What Makes a Song Good?

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George clearly contemplating the writing process, with guitar in tow

Today I’d like to discuss a topic that’s been coming to my mind recently as I’ve listened to Beatles songs and other songs alike, and that is, how do we as music listeners actually decide why a song is good or bad? The most important thing to remember here is that there really is no objective measurement of “goodness” or “badness” of a song. You can pretty much conclusively determine if someone is a skilled or unskilled piano player, but it’s a bit more murky to extend that level of objective analysis to judging the quality of an entire song. Of course, there are certainly songs I think are better than others, so here are a few points of comparison between songs and some examples to support that, both from the Beatles and from other artists I admire.

One point that’s recently been floating around in my mind is the idea of “good” songs balancing vocal and instrumental melodies. That is, the melody of the instruments is as important to the beauty and structure of the song as the melody of the vocals. This is assuming we’re discussing traditionally structured “pop” songs here, not 11-minute long instrumental jams. I hate to sound like a grump, but I find that so many modern pop songs have little instrumental substance and it’s all about highlighting the singer and their impressive growl or sky-high vocal riffs. There’s something about a song that has, say, an interesting opening guitar riff, melodic vocals, and other scattered instrumental breaks that just feels more complete to me. Songs like this also communicate that the quality of the song is what is most important, not the singer’s vocal talent. There’s a distinct, noticeable difference to me between a song that exists to celebrate beautiful, thoughtful music and a song that exists for a singer to show off how high they can belt.

Both categorizations have their place in the music industry, but the Beatles were musicians first and foremost and wrote songs that nearly always fall into the former category. Take “Eleanor Rigby,” for example. The staccato strings are really the iconic part of this song, not the Beatles singing. They sound great, obviously, but this song is a fraction of its final self without George Martin’s incredible string arrangement. Luckily Beatles fans are blessed with an officially-released instrumental version of this on the Anthology 2 album, and this may be the finest example of a Beatles song in which I actually prefer the solo orchestration to the complete song. There’s just so many interesting things to notice when you listen to only the string part, so many percussive strokes and instrumental counterparts, and it conveys the message of the song’s lyrics almost as well as the singing itself. But the complete song itself is what I highlight as a perfect example of a song that values its instrumentation just as much as its vocals.

In case that all weren’t enough to celebrate, it’s just over 2 minutes long and it feels perfectly complete. The song doesn’t thematically or instrumentally need to be any longer. There are no wasted notes here; they all contribute to the moving final product. The song’s inherent structure is so well-thought-out that it carries the beauty of the song all by itself. The more I listen to “Eleanor Rigby,” honestly, the more I marvel at it. It’s quickly moving up my list of favorite Beatles songs.

Another Beatles song that demonstrates their mastery of vocal and instrumental balance is “Here Comes The Sun.” This song features such a delicate, airy acoustic guitar part that I do wish there were an official version of just the instrumental parts without any of the Beatles’ vocals. It also features a lovely string arrangement, but rather than that being the star of this song, the interplay between the strings and the guitar combine to support the beautiful vocal part. “Here Comes The Sun” is absolutely a George Harrison masterpiece that is quickly becoming my new favorite Beatles song, mostly because the guitar is soothing and relaxing. I once heard a rare version of this song that features an additional overdubbed guitar solo, but I felt that it overpowered the rest of the song and did not mesh with the existing acoustic part. “Here Comes The Sun” is simply perfect and musically balanced the way it is.

In general, I feel that with songs I really admire, I could take out the vocals entirely and listen to only the instrumental backing and I’d love the song just as much. One example of a non-Beatles song that perfectly fits this description is “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. The separated, choppy, yet beautifully melodic guitar part always hooks me from the second that the song comes on the radio. I really do feel that this song would function almost as well as a wholly instrumental song. I say “almost” because I do also feel that part of the reason the guitar here is so enchanting is because of how it counters the vocals by providing continual instrumental breaks throughout the song. These “breaks” wouldn’t exactly be breaks if they were not broken up by an intervening vocal part, now would they. This song, unlike the previous two, does not feature any sort of orchestration. Its notable instrumental part is almost strictly guitar, but the guitar here has a life of its own and  beautifully carries the melodic weight of the song so that no additional instrumentation is necessary for the song to feel complete.

