The best songs are like a good short story. They both have a clear point of view and just enough space between the words for the listener or the reader to bring their own life history or interpretation to bear. They haunt you, they stick with you, they transport you. They are woven together with words and melodies that evoke emotion, recall a place, a time, or a feeling. They shouldn't be confused with the type of songs that have such an inane melody or beat that they become one of those wanton worms that get stuck in your head threatening momentary madness. (Think of the Disneyland tune that shalt not be named.) That's a topic for another day.
But when I am asked to pick just one favorite song; what is an impossible feat. What I love about music is that it beckons to be the soundtrack of our lives and gives us permission to be fickle with no regrets. I love the type of songs that allow us to be angry, sentimental, defiant, inappropriate, wistful, full of hope, or full of despair without judgment or expectation. Just like it is impossible for me to imagine choosing one favorite book, movie, or poem, I can’t imagine choosing one singular song.
What I have been known to do as of late (one of the great advantages of living in the digital age) is to send song pairings to friends, usually on a whim or in celebration of a birthday, holiday, etc. It’s an inexpensive form of entertainment with the cost of admission being two dollars and an itunes account. It celebrates the power of curated choice over random juxtaposition. It is similar to how a foodie may plan a wine pairing. I choose two songs that are similar in message or emotion, but sung from two different points of view or perspective. To get you started, here is a menu of some of my recent favorites (complete with digital links for your listening pleasure):
For the relationship gone wrong put in the hands of man’s best friend:
For those who need to shed a few tears over unrequited love and contrition:
Exploring the effects of gravity:
Hope for the future:
So try a little curatorial storytelling of your own. Pair two songs together like a fine chef and sommelier and tell a story, capture a moment or celebrate a loved one. It's living proof that words and music are one of the things that make us distinctly human.