The other day I was listening to some music, really listening, for the first time in a long time, and it inspired me to want to list my favorites, in my opinion, right now, at this moment (which is probably different than it would have even been when the inspiration struck me, but oh well, whatever).
I may make my “Top 5” a somewhat regular feature, especially if I’m unable to come up with creative or interesting posts on a consistent basis, consider it my High Fidelity Plan (possible foreshadowing should I do a Top 5 for movies?).
Here are my favorite songs, of all time, right now, trying to avoid too much prejudice to what is new, fresh and plugged into my ears at this very moment:
1. “Lucky Man”, The Verve. The Verve are best known for Bittersweet Symphony, and to most, at least most Americans, that is the one and only thing they are known for. That, to me is one of the great musical travesties of all-time. And that is not an understatement…to me. Lucky Man is a far superior song, in rhythm, writing, and overall feel. True, Bittersweet Symphony is what inspired me to even find Urban Hymns, which may be my favorite, or at least, the most impactful album of my life, but Lucky Man has always meant so much more to me. It is a song that seems to reach the core of me. If I need motivation, it does it. If I’m down and need a lift, boom, done. If I’m just searching for meaning, or understanding, it can handle that too. Richard Ashcroft has a soulful, deep voice, and there is something so soothing and timeless about the song. It is made only that much better that is wasn’t a huge hit and blasted over the radio for months on end. Still feels fresh and new when I pop it on, like wearing that favorite jacket hanging in the closet when the weather is just right. Lucky Man makes me feel right.
2. “With or Without You”, U2. I could probably pick any one of a handful of songs by U2 for any place on this list and it would work fine, but With or Without You has, and remains, my favorite. True, for the generation just above me it may have been played out. But I discovered it a few years after it was huge, and it stuck with me through the time I was learning about love, or at least what I thought was love when I was in my early teens, and represented a desire and craving for a person that I could only fathom at that point. Now, having experienced what that love is about, and it’s pain, hope, inspiration, and dedication, the song has come to feel more true. Maybe a bit exaggerated still, as U2 tends to do so convincingly, but that’s also what gets the heart pumping. And in classic U2 form, it has the great lead-in and a military-esque drum and bass to it, buried behind Bono’s aching voice. Classic.
3. “The Story”, Brandi Carlile. If you don’t know Brandi Carlile, it’s time you learned. She borders the line of rock, folk, and country and has the most beautiful aching voice of any woman in music today. That’s just my opinion, of course, but if you take a listen to The Story, and close your eyes and let your mind just sink into her voice and the lyrics, it’s hard to deny her talent. The Story is almost like a companion piece to Lucky Man, a commentary on the lives we lead, the struggles and the heartache. This is one of those rare songs that stops me whenever I listen to it, and not to risk losing my man card, can almost bring me to tears in the right frame of mind. It just feels so real, and true.
4. “We’re in This Together”, Nine Inch Nails. I think sometimes NIN is easily dismissed as being great by a lot of people because of this perception that they are this dark, violent band, or something. Yes, Trent Reznor walks a fine line on occasion, but if you strip away many of the dark electronic tones of his tunes, you’re left with brilliantly written songs. It’s easy to forget that he is the one that wrote Hurt, which Johnny Cash song as if it was his own. We’re in This Together is the song that made me more than a casual listener to NIN and I have been the better fan of music for it. It is a love song, the kind of love song that leaves the flowers at the door and gets to the core of it. It represents commitment, struggle and passion unlike any love song I can think of, and does so with a beat that gets your heart racing. When I need a boost of confidence, or just want to a song to play in the dark, eyes closed, to redirect my mood to become more focused or competitive, this is the go-to. Works in every angle, and does so unapologetically.
5. “One”, U2. I feel like I am being a bit nearsighted with this list, but oh well, it is, after all, my list, and I prefaced it by saying it was my list as of right now. That being said, One is the song the recreated U2, and it is a song that I feel represents how we, as a world, should live. U2 is always making songs that feel like they should be in some compilation that is trying to save the world (which they do quite effectively, more often than not), and One is the apex of such songs. You feel the need for change, the desperation in it, to hold onto love, to understand the struggle, and ultimately to survive together – as a couple, as a society, as a world.
I could easily have tossed in a Beatles or Stones song, or even a Dylan tune, as some transparent attempt to seem like a true musicologist, but that wouldn’t have been real. These five songs are the ones that move me and have made me fall in love with music over and over again over the years.