Slightly unrelated, but this song also directly connects to the Beatles by featuring a lyrical reference to “guitar George” who “knows all the chords” and “doesn’t want to make them cry or sing.” There’s a chance this isn’t intentionally referring to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but it seems more likely than not. After all that, I’m actually not 100% positive that this is a Beatles reference, but given that George Harrison is by far the most famous rock guitarist named George that I can think of, I’ll stick with this theory until proven wrong. Perhaps the guitar part throughout this song is meant as an ode to George’s carefully crafted Beatles guitar parts, which would certainly  explain why I love the song.

Much of the Beatles’ legend rests on their reinvention of the very idea of successful pop songs, and as this blog continually states, I do believe that they are still the masters of crafting songs with incredible attention to vocal and instrumental balance. However, they also epitomize the magical formula that I find takes a song from average to excellent, and that is a balance between highlighting vocals and highlighting instrumentals. It doesn’t necessarily have to be split 50/50, but I do feel that songs with a celebrated instrumental part, like the songs all mentioned above, possess more overall beauty than songs without.

I could go on and on about Beatles songs that feature a beautiful balance between vocals and instrumentals, and how this is also present in wonderful songs by other artists, but I’ll save that for another post. Until then, continue braving the long, cold, lonely winter and finding sunshine in your favorite songs.

I Finally Saw The Beatles On The Big Screen!

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One of the biggest news events in Beatle-land this year has been the recent release of the Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles’ touring years, entitled The Beatles: Eight Days A Week. As I have mentioned before, it’s been a dream of mine for years to go see a Beatles movie in the theaters and pretend I’m a fan from the 1960s seeing A Hard Days Night upon its release.

I tried to do that back in 2012, when a documentary called The Beatles: The Lost Concert was scheduled for wide release in theaters. This documentary (supposedly) captured the frenzy of the Beatles’ first concert in North America, which occurred in Washington D.C. on February 11, 1964. Unfortunately, it was never released in theaters due to copyright issues. When I learned of its canceled release, I was heartbroken, but I never stopped believing that perhaps one day another Beatles documentary would find its way to a theater near me.

I first heard about The Beatles: Eight Days A Week over the summer, and even after watching the official trailer on the Beatles’ YouTube channel and visiting the movie’s website, I still sort of thought it was too good to be true. I reserved mild hope that I’d be able to see this movie, but I figured that my efforts to see the Beatles on the big screen and learn new Beatles trivia would be thwarted once again.

However, as events fell into place, the stars aligned, and my prayers were answered, I actually was able to see this movie at a theater near my school just a few weeks ago! I was so excited at the prospect of seeing 90 minutes of remastered Beatles footage and audio, and the movie definitely exceeded my giddily high expectations.

At this point in my Beatles fandom, I’ve read and watched so much about them that it’s difficult for me to be shocked by any aspect of their narrative. And yet I continue indulging in Beatles-related releases like this movie because I am always amazed at their magical story. The Beatles’ rise to success in the 1960s is a remarkable tale, filled with astounding chart domination, incredibly concentrated musical output, and incalculable influence on the culture of their era. I keep coming back to Beatles movies, articles, and programs because I revel in hearing about how they took the world by storm and altered the whole concept of rock music and success for a band. It’s infectious and endlessly fascinating.

Back to the movie at hand, it certainly did not blow my mind with a wholly new perspective on the Beatles’ touring years. However, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie-watching experience for a Beatles fan. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of backstage footage that I had somehow never come across on YouTube or television. These clips emphasized that the Beatles really were a hilarious four-headed monster, at least in their early days. The movie also detailed a few points about the Beatles’ stops in specific areas of which I was not previously aware.

These included a 1964 Beatles concert in Florida that they flatly refused to perform unless they sang to an unsegregated crowd. Though the Beatles were from England, they were very conscious of the racial tensions present in the US at the time and took this opportunity to maintain their belief that any form of segregation was morally wrong and unacceptable to them. This isn’t really a huge spoiler, but I previously had no idea that the venue actually agreed to unsegregate the seating for that particular concert so the Beatles would still perform,  which helped set a precedent for unsegregated concert venues in that and surrounding areas.

This movie also focuses a lot on the difficulties that the Beatles faced during their rise to worldwide acclaim through their tours. I was not wholly aware of the actual danger that they were in just entering a building or driving around. There were many clips of near-riots on streets all over the world that stemmed from the Beatles’ arrival in that particular city. This is a helpful reminder for aspiring musicians that the only sustainable reason to become a musician is because you deeply love music, not because you want to be famous. I am always in awe of the immense scope of Beatlemania in the mid 1960s, but it certainly was not all good days and sunshine.

