30 Songs to Beat the Unemployment Blues

Unemployment Blues

According to Diane Lang, a psychotherapist interviewed for a CNN article titled, “Unemployment Takes a Tough Mental Toll,” it is not uncommon for those who have been unemployed for long stretches of time (“six months or longer”) to show signs of depression.  Elizabeth Landau, the author of the article, also noted that the job hunt creates anxiety because of the constant anticipation of rejection.

Take it from me, self-care is an absolute necessity to maintain your sanity while staring down your phone waiting for a call back.  Here are my top 30 songs while performing the mental decathlons synonymous with job applications and trying to sell yourself on a single piece of paper to someone you’ve never met before, but holds the fate of your whole future in the palm of their sweaty hands.

The Weepies

“Up In the Air” by Kevin Renick

I’m sorry, I truly am.

Listening to this song when you’re already on the down and outs is the equivalent of me handing you a shovel and asking you to dig deeper into the yawning chasm of depression, when you–my dear readers– are already living  in the basement of a (metaphorical) house of blues.

This is the one and only song dedicated to the despair and hopelessness of applying to countless job applications and never hearing back. This is a toast to the rootless existence of wanting to take your first solid step into a form of permanency, of turning your dreams into a reality and yet once again losing your footing. I raise my cup at thee, the elephant of the room! To anxiety that balloons from the pits of my stomach, my throat swelled shut when a well-meaning family member asks:

“Have you found a job yet?”

This is the last of the salt we viciously rub into old wounds until it burns because we are, after all, our own worst critics.

The last time we question, “Am I good enough?”

Because goddammit, yes you are!

“Waiting for My Real Life to Begin” by Colin Hay

Okay, Okay, you wore me down. ONE more languishing in our despair song, and that’s it!

I bring you the Scrubs adaption of Colin Hay’s “Waiting For My Real Life To Begin.”

“Chiquitita ” by ABBA

Let the magic that is ABBA wash over you. I won’t even side-eye from this side of the internet as you scream/sing-a-long:

“Chiquitita you and I cryyyyy!/But the sun is still in the sky and shining above you!”

This is a safe, judgement-free zone.  Just ugly cry it out.

“Oh My God” Ida Maria

For the girl punk rocker in all of us, Dr. Ortiz* here to prescribe you some music that’ll have you bouncing off the walls. I love Ida Maria’s Voice: so raw, so very riot grrrl, and perfect at encapsulating the essence of frustration.

Jump on the bed!  Scream the lyrics until your voice gives out; or until your neighbor comes a’knocking, which ever comes first! Below are a few more songs with soothing sounds if bouncing off the walls isn’t your shtick.

Alternates : “Everything is Okay” by Lenka,  “New Soul” by Yael Naim, and “Helena Beat” by Foster the People.

Exhilarating Climax of Joy

“Proud Mary” Tina Turner feat. Ike Turner

Let the the sax catch you by surprise. I dare you to listen to Ike and Tina’s electrifying cover of Creedence Creek Revival’s “Proud Mary”  without getting a stupid-silly grin on your face. ABBA maybe magic, but Tina Turner is life.

Alternates: Michael Franti and The Spearheads “I’m Alivc“, and   “Tightrope” by Janelle Monàe feat.Big Boi, Performed in Glee by actress/singer Samantha Marie Ware.

The Cool Off Period

“Que Sera, Sera” Sly and the Family Stones/ Org. Doris Day

According to David Roberts, in his book British Singles and Albums (19th ed.), Doris Day had originally performed this song in Alfred Hitchcock’s (1956) film,  “The Man Who Saw Too Much,” and it quickly became her signature song.  I prefer the soothing, soulful rendition by Sly and The Family Stones.

Alternates: “Here Comes the Sun” Composed by George Harrison/Performed by The Beatles“A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke/Covered by Leela James; and “Smile”Performed by Nat King Cole.

Spanish Speaking

“Que Sera, Sera” is a beautiful song, but here are some actual Spanish songs that were formative to my experience as a young Latina woman.  I survived pre-teen angst with Celia Cruz’s, “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” translation: Life is a Carnival.   The band Bacilos in their song “Mi Primero Million,” translation: My First Million, sing of the American dream of making millions of dollars. It is a beautiful (elusive) dream.

Finally, my all time favorite song, “Las Avispas,” by Juan Luis Guerra. He usually sings music leaning towards the gospel genre, but the chorus in this song is all about putting your worries in the hands of God, and s/he will send a swarm of angry wasps to attack your enemies.  Classic.

Corner Stone of Your Childhood

Here are some Disney songs because I know you, my dear readers, still pine after your long lost childhood. All the day-naps in world will not change the reality that you sold your soul to Sallie Mae, and it is officially time to start paying back those student loans.  Below is my absolute favorite Disney song: “Almost There,” performed by Jenifer Lewis, from the 2009 film “The Princess and The Frog.”

Alternates: “Go the Distance” Performed by Michael Bolton in Hercules (1997) and “Just Around the Riverbend” Performed by Judy Kuhn in Pocahontas (1995) .

Farewell Youth

“When I Grow Up” Pussycat Dolls

Partly because the song is catchy as hell. Partly because this song has a nice parallel to my next pick, Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman”.  Partly because well,  why the hell not?

“Grown Woman” Beyoncé

In all honesty my dear readers, you can whip out the whole of Beyoncé’s discography and use that to put the pep back in your step. Reach as far back as Destiny’s Child (“I’m a Survivor”) if the need is dire…or, you know, if you just want to jam. Below I have listed other songs that’ll make you feel like the queen you are, even while living the life of a peasant. You’re welcome.

Alternates: “Fly” by Nicki Minaj“Run The World” by, Beyoncé ;  and Bitch in Business (Parody of All About That Bass) by CBS Follies.

Grand Finale:

In the true spirit of R.L. Stine’s choose your own adventure (CYOA) books, I’m leaving the ending to this horror story called adulthood to you.  Choose wisely:

In the grand tradition of  a tremendous stubborn streak that runs through the whole of my family tree, I’m choosing the route of blind optimism à la “Be Okay” by Oh Honey, and the whirlwind of emotions that follow after listening to Florence and The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. I’ll be damned before I “take my broke a** home.” Thanks, but no thanks Fergie.

As the perpetual job hunt continues, I am the fool  that will continue to apply to dream internships with my heart in one hand and a knock-off Excalibur in the other, still clinging to the hope that Juan Luis Guerra will send the wasps soon.

As Luis Fonsi would say: “¡Yo no me doy por vencida!/ I’m not defeated yet!”

Beat those unemployment blues and happy job hunting!


*I’m not actually qualified to give medical advice. I have deceived you all! I’m not a doctor.

**Also: Know that you are valued and loved, but music can only do so much. There comes a time when we should turn to professionals. I’ll leave you with this golden nugget: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Feature image: LC_24, Creative Commons

Jennifer Ortiz
Hi! I'm Jennifer. I graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's in English. I am currently summoning the gumption to travel the world and revamping my rhetorical film criticism/ appreciation blog . I love books, dogs, and super-chill instrumentals. Here's looking at you Penguin Cafe! Secret Obsessions: 90's angry girl punk music, Parks and Rec, and fashion.
  • Joycelyn

    I would also add TV On The Radio- Trouble (the line: Everything’s going to be ok-keeps ringing in my ear.) And it’s very soothing.

    • Jennifer Ortiz

      OooOOoo! Thanks for the recommendation! You are so right the soothing sounds are just washing over me in waves. Looks like I’ll be on Youtube listening to TV On the Radio on repeat for the next hour 😀