Thanks to a brief but passionate conversation with my best friend a few nights ago, I had to take a moment for self reflection. I’m not thinking about changing religion or anything like that. No, we were only discussing music, which is the one thing we’ve never really agreed on during our 16 year friendship.
He’s a little bit hip hop and I’m a little bit everything else. He doesn’t understand my eclectic tastes, so when I discuss artists and genres he knows I don’t listen to habitually, it throws him. He mentioned his confusion about a week ago, hence the… passionate conversation.
Erykah Badu said it best: Keep in mind that I’m an artist, and I’m sensitive about my shit.
In any case, the conversation made me think. Why do I like the music I listen to? What makes each song and artist on my playlist more special than most of the overly produced crap on the radio today? Well, after looking at just a few of the songs I have on constant rotation, I can say one definite fact: I am random as hell.
Below you’ll find a few of my all-time favorite songs and my reasons for loving each one. Now, I like a lot of music, but these songs are the ones that no matter where I am or what I’m doing, if the song is playing, I’m listening from start to finish. Probably dancing too, and I’ll be the first to admit that dancing is not my forte.
In no particular order:
Des’ree – “Kissing You”
This song is just beautiful. Just beautiful. There’s no other way to describe it. Des’ree’s smooth vocals over a slow piano and building strings are perfection, and no lyrics are wasted. Every word has meaning. It paints the picture of true love, of pain, of longing. No wonder it was featured as the theme song for Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet. It’s a perfect love song.
Beyonce tried to remake “Kissing You” a few years back. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t pack nearly half the sincerity of this version. Compared to Des’Ree, Bey fell flat. There. I said it.
Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Okay, this is just epic. Leave it to Freddy Mercury and Queen to blend rock and opera with a message, a story, and do it well. This song makes you feel things as you are compelled to sing along. And don’t say you never do. I won’t even bother explaining this one. If you don’t know “Rhapsody” by now, I just don’t know what you have done with your life.
The Beatles – “Come Together”
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: This song makes no sense. It was penned by John Lennon in an effort to create a campaign song for Timothy Leary back in the day. He failed in that but succeeded in making one of the most cryptic, trippiest songs of the late 60’s, and I love him for it.
Radiohead – “Paranoid Android”
There’s not much I can’t say about Radiohead. Without a doubt, they are one of my top ten favorite bands, maybe even top five. However, this song is probably my favorite of theirs. Why? Well, it’s so damn creative. It’s three songs fused together and divided into four parts. The lyrics are cryptic, borderline nonsensical, but it fits the music. Thom Yorke’s voice is melodic; just listen to the range he displays in the first line.
It’s weird one minute, haunting the next, and then it proceeds to rock the hell out. And the harmonizing at the end…Sheesh. All I can do is close my eyes, zone out, and try not to remember the music video. Watch at your own risk.
Van Hunt – “Daredevil, Baby”
Why isn’t Van Hunt famous? Seriously, like, how the hell did he get skipped over? Was he asleep when Fame called or did Fame mistakenly dial the wrong number and gave someone else a shot instead? Inquiring minds want to know.
Anyway, all I can say about this one is “Damn, this is a smooth way to tell a story.” Click the link. You won’t regret it.
Crowded House – “Don’t Dream it’s Over”
A perfect 80’s song with great lyrics. On one hand it leaves you feeling a bit lost or doomed, but on the other hand it urges you to press forward in spite of what’s around you.
Guns N Roses – “November Rain”
The song is ridiculously long, but I have no problem listening to it from start to finish. After all, 9 minutes is nothing compared to the 25 minute gem the song was originally. I can spare 9 minutes.
Axl Rose’s lyrics of unrequited love coupled with his unforgettable voice and Slash’s two guitar solos were nothing short of divine. Never mind the over-the-top music video (which has no problem bitch slapping your heartstrings, by the way). The song is equally sad and moving.
The Spiral Staircase – “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”
I dare anyone to listen to this song and not immediately feel better about life. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Bjork – “I’ve Seen it All”
This is the artist who got the ball rolling between my friend and I. Bjork is one of my favorites. Bestie has no clue why, but this song is reason enough.
“I’ve Seen it All” comes from what is probably the most depressing musical of all time, Dancer in the Dark, which Bjork also starred in. Paired with Thom Yorke (on the studio version) the duo sing about going blind, things they have yet to see, and why none of it is important. Yorke and Bjork’s voices blend wonderfully together, and while the tone of the song is somber, there’s still a strength behind it you have to admire.
Prince – “The Beautiful Ones”
Praise Jesus! I found an actual YouTube video for Prince that doesn’t have the audio altered or removed! Clearly, The Purple One is cool with me chatting up his 1984 classic from his pseudo-biopic Purple Rain.
Let’s hope it lasts.
Anyway, out of all the songs Prince has created, this is my absolute favorite. Why? Relatable lyrics about unrequited love, a haunting melody, 80’s synthesizers, and motherf–king Prince. That’s why. He composed, arranged, produced, and performed “The Beautiful Ones.” That’s talent, folks.
Richard Smallwood – “Total Praise”
Without a doubt, this is my favorite gospel song of all time by my favorite gospel artist of all time. Smallwood’s ear for classical arrangements is unmatched in this genre, and the way he arranged the choir, how their voices layered upon each other as the music gradually builds…pure artistry.
Stevie Wonder – “Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You” and “Seems So Long”
Okay, I have to do this one a little differently. If you haven’t noticed, there are two videos for this entry. That’s because Stevie Wonder is a genius. “Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You” and “Seems So Long” are songs from his 1972 Music of My Mind album. Separate, they’re awesome, but played together, they’re amazing. It’s storytelling at it’s finest.
The first song is split into two parts. The first is about Mary, a girl is searching for stardom, and the second is about the singer from the first half wondering why she didn’t return when he thought she would. Now if you listen to “Seems So Long” after “Superwoman,” you’ll get the rest of the story. The singer is left alone and hurt from his first love, but he meets another woman who’s like him. Together, they learn to put the past behind them and trust in their new love.
You got to love a story with a happy ending.
Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick – “The Show”
Again, I dare anyone to listen to this song and not immediately feel better about life.
Whenever I hear “The Show,” I’m taken back to my childhood, the summers I spent in the Bronx. It makes me think of the house parties my mom used to sneak me into. I makes me think of fun. What other reason do you need?