Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Favorite Songs #s 31-40

Because Roger is guilting me!

40. "All This Useless Beauty" - Elvis Costello
This song, a kind of forgotten Costello number, is nearly my favorite Costello song, and definitely my favorite Costello ballad. It comes off of his album of the same name, which comprises songs he originally wrote for others. Not sure who did this, or was meant to do this, originally, but Costello's version is a quiet powerhouse, just a devastatingly beautiful ballad that hints of courtly feelings and misty castles. This song was the inspiration for a short story I wrote several years back.

39. "Bohemian Rhapsody" - Queen
Part of me is surprised this didn't end up higher - surely some of that is attributable to just how insanely overplayed the song is. Still, no one before or since has done this kind of epic theatricality as well.

38. "Beautiful Day" - U2
I suspect that when all is said and done, this will be one of the three or four U2 songs that people really remember and love. It's just such a perfectly simple evocation of the kind of foolish hope and anticipation we all feel now and then as we contemplate our future. That part of the human condition that insists on enthusiastic optimism? This song is its theme song.

37. "I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying" - Sting
Sting's chameleon-like abilities as a songwriter are not really appreciated enough. Here, he's crafted a country song authentic and good enough to have become a country hit in its own right. I've never heard the topic of divorce's effects when kids are involved portrayed so elegantly or accurately. My parents divorced when I was young, and parts of this song his me harder than I realize. Maybe no line in music kills me as much as, in context, "Everybody's got to leave the darkness some time."

36. "Island of Souls" - Sting
In the age of jukebox musicals, it saddens me that there is no Sting musical, as I've been insisting ever since this album came out in the early 90s that it could serve as the foundation for a damn good musical. This is the opening number, a haunting and salty tune about a death in the shipyard.

35. "Love Is Blindness" - U2
U2 gets pegged as the big, hopeful, anthemic band they often are, so it's easy to forget their dark side. This somber, monochromatic, relentless song about suicide is the one they ended their shows with on the ZOO TV tour. This is what they sent audiences off with. Astonishing.

34. "Kite" - U2
There's that hopeful U2. This decade has seen the subject of parenthood become a common theme, and this song about letting go of your children as they grow is just a gorgeous piece of writing that demonstrates so aptly that the simplest of chord progressions, when handled right, can say so much.

33. "Kathy’s Song" - Simon & Garfunkel
My favorite S&G song. Something about the simple accompaniment and the quiet, subtle, yearning melody just do it for me. And the lyric. God, the lyric. "And so you see I have come to doubt/All that I once held as true/I stand alone without beliefs/The only truth I know is you." Wow.

32. "Hearts and Bones" - Paul Simon
Neat, somehow, that this ended up next to "Kathy's Song." My favorite Simon song, a bruised and somehow spiritual skipping ballad about love. "The arc of a love affair" is an all-time favorite line.

31. "Minutes to Memories" - John Mellencamp
An old man give a young whippersnapper advice on a train. I turn to this song over and over again when I feel like i need reminding of how to live life. Mellencamp's very underrated knack for delivering eternal truths in shorn-bare phrasing is exemplified here. "There are no free rides/No one said it'd be easy/The old man told me this my son I'm telling it to you/Days turn to minutes and minutes to memories/Life sweeps away the dreams that we had planned/You are young and you are the future/So suck it up and tough it out/And be the best you can" Yes, sir.

Until Whenever


Roger Owen Green said...

Moi, guilting?

Anonymous said...

Hi, just read your top 30, and although I do not agree with your chart positioning much (way too many U2 songs up there... what, no Crowded House anywhere?) some of your comments on individual songs sound just as if I could have written them. Although my parents did not divorce, Sting's line in "I'm So Happy...", "Something seemed to ease the pain / Something about the universe and how it's all connected" feel very real in their suppressed and sublimated pain that they make my eyes wet. Same for "Kathy's Song" in its stark beauty.