”By morning, you’ll be gone.” – Joel from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The above is a quote that I wanted to use as my title because it’s one of my favorite sad lines of all time. It reminds me of lying in bed, knowing that the next day there will be heartbreak. The saddest moment can often be not the moment itself but when you know it’s coming.
I like to think, regardless of who you are or your interest, we all have at least one song that really hits us. It tugs at your heartstrings, it takes you back to a different time, it can even go so far as to define you as a person. That’s one of the beautiful things about music. It has a strange and subtle universal appeal. Music has the power to break people down with its intoxicating and romanticized delivery of basic human communication.
For myself it doesn’t get any more romanticized than the following song. These songs all hold a very near and dear place in my heart. Some of them I empathize greatly with, others I associate with a particularly difficult time in my life, and others I just “get”. If you’re curious I invite you into my stupid stupid brain and listen to the songs that tug at my heartstrings.
Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
This is one of those songs that I just get. I know everything Cee Lo Green is singing about here. The want to lose your mind, the revelation that maybe you already have. There’s something about the subtle bittersweet taste of insanity that has a strange attraction to it. I can remember the revelation that maybe I’ve already begun to slip and how it felt. There’s just something about the lyricism and delivery of Crazy that makes the whole concept that maybe we’re all just different levels of madness beautiful. It’s just mesmerizing and it almost brings a tear to my eye really.
When We Were Young by Dolores O’Riordan
Dolores O’Riordan has always been an artist that I empathized greatly with and her debut album Are You Listening? has always had an extremely close place in my heart. Not only for being one of the best albums I’ve ever heard but for how deeply heartwrenching so many of her songs were for me as I was going through a lot of bullshit. Only recently have I been able to listen to this album again, actually. When We Were Young encapsulated my own personal struggle to break out of my situation both at home and at school. I wanted so much to be back in my childhood, where everything was simple and sweet. Where my mother was my mother, my father was my father, my home was my own, and I felt comfortable in my own skin. Something about Dolores’ beautiful Irish voice, coupled with her lyrics, just breaks me down every single time.
That’s the Way by Led Zeppelin
Whenever I hear this song I get instant visions of riding on the bus and completely empathizing with every single word Plant sang. My first real school experience, a school where I felt like I belonged and where I actually stayed, didn’t occur until I was fairly deep into high school and for all I did there was always a lingering aura of isolation. Just a distinct feeling that no matter how accepted I would ever become I was never “one of the gang.” I was a traveler, just passing through, and eventually we’d all say our goodbye and I’d just be a memory or a joke. That’s the Way, a song I frequently listened to on the bus as it left the high school, has just always stuck with me in how it seemed to be prophesying my future. Turns out, as the college years go by, it was kinda right and it hurts to admit that. But that’s the way it oughta be I suppose.
Carry On by The Cranberries
Carry On is one of those songs that I both empathize with and that came in a very convenient time in my life. I guess you could say it was my first “love” and she was a particularly complicated one. We were both pretty broken and I don’t think I was really ready to admit until sometime after we had met that I just couldn’t fully understand what she was going through. It hurt because a part of realizing that also meant that I had to give her up and just face the fact that I can’t help everyone with everything. I could only wish the best for her and I still remember the night I dedicated this song to her. It was a lonely and heartbreaking one to say the least.
Cover My Eyes by La Roux
One of the reasons I absolutely love La Roux is because of Elly Jackson’s obviously personal lyricism. It makes it so easy to relate to, and while really I could pull any song from their debut album and go on and on about the lyrical content one of the most striking for me is this little gem. It’s the feeling of being wanted and of knowing that as much as you want to be your own person there’s that one person who will always have you by strings. It’s not a feeling of jealously or envy but it’s that thirst for mutual wanting. I still can’t see how you can’t be moved when she sings “So would you want me pease / I’m trying hard to breathe / Stop me from crying”.
The Flowers by Regina Spektor
Regina Spektor is easily one of my favorite 21st musicians and The Flowers is a prime example of why. The opening line, “The flowers you gave me are rotting and still I refuse to throw them away,” always strikes a chord with me. The song is a symphony of restlessness, about clinging onto that last hope for a happy ending, and about the odd beauty in frustration. I’ve never been a stranger to restlessness or emotionally heavy frustration. Every time I hear The Flowers I am instantly reminded of some of my toughest times in my household. Hearing the yelling, the fighting, the cursing. Seeing the damage on the walls and the floors. Songs from Regina Spektor became something of a beautiful haven for me. Just romantic enough to be fantasy but just real enough to take to heart.
Laughing With by Regina Spektor
Laughing With, from Spektor’s latest studio album, is absolutely gut wrenching. I remember first hearing this song and stopping dead in my tracks and listening in awe at the horror. It’s an interesting horror. It’s the horror of the truth. My family is very religious and while I wouldn’t say that I am something about the image of tragedy happening by the will of a God that so many scoff just always stuck with me. It’s probably the only song on here that I wouldn’t say I have any specific personal attachment to. It’s purely the image the song conveys that always brings me to my knees.
Silver Dagger by Joan Baez
Aside from being absolutely fucking beautiful Silver Dagger has always managed to make me soft because I know exactly how this story goes. Silver Dagger is a song about a young girl who wants to wed a boy but her mother disapproves. In the song she tells the boy of how awful her father was to her mother and that she urges that he run far away because she has accepted that she’ll be alone all her days. While I empathize with the narrator in this story I have often played the part of the boy and let me say it fucking sucks. It’s something about the delivery of this song in all its beauty and simplicity that makes it all the more bittersweet.
Hey by Pixies
I never recognized the genius of Pixie’s Hey until it rained. For some reason the autumn rain on that day is where I “got” it. A very close friend and I were growing distant and I wanted nothing more than to grab her head and just shout “HEY!” I didn’t know what I wanted to say or if it would make any sense but I knew that was what I wanted to do. And then lo and behold on a windy rainy autumn on the school bus Pixie’s Hey does just that. It was almost like a revelation. From then on the song has become my “Life sucks and makes no fucking sense so let’s quite being stupid and deal with it,” anthem. It sounds weird I guess that something like that could bring a tear to your eye but for me it certainly did shake me to my core.
We’re Going to Be Friends by The White Stripes
I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not but in my short lifetime high school was kind of a big deal. While I certainly expect it to get better (and trust me it is) those were the best 4 years of my life that I can recall. For all the shit and sprinkles it all turned out to be pretty damn memorable. We’re Going to Be Friends always takes me right back to that school. The first day of school, awkwardly making friends, all of my teachers (who were always characters), the whole experience. In a weird sort of way I’d never want to go back but I miss it while I was there.
You Are My Sunshine
When I was very young I had a lot of phobias. Some more serious than others but none were particularly easy for a little kid to deal with. Whenever I was afraid my mother would sing You Are My Sunshine until I fell asleep. That was when she was motherly, when life was simple, when the weight of society and her pressures were yet expected of me. You Are My Sunshine has always held an incredibly personal place to my heart that will never be replaced. Miss you mommy.
What songs do you guys have that just hit you every time? Heck, if you don’t mind tell us the whole story. We got Kleenex. It’s all good.