Despite all of this, I would trade just about anything to spend one day experiencing the height of Beatlemania. However, seeing this movie in the theaters is probably the next best thing. The Beatles: Eight Days A Week may not be groundbreaking, but honestly, barring some huge, covered-up scandal I don’t know about, it is difficult for any new Beatles project to be groundbreaking. What I absolutely love about the release of this movie is how it contributes to keeping the Beatles’ music and story alive in today’s generation. As long as there is the occasional Beatles-related project or musical re-release, I’ll have confidence that they will remain eminent figures in cultural lore.

‘The Getaway’: A Soaring Musical Getaway For RHCP

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Today I’m continuing my trend of occasionally diverging from Beatle-centric material to discuss the recent release of The Getaway, the 11th studio album by what is probably my second favorite band of all time, Red Hot Chili Peppers. This album has reaffirmed my belief that they are actually underrated by the general population for the incredible creativity and musicality of their catalog. They’re not just a funk-alternative-rock hybrid that sings “Under The Bridge” a lot, they are a genius musical conglomeration that has blessed the world with many, many awesome songs.

Speaking of awesome songs, this album is absolutely full of them! The Red Hot Chili Peppers strayed from their usual producer, Rick Rubin, on The Getaway, choosing to work instead with popular producer Danger Mouse. I’m not hugely up on music producers and their individual styles, but I do think that the change in producers is evident in this album’s more polished, modern sound. Some devoted fans of RHCP have complained about this, presumably longing for the days of yore when RHCP jumped all around the stage and wore nothing but socks during their concerts.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, I am always a champion of a band’s musical evolution if I feel that they are still staying true to their musical roots. As good an album as Californication is, it really would be tedious if RHCP released six albums exactly like it. In my mind, there’s a distinct difference between a band evolving their sound and a band “selling out” with pop drivel. The Getaway certainly represents the former for RHCP; it features just enough experimentation that is well-balanced with more straightforward songs, and to me, it all sounds like the signature Chili Peppers that I love so dearly.

To give my more specific opinions on the album, I’m going to do a quick song-by-song rundown! Here we go!

  1. The Getaway– This is definitely one of the less rock-sounding songs on the album, but I love the scattered guitar work in the beginning, and it has a well-deserved place among the RHCP canon as a soothing, mellow track.
  2. Dark Necessities– I feel that the album version could benefit strongly from a more prominent guitar part. However, it is a fantastic song with an addicting base line, and I absolutely love the guitar solo break near the end!
  3. We Turn Red– This song didn’t stick out to me upon my initial listening of the album, but it certainly is funky and has interesting lyrics. I’ll have to listen to it some more to truly get into it, I think.
  4. The Longest Wave– THIS, my friends, is I believe the best song on the album! From the guitar introduction, to the soft verses, to the majestic chorus, I am obsessed with listening to this song on repeat. Ride the wave, because this song should become a RHCP classic if there’s any justice in this world.
  5. Goodbye Angels– This song really rocks, I love it!!! One of my favorites on the album as well, it builds beautifully and the guitar slashes throughout the song will get stuck in your head. Also that guitar break near the end is just brilliant.
  6. Sick Love– Important to note that this song features the one and only Sir Elton John! It’s interesting and honestly I think I’d prefer it as a classic Elton John song than a RHCP song, but I appreciate it nonetheless.
  7. Go Robot– Wow, there’s not one but TWO bass parts on this song! I think it sounds better as a live version, as the album version sounds a little overproduced even within the context of this album. Still, it’s extremely catchy and should be a single soon, I’d love to hear it on the radio!
  8. Feasting on the Flowers– I love the breezy guitar style throughout this song. I don’t have a ton to say about it honestly, but it’s not a bad song at all.
  9. Detroit– This song rocks pretty hard while still fitting in to the Chili Peppers’ more modern musical style. Again, the guitar here definitely drives the song and keeps it fun!
  10. This Ticonderoga– This awesome song weaves back and forth between two very musically distinct parts, though I do think the two sections are a little randomly put together. Still, the song’s internal diversity is a new, interesting musical step for the Chili Peppers.
  11. Encore– My other favorite song on the album!! It’s much more mellow alternative than the Chili Peppers commonly go, but the guitar is hypnotic and addicting. I actually like its verses better than the chorus, which is unusual for me, but the driving, sort of poppy beat here actually works really well as a constant thread throughout the song.
  12. The Hunter– This song is honestly a little slow for me and drags a bit to be a favorite of mine, but if you’re in the mood for a much slower Chili Peppers song, this one has a lovely airy guitar part.
  13. Dreams of a Samurai– This is probably the most overtly experimental song on The Getaway, but upon multiple listens, it’s quite a fascinating song and a grand, inspiring closing gesture on this amazing album.

