Tegan and Sara
2013, Warner Bros.

I started listing my favorite songs on this album but then I realized I had listed every song on this album. They’re all full of victory, because even when Teegs and Sarz are singing about heartbreak and regret, it still makes you wanna dance. Oh, one part that always kills me though is in “Now I’m All Messed Up,” when one of them is singing, “Go, go, go if you want, I can’t stop you,” and the other is singing, “Please stay” underneath. Chills! Aches in my chest! (You’d think I was talking about some commercial for heartburn medication.) Listening to this album during my first weeks of school has really set the year on a trajectory of ’80s-teen-movie moments and bubble-gum chewing and dancing while crying. It’ll color everything in your world pastel, add a glamour-shot glow, and outline it all in neon. —Tavi

6a014e87574ac9970d016764926f21970b-800wiPink Friday: Roman Reloaded
Nicki Minaj
2012, Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Republic

Nicki Minaj is one of the best rappers breathing and a dance-pop diva at the same damn time. She’s also boss enough to dismiss anyone who questions how owning both thrones is possible. When the radio DJ Peter Rosenberg dared to say her mega-single “Starships” off this album wasn’t hip-hop enough to be included at his station’s big summer concert—which she was scheduled to headline—Nicki straight-up canceled her appearance because of his lack of respect. Later, she sat down with Rosenberg face-to-face and apologized to her fans, admitting she should have played the show anyway. But she also let him have it: “I never found you funny. I never found you entertaining. I never found you smart. I just found you annoying,” she told him flatly. “To me you don’t have enough of a résumé to make those comments.” Nicki, on the other hand, has the work to back up her words: This, her second album, features whimsical anthems like “Starships” and “Pound the Alarm,” the tearful ballad “Marilyn Monroe,” and some of the toughest, giddiest rapid-fire boasts in rap. If “Beez in the Trap” and “Come on a Cone” aren’t the sound of winning, it’s the game that’s messed up. —Joe

album_73_suzi_quatroSuzi Quatro
Suzi Quatro
1973, Rak Records

Before there was Joan Jett, there was Suzi Quatro, the rock & roll queen of Detroit. At 23 she pioneered the gritty, male-dominated hard-rock scene and came out on top with punchy hits like “48 Crash” and “Can the Can.” While most of her songs are great for getting revved up for a big game or show, she occasionally lets out her softer, more sensitive side—but without ever losing her signature tough-girl swagger throughout the album. Are you going somewhere or meeting someone that makes your head spin and and your stomach jump? No problem. Roll in with your favorite shades on your face and “Glycerine Queen” in your headphones. Throw a leather jacket over your shoulder and rock on with your bad self. —Suzy

45364Pure Heroine
2013, Universal

I first heard Ella Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, when I was in the parking lot of a Target one night. It was 10:50 PM and I was in the car by myself, listening to the radio; I had just been going through a breakup and was in an awful state of mind. Suddenly this song came on with a simple beat and this AMAZING voice that made me sit up straight and turn on Shazam, which told me it was Lorde’s song “Royals.” I turned up the volume and started really listening, forgetting my troubles for a moment. When I got home I immediately bought (and paid for!) the song on iTunes and proceeded to listen to it on repeat for a week. This whole album has a fresh, feel-good vibe. I definitely give Lorde a thumbs-up. Get into her. —Dana

2006, Columbia

I Am… Sasha Fierce is the album on which Beyoncé set out to channel her inner goddess, the alter ego Sasha Fierce, and let all of her bashfulness go. But if you listened to its 2006 predecessor, B’Day, you would never know that King Bey had any issues with shyness, because she attacks her songs with the fierceness and precision of a TIGER. “Freakum Dress” is my favorite, on which she sings triumphantly about putting on a badass dress to go out and just knowing she looks good, but there’s also “Ring the Alarm,” a nigh–Riot Grrrl song which she almost scream-sings, and “Get Me Bodied,” which is about going out with her friends to a club and dancing and generally feeling amazing. (That last song is so empowering that the first lady enlisted Bey to use it in the official workout video of the USA’s national “Let’s Move” campaign! To which I say: U-S-A! U-S-A!) Even the sad songs on this album—“Irreplaceable,” “Resentment”—are about expressing self-love and choosing yourself over a crappy lover. Sasha Fierce came later, but Bey always had it in her. And what’s more triumphant than releasing an album on your actual birthday, which she did? But let’s face it, every day is your birthday, boo boo. —Julianne

18_3_7567923022Far Beyond Driven
1994, East West Records

This album got me through the end of my freshman year of high school, when it felt like everything was standing in my way: my parents, my friends, and honors biology, which was threatening my perfect GPA (I was basically a headbanging Lisa Simpson). I would crank Far Beyond Driven after fights with my dad or to power through the last of my homework. I had never heard anything heavier or angrier than Phil Anselmo’s enraged growl or Dimebag Darrell’s sludgy riffs, and that’s exactly what I needed. I couldn’t really understand the lyrics except for the swear words, until I sat down to study the liner notes (see above in re: Lisa Simpson, headbanging variety). These songs are definitely dark and filled with a lot more testosterone than I usually go for, but I could still relate to the rage and the drive in songs like “Strength Beyond Strength,” “25 Years,” and “Shedding Skin.” Far Beyond Driven is still my go-to after a tough day or when I need to get amped up to finish a project, or when I just want to bang my head. —Stephanie

