I’d guess that your current workout listening falls into one of three camps:
How did I know this about you? Well, I couldn’t be certain (only three things in life are certain: death, taxes, and that being a Seattle Mariners fan is worse than being dead or paying taxes), but you came to this article, so presumably you feel that your current workout music situation warrants improvement. If I just described you, stop what you’re doing. You can do better. For real, starting right now you can do better because I’m about to gift you a workout playlist filled with fantastic music that only curses sometimes.
Some of the songs featured below and on the attached playlist do include cursing. Why? Well, this is a longer discussion than I have space for here, but I’ll sum up my reasoning like this. I think the message of a song is of far more moral importance than the specific words used. I think songs can honor God and include words that would merit parental warnings (see “A Prayer” by Kings Kaleidoscope). I’m more worried about what the singer is glorifying or tearing down through their art than the specific words used. (For a more in-depth discussion of this issue, check out Christopher Edmiston’s article here on CWCS). If you want to use my playlists but have convictions about listening to explicit music, both Spotify and Apple Music have options in their settings to skip over songs with explicit content.
The music on the following playlist will include some rap (both your traditional hard rap workout music and some more… groovy selections), driving pop/electronic tracks, and rock anthems (both alt-rock and classic rock). It’s guaranteed to get you pumped up so you can wreck your body (but not your conscience). Below I’ll highlight a few songs from each of those genres that will all be included in the attached playlist (click on the links to listen along): Spotify – Apple Music – Youtube
I know that heading is a bit pretentious, but hey, this whole article is just my opinion, right? And my opinion is that the music I’m going to write about is actually good, while a lot of hip-hop is pretty terrible. Why should I bother to pull punches?
“Worthy is the Lamb” – AMP
This is the song that introduced me to one of my favorite artists, Uzuhan. And what an introduction it was. If the conclusion of this song doesn’t give you chills, what will? (Also, Uzuhan’s new song “Good Morning” should be on your workout playlist yesterday).
“Grindin’” – NF
I could have chosen any of a half dozen NF songs here. His musical style is perfect for working out. It’s angsty, driving with intensity and always clean (both in it’s lack of profanity and it’s content). Exactly what you need for that last cardio interval or max squat rep.
“Lose Yourself” – Eminem
Ahh, Eminem. What to do with this quintessentially foul-mouthed lyrical genius? It would be easy to simply move on and not listen to him, but I think that there is merit to weeding out the bad to find the gems from musicians who have uniquely transcendent talent.
“Thrift Shop” – Macklemore
This song is exhibit A on why listening to the clean version of a song can be kinda useless. You know exactly what he’s saying and your head is probably filling in the lyrics. There is a LOT of cursing in this song. Be aware it’s on the playlist and filter out explicit songs if needed. Why did I add it, because I love thrift shopping and I LOVE the fact that Macklemore wrote a hit song about thrift shopping. Come on, that’s awesome! Admittedly, this song felt a little more authentic before Macklemore got super rich and started selling golf t-shirts for $40. But it’s still an absolute banger. Speaking of bangers…
Sometimes at the gym I’m just not in the mood for the intense nostril-flaring into the mirror. Sometimes, I kinda kinda just want to party a little bit between reps. These times call for songs worth dancing to.
“Bang!” – AJR
AJR doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Their lead singer wears a fur hat on stage and the lyrics to this song literally say “Pretend you know this song, everybody”. That makes their music great for my workout playlist because sometimes I take myself entirely too seriously at the gym (see prior comment about intense nostril-flaring). I also added their song “Weak” to the playlist. Normally I wouldn’t add a song with a message that I disagree with so much, but I can’t resist the urge to lift weights while singing “I’m weak, and what’s wrong with that!?”
“Love Me Again” – John Newman
This is a truly great pop rock song. I wish John Newman would make a few more like it.
“White Noise” – CASS (feat. Chris Howland)
Christian pop could use a few more songs like this bopper from two talented Christian producers who you should be familiar with.
“Break Free” – Ariana Grande
Once upon a time, I listened to a lot of Ariana. Her first album was one of the first that I ever bought. Unfortunately for a very young and very sheltered Jason, her music took a decidedly… mature turn. The third album was especially tough. The music was still so darn catchy, but you could tell where her career was headed. After that, thankfully for my embattled conscience, her music seemed to shed quality as fast as innocence. For old times sake, I tried out her 2020 album during a run last year and found that not only is her music now trashy, it’s also just kinda trash. So enjoy this vintage Ariana from when she wasn’t too cool for school (or at least the grammar class that covered capitalization).
Before rap, rock was the go-to workout music genre (I actually wasn’t alive then, so I’m making some assumptions here) and for good reason. From driving electric guitar leads to full-throated raw vocal performances, this music gets your blood pumping. I started with classic rock and moved into modern alt-rock for the following selections.
“Immigrant Song” – Led Zeppelin
Those of you who aren’t familiar with classic rock might recognize this song from Taika Waititi’s fantastic Marvel movie: Thor: Ragnarok. And that wouldn’t be a bad thing, because let’s be honest, for you men, there are few mental images more inspiring at the gym than Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
“Monster” – Skillet
As my dad would say, this song “is an oldie but goodie”. You’ll see a few of Skillet’s greatest hits on the playlist.
“Heavydirtysoul” – Twenty One Pilots
This might be the only workout song from it, but Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface is a truly great album, the type of album that only comes along very occasionally. Full of great music, listenable from start to finish, with multiple single-worthy songs. In a Spotify music world, listeners don’t need to listen to an entire album anymore. And unless artists put out complete products like this, they usually won’t.
“Believer” – Imagine Dragons
You’ll see a few Imagine Dragons tracks on the workout playlist. They’re pretty much the perfect alt rock band to workout to.
“Power Perfect” – Kings Kaleidoscope
It seems appropriate to listen to a song about God’s power while trying to finish that circuit workout, because you might need a miracle to do those final burpees without puking.
So there you have it. You now have “No Excuses” to go out and be a workout “Champion”. With songs like these you’ll do “Whatever It Takes” to get to the gym. You think this is cheesy? I’ve got no “Problem” with that, I’m “Not Afraid” to keep these references flowing. “You Can’t Stop Me”!
Jason is a big fan of a few things: funky music, scenic PNW hikes, quality lattes (usually from PNW roasters), playing sports with friends, big family dinners, his wife Maddie, and what Jesus is doing in his life. Over on Instagram, he manages a page dedicated to helping YOU find fresh new songs for your Spotify playlists – @listenwithjason. You can get in touch with him there. He’d love to hear about music that you’re excited about.