No one can blame you for needing a little extra pep-up in the first week of January. Now that the festivities are over, a little motivational music is just the medicine you need. Whether you’re heading back to work, joining the gym or giving up the good grape – or any combination thereof – you need some tunes to give you some get-up-and-go.

But what makes a great motivational song? We took Time Out’s list of best motivational songs and ran our AI on them. Here’s what we found.

Hip hop is king

First, the list we analysed skewed heavily towards hip hop. Our AI classed a staggering 65 per cent of songs on the list as hip hop or related genres. 

So does this genre skew affect our data? Not as much as you might think. Our AI can detect 15 different mood tags, and across the entire playlist, the most common mood detected was Powerful. Interestingly, even if you remove all hip hop tracks from the dataset, the Powerful tag remains dominant, proving a strong correlation between this mood tag and motivational music – not just with hip hop.

If you’re searching a Musiio-powered music library for motivational tracks, the Powerful mood tag is a great place to start.

The absence of Sad, Scary and Tense moods among motivational tracks is no surprise. However, we can perhaps attribute the lack of Majestic and Dramatic tags to the scarcity of classical and movie score tracks. There are certainly powerful and motivational tracks to be found among orchestral works, just not on this playlist. 

You need just enough energy

We can also see that these motivational songs predominantly have medium energy. It stands to reason that few people look for low energy tracks when pepping themselves up. But, perhaps counterintuitively, it seems too much energy can also be a bad thing for motivation. When it comes to giving yourself an extra boost, music with many highly active elements can be a distraction. 

In terms of pure audio analysis, the final data points we can pull from these tracks are mood valence (emotion) and key. If you’re serious about getting on that treadmill, you might not look for major-key pop songs, but equally, you want to come away feeling better than when you started listening. Therefore, our AI analysis suggests that positive emotion paired with minor keys are most successful for motivation. 

What about lyrics?

Ultimately, the AI analysis of the audio can only tell us so much. The other enormous factor is the lyrical content. Virtually all the songs on this list have some message of empowerment or aspiration. 

And this might also be why there’s so much hip hop on the playlist: its alignment as a genre with actively aspirational lyrics. A lyrical breakdown reveals the words “work”, “hustlin’” and “money” all feature many times. Equally, words such as “get”, “now”, “everyday” and “take” convey messages of immediate action and perseverance. This is the special sauce for getting listeners into the mindset for success.

So what’s missing? 

Love songs. Only 17 per cent of songs have love themes in their lyrics. So, whether you’re building a motivational playlist or writing motivational music, maybe steer clear of romantic lyrical themes.

To join the growing list of businesses using AI technology to tag and search their catalogues, reach out to us on Twitter, LinkedIn or via email on

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