“Summertime, and the living’s easy.” So goes the famous opening line of “Summertime,” the Porgy and Bess song that every slightly talented American Idol contestant wails in the Hollywood Round. As individuals still in the prime of our youth, we like to think that our summer is easy livin’. God knows we’ve slaved away at school long enough to deserve a break. So when summer comes around, we’re plagued by a fantasy of all pleasure and no pain. Your imaginary sounds of summer may be the lapping of waves at the beach, the crooning voice of your favorite rockstar at an outdoor concert, the thump of the clubs you dance in, or the vroom of the airplane as you lift off to an exotic vacation spot. And, if you’re lucky, those sounds do come in summer.
But if you’re a struggling college kid who happens to be broke–like every single pocket of your cargo pants happen to be empty–then other realistic sounds sneak into your perfect summer: the slap of thick files as they’re tossed onto your desk, heavy breathing as you run to get coffee, loud screaming as you spill that coffee, the whine of impolite diners, the grating voice of your manager, and the terrifying voice of your boss. Suddenly, summer isn’t so easy. Lucky for you, most talented musicians in the world went through your struggle, used the inspiration, and cranked out some awesome tunes. Without further ado, these songs will get you through an average workday. Some aren’t exactly about work, but they apply to the feelings that creep in as the day goes by.
The 7:00 a.m. Wake-Up: “Alarm goes off at seven and you start uptown”
“Skid Row” — Show tunes can sometimes be too annoying to handle. But this Little Shop of Horrors number so perfectly captures dread of the oncoming day (and night), it’s worth listening to. Just so you can let out your angst-y feelings of injustice.
The 8:00 a.m. Drive to Work: “I believe I can see the future, cause I repeat the same routine”
“Everyday is Exactly the Same” — Nine Inch Nails might be a little too hard core for the morning. But it’s another angry tune to exercise your demons. It can briefly transform your job into a conspiracy of monotony, one that George Orwell might decry. Then, once you arrive at work, shake off your grandiose paranoia and get ready to go.
The 9:00 a.m. Punch-In: “Living just enough, just enough for the city”
“Living for the City” — Stevie Wonder has his share of gorgeous songs. This song is his ode to the African American working class. It’s a strong reminder of how hard many people have to work. It’s also a good reminder of why we do it–for that big, shiny city.
The 10:00 a.m. Bathroom Break: “Will it go round in circles, will it fly high like a bird up in the sky”
“Will it Go Round in Circles” — It’s already one hour in and you know you’ve got a long haul ahead of you. This funky song by Billy Preston reminds us that the day can turn out to be a lot of things, depending on our own creativity. It’s early yet–your happiness is in your own hands.
The 11:00 a.m. Is It Lunch Yet?: “I’m much deeper, a sleeper, I’m waiting for the final trip”
“L.S.F.”—The worst can be said of humanity when we’re hungry. As our stomachs begin to growl one hour too early, the panic may begin to creep in. The anxious lyrics and fun, relaxed music can help you through the hunger pains. It’s only an hour, so chew your gum.
The 12:00 p.m. Lunch Break: “It’s like the more money we come across the more problems we see”
“Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” — It’s lunch break so feel free to have your Michael Scott moment about how you’re making bank. Or if it’s an unpaid internship, you can listen to the song and comfort yourself that you’re not having to deal with mooching friends and the DEA because of your daunting paycheck. Money’s trouble, just ask Biggy.
The 1:00 p.m. Back to the Grind: “I kicked the habit, shed my skin, this is the new thing, I go dancing in”
“Sledgehammer” — Time to push through. Wake back up and get pumped. The morning stretch is done. Peter Gabriel, one of the better things we got from the 80s, has your work pump-up song. It’s as close to a superman anthem as we working kids can get.
The 2:00 p.m. Water Cooler Chat: “For freedom and for pleasure nothing ever lasts forever, everybody wants to rule the world”
“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” — The working world can be a bit of a soul-suck in the completive, cutthroat business. If you’re a little disconcerted by the ruthless ambition of your fellow workers, Tears for Fears has this song to vent to. If you’re one of the cutthroats yourself, here’s a song to ground yourself to.
The 3:00 p.m. Drag: “Chippin round, kick my brains on the floor, these are the days — it never rains it pours”
“Under Pressure” — The day never seems longer than when a shift’s about to end. This David Bowie and Queen duet is the perfect song to sigh to, remembering that there are things outside work–like love–and it’s just around the corner, if we can just handle the pressure.
The 4:00 p.m. Last Call: “Fire for the hills pick up your feet and let’s go”
“Young Men Dead” — WIth an opening guitar riff that all but hails the speedy drive home, The Black Angels has the song to get your through your last dragging hour. It’ll keep you productive, taking care of today’s business and even some of tomorrow’s business. Then when five o’clock hits, run for it.
The 5:00 p.m. Release: “New York City is the place where they said, hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
“Walk on the Wild Side” — So you’re out, you’re free, and what are you gonna do now in your glorious city, the one you’ve been living just enough for? I say take a walk on the wild side. Detox in the most fun, ridiculous way. Lou Reed might have a few suggestions. You’re here to live, not to work. So get living.