30 Best Songs from Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s Playlist

Former U.S. President Barack Obama has long been known for his love of music, and during his time in office, he regularly shared his favorite songs and artists with the world. In 2021, he once again shared his annual playlist, featuring 30 of his favorite songs from the previous year.

The playlist is a diverse mix of genres and artists, including legends like Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder, up-and-comers like Phoebe Bridgers and Tobe Nwigwe, and international acts like Burna Boy and J Balvin. Some of the standout tracks on the list include “Leave the Door Open” by Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), “Peaches” by Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, and “Astronaut in the Ocean” by Masked Wolf.

The playlist is a reflection of Obama’s eclectic taste in music and his commitment to celebrating diverse voices and perspectives. It also serves as a reminder of the important role that music can play in bringing people together and fostering a sense of unity and community.

1. Ready or Not – Fugees

“Ready or Not” is a classic hip-hop song by the Fugees, released in 1996 as a part of their album “The Score.” The song features Lauryn Hill’s soulful vocals, Wyclef Jean’s infectious rap verses, and Pras Michel’s gritty bars, all backed by a sample from the song “Boadicea” by Enya. The song’s lyrics deal with themes of betrayal, perseverance, and determination in the face of adversity, with each member of the group showcasing their lyrical prowess and distinct style. The song’s memorable hook and catchy beat have made it a timeless classic in the hip-hop genre.

2. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

“What’s Going On” is a soulful and socially conscious song by Marvin Gaye, released in 1971 as a part of his album of the same name. The song’s lyrics, which were co-written by Gaye, deal with themes of war, poverty, and injustice, and are a powerful commentary on the state of the world at the time. The song’s instrumentation, which includes a melodic bassline, groovy percussion, and a soulful saxophone solo, perfectly complements Gaye’s emotive vocals. “What’s Going On” has become a classic anthem for social justice, and is considered one of the greatest songs of all time. Its message is as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago, and it continues to inspire people to fight for a better world.

3. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” is a classic Motown hit by Stevie Wonder, released in 1970. The song’s upbeat tempo, catchy horn section, and Wonder’s soulful vocals make it an irresistible dance tune. The song’s lyrics are a declaration of love and commitment, with Wonder singing about his determination to hold onto his love and make her his own. The song’s hook, “Signed, sealed, delivered, I’m yours,” has become a timeless phrase, and the song has been covered by numerous artists over the years.

4. I’m On Fire – Bruce Springsteen

“I’m On Fire” is a haunting and evocative song by Bruce Springsteen, released in 1984 as a part of his album “Born in the U.S.A.” The song’s sparse instrumentation, featuring a simple guitar riff and Springsteen’s raw vocals, give it a sense of intimacy and vulnerability. The song’s lyrics deal with themes of desire and temptation, with Springsteen singing about a burning passion that he can’t control. The song’s minimalistic style has made it a fan favorite, and it is considered one of Springsteen’s best works. The song’s music video, which features Springsteen driving through the desert in a vintage car, has also become an iconic piece of visual art.

5. Think – Aretha Franklin

“Think” is a powerful and soulful song by the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, released in 1968. The song’s funky beat, catchy piano riff, and Franklin’s soaring vocals make it an anthem for empowerment and independence. The song’s lyrics, co-written by Franklin, deal with themes of self-respect and self-reliance, with Franklin demanding that her lover show her the respect she deserves. The song’s iconic “Freedom” refrain has become a rallying cry for social justice movements, and the song remains a classic in the soul and R&B genres.

6. Michelle – The Beatles

“Michelle” is a romantic ballad by The Beatles, released in 1965 as a part of their album “Rubber Soul.” The song’s French-inspired melody, featuring a prominent acoustic guitar and a delicate flute solo, gives it a light and breezy feel. The song’s lyrics, written by Paul McCartney, are a love letter to a woman named Michelle, with McCartney singing about his admiration for her beauty and sophistication. The song’s mixture of English and French lyrics adds to its charm, and it has become a favorite among Beatles fans. The song’s timeless melody and romantic lyrics continue to make it a classic in the pop music canon.

