Chicken soup for the tormented soul: a music remedy for trials and tears

There’s nothing as great as Spotify’s “private session” function. You can indulge in all the tunes you normally pretend to hate (cough, cough, One Direction), put on a cleaning playlist, an embarassingly soppy film soundtrack – the options are endless.

There are reasons that are far from embarassing to make use of this function, though. I had a Spotify playlist this year that was called “if you need to cry”. I had many a reason to listen to it frequently, with a cocktail of stressful, sad and anger-inducing events all happening at once, and a general sense of misery filling the first few months of the year in particular.

Halfway through Finals, one thing I did do, however, was delete it, having made a note of which songs I listened to, and select the best ones from the list to create a new playlist, called “s’ok”. “S’ok” was my answer to the standard question “How’s it going?”. The songs I saved were the ones that instead of helping me cry when I felt frozen or overwhelmed by life, lifted me up and reminded me of a sunny bicycle ride or an afternoon spent on the college lawn. “s’ok” was what I listened to when I finished exams, on the plane home, on my first afternoon on the seaside. “s’ok” is the kind of list I wish everyone had immediate access to – but music is to some extent personal (music taste certainly is), with lyrics that act like calming balm to someone being instead useless to someone else. Still, I do hope that some of the lyrics that proved to be so helpful to me will make you feel the same, and I’ve put together some of my favourites.


Drawing by the very talented Mari Andrew (as is the featured photo of this post).

It’s not a long playlist. It’s a selection, one that you can whizz up together, heat on the stove, and make chicken soup for the tormented soul with in a flash. I hope they make you feel better.


Einstein’s Idea- Johnny Flynn

Favourite lyric: The suns and the moons and the galaxies far /were cast from his bow before they were stars/ and the gap in-between them is nothing to us


Johnny Flynn is a Spotify Discover.. er… discovery. I think it would be hard not to find a song that croons “oh my darling” at you constantly anything but comforting.  I loved listening to this in the evenings this year, often as a final song before sleeping, as it felt like a lullaby of sorts. The choice of lyrics, of course, contributes to this immensely.

Come Healing – Leonard Cohen

Favourite lyric: O solitude of longing /where love has been confined/ come healing of the body/ come healing of the mind


I am a Cohen aficionada, and find it hard to choose a single song that is my “favourite” by him. The beautiful Anthem comes close, but so does this one. I cried buckets when he passed away in November, and still am bitter about never having seen him live (I came very close – my father and cousin got tickets to a Lucca concert, but I had just left to intern in Munich: the idea of them in that beautiful square, Leonard within arm’s reach, hounds me…). But the good thing about artists is their legacy – and this song is absolutely a big part of that legacy. It merges typical Cohen elements (religious thought, independent song-writing, and poetry) into one wonderful song. Worth a listen when you need to feel as though you can be pieced together.

Through the dark – KT Tunstall

Favourite lyric: And I used to talk/ with honest conviction/ of how I predicted my world/ I’m gonna leave it to star gazers..


This song is more about recovery and being through the other side than about healing and the process of it, similarly to Landslide by Fleetwood Mac, which I talk about later. I think it’s precisely that, though, that makes it a necessary inclusion: it’s a song about retrospect, and new wisdom, and about things having improved and still improving by the day. It’s the kind of song you should listen to when life really does feel like a tunnel – it’s an anchor, and its title is apt for that very reason.

Landslide – Fleetwood Mac 

Favourite lyric: Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? /Can I handle the seasons of my life?


I saw a friend singing a cover of this online, and listened to it over and over after that. I think it is a very human song, revealing weakness as being rooted to a habit or behaviour that you would think is a huge part of you (“well I’ve been afraid of changing / because I built my life around you”). It deals with the first few steps of truth – hence the use of mirrors and oceans, I think, as something that simply reflects the objective reality before you. It wouldn’t be too bold a choice to call it the right song choice for anyone emerging from an addiction of any kind.

In the hearts of men – First Aid Kit

Favourite lyric: Will you tell yourself /you all must be what you’ll be/ who’s to say who is who and what is what?


I love First Aid Kit. I really think they’re this century’s Simon and Garfunkel. What I think hits the head on this nail in this song is the constant subject they revolve around being others – others being pleased, or performed in front of, or made into the measure which we should adjust our behaviour to, as we meet their expectations of us (“the parts we play/to convince others”). It’s ok, they say in music form, to let these things go – to put yourself first, to follow your own aims, to make your own mistakes.

Follow the sun – Xavier Rudd

Favourite lines: When you feel life coming down on you /like a heavy weight
When you feel this crazy society/adding to the strain/ take a stroll to the nearest waters
and remember your place/many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came


Some may recognise this song from Netflix’s “To the bone” as the closing song of the film, albeit it being performed as a much slower cover. I think you just need to sit back and listen to the lyrics with this one.

The long day is over – Norah Jones

Favourite lyric: With no reprise/ the sun will rise


Norah Jones is a classic. She’s the background singer for about half of Love Actually, she is on every romantic playlist ever, and if you haven’t heard Sunrise yet, you’ve clearly not been living on the same planet I have.  I knew of Norah, but I didn’t stop to listen to her for a long time. She was the soundtrack for a car trip following a personal loss, and I found it very hard to listen to her for a long time after that, particularly to the song Lonestar, which hit a nerve rather early on. The lyrics are hard to listen to for anyone who’s experienced losing a loved one, I think. This song, however, with its slow rhythm, with its reassuring final line, was the kind of plaster I felt no pain in pulling off.

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