A Playlist of Autism Anthems
Here are some tunes to jam out to for Autism Acceptance Day.
There's an anthem for just about every type of community. The gays can dance the night away to "I Will Survive", black activists can blast "This Is America" to get their message across, and feminists can sing along to anything from Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" to No Doubt's "Just A Girl". What about us autistic folks, though? We autistics normally stim to music when we need to calm down, and it's a good way for us to release our frustrations. While there may not be too many autistic artists or songs about autism known to the public, there are plenty of songs that we can relate to. Since today (April 2nd) is Autism Acceptance Day, I decided to put together a playlist of anthems for my community.
For this list, the songs don't have to be about autism and the artists don't have to be on the spectrum. As long as the song resonates with autistic listeners, it qualifies. I reached out to my autistic friends for suggestions while also taking some of my favorites into consideration. Now, without further ado, Let's get to the tracks.
Top 15 Autism Anthems
15.) "B*tch"-Meredith Brooks
Brooks herself described the song as being about self-acceptance and said that she intended to reclaim the word. "It's not to excuse ranting and raving, but I don't think there's anything wrong with having "a mood"," she explained. "I don't think we all need to keep the mask on all the time." Nobody is perfect, and that's ok. Be unapologetic and be human.
14.) "Fight Song" Rachel Platten
Do I really need to explain why I picked this one? It's the perfect song for anyone who’s ever felt helpless and needs the reminder that they have some level of strength left.
13.) "Lose Yourself"- Eminem
Eminem has hinted in some of his songs that he’s on the spectrum. While he doesn’t really talk about it with the public, the lyrics of his Oscar-winning song can still resonate with autistic listeners. After all, it’s about going after your dreams, even when it seems that the odds are stacked against you.
12.)"This Is Me" -Keala Settle
This is another one that I shouldn't have to explain. Being different isn’t something to be ashamed of. This is who you’re meant to be.
11.) "Till It Happens To You" -Lady Gaga
I’m changing things up here and including a rather somber tune. We autistics are often talked over by neurotypicals who think that they know what we’re going through. Unless you're also disabled, you will never truly understand what it's like to fight ableism every day in your life. You will also never know what it’s like to be autistic if you weren't already born that way, so you need to listen to us rather than talk over us.
10.)"Quiet"-Matilda the Musical
Matilda has been accepted by the community as an autistic coded character, so it's only fitting that I include a song from the musical adaptation. The song could be seen as a depiction of an autistic person going to their happy place as they're calming down after a meltdown. The aggressive beginning mirrors the sensory overload that autistics often experience, and the rest of the track mirrors the process of calming down. We autistics truly value our alone time whenever we get it.
9.)"Let It Go" -Idina Menzel
And here we have yet another autistic coded character. Think about it; Elsa is forced to hide her powers because it could be seen as a threat. The use of the gloves to hide her powers could be seen as a metaphor for masking, which is the act of pretending to not be autistic in order to be accepted by society. When Elsa is far away from the kingdom, she finally feels unashamed to use her powers in an act that could be seen as a metaphor for stimming. Just stim freely and let it go, my friend.
8.) "Where Is My Mind?" The Pixies
One of my autistic friends suggested this one, and I find it fitting since we autistics often have our heads in the clouds. I also like the story behind the song; frontman Charles Thompson IV (known by his stage name Black Francis) was inspired to write this song while scuba diving in the Caribbean. He recounted the tale of "this very small fish trying to chase me. I don't know why—I don't know too much about fish behavior." I'm not saying that Black Francis is autistic, especially since I don't know too much about him, but this song and its inspiration are giving me autistic vibes.
7.)"Cry Baby" -Melanie Martinez
When I asked my autistic friends for song ideas, one of them sent me a link to a Spotify playlist they made for what they consider to be autism anthems. My Cry Baby heart was happy to see a good number of Melanie Martinez songs on the playlist, and I eventually settled on this one. Just take a look at the opening lyrics: "You seem to replace your brain with your heart. You take things so hard and then you fall apart." The whole song is about being emotional and not caring about what other people think. One common myth about people on the spectrum is that they lack empathy, but it's actually the complete opposite; they have so much empathy that they're not quite sure what to do with all of it. I think the lyrics reflect that perfectly.
6.) "Riot On Sunset" -James Durbin
If this list is going to include artists on the spectrum, then I have to include this American Idol alum. Durbin is not only on the spectrum, but he also has Tourette's, making him an inspiration when he competed in the show's tenth season and made it to the Top 4. The song's title and lyrics refer to the Sunset Strip curfew riots of 1966, also known as the "hippie riots". These were a series of counterculture-era clashes between young people and the police on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, California. Given how the autism rights movement has been getting stronger lately, this revolutionary song is too appropriate for Autism Acceptance Day.
5.) "My Delirium" -Ladyhawke
Another singer on the spectrum, this New Zealand rockstar was born Phillipa Margaret Brown. Her stage name comes from the Richard Donner movie of the same name. This track perfectly captures the anxiety of being obsessed with someone. Should you keep going? Should you stop? Is this normal? Also, can we talk about how awesome this music video is?
4.) "What The Water Gave Me" -Florence and the Machine
I am OBSESSED with Florence Welch, and I had a difficult time selecting a song from her band's discography. I almost went with "Shake It Out" or "Never Let Me Go", but I felt like this track was more appropriate. It's about being overwhelmed and just letting everything swallow you whole. I personally think it's a beautiful song to stim to with its arrangement and Florence's breathtaking vocals. In terms of inspiration, the lyrics were inspired by the works of Virginia Woolf, and the title comes from the Frida Kahlo painting of the same name. If you're looking for a beautiful and energetic song to stim along to, I highly recommend this one.
3.) "Belong" -Tim Boykin
If you've never heard of Tim Boykin, you should know who he is starting now. He's a dear friend of mine and one of the most inspirational autistic people I had ever met. Over fifty-five thousand fans look forward to his daily TikTok videos that focus on his activism and passion for singing. He's actually the one who helped me discover the autism side of TikTok and become a bigger and better advocate for the community. Both his activism for the autistic community and the African American community are put on display in this track as he worries that he has a target on his back due to his status as a disabled black man in America. Both communities have been victims of police brutality over the years, and Tim's anthem is a cry for much-needed change.
2.) "I Am Not A Robot"-Marina (formerly Marina and the Diamonds)
Marina is another artist I'm OBSESSED with, and this song is too perfect to not include. Autistic people have been unfairly compared to robots and inanimate objects due to their "lack of empathy and strange behavioral patterns", but we're really just humans who think and act differently. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect in order to be accepted, but we shouldn't have to put ourselves in harm's way to be loved. If the other tracks on this list haven't made you cry yet, then you better get those tissues now.
1.) "Fireflies"-Owl City
When I found out that Adam Young, aka Owl City, was on the spectrum, the lyrics to this song suddenly made sense to me. Everything in this song is a celebration of imagination, childhood innocence, and wonder. Adam stated that he was inspired by both his insomnia and a camping trip from his childhood, but the song could be interpreted in multiple ways. Is it a reflection of a carefree childhood? Is it a collection of random thoughts that you're too shy to share with others? Is it about a happy place that you go to when you're scared? If you were looking for a song that mirrors an autistic mind beautifully, it's this one.
Happy Autism Acceptance Day, everyone! Love yourself, stim freely, and treat others with kindness!