7. Sinnerman – Nina Simone

“Sinnerman” is a powerful and haunting song by Nina Simone, released in 1965 as a part of her album “Pastel Blues.” The song’s driving rhythm, featuring a pounding piano and Simone’s soulful vocals, make it a forceful meditation on sin, redemption, and salvation. The song’s lyrics, which are based on a traditional African-American spiritual, tell the story of a sinner who is desperately trying to escape judgment day. Simone’s intense and passionate performance has made “Sinnerman” a classic in the jazz and blues genres, and it continues to inspire and captivate listeners to this day.

8. Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones

“Gimme Shelter” is a rock and roll classic by The Rolling Stones, released in 1969 as a part of their album “Let It Bleed.” The song’s opening guitar riff, featuring the haunting vocals of Merry Clayton, immediately grabs the listener’s attention and sets the tone for the song’s powerful message. The song’s lyrics, which were written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, deal with themes of violence, war, and social unrest. The song’s climax, featuring Jagger’s anguished vocals and a searing guitar solo by Richards, perfectly captures the sense of desperation and chaos of the times. “Gimme Shelter” has become an iconic piece of rock and roll history, and it continues to resonate with listeners who are searching for meaning and purpose in a turbulent world.

9. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart – Al Green

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” is a soulful and heartfelt ballad by Al Green, released in 1972 as a part of his album “Let’s Stay Together.” The song’s delicate piano melody, lush string arrangement, and Green’s soulful vocals make it a powerful meditation on love and loss. The song’s lyrics, which were written by Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, tell the story of a man who is trying to mend his broken heart after a failed relationship. Green’s emotional performance has made “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” a classic in the soul and R&B genres, and it continues to resonate with listeners who have experienced the pain of a broken heart.

10. City of Blinding Lights – U2

“City of Blinding Lights” is an uplifting and anthemic song by U2, released in 2005 as a part of their album “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.” The song’s soaring guitar riffs, pulsing bass line, and Bono’s passionate vocals make it a powerful tribute to the city of New York, where the band performed the song’s premiere. The song’s lyrics, which were inspired by Bono’s personal experiences in New York, celebrate the beauty and resilience of the city in the face of adversity. The song’s powerful chorus, which features Bono’s soaring vocals and the band’s explosive instrumentation, has made it a fan favorite and a staple of U2’s live shows.

11. Could You Be Loved – Bob Marley and the Wailers

“Could You Be Loved” is a reggae classic by Bob Marley and the Wailers, released in 1980 as a part of their album “Uprising.” The song’s infectious groove, featuring a driving bass line and Marley’s signature guitar playing, make it an irresistible dance track. The song’s lyrics, which were written by Marley, encourage listeners to embrace love and unity and to reject hate and division. The song’s uplifting message and infectious rhythm have made it a fan favorite and a staple of Marley’s live shows, and it continues to inspire and uplift listeners to this day.

12. The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King

“The Thrill Is Gone” is a blues classic by B.B. King, released in 1970 as a part of his album “Completely Well.” The song’s mournful guitar riff, featuring King’s signature style of playing, make it a powerful meditation on lost love and heartbreak. The song’s lyrics, which were written by Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, tell the story of a man who is trying to come to terms with the end of a relationship. King’s soulful vocals and masterful guitar playing have made “The Thrill Is Gone” a classic in the blues genre, and it continues to resonate with listeners who have experienced the pain of a broken heart.

13. At Last – Beyoncé

“At Last” is a soulful ballad by Beyoncé, originally performed by Etta James in 1960. Beyoncé’s rendition was recorded for the soundtrack of the 2008 film “Cadillac Records,” in which she portrayed James. The song’s slow, bluesy tempo and Beyoncé’s powerful vocals make it a moving tribute to love and romance. The song’s lyrics, which were written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, describe the feeling of finally finding true love after a long search. Beyoncé’s heartfelt performance has made “At Last” a modern classic, and it continues to be a popular choice for weddings and romantic occasions.

14. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” is a protest anthem by Bob Dylan, released in 1964 as a part of his album of the same name. The song’s simple acoustic guitar accompaniment and Dylan’s nasally vocals make it a powerful and direct call to action. The song’s lyrics, which were written by Dylan, urge listeners to embrace change and to fight against the injustices of the world. “The Times They Are A-Changin'” became an anthem of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, and it continues to inspire and energize activists to this day. Dylan’s powerful and prophetic message has made “The Times They Are A-Changin'” a timeless classic, and it continues to resonate with listeners who are fighting for a better world.

15. Yes We Can – will.i.am

“Yes We Can” is a song by will.i.am, released in 2008 in support of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The song’s lyrics are based on Obama’s famous “Yes We Can” speech, and will.i.am’s powerful vocals and catchy beat make it an uplifting and inspiring anthem of hope and change. The song’s accompanying music video features footage of Obama speaking and campaigning, as well as clips of celebrities and ordinary citizens expressing their support for his message. “Yes We Can” became a cultural phenomenon during the 2008 election season, and it continues to be an inspiration to those who believe in the power of unity and progress.

16. Luck Be A Lady – Frank Sinatra

“Luck Be A Lady” is a classic song by Frank Sinatra, written by Frank Loesser for his musical “Guys and Dolls.” Sinatra’s smooth, crooning vocals and the song’s jazzy big-band arrangement make it a timeless example of the Great American Songbook. The song’s lyrics describe a gambler’s plea for luck at the craps table, and Sinatra’s effortless delivery and playful charm make it a joy to listen to. “Luck Be A Lady” became one of Sinatra’s signature songs, and it has been covered by numerous artists in the decades since its release. The song’s enduring popularity is a testament to Sinatra’s talent as a performer and to the enduring appeal of the classic American song.

17. My 1st Song – Jay-Z

“My 1st Song” is a song by Jay-Z from his 2003 album “The Black Album.” The song is notable for its self-referential lyrics, which describe Jay-Z’s rise to fame and his influence on the music industry. The track features a sample from Bobby Byrd’s “I Know You Got Soul,” which provides a catchy and energetic backdrop for Jay-Z’s confident and insightful lyrics. “My 1st Song” is a fitting conclusion to the album, as it reflects on Jay-Z’s journey as an artist and his role as a pioneer in the world of hip-hop.

18. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg – The Temptations

“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” is a classic song by The Temptations, released in 1966. The song’s upbeat tempo and catchy melody make it an enduring example of the Motown sound, and the group’s smooth harmonies and dynamic vocal performances add to its charm. The song’s lyrics describe a man who is willing to do whatever it takes to win back his lover, even if it means begging and pleading. “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” became one of The Temptations’ most popular songs, and it has been covered by numerous artists in the years since its release. The song’s enduring popularity is a testament to the enduring appeal of classic soul music and the talent of The Temptations as performers.

19. Havana – Camila Cabello

“Havana” is a song by Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello, released in 2017. The song’s catchy melody and Latin-inspired beat make it a fun and upbeat dance track, while Cabello’s powerful vocals bring a soulful edge to the song’s lyrics. The song tells the story of a woman from Havana who falls in love with a man she meets while out dancing, and the feelings of passion and excitement that come with this new romance. “Havana” became a massive hit, reaching the top of the charts in numerous countries and earning Cabello critical acclaim for her performance.

20. Bad Bad News – Leon Bridges

“Bad Bad News” is a song by American soul singer Leon Bridges, released in 2018. The song’s smooth, jazzy sound and Bridges’ soulful vocals give it a timeless quality, while the lyrics speak to the challenges of navigating life’s ups and downs. The song’s message is one of resilience and determination in the face of adversity, with Bridges declaring that he’s “got some news for you, baby, and it’s bad, bad news, but no, you can’t break me.” “Bad Bad News” is a powerful showcase for Bridges’ talent as a singer and songwriter, and it has earned him a legion of fans in the years since its release.

21. Broken Horses – Brandi Carlile

“Broken Horses” is a song by American singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, released in 2021. The song’s haunting melody and introspective lyrics speak to the pain of losing someone you love and the struggle to find hope in the midst of grief. Carlile’s powerful vocals and the sparse instrumentation create a sense of intimacy and vulnerability that draws the listener in and invites them to share in her emotions. “Broken Horses” is a beautiful and moving tribute to the power of love and the strength of the human spirit.

