over heals for Adam’s version of A Change Is Gonna Come all these years later! When his voice nails that high note, I get chills every time.

  17. Nicola A says...

    The Milkman of Human Kindness – Billy Bragg

    • Sarz says...

      :D His voice is soothing, even when he’s singing protest. I saw him live a few years ago, and it was everything my once-teenage fangirl self hoped it would be.

  18. Hannah says...

    They’re all so random and depend on my mood:

    “Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
    “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
    “Meet Virginia” by Train
    “HandClap” by Fitz and the Trantrums
    “Take a Walk” by Passion Pit
    “Southern Hospitality” by Ludacris

    Sometimes it’s a random country song, sometimes it’s the early 2000’s hip hop playlist 🤷🏻‍♀️

  19. K says...

    “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes. “I’ve been having me a real hard time/But it’s so nice/To know I’m gonna be all right…” Perfect song for the moment. Also, it makes me think of the ‘Fleabag’ finale, which is as close to artistic perfection as it gets.

  20. CR says...

    John Mayer’s “Room for Squares.” It came out the year my husband and I started dating. It instantly takes me back to college and all of the excitement that I felt at that time of my life.

    Carole Kong’s “Tapestry.” My mom played the album on the stereo and played the music on her piano endlessly when I was growing up. I turn it on when I’m homesick for childhood and my mom and it instantly calms me.

    • lauren says...

      OHMYGOSH Room for Squares and Heavier Things are mine for sure. Heavier Things reminds me of driving to the mall while it snowed with my sisters and mom to go Christmas shopping. I love that album so much.

  21. Lara says...

    I weirdly got an urge to hear Jeff Buckley’s Last Goodbye, this morning in the drive thru line at Starbucks. I listened to it immediately on YouTube and it completely brought me back to a “safe” time in high school, when my mom was still alive. It was so comforting.

    • Lauren e says...

      Last Goodbye! Ugh, I have to listen to that now <3

  22. Tiffani says...

    Janis Joplin’s version of Summertime
    Groovin’ by the Rascals
    Anything by Sly and the Family Stone
    Key Largo by Sarah Vaughn
    Feeling Good by Nina Simone
    And my absolute favorite is Tiny Dancer. My dad used to sing it to me when I was little and for years I thought it was a song he made up about me because I wanted to be a ballerina. I didn’t know it was a pop song until I was 11.

  23. I’ve been howling along this week to the music I grieved with when I lost two of my best friends in 6 months 15 years ago. Two main albums: Bonnie Prince Billy’s “I See A Darkness” and The Magnetic Fields’ “69 Love Songs”. Been learning songs from both on the banjo ukulele I’ve been learning to play in quarantine as well. The angsty-loving music of my younger days (I’m 50) is such a comfort now.

  24. Heather O says...

    When I was a little girl my dad would take me on dates to the diner and we would eat grilled cheese and he would give me change and let me play the little jukebox on the table and he would tell me silly jokes. We always ended up listening to Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, and to this day every time I hear that song it brings me right back to those days at the diner with my dad and it feels like a hug from him.

  25. Martini says...

    Christmas music.

  26. EmilyS says...

    Einstein on the Beach by Counting Crows will always put me in a good mood and makes me want to jump and dance every time.

  27. baby where you are by ted lucas, and woyaya by anaïs mitchell and kate stables. so comforting. :)

  28. Elizabeth says...

    Titanium by Sia. I had brain surgery to repair a brain aneurysm and now have 5 titanium plates in my head. In a cheesy way it’s literal, but it’s so powerful and a testament to how resilient we are and the things we all overcome.

  29. Julia says...

    Oh so many!!

    “To Be With You” – Mr. Big
    “More Than Words” – Extreme
    “For The Longest Time” – Billie Joel
    “Free Fallin’ ” – Tom Petty
    “Heart Of Gold” – Neil Young

    Anything Gin Blossoms, Counting Crows – basically anything off the Felicity or Dawson’s Creek soundtracks! (REalllyy giving my age away here!) Oh – and of course the Friends theme song.

