Monday, August 31, 2015

Top 200 Favorite Songs, Part 18

(If you're just tuning in, I'm doing a rundown of my Top 200 Favorite Songs-see the bottom of the page for previous entries and welcome!)

Art is an odd thing, in that it is finite.  You don't get to leave behind more than what you did before you died.  It's a sad tragedy of life that certain artists, by a trick-of-fate or by becoming overcome by their own genius or by placing drugs/alcohol in a place above their own well-being end up in a position that extinguishes them far too early.  This idea has become such a cliche that occasionally we assume every young artist who died long before their time was, in fact, dying of a drug overdose or a suicide, which I will admit was the case for me up until about five minutes ago with Jeff Buckley, the brilliant singer whose album Grace moved me to no end in college, and yet I always assumed, being that he died at thirty, that drugs were the cause, and not the truth (he died of an accidental drowning).  Buckley's genius, that beautiful, angelic, mystical singing voice combined with a face to match was something that attracted me fully when I was coming into my own as a person in my early twenties.  I think we all have that moment where we start projecting our celebrity crushes a little bit on the guys we date (it's only natural since the former taught us how to love and the latter gave us the real thing), and for me it was thinking that every guy might just be Jeff Buckley.  It's part of the reason we end up crushing on any guy who can play the guitar (hell, it's half the reason guys take up the guitar to begin with)-there's something sort of magical about that weird bridge that happens between the make-believe and the real.  Admittedly this eventually dissipates, but listening to Jeff Buckley's only album Grace, alone in the dark, I still can recapture some of those moments of lost youth long after they are gone.

30. "Respect," Aretha Franklin (1965)

Originally intended for Otis Redding (he actually wrote the song), Aretha Franklin's version became the quintessential rendition, an anthem demanding r-e-s-p-e-c-t for every woman who helped pay the bills and keep the house.  Initially meant as a bit of an anti-feminist style song, it became a feminist hit for the singer who wanted to feel like a natural woman.  Absolutely indispensable in my musical library.

29. "Neon Moon," Brooks & Dunn (1992)

One of the saddest songs ever written, I remember I used to roller-skate to this when I was a kid.  It was usually a couples skate song for whatever reason, and so it was the time I would go and get taffy or play some video games on the sides, which is about as perfect as you can get for a song that proclaims loneliness beneath the "light of a neon moon."  To this day this song feels both nostalgic and occasionally very appropriately mirroring my own life, and as a result just keeps trucking up this list.

28. "No Woman, No Cry," Bob Marley & the Wailers (1975)

Bob Marley's magnum opus, a beautifully-constructed song about a man begging his lover in the ghetto of Jamaica that things will be better, so she shouldn't cry.  This was the first song that managed to get me into the majesty of Reggae and of Marley himself-it's a wonderfully soft, tender lyric, particularly on the iconic live version.

27. "Think," Aretha Franklin (1968)

While "Respect" is almost everyone's knee-jerk answer to "favorite Aretha song," this will always be a couple of notches higher for me.  Aretha's other great feminist song starts out on high-octane and you just can't imagine how she'll stay there, but she not only does but increases that vocal prowess.  If you haven't stood in your room, tackling this song at the top of your lungs with a hairbrush, please double-check where your soul is.

26. "Stormy Weather," Lena Horne (1941/43)

Lena Horne wasn't the first person to sing "Stormy Weather," but she might as well have been the last as no one else could approach that wonderfully-exact voice of hers.  A woman who knew her fair share of stormy weather (she was blacklisted for her politics and frequently cut out of movies like Show Boat because she was African-American), her voice and this song is my go-to if I'm just walking around the house-I sing it without singing, which shows how many times I've listened to it.

25. "Yellow," Coldplay (2000)

I remember watching a Coldplay concert with my best friend at the time, and this was the song that ended the concert, which was appropriate as it's my favorite of all of their music.  The entire stadium flooded in yellow, and I had one of those moments where you aren't thinking about the past or the future, but living in the present, just sort of in awe.  It was one of those moments that in hindsight you know you'll think about all-the-time, but at the time you are just too aware of everything around you to realize it.

24. "With or Without You," U2 (1987)

Being someone who had their adolescence around the millennium, Ross-and-Rachel were pretty much the quintessential romantic idols you wanted to live up to, and as a result their song became part of my personal lore pretty quickly.  Even a decade after Friends, though, it's still a song that you can't help but feel something personal when it starts to play-the replaying of an old emotion as Bono's lyrics wash through you.

23. "Tired of Being Alone," Al Green (1971)

Apparently we're in the "John is having an emotional moment" section of the list (just wait until you hit the next song), as this is not only my favorite Al Green song, but one of his saddest.  I remember in college I used to play this song all-the-time when all of my friends were going out with their significant others and I was just home alone or being the tagalong third wheel.  As a result, its lyrics stick with me years later whenever I get into that funk.  And since it's his last song on the list, I will repeat-sexiest man to ever stand in front of a microphone.

22. "Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O'Connor (1990)

Sinead O'Connor may have become a bit of a source of controversy in the 25 years since she covered Prince's song (yes, this song was written by Prince), but her original claim-to-fame, this wonderful ode to a lover trying to get over being dumped is still a home run.  Plus, let's be honest-she was kind of ahead of her time in pointing out the child abuse scandals of the Catholic Church that would dominate the political conversation for years after her SNL performance.

21. "Hallelujah," Jeff Buckley (1994)

Leonard Cohen's classic has been covered by pretty much every singer with a pulse, but it's Buckley more so than even Cohen himself who finds the humanity in the lyrics, fighting to sing every single one of them as he feels the song as he goes through, creating great triumph and great sorrow all-at-once.  If you've never heard this version, you must click the above link immediately.

And there we are-twenty left to go, but before we get there have I hit any of your personal favorite jams this week?  What are your thoughts on Jeff Buckley?  And what singer did you crush on hard as you compared him to every boy you dated?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

If you've missed any of the past installments, go ahead and click: Part 12345678910111213141516, 17

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