Love, “7&7 Is”
Shape magazine usually publishes playlists meant to accompany your workout. Up-tempo tunes, of course, will help keep you moving. Yet Fergie and the other artists whose music tends to frequent these lists have the reverse effect on me. At least twice I have actually left the gym, mid-workout, because I couldn’t take any more Lindsey Lohan, which is the kind of stuff gyms think motivates sweaty people. After one such incident I huffed out of the gym amid some Mariah Carey song and went directly to the nearest place that sold iPods that wasn’t Wal-Mart. A strong antidote to the bland bubblegum emitting from gymnasium speakers is music by ass-kicking bands like Love, Blue Cheer and Moby Grape, and “7&7 Is” is a particularly killer example. This aggressive proto-punk tune will get you to full speed by the end of the first measure. It lets up twice for a cryptic chorus before resuming its full intensity. If I were a high school physics teacher I would play this song for my students when explaining momentum.
Gipsy Kings, “Volare”
It starts out slowly. But you can’t judge a song by its intro. Within 30 seconds it blasts into a full-blown, radiant flamenco tune. If you are on the treadmill when this happens you may feel your hips start to twitch. This is instinct. I wouldn’t fight it, but at the same time I don’t advise dancing on treadmills unless you’ve had training. I also wouldn’t recommend any of the other versions of this tune, which tend to be more down beat, sometimes verging on loungey. The original was penned by Domenico Modugno and won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1958, but the Gipsy Kings’ cover is absolutely electrifying. Other Gipsy Kings tunes that will help breathe a little life into treadmill time include “Bem, Bem, Maria,” “Bamboleo” and of course their cover of “Hotel California” (the song that plays during the scene in The Big Lebowski that introduces The Jesus, and we all know that nobody messes with The Jesus). Part of the band’s appeal is their ability to sweep you to some Mediterranean locale and make you forget that you are in fact expending calories on the equivalent of a hamster wheel.
Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, “On the Low”
In great contrast to the above two songs, this tune by former Mazzy Star singer Sandoval will not jerk you into overdrive. At most its mellow tempo will keep you going at a steady pace. Yet I recommend this for a cool-down song, one to ease you back into relative equilibrium, maybe even for stretching. (One for females, anyway, as most dudes would likely find this song unbearably girly despite how good it is.) Sandoval’s otherworldly vocals and the song’s dreamy chord progression will zone you out as your miles per hour head south and your runner’s high kicks in. Plus it’s one of the sexiest songs in existence, which can help with morale as it reminds us of one the major benefits of spending all of this time at the gym: not just the buffness and tone that we all seek and maintain, but the radiance that onsets after a particularly tough gym session. This song possesses that same intangible afterglow. MTW