Friday, March 19, 2010

Sad Songs Say So Much

As I have mentioned, this blog is designed to provide not only my personal thoughts on a variety of topics as well as information concerning my efforts to develop a character in the ancient computer game of Nethack/Rogue/Moria that reaches an ultimate winning scenerio, but will also serve to create a potential grading situation in my final class at the University of Baltimore by focusing on the topic of video games and how they impact and reflect upon society.  Today's post will be about depressing songs, which furthers none of those goals.  That's just how I roll.

I was driving home yesterday, listening to Pandora radio being streamed over my iPhone and pumping through my car's stereo, when the song selection went a bit dark on me.  Rather then the upbeat melodies harkening back to my roots in alternative music of the 80's and 90's, now instead I was treated to more recent tunes of a somber and deliciously painful nature.  Things like "Hurt", the Johnny Cash remake of the Nine Inch Nails tune.

As I pondered this, I started thinking of website popularity again.  What makes a website really popular?  Well, to be popular you have to have lots of viewers.  Imagine the irony.  But, how should I achieve this?  Several possibilities and ideas quickly came to mind.  For example, you can do something tremendously controversial, like posting photos showing Mother Theresa beating poor children in Calcutta, but as I happen to admire the spunky little nun who spent her life working with the disadvantaged, and would rather not be lumped in with the slimy likes of people such as Matt Drudge, I've decided to forgo that route. 

Another possibility would be going straight out porn.  However, I doubt anyone wants to see me naked, so I'll avoid that, too.  Those of you who do, please keep your opinions private (email me later, wink wink, nudge nudge).

What really spoke to me was:  a list.  Every great website or blog has to post a list of "the best" or "the worst" or the "the most average".  Some such nonsense like that.  Since depressing music was filling my metal beast, I opted to go with the following....



Top Ten Most Depressingly Wonderful Songs of All Time (Rock and Blues Category):

(Like all such lists, this will be controversial, so please feel free to post your own under the comments section, and I will proceed to ignore you)

10.  Hold On - Sarah McLachlan.  There are problem dozen of McLachlan songs to choose from, particularly other songs from the Fumbling Towards Ecstasy album (one of my favorite albums ever).  But Hold On is a powerful blast of "life's hard, please don't die on me" that jabs you in the heart every time you hear it.  On a rainy day, even a hardened prick like me gets a tear in his eye listening to this one.

9.  Black - Pearl Jam.  It was a toss up between this and Alive from the same album, Ten, which is probably the greatest rock album of the 90's after Nirvana's Nevermind (which wins out only because of its influence on the music scene).  But when it comes to loss of the ONE you loved, this song defines it all.  All the love gone bad/turned my world to black/tattooed all I see.  Yeah.... even I'm depressed now.

8.Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd.  I might have to move this one up further on reflection, but for the time lets leave it here.  You really have to take a Floyd album as a whole work, though, not just a single song from each.  But Comfortably Numb truly highlights the pain and angst of the album, The Wall.  I can remember sitting and smoking a cigarette after watching the movie, and realizing later then I had not taken a single drag, the whole butt had burned down to one long ash.  The Child is gone/The Dream is gone... if I keep listening to this, I'll be gone.

7. Hallelujah - Leonard Cohen.  There have been multiple dozens and hundreds of remakes of this tune.  My personal preference is for either the John Cale version from the I'm Your Fan Cohen tribute album, or Leonard Cohen himself singing it in his deep, whispery voice.  I'm still not really sure if this song is about love lost, lust lost, or religion lost... but it moves, it does.

6.  How Soon is Now - The Smiths.  You could very well place almost any tune by the Smiths in this list, the only problem is they tend to write very bubbly music and combine it with depressing lyrics (think:  Girlfriend in a Coma, or Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want).  How Soon is Now was first released as a B-Side, but became so popular with the Goth/Death/Freak crowd it was soon re-released as it's own single.  It's gone on to become one of the recognizable - and imminently depressing - anthems of its generation, speaking to millions of us about the angst of going to a party, being totally ignored, and going home depressed.  Story of my high school life!

5.  Uninvited - Alanis Morissette.  The angry, feisty chanteuse of the mid-90s came back later with one of those most haunting tunes to depict obsession and stalking.  There's something truly interesting in the lyrics when she says like/any hot blooded woman/I simply wanted an object to crave/but you/you're not allowed/you're uninvited.  Damn... sorry I asked you to have a cup of coffee, girl!

4.  Strange Fruit - Billy Holiday.  No singer exemplifies the blues era more then Holiday, and no song reveals the depth of emotion of that time period then this one.  Very few of us who were born after the 50's can imagine what it was like walking down the street and seeing the body of a black man hanging from a tree, the victim of a lynch mob.  Billy Holiday will help you realize it with this dark and poignant song.

3.  Hurt - Johnny Cash.  Written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame, it seems hardly likely that the old country singer could take such a modern and bleak tune about drug addiction and turn it into a defining moment.  Yet he did, thus reminding us that you don't need to be young and gritty to be good.  Old, with a voice that wavers from strong into brief moments of gravelly frailty turned out to be truly amazing.

2.  Nothing Compares 2 U - Sinead O'Connor.  Written and performed originally by Prince, it was Skinhead's version that made this song what it became.  A true symbol of the torture of breaking up and realizing you were a complete and utter ass to your love.  It's been seven hours and fifteen days/since you took your love away.  It might as well have been seven decades and fifteen months, you could feel the depression just oozing from the power ballad.

1.  Something I can Never Have - Nine Inch Nails.  Having written the song that Cash carries into the number 3 slot, Reznor returns with absolutely the most dark, depressing, horrifyingly heart killing song ever recorded for a rock album.  The dark piano tones are only overcome by the even more gut wrenching lyrics.  I still recall the taste of your tears/Echoing your voice just like the ringing in my ears... You make this all go away/You make this all go away/I'm down to just one thing/I'm starting to scare myself... Everywhere I look you're all I see/Just a faded fucking reminder of who I used to be....   oh yeah... give me the knife, I'm heading for the tub now....

What do you think?  What's your favorite awesomely gut kicking depressing tune?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog already in progress....

1 comment:

  1. I just heard Dan Fogelberg's Same Auld Lang Syne while shopping at Trader Joe's for wine, cheese and chocolate of all things. You know, the makings of a Happy New Year's Eve. I almost walked out of the store. Blech. It's not the saddest song ever. But close.

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