Well, folks, another year of running has come and gone. That means it’s time to reflect on the upbeat music that got me through all of the miles I logged this year. Because I did that last year and now it’s tradition.
This isn’t a super typical running mix of pop songs, though I did throw some JT and Lady Gaga on there. It’s just a list of my 16 favorite running songs released in 2016. Some are critically acclaimed, and some aren’t. But all of these tracks were in heavy rotation on my runs this year. (Oh, and you may notice it’s heavy on female vocalists because they’re my jam. Sorry, dudes.) So without further ado, here are my picks:
1. Santigold, “Banshee”
Between the springy, driving beat and the dance-your-face-off lyrics, everything about this song pushes you forward. I mean, she actually sings, “Sweat it all out, come on,” and who am I to disappoint Santigold? You can really run to the entire album (99 Cents), but this track is hands-down the running star of the bunch.
2. The Roots (feat. Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz & Nate Ruess), “My Shot”
Like half the population, I am Hamilton-obsessed. (I even rounded up the best running songs from Hamilton earlier this year.) The original “My Shot” is already a good motivator, if you’re “young, scrappy and hungry” like my boy Hamilton and me, but the redo from The Hamilton Mixtape levels up the ferocity for working out. Maybe just add both versions to your next playlist.
3. Lizzo, “Good As Hell”
Lizzo is a force, and I adore her. It was hard to pick just one of her songs because her latest EP came out late this year and the lead track, “Worship,” is also a banger. But this song dropped far earlier, so it’s powered me through many more runs in 2016 (you’ll find it on my Spring Running Mix, too). If this anthem doesn’t make you feel strong as hell, I don’t know what will.
4. Mitski, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”
From one of my absolute favorite albums of the year, this punky, hyper-personal song is 1 minute and 57 seconds of pure determination and desperation. And Mitski’s declaration of “I wanna see the whole world/I don’t know how I’m gonna pay rent” pretty much sums up my current feelings about life, so it’s great for rage running.
5. Innanet James, “Summer”
Synthy and sexy, this song sounds like the season it’s about. And right now it’s freezing outside, so it’s making me yearn for those hot days again. For now, I’ll have to settle for heating up with a workout and the rhythm of James’ rap. Honestly? It’s probably more fun than running in 90+ heat anyway.
6. Sylvan Esso, “Radio”
The dance music-making duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn can do no wrong for me. Since their debut album in 2014, I’ve been patiently waiting for something new from them, and then “Radio” landed this year—HALLELUJAH! As anticipated, it’s completely catchy electropop that makes for a good sweat sesh.
7. Shura, “What’s It Gonna Be”
I have to thank Spotify for introducing me to Shura’s debut album this year. (That Discover tab, so handy.) Her music falls in my sweet spot of smooth, dreamy ’80s-sounding pop, and this infectious tune is all about having a butterflies-for-days crush on someone. So it’s that much sweeter.
8. Phantogram, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”
Heavy, pulsing, glitchy and just really damn good. The lyrics of this song are dark but the beat makes it club-worthy, and I love the way Sarah Barthel’s voice shifts from soft and dreamy to snarling in an instant.
9. Ingrid Michaelson, “Hell No”
There’s nothing I love more than an independent woman anthem, and this one is even by a longtime favorite singer-songwriter of mine. Though the song’s a slap in the face to a cheating ex, I like to apply the line “Baby watch me up and go” to running instead. Because it’s extremely hard to get up out of bed to go running in the morning.
10. Joseph, “White Flag”
This folky sister trio from Portland won me over in a matter of harmonies, and this particular track of theirs made my most-played list in 2016 because of its punchy beat and take-charge lyrics. It’s about quashing all of the doubts in your head and marching fearlessly onward… sounds a little like running a marathon to me.
11. Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
Speaking of marathons, this song was the one I heard most at the Columbus Marathon this year (minus “Shake It Off,” obvi). And I wasn’t mad about it because I dare you to find a more infectious pop jam. Leave it to JT to come back with a dance track from a children’s movie about Trolls that’s loved by adults and kids alike.
12. Lucius, “Born Again Teen”
The throbbing beat and rushing melody of this track feel just like the giddy early stages of a relationship, which makes sense because that’s what the song is about. And I love the distorted, out-of-control sound that wobbles right around the 2:50 mark.
13. Lady Gaga, “A-YO”
A lot of critics didn’t love Lady Gaga’s latest album, but I did—it feels less performative and more real. Although it’s more subdued than some of her earlier music, there are still plenty of danceable songs, like this one. It’s hand-clappy and sassy, plus it’s just as fun to sing along to in the car as it is to sweat to.
14. Wye Oak, “Watching the Waiting”
This song just makes me want to escape into the woods for a trail run on a sunshiny autumn day. Between Jenn Wasner’s ethereal voice, the galloping pace and that trilling peak at 1:52, my heart swells with a contentment most often reserved for moments when I’m running alone and feeling totally strong and independent.
15. Angelica Garcia, “Orange Flower”
I actually discovered this song while running and listening to the All Songs Considered podcast. This young artist’s sound is a little bluesy with a hint of country twang, and she has attitude in spades. Stomp, stride, do what you will, but just give this track a try.
16. Broods, “Heartlines (Cheat Codes Remix)”
Apparently Lorde cowrote “Heartlines” with electropop duo Broods, which explains why it’s so catchy. I admit, I didn’t even hear the original before stumbling upon this version, and now I’m partial to the sugar-crack sound of this workout-worthy remix. I also enjoy dancing around my kitchen to it with my cats, so there’s that.
If you want the full mix for your next run, click here to find it on Spotify!
YOUR TURN: What were your favorite workout songs of 2016?