This is a bit of a down period for new tracks as records I was looking forward to left me a bit flat, I’m looking at you Rhye, and the music industry gathers its collective breath from the onslaught of amazing music in the final months of 2020. Not to mention that I need a few more listens of the new Lana Del Rey single before I know how I feel about it. So, it is a great time to write a few feature story.
As you found out, I love a good track list. I have been living in the latest Taylor Swift records, which has me thinking about tracks that I emotionally connect with and why I love them. I mean, we all emotionally connect with music on some level, or why would we listen to it? I am looking at 10 tracks that immediately speak to my soul. That grab me and cause me to transcend space and time. These are tracks that cause me to look at the world differently, cry, love, or listen to it over and over for hours. These are tracks that get me in my feels. Let’s kick this off:
Now, you may know the cover by Jeff Buckley more than Cohen’s original. Cohen wrote over ten pages of lyrics for this song, which John Cale used in his cover. So, this is one of the rare times the cover has lyrics you can’t find in the original. That being said, Cohen’s poetry in this song is vivid and mesmerising. However, what makes this track really get to me is the angelic choir leading into the chorus. Those vocals are so uplifting and spiritual, which ties the entire track together as well as contrasts well with Cohen’s haunting voice. I love this track.
This one may seem a bit out of left field, but hear me out. Once I became a father some movies and tracks hit me differently than before. Moana is one of those movies and soundtracks. This track comes at a point in the movie where Moana is down on herself and she thinks all is lost. With help from her grandma’s spirit, Moana looks into herself to discover her inner strength and who she is. This all comes together as she shouts her name with pride; “I am Moana!” As a father, I try to instil that inner belief and pride in my daughter everyday. It sounds weird, but I was proud of Moana when I heard that song in the cinema and I cried like a new born calf….and I still do every time I hear that track.
You all know I would pick a Taylor Swift song and here it is. I have said a lot about this track, so I won’t go into too much detail. I love how stripped back it is and how Taylor’s voice has a fragility to it. However, this track really shines lyrically and is a written masterpiece. The way Swift is able to take a complex issue as DV / abuse and explore it from a child’s point of view is heartbreaking. She captures how such a destructive force as abuse can erode a child’s innocence and sense of safety in the world. I believe that Seven and Exile are the best songs Swift has ever written and I am excited to listen to more beautiful work in this vain.
When Johnny Cash covered Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, the world collectively sobbed for two weeks. When Rick Rubin started Cash’s American series, he sought to capture the raw emotion as Cash neared death. By this time June Carter – Cash died and the only way Johnny Cash knew how to grieve was getting in the studio and singing. Even though Cash was doing covers, his eclectic selections brought a whole new dimension to his music. You can hear the sorrow and years in his voice as he trudges through the track. He takes this industrial Nine Inch Nails call to arms and turns it into a dirge full of pain and regret. This song still gets me and the entire American series is a fitting cap to Cash’s brilliant career.
Bob Marley was a man who fought for social justice and promoted spiritual connection. Stop That Train is a track that brings these two aspects of Marley’s life together in a moving track. He sings of trying his best, but seeing the end of his life ahead of him and questions what it all means. As he is on the train he sees people living in poverty, loneliness, hunger and sadness. However, he does see people trying their best. Even though he wants to get off, he keeps riding that train and trying to make a difference. This internal struggle really speaks to me and I think it really captured what was going on for Marley at the time. He would go on from this song to make a huge impact socially and politically across Jamaica and the world.
We have spent a lot of time on abuse, pain, regret, sorrow and inner conflict. Now it is time to warm your soul. Aretha can bring a gospel track unlike any other artist in music. Her voice just soars and lifts your spirit. You cannot help, but sing along with it and smile. I love this song and I love her voice. Everyone needs a song to recharge your soul and speak to you on another level. If you do not believe in God and heaven, you put on this song and you will for the next 3:44.
We now run into some of the most depressing songs ever recorded. Dolly Parton is an excellent singer – songwriter and Jolene is a prime example of her writing talent. Your heart breaks as you hear Dolly plead with Jolene to not steal the only love in her life, because she believes she cannot compete with her. In most country songs about the “other woman” she is usually insulted or the artist sings about beating her up; see Loretta Lynn’s Fist City. Dolly goes the opposite way and praises Jolene to the brink of worship. Her taking time to praise Jolene drives home her heartbreak even more. Dolly’s classic blues country voice with these lyrics creates a mix that you can’t beat.
This is probably the most depressing song ever recorded. First of all, Ian Curtis sings about his relationship falling apart into smouldering rubble as he grasps in vain at any shred of love / joy. Second, he his lyrics of desperation and failing to function almost are prophetic as Curtis will commit suicide roughly two months after recording this track. In fact, Love Will Tear us Apart was officially released one month after his death. This context makes Love Will Tear us Apart a very complicated track to unpack. On the one hand, if you listen to this track in a vacuum you hear the music, lyrics and vocals and think that the sky is the limit for Joy Division. However, you think of how Curtis killed himself and this may have been the last track he ever recorded and the lyrics take on a darker tone. This is the core conflict within the song that makes it so powerful. You have the darkness Curtis shows you in his lyrics contrasted with the band’s musical brilliance.
The fact that a folk song about alcoholism and regret went #6 on the Billboard top 100 is a riddle. In the vastness of 1988 vacuous neon soaked pop the fact that this song broke through speaks to how it connected with people. This is a song about regret, longing for a better life, the debilitating nature of alcoholism and feeling trapped. I really connected with that trapped feeling and wanting to get into a fast car and escape. Chapman is an excellent storyteller and her ability to capture feeling trapped through familial obligation and dreaming of running away for a better life is amazing. I can listen to this song over and over and still get the same emotional connection I got when I first heard it in 1988.
This entire record can be on this list. There are not a lot of light notes on The Verve’s Urban Hymns. The Drugs Don’t Work have some of the most depressing lines in any pop song in existence; “Like a cat in a bag, waiting to drown.” You can see him sitting on the couch opening his heart out to his lover who is slowly dying. I also think Richard Ashcroft’s voice is raw and emotive, which adds a dimension to this song that lifts the entire track. I think what makes the track work is that Ashcroft leaves the door open for hope when he sings about seeing her face again. He doesn’t just “think” he’s going to see her face again, but he “knows” he will see her again. Without this light at the end of the tunnel, the song would be too heavy and weigh you down.
I would love to hear which songs get you in your feels. Email me at email@example.com or leave a comment. Now, I’m going to listen to Moana and cry. Love it.