Recently, I've taken to hauling my dirty laundry twice the distance of the nearest laundromat to a friend's dorm building that generously offers free washers and dryers to non-residents who can sneak past the guard on duty. This is exactly as much of a pain in the ass as it sounds. When you're broke, everything seems to require a bit more effort, a little extra hustle. You get worn down from working, sweaty from walking uphill to the train, bitter because you just noticed a tear in your jeans. And then, to top it all off, you walk past a dog in designer shoes on the upper west side.
If it's any consolation, being broke has inspired artists from every genre. Here's a playlist of songs you know and, hopefully, some you don't know that you can sing while you fish coins out of your pocket at the bodega and dream about your future in a seaside mansion… or at least an apartment with central air.
1. "Royals" by Lorde
Let's start this off on a positive note. In the chorus of "Royals", Lorde makes a list of all the excesses of fame and wealth before inviting you to join her in crumpling it up and tossing it over your shoulder saying, "We don't care/ We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams". Some people need to spend a lot of money to have a good time, but not you.
2. "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green
"Fuck You" keeps the positive energy going while indulging a little of the bitterness I mentioned earlier. There is no two-word sentiment more appropriate for a high-maintenance ex and the bougie dude she chose as your replacement. Sing it Cee-Lo.
3. "I Am Drunk, And She Is Insane" by Del Water Gap
First of all, great title. Second, folk music, like this maudlin tune from Del Water Gap, is a goldmine of impoverished lamentation. "I Am Drunk, And She Is Insane" conjures up the image of a dusty bar where a lonely cowboy has just spent his last dollars on a beer that will help him forget the lover who "left for a man who's much richer". The end of the song is perfect for howling with your equally broke and lonely drinking buddies.
4. "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson
Normally country music makes me cringe, but this song is too much fun. You have to give a "big hell yeah" to Gretchen Wilson as she boasts about looking sexy in Walmart lingerie. Honestly, if you can't be rich, being a proud redneck might be the next best thing. Yeehaw.
5. "Hard Times In New York Town" by Bob Dylan
Dylan has written countless flat-broke anthems inspired by his dust bowl folk idols and the bohemian, Greenwich Village days of his youth. "Hard Times In New York Town" stands out because being broke in New York and walking past lounging brunchers on the way to your Sunday afternoon shift is a distinct experience from being just as down and out as the folks down the street in your Oklahoma town. I'd get a tattoo of the lyrics "If you've got a lotta money you can make yourself merry/ If you only got a nickel it's the Staten Island Ferry" but, well, tattoos cost money.
6. "Money" by The Drums
Speaking of things you would do if you had money, The Drums can relate to feeling held back by broke-ness. The chorus of the song might actually get you dancing in your worn out shoes, but if you listen to the lyrics they are a little bit heartbreaking. The song is about wanting to buy something for someone you love to show them how sorry you are but not being able to afford it. I would prefer a song to a gift any day of the week, and I'm not just saying that because I would also have to give someone a song instead of a gift.
7. "Mile End" by Pulp
Pulp's "Common People" is truly the ultimate song for laughing at upper class people and their romanticized vision of the broke life, but "Mile End" takes a more lighthearted approach to the ugly reality of poverty. In this sarcastically bouncy number, Pulp describe the horrors of what is hands-down the grossest apartment anyone has ever lived in. Seriously, this song will make you look at your roaches as cute pets.
8. "Broke" by Dog Orchestra
"Broke" definitely brings the mood down a little bit and shows you just how important it is to some people to live luxurious lives. Dog Orchestra contrasts a dark, eerie sound with a humorous list of all the rich people stuff that the narrators value over marrying each other for love. I mean "Lower East Side haircuts" and an "18 carat Jesus" sound nice but, I think I'll pass on the whole marry-rich-then-murder-him plot. Great song though, and check out the bizarre video.
9. "Spaceship" by Kanye West
Even Kanye was broke at one point. And he wrote this song to vent about his awful retail job, power tripping manager, and frustrated dreams of escaping to a different world in dramatic fashion. He definitely wrote, produced, and rapped his way out of ever having to work a night shift again.
10. "Rich B***h" by Die Antwoord
Die Antwoord's Yolandi Visser reminisces about her humble past and unapologetically gloats about her current lavish lifestyle. Yolandi is my role model and a total badass, and you know she was just as confident and in-your-face before she was rich, which just makes "Rich B***h" that much better.
11. "I Need A Dollar" by Aloe Blacc
This is the broke national anthem. Aloe Blacc jauntily dances us through getting fired, watching the world crumble around him, and accepting the unconditional friendship of whiskey and wine. We can't all make such a jazzy, upbeat song about it, but we all need a dollar...and then maybe just a couple more.
Unfortunately, none of these songs are accepted as legal tender, but maybe they'll inspire you so you can eventually sing about how you used to be broke.
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