A1YyZPLr7ZL._SL1500_News of the World
1977, EMI/Parlophone/Elektra/Hollywood

I fell asleep with my iPod on the other day, and I woke up with my heart racing, my ears under attack. Still half-awake, I was totally confused: What was this art-punk madness? Was it some New York Dolls song I hadn’t been aware of owning? It turned out to be “Sheer Heart Attack” off Queen’s News of the World, and it’s the most aggro song ever—it doesn’t really have chorus, it just keeps goinggoinggoing, fast and scary like a roller coaster ride, or a cocaine bender. I actually don’t recommend this whole album—the only songs I listen to from it are that one, plus “We Will Rock You,” which you will have heard if you’ve been to an American pro sporting event in the past decade; the ode to freedom “Spread Your Wings”; “All Dead, All Dead,” an elegy for guitarist Brian May’s cat, Squeaky; and of course “We Are the Champions.” That last song is so gorgeous, it kills me. At first it seems like a boast, but under the bravado you can sense the desperation of someone who never wins—when Freddie Mercury sings, “No time for losers, ’cause we are the champions,” it feels a bit he-doth-protest-too-much, and you suspect the loser he’s trying to ditch is some version of himself. Listen to it, you guys. P.S. Hands-down the most terrifying album cover of all time. —Anaheed

Ellie Goulding HalcyonHalcyon
Ellie Goulding
2012, Polydor

Lights” is like a glitter bomb. But the single that made Ellie Goulding famous (and scored the credits of Spring Breakers) is only one side of her epic-ness. Her songs get sad, mad, and out of control—sometimes within one three-minute burst—all turning on her voice’s perfect mix of rasp and grace. She’s like Adele plus Robyn plus Florence + the Machine plus Kylie Minogue, with catchy keyboards and a cute accent. And what could be better than a moving ballad with a beat? —Joe

Soundtrack - Karate Kid LP EX_EXThe Karate Kid (original motion picture soundtrack)
Various Artists
1984, Casablanca Records

The pièce de resistance on this little gem of a workout soundtrack is Joe “Bean” Esposito’s “You’re the Best,” a très ’80s rocker number that plays during a karate-battle montage in the original 1984 Ralph Macchio movie. It’s super corny, but the chorus—“YOU’RE THE BEST! AROUND!”—is sung with such gusto and sincerity that listening to it before, say, a race or a karate tournament will convince you that you’re about to win a gold medal. None of the other songs quite approach the uplifting message of that one, though Survivor tries with the excellent synth number “The Moment of Truth,” which encourages you to “get up and show them who you are!” There are also some terrific jams by Gang of Four, Jan & Dean, and Bananarama that will also help motivate you to WIN. —Julianne

P!NK_GHSF_Standard_INTGreatest Hits…So Far!!!
2010, Jive

I’m usually not a greatest-hits-album person, but this compilation of Pink’s biggest songs (so far!!!) is excellent for celebrating a victory or reminding yourself that you’re worth celebrating. There’s “Get the Party Started,” of course, but my favorites are the songs that help me tap into my personal strength, like my breakup anthem, “There You Go,” and the reminder that I am a rock star, “So What?” I’ve also listened to “Fuckin’ Perfect” on repeat (and cried a lot, but in that good cleansing way) when I’ve needed to stop beating myself up. Then I go back and play “Raise Your Glass,” a toast to anyone who’s ever felt like a freak or an underdog, and I can’t help dancing around my bedroom. Whether your life has been rough or awesome (or, most likely, both), these songs are there to transform it into an amazing party for an hour or so. —Stephanie

EleanorFriedberger_PersonalRecord_700_700_90autoPersonal Record
Eleanor Friedberger
2013, Merge

I kind of didn’t know why babybossbitch asked that someone write about this record for Victory month—I had heard it and loved it, but in my memory so much of it was about loss: losing love, in particular, and with it your ability to experience happiness ever again in your whole life. Then I listened to it again today and realized that there are just as many truly triumphant songs: There’s “Stare at the Sun,” which is about the almost unbearable thrill of new love; and “My Own World,” about the pleasures of solitude; and my favorite song on the record, “When I Knew,” a Friend Crush in musical form. Even the super-sad “Singing Time,” on which Friedberger mourns a love she will never get back again, ends in victory: “Let’s go, my songs,” she sings. “One day we will know more.” So I guess now we understand why Tavi is the boss. Friedberger’s voice is cool and smart and soothing, a little like Patti Smith’s and a bit like Debbie Harry’s and also like a cold glass of milk, her lyrics are clever and layered and funny, and this whole album is just a delight. For a sample, listen to “She’s a Mirror,” which we previewed back in May. —Anaheed ♦