Staff Recs: Workout Albums

Next time you go to the gym, listen to the Arts Desk’s music recs, not the gym’s outdated playlist.

Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy Album Cover (via Facebook)

Despite the recent snow day, we are finally approaching spring, meaning that NYU students can no longer cite the weather as an excuse to avoid the gym. Here are the Arts Desk’s recommendations for the best albums to soundtrack your first trip to the gym in months.

“Invasion of Privacy” by Cardi B

While it may not be the most sophisticated album, “Invasion of Privacy” can get anybody motivated in a matter of minutes. Cardi B’s energy is infectious and at the gym, it’s crucial to have someone yelling in your ears – be it a trainer or an artist. Although Kanye West and Drake are also excellent choices when pumping iron, Cardi B has the perfect amount of finesse to get you prepared for fitness. She’s part-rapper, part-comedian and always light-hearted and fun. While Kanye can scream in your ear for a whole minute straight, Cardi B’s beats keep you mellow and ready to run. Unfortunately, because her rhythms are so fun, I often find myself dancing when I’m supposed to be running, which is admittedly not the greatest sacrifice in the world. Singing along is also a terrible side effect — I look absurd trying to rap in Spanish when I run — but it’s worth it to get in the zone. So turn up your headphones, let go of your inhibitions and get ready to “skrrt.” — Claire

“Rage Against the Machine” by Rage Against the Machine


Rage Against the Machine was the master of inciting energy. Any of the ten songs on its debut album have the potential to induce head-bopping, jumping and dancing in the most lethargic of folks. It begins with the opener “Bombtrack” — a charged bassline grooves through the first few measures, Brad Wilk’s drums eager to catch up. A crescendo and then — ugh! If Rage Against the Machine is the Led Zeppelin of teenage angst, then Zach de la Rocha’s hollers, grunts and yelps are the jet fuel. Tracks such as “Know Your Enemy,” “Killing In the Name” and “Wake Up” are perhaps the best pick-me-up after a playlist of dull workout tracks. It’s the chaotic, raw force of Rage that will serve as an instant jolt of energy. — Nicole

“Elephant” by The White Stripes

It begins with the song long recognized as the world’s greatest pump up track. “Seven Nation Army” has the power to convince seven-year-old kids that a pee-wee soccer game has the gravity and stakes of the Battle of the Somme. Attending any sporting event over the past 15 years has likely entailed at least one spin of “Seven Nation Army.” After the legendary first track, there remain plenty of Jack White howls that are perfect to work out to. For the most part, “Elephant” is loud, disheveled and angry, with guitar parts that spark and fizzle like a tailpipe dragging off the back of a pickup. When White comes in, he’s belting just to be noticed over his guitar. Interspersed with White’s signature electric numbers are a few honeyed acoustic pieces to listen to while you catch a breath. The riffs on songs like “The Hardest Button to Button” and “Ball and Biscuit” are aggressive enough to elevate your heart rate even before you even step into the gym. Each White Stripes album has music appropriate for exercise but “Elephant” in particular refines and directs their characteristic frenetic energy into an album that’s worth a listen any time you want your blood to pump. — Dante

“Vivegam” by Anirudh Ravichander

While my workout playlist is generally comprised of a lot of rock albums, I thought I would offer up an unconventional but awesome choice for your next gym session, whenever that may be. The album is comprised of seven songs, one of which is only instrumental, made for the 2017 Tamil action film “Vivegam,” which translates to “prudence.” The film follows Indian spy Ajay Kumar (Ajith Kumar) who is on a mission to retrieve nuclear codes, but is then betrayed by his corrupt teammates. While the movie is generic, Ravichander’s soundtrack is fresh, diverse and one of the few highlights “Vivegam” has to offer. From the opening song “Surviva,” a fast paced EDM-rap number that’s peppy and propulsive, to the rousing “Veriyera,” the soundtrack pumps you up so well it feels like you’re getting ready for battle. It’s loud, energetic and absolutely fun. The only odd song is the melodic “Kadhalaada,” but its presence could actually be used as a lovely cool-down composition. The best track is the hard metal “Thalai Viduthalai” that essentially acts as an anthem for the film. In the film, after Kumar is betrayed and nearly killed by his teammates, this song plays over his recovery in the woods and if seeing the visuals and music paired together does not inspire you to start hitting the gym the next minute then I do not know what will. — Guru

“Masseduction” by St. Vincent

St. Vincent, with her high breathy voice, fuzzy guitar riffs and queer alien aesthetic, has been one of my favorite musicians for the better part of a decade. In her latest effort, the artist formerly known as Annie Clark retains her distinctive flair for the weird while further elaborating on the new sound she established with her previous release, the eponymous “St. Vincent.” “Masseduction” is more electro-pop than her acoustic-centered earlier work, but the focus remains on her voice and her kickass electric guitar. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much for the gym, but this album is ideal workout material for sure, with a slight caveat: a few of the songs, like the opening “Hang on Me,” or quiet, contained ballads like “Happy Birthday, Johnny” and “Dancing with a Ghost,” are better suited to a cool down or a slow dance. But the album’s core is in songs like “Pills,” “Sugarboy,” “Young Lover” or “Fear the Future,” mid-to-up-tempo jams heavy on pulsing synths and a steady driving beat. There’s a song for every part of your workout. — Alex

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