    As a Canadian – anything Chantal Kreviazuk, Jann Arden, Amanda Marshall, Bryan Adams, or The Good Lovelies.

    Anything Motown.
    Anything Stevie Wonder.
    Anything Amos Lee.

    Sigh. As a music major I could go on and on!

  30. Maria Anagnostopoulou says...

    old jazz

  31. Nanaka says...

    I also love all of these you mentioned, Kim! Long gone are the days when I went out every weekend and dance my mind away, hahaha!

    A song that will probably be with me forever from the time I grew up, is “Drive” by Incubus. It is magical!

  32. Hilary says...

    Paul Simon’s Graceland, no matter what, always.

    • Cora says...

      Yes!

    • Elizabeth says...

      Also

  33. Sarah says...

    Just commenting to say what a cool photo

  34. Simone says...

    You are The Best Thing by Ray LaMontange always gives me the warm fuzzies (wedding song, and, incidentally his was the last concert my husband and I attended before Covid changed everything).

    Elastic Heart by Sia. It reminds me that I am strong and can survive and keep healing.

  35. Kelly says...

    “Night swimming” by R.E.M.

    • Hilary says...

      Such a good one!!!

    • Amy Wadley says...

      Yes!! Why do I feel the warm summer breeze or hear a summer rain storm on the roof of my car when I hear this song?

    • Kelly L. says...

      Wanted to have the string quartet play that melody at our wedding when I walked up the aisle with my mom and dad. Ended up with another choice, but every time hear that song, that’s what I imagine.

    • Magdalena says...

      Ingrid Michaelson does an amazing cover of Nightswimming with a vocal loop. I got a chance to see her do it live for a Tibet benefit at Carnegie Hall ages ago. It was magical! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heq6bR6niGw

  36. Jessica says...

    December 1963 (Oh What A Night) by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons 70’s am radio at it’s finest!

  37. Rebecca says...

    Breathe by pink Floyd. Super short song but I find (some of) the lyrics oddly comforting. It reminds me life is short and to make the most of it and not sorry about what other people think.

  38. Jess says...

    The great thing about being multilingual is that I enjoy music in 4 languages (English, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.) The songs that comfort me the most are Punjabi folk songs, Punjabi hymns, and qawaali.

    • Emily L says...

      I’m not multilingual, but I love listening to music in other languages! I find it soothing to just listen to the texture and sound of the words and not get caught up in trying to figure out the lyrics.

    • Myvoice says...

      Jess,
      Would
      You mind sharing some punjabi hymns and quawali’s? Was at the Harminder Sahib Temple 2 years ago and the magic still
      Lives in me.. hugs

    • Jess says...

      Responding to MyVoice: I tried to think about what someone who doesn’t understand the language might find comforting, meditative, etc. For qawaali, I recommend Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Songs: Sanu Ek Pal Chain Na Aawe, Allah Hoo, Na Rukte Hain Aansoo. If you’re interested in Sikh hymns, you can search under the terms ‘kirtan’ and ‘shabad.’ (These are religious, so please – no dancing, etc. to them.) Sometimes I want to hear a woman’s voice, and I usually listen to Pakistani singer Reshma. :)

  39. Nadine Hughey says...

    It’s more of an era that I find comforting – early seventies? Three Dog Night Comes to mind. I remember being in my bedroom at five with my dollhouse that had a little egg tray I put Tic Tacs into. Definitely a carefree time

  40. Lauren E. says...

    Alabama Rain by Jim Croce.

    It reminds me of rainy mountain mornings and fresh air and pine trees. I can’t explain why but if I’m ever having a bad day, I can put this on and I feel like I’ve got a friend.

    • laurie manuel says...

      Thank you for the reminder of Jim Croce’s music. Especially comforting right now.

  41. Hollis Brown says...

    I feel funny and old saying this. The Beatles. 😎👍

    • Jess says...