22. Lose Yourself – Eminem

“Lose Yourself” is a song by American rapper Eminem, released in 2002. The song’s iconic opening riff and driving beat make it an instant classic, while Eminem’s rapid-fire flow and powerful lyrics tell the story of a struggling rapper who is determined to make it in the music industry. The song’s message of perseverance and self-belief has resonated with fans around the world, and it has become one of Eminem’s most beloved and enduring hits. “Lose Yourself” is a powerful reminder that with hard work, dedication, and a little bit of luck, anyone can achieve their dreams.

23. If I Have My Way – Chrisette Michele

“If I Have My Way” is a soulful and powerful R&B song performed by Chrisette Michele. The song, which was released in 2007, features Michele’s soulful vocals over a catchy, upbeat melody. The lyrics speak of a woman’s confidence in her own abilities and determination to succeed, no matter what obstacles she may face. The song’s uplifting message and Michele’s powerful delivery make it an inspiring anthem for anyone striving to achieve their goals.

24. I Don’t Live Here Anymore – The War on Drugs

“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is a hauntingly beautiful song by American rock band The War on Drugs. Released in 2021, the song features lead singer Adam Granduciel’s plaintive vocals over a lush and atmospheric arrangement of guitars, keyboards, and drums. The lyrics speak of the feeling of being lost and disconnected, of searching for meaning and purpose in a world that can seem cold and unforgiving. The song’s melancholy tone and haunting melody evoke a sense of longing and nostalgia, while its message of hope and resilience provides a glimmer of light in the darkness. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is a testament to The War on Drugs’ ability to craft emotionally resonant and deeply affecting music.

25. In My Room – Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean’s “In My Room” is a smooth and introspective R&B track that showcases the artist’s ability to evoke deep emotion through his vocal delivery and lyrics. The production is minimalistic, with a subdued beat and atmospheric synths that create a dreamy soundscape for Ocean’s voice to float over. The song’s lyrics express a desire for solitude and introspection, with Ocean singing about retreating to his room to escape the stresses of the outside world.

26. Feelin’ Alright – Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker’s rendition of “Feelin’ Alright” is a classic rock track with a soulful twist. The song was originally written by Dave Mason of the band Traffic, but Cocker’s cover became the more well-known version. The song features a driving rhythm section and an iconic guitar riff that sets the tone for Cocker’s powerful vocals. The lyrics are about putting on a brave face despite feeling down, and Cocker’s emotive delivery adds a layer of authenticity to the sentiment.

27. The Only Heartbreaker – Mitski

“The Only Heartbreaker” by Mitski is a haunting and introspective indie rock track. The song features Mitski’s signature emotional vocal delivery, with sparse instrumentation that builds to a cathartic climax in the chorus. The lyrics explore themes of loneliness and heartbreak, with Mitski singing about the pain of being alone and longing for a connection. The song’s production is raw and intimate, with Mitski’s voice and guitar front and center, creating an intimate and emotional atmosphere.

28. MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” is an empowering pop and hip-hop track with a highly catchy beat and lyrics that celebrate self-expression and love. The music video for the song is visually stunning and features Lil Nas X in a variety of scenes that allude to his sexuality and the way he has been perceived by society. The song also serves as a message of support for anyone struggling to come to terms with their identity or facing criticism from others.

29. Love Is The King – Jeff Tweedy

Jeff Tweedy’s “Love Is The King” is a soft rock ballad with introspective lyrics about love and connection. The song has a relaxed, laid-back feel, with gentle guitar strumming and Tweedy’s soothing voice. The song expresses a longing for emotional and physical closeness, and the chorus repeats the refrain “Love is the king” as a reminder that love is ultimately what connects us all.

30. Playing Games – Summer Walker

Summer Walker’s “Playing Games” is an R&B ballad that showcases her impressive vocal range and emotional depth. The song is about a relationship that is full of drama and inconsistency, with Walker questioning her partner’s true intentions and struggling to figure out where they stand. The lyrics are relatable for anyone who has been in a tumultuous relationship and the song’s slow, sultry beat and haunting melody make it a standout track.

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