Feist, “I Feel It All”
I’ve heard Leslie Feist’s “I Feel It All” everywhere — from Starbucks to chain stores to parties to my iPod, though its ubiquity doesn’t affect my devotion to it. The pretty, plinking xylophone and piano trills laid under Feist’s esoteric lyrics about fighting with boys, breaking your own heart, and bird analogies don’t penetrate me so much as the warmth and expression behind her campfire voice. Not to mention the sweet peppiness of the song itself. What comes across in the first-person narration of “I Feel It All” is that Feist seems very much to like the girl she is. That simple notion, unaided by bells and whistles, prompts me to think more positively about myself.

Cat Power, “Metal Heart”
“Metal Heart” is the song I play when I have neither the desire to be pumped up nor pep-talked, nor the energy to even watch TV or read or fake-smile at myself in the mirror. It’s best heard on headphones so the gorgeous Chan Marshall, a/k/a Cat Power, can whisper her tales of loss, disappointment, abandonment, and other upsetting things directly into my ears. I don’t know what’s lonelier: the sound of her aching voice or the personal destruction she’s singing about. “Metal Heart” has nothing to do with swallowing a bitter pill or telling someone off. It’s a downer that brings me peaceful, internal acceptance — a coming-to-terms with the craptacular before I get over myself and move on. “It’s damned if you don’t and damned if you do,” Chan mourns in this go-to elegy for anything I think I’ve failed at.

The Sugarcubes, “Hit”
In “Hit,” Björk is tormented by new love. Call it fate, dumb luck, whatever — whenever you’re completely intent (and happy!) with being alone, you tend to meet someone who forces you to reconsider. That’s the conflicting ebullience of the Sugarcube’s “Hit,” off the band’s third and final album, 1992’s Stick Around for Joy. It’s also about getting pregnant with said dude’s “seed,” but I usually ignore that part and focus on the first few verses: “This wasn’t supposed to happen/I’ve been hit with your charm/How could you do this to me?/I’m in love again.” Damn the inability to control who and when and why you fancy someone! The image of Björk lying in her bed, “totally still,” pissed at herself, enraptured, and so infatuated she can’t sleep is painfully familiar. Broken hearts burn, but hearts that become full before you’re ready are no less troublesome.

Ashlee Simpson, “Pieces of Me”
“Pieces of Me” has Ashlee Simpson filling in the gaps that Avril passed over to get to the sexy time in “Hot.” Ashlee’s diary-song chronicles the beginning of a romance that’s so “real,” it takes her by surprise. “It’s as if you knew me better than I ever knew myself,” Ashlee muses. I adore “Pieces of Me” because it’s gritty and flawed, yet tender. She admits her own faults, and she understands herself — it’s hard, when you’re a complicated kind of girl, to keep the crazy in around the boy you’re falling for. (“I am moody, messy/I get restless, and it’s senseless.”) So how will he react? In “Pieces of Me,” the boy gets it, and this is what I listen to when I want to celebrate that. He’s clearly flawed, too. Which, really, is the only way it works.

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