      Timeless music is… timeless!
      I was born years after the Beatles broke up, but I’ll always listen to Here Comes The Sun when I need a little pick me up. :)

  42. Kerry says...

    Whenever I’m feeling down — and it happens more often these days, like for everyone — I blast the Rolling Stones’ “Salt of the Earth.” It makes me cry and then the ending is so uplifting and hopeful that I get all the feels out, good and bad.

    Try it! Right now! LOUD.

  43. Katherine says...

    Maggie Rogers, especially the acoustic version of “Alaska,” makes me feel energized and cathartic but in an assured, calm, and clearheaded way. I love her music so much! And I love this quote from a New Yorker article about her from 2017: “This might seem a straightforward victory—the narrator has unburdened herself—but Rogers’s plainspoken acknowledgment of the self-destruction that accompanies true metamorphosis is eloquent. The process, she suggests, is twofold: first you relinquish the thing you loved, then you relinquish the part of yourself that loved it.”

    • Em says...

      What a beautiful quote, thank you for sharing! I’ve been listening to Maggie Rogers quite a bit lately, but didn’t know much about her or her story until now. I found the article your referenced and am learning more. Thank you :)

  44. Julie says...

    Any Norah Jones song makes me feel calm. Especially “Don’t Know Why” and “Sunrise”. Her voice is like a wave of peacefulness.

  45. MD says...

    Light of a Clear Blue Morning — Dolly Parton

    I’m a sexual assault prosecutor and when I have a stressful trial approaching, I play it on repeat in the shower and visualize the light of the clear blue morning that will come when trial is over. I read this trick somewhere last year (maybe here?) and it WORKS!

    • M says...

      How wonderful. I hope it works every time for you.

  46. E says...

    Billy Joel’s Vienna is always my go to

    • Sarah says...

      My father-daughter dance at my wedding was to this song :)

    • Amanda says...

      All the yes. As soon as I hear ‘slow down, you crazy child’ I feel like I can finally take a deep breath.

  47. Emily says...

    Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (singing together)
    Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Thelonius Monk
    Motown classics!

    And from my teen years, all the ‘mellow indie music’: Bon Iver, Beach House, The National, Andrew Bird…

    Music is such a gift!

  48. Leslie-Anne says...

    Spirit in the Sky! 1969 Norman Greenbaum

    • retro-roost says...

      I’m not religious, but every time I hear this song, up goes the volume.

  49. Erin says...

    I was in a coffee shop this morning & heard “Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear. It instantly brought me back to my 20’s…dating my now husband, going out on the weekends, biking around the city & meeting up with friends. There was a photo of Barack Obama hanging in the coffee shop, staring at me. It was too much & I got ready-eyed. I love the ability of music to completely transform me to a past moment in time.

  50. Mimi says...

    Currently:
    Start – Gaho
    Counting Stars – One Republic

  51. Amanda says...

    The entirety of Coldplay’s album A Rush of Blood to the Head–it was the first album I bought in college (at Walmart at midnight) and I fell asleep to it playing in my Discman a lot my freshman year. It was a hard time for me, getting used to being away from home even though I’d been looking forward to getting out of my house for years, but to this day those songs can chill me out like nothing else.

    • Laura says...

      That is one of my favorite albums!

  52. I’m currently loving the song “Lifted” by Dao, that I found while on Window-Swap.com. The music playing was so nice that I downloaded Shazam to find it! I found four songs, made a playlist and blogged the whole experience. https://www.analisamendmentblog.com/do-you-window-swap/

    • Angela says...

      This is the coolest concept! Thank you for sharing!

  53. Maureen says...

    Boston. Any song by Boston when it comes on the radio means something good is to happen. For example, on extended drives, without fail, Boston comes on the radio and brings a smile and I know the trip will be smooth :)
    This is on different radio stations in different areas, beyond my control.

    Songs that I choose to listen to for comfort:
    But Not Like Tonight – Depeche Mode
    The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
    The Book of Love – Magnetic Zeros
    Only You – Yaz
    Somebody to Love – Queen
    Peace Love & Understanding – Elvis Costello

  54. ETB says...

    “Tables and Chairs” Andrew Bird
    “One Big Holiday” My Morning Jacket
    Anything Talking Heads