Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Every superhero has a theme song. Some songs are well-known, some not so much, but all of them are powerful, which is why they’re the theme song of the superhero. From first note to fade out, you know the hero is about to arrive and do something cape-flyingly heroic to save the day.
The words to the superhero’s theme song stay with you, long after you’ve forgotten the action. When I was growing up, Batman — the recently departed Adam West version — was my favorite superhero. Every week, he and Robin faced untold dangers from the nefarious criminals of Gotham City. I was about four- or five-years-old then, and my view of reality was that of someone who’d only been on the planet for four or five years. I believed the danger, the imminence of it; and when episodes were unresolved, I spent days worrying whether Batman would survive, if Robin would escape, whether evil would finally prevail. But I also knew, as soon as I heard that sound, that opening note and line, all would work out ok. Because…Batman.
Oddly enough, the words to his theme song were also his name: Batman! Dunna-nunna-nunna-nunna Batman! This profound lyric continued until his name was repeated three times, as if it were its own holy trinity. Just the mention of his name struck fear in the hearts of villains around the world. And when you’re on the edge of kindergarten, the world means Gotham City and your backyard.
I’m slightly older now, and I still love Batman (not the most recent version because…no), and the power of a good theme song. The right one will motivate you, encourage you, and pick you up when you feel like the entire world is a dastardly villain bent on ending your existence. If you’ve got a great theme song playing in your head, you can face the world and double-dog dare it to look back at you the wrong way.
Which is why my theme song is You Gotta Be by Des’ree.
It’s neither a new song nor a new artist; in fact, you’ll probably only be able to find it by Googling or watching VH1 Classics. But from the day I first heard it, I claimed it as my own. It was everything I believed, everything my mother and grandmother had ever taught me, everything I wanted to be if and when I ever grew up. It’s what I hear in my head when I’m confronted with the sometimes epic ridiculousness of life: small despots in charge of large countries; workplace bullies suffering from severe cases of impostor syndrome; people who say “leveraging synergies” out loud, as if that means something; the absence of even so much as an ounce of milk for coffee. The remembrance of just a few lines of my theme song can restore sanity to a world on the verge of implosion.
The chorus of my theme song is where my truth lies:
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser
You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together
All I know I know is love will save the day
If that’s playing in your head, how can you not get up from whatever has knocked you down?
Workplace bully? Ignore her while you sing the chorus in your head and she won’t know what to do.
Impostor syndrome people? Consider them the walking dead and beat them down with a wit-studded mental bat.
Ridiculous office lingo and the people who use it? Freak them out by making up a few words and then speaking them confidently as if they’re trending right this very minute.
No milk for coffee? Ok, this borders on epic but you can handle it. Take a deep breath and knock it back black.
There are all kinds of theme songs available, but you need one with longevity, with words that speak to you like no other, that move you to move mountains. Remember — you may have to face a day where you’re forced to drink black office coffee in a meeting with a freaked out corner office holder who’s afraid you’re going to figure out she doesn’t know how to spell synergy, let alone understand what it means. You need real words. Landscape-altering words.
The song you choose depends a great deal on the kind of person you are. You don’t need to impress anyone, and there’s no judgement. This is your song, your inspiration, your motivator. So if Taylor Swift is your girl, do what you need to do and shake it all off. If you’re a Queen Bey fan, pretty much anything from Lemonade will work. A Beatles baby? Sort it out Sgt Pepper. Michael Bolton? Strain your neck and belt it out (“…said I loved you, but…”). Prince? Don’t stop at Purple Rain; go to Paisley Park (it’s in your heart). Listen, you can even do a bit of Placido or Bocelli, if that’s your thing. Heck, Kendrick just got a Pulitzer so he oughta have something you can grab on to. Your song is your business.
Already you’re thinking of which song means the most to you. That’s a good thing. Find it. Keep it. Sing it when you need to. Belt it out in your shower, or better yet, create a karaoke moment on public transport because that kind of stuff shouldn’t only happen in TV commercials.
You’re singing it now, aren’t you? Go ahead. Take on the world.