Happy New Year! Anyone who has read this blog at the end/beginning of the year for the past few years knows that I annually provide a list of songs that I find to hold helpful lessons and messages – be they subtle or obvious – to encourage me to live a better, happier life. If you want to see the previous three lists then check them out:
Notice how there’s one more each year? Now, onto the main event for 2017’s edition!
“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga – Upon watching this past Super Bowl, I realized two things: Tom Brady’s devil magic will always get the better of any team no matter what the score (unless Eli Manning is playing), and that Lady Gaga – whom I am not normally gaga about – can put on a pretty good halftime show in the midst of a tumultuous political rift dividing America. The shining moment of her Super set is her powerful equality anthem.
“Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve?)” by The Buzzcocks – The title pretty clearly offers the big question poised by this song, but it is something that all of us have experienced in some way, shape, or form. In this case, The Buzzcocks offer us the undesirable situation of falling for someone who “spurns” natural emotions. No matter how attractive someone may be in any other way, refusing or demeaning your core is a dealbreaker.
“If This Is It” by Huey Lewis and The News – Sometimes it becomes apparent that things aren’t going right for less sinister reasons. It might be that it just isn’t working out because of two people not clicking. When this happens, the best course of action is to be honest and end it if it cannot be repaired rather than stringing it along.
“Only the Good Die Young” by Billy Joel – Okay, so let’s get one thing straight from the start: Billy Joel is trying to convince a girl to sleep with him. Furthermore, she is a virgin (her name is Virginia for a reason) and she is raised by devout Catholics who disapprove of Billy’s rockin’ and rollin’ who can only provide her with a “reputation”.
Now, I’m not about anyone pressuring someone into sex, or anything that might make them uncomfortable, but Billy does have some good points in this song. It’s obvious that Virgina has been kept on a short leash for her whole childhood (“they built you a temple and locked you away”) and that she is being brought up to live the way that her guardians desire her to, not necessarily how she wants to live. Billy points out how Virginia has been showered with gifts, but offered no “information” about what goes on outside of the world that has been constructed around her. Besides, it is more fun to “laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints”.
“Do You Realize??” by The Flaming Lips – This song simply, yet excellently puts so much in realistic, optimistic perspective by asking if you’ve noticed how things are.
“Althea” by The Grateful Dead – When I first started putting a list of must-hear songs that offer guidance one of the first was The Grateful Dead’s “Touch of Grey”, which is my favorite from the band that I confess I do not have immense familiarity with. Well, both of those things have changed slightly. I’m nowhere near a Deadhead, but I have dabbled a bit more in the beyond mortal realm crafted by Jerry Garcia and friends, and “Althea” has rivaled “Touch of Grey” as my favorite from the band. But hey, things change, and sometimes they change back, and we learn more about how the world works, and who we are within it. Such seems to be the case in “Althea”, where our narrator’s on and off love affair with the titular woman is ever changing, but not necessarily growing. Or maybe it’s growing but not really changing? No matter what you hear in “Althea”, you’ll hear a great song, especially with lyrics like,
I told Althea, I’m a roving sign
That I was born to be a bachelor
Althea told me, OK that’s fine
So now I’m trying to catch her
“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. – A straightforward message to be sure, but one that we need to be reminded of sometimes. Especially in our moments of pain when we feel most alone we all need to recognize that every person on this planet also feels the weight of their pain, confusion, and frustration. Take solace in the fact that your troubles are what allow you to share in the human experience.
“Already Gone” by The Eagles – Things didn’t work out between our narrator and his former lover, and it sounds like he’s all the better for it because he took his life into his own hands and is making the most of it. The key is that he was able to the whole time, as evidenced by the lines in the closing verse:
Well I know it wasn’t you who held me down
Heaven knows it wasn’t you who set me free
So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key
Never forget that you, and only you, hold the key to deciding what to do with your life.
“Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers Band – Definitely don’t let anybody do this to you, but whenever you get the blues real bad, blast this sucker and sing along; it always makes me feel better.
“Political Science” by Randy Newman – Anytime satire starts to become reality, we’re in trouble. We need silly songs about doing silly things to remind us of why those things are silly. Y’know, stuff like global annihilation.
“Galaxy Song” by Monty Python – Talk about putting things in perspective! In case you ever need convincing to part with your liver while still breathing, this is just the thing for you. The numbers may not be exact, but the song is joyous, embracing the optimism of searching beyond the stars with a healthy dollop of that classic Monty Python humor.
“Us and Them/Any Colour You Like/Brain Damage/Eclipse” by Pink Floyd – Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here, but these are technically four songs on the famous album Dark Side of the Moon, and they blend together so well even as the style shifts with each one. The back half of this album is the perfect thing to watch an eclipse with, and the perfect set to close this post out.
Thanks for reading and listening! Orbit back here next week for my list of favorite films from 2017.
Can we have your liver then?