One thing I love about this album as a whole is how it features their current guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, much more prominently than did the previous Chili Peppers album, I’m With You. The aforementioned album was his first as an official member of the band, but his contribution to RHCP truly blossoms on The Getaway with the increased guitar presence and his lush backing vocals and harmonies. I’ve seen a lot of Josh-bashing on RHCP videos by overly nostalgic RHCP fans, but I think he’s a fantastic musician with a lot to offer for the Chili Peppers. I can’t wait to see what he’ll bring to the table for future RHCP albums!

So in conclusion, I love this album and I’ve been listening/harmonizing to it a lot this summer. With each listen, I continue to notice just how many diverse and interesting sounds there are on this album. For someone who enjoys unpacking individual elements of songs as they listen to them, this album is definitely for you. I’m so excited by its presence in my life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour the US soon to promote it! They are #1 on my current bucket list of concerts to see, and I have every faith that if/when I see them live, I will be transported on a musical getaway.

George Martin, The Real 5th Beatle

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The man who made the Beatles into rock pioneers.

Hello followers and readers of Beatle Me Do! I have returned from a hiatus for which I greatly apologize, but I have a few ideas for fun posts that I will be publishing throughout the summer! In the meantime, I have decided to dedicate a post to the late Beatles producer, George Martin, who died on March 8 of this year at age 90. Before becoming a music producer with the Beatles, Martin primarily produced comedy albums. However, he is most well known for signing the Beatles to a record contract in 1962 and producing every single Beatles album except for Let It Be, which was (some say) infamously produced by Phil Spector.

The debate over who is “the fifth Beatle” has gone on for decades and is practically a cliche by now. Some Beatles fans support awarding this illustrious title to members of the Beatles camp such as their manager, Brian Epstein, or their first drummer, Pete Best. However, if there really is such a thing as “the fifth Beatle,” I strongly believe that George Martin deserves that title.

His work in the studio with the Beatles helped transform their songs from acoustic demos into sonic masterpieces. He was a major player in the Beatles’ studio experimentation starting in around 1965 and strongly supported their use of the studio itself as an instrument. When the Beatles were on top of the charts and the musical world, George Martin was the man behind the curtain, the wizard of Oz who literally orchestrated their success. His death marks the passing of a figure essential to the Beatles’ musical innovation.

I’d like to touch on a few Beatles songs on which Martin had a particularly noticeable influence. First up is the acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show, Love. This show features some remixes of Beatles songs, but these remixes are composed only by compiling bits and pieces from different Beatles songs. This particular version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps originates from a demo version from the Beatles Anthology 3. It features a George Martin-composed orchestration that was the only original music composed for the Love album. I absolutely love this version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps; it’s a beautiful song made even more poignant and striking by the orchestra. Seeing the Love show is definitely on my Beatles-related bucket list!

Next, I’m going back to one of Martin’s first orchestral contributions to Beatles music, the famed song Yesterday, which features only Paul McCartney, an acoustic guitar, and a beautiful Martin-composed string quartet. Supposedly Paul was a bit skeptical about the idea of putting a string quartet on a song released by a rock band, but was convinced otherwise after Martin explained exactly how he planned to arrange it based on the chords of the song. This song is now legendary among the many iconic tracks in the Beatles’ catalog, thanks not only to the beauty of its melody and lyrics but also to the perfect melancholy accompaniment that the strings provide.

Another song which has an unmistakable George Martin touch is In My Life, on which he plays the sped-up piano break at the end of the song. I believe this is one of, if not the only, Beatles songs to feature a piano solo, or if not it was definitely the first to do so. It’s songs like this that truly embody the spirit of Rubber Soul, an album which challenged the definition of rock and roll and began pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation in rock music.

Eleanor Rigby is one of those Beatles songs that features an orchestra arrangement so strikingly iconic that I could listen to just the instrumentals and enjoy the song just as much. This is all thanks to George Martin, who insisted on creating a relentlessly staccato string arrangement that I regard as an absolute masterpiece. You can listen to the instrumental version of Eleanor Rigby, a track on the Beatles Anthology 2 album, here. Every time I listen to this track and try not to let my inner sing-along drown out what I’m actually hearing, I notice new little intricacies of the arrangement. It’s songs like this that absolutely astound me as to their fearless musicality and give me a true appreciation for the power of orchestral music. This song is just perfect.

Finally, what better way to close out this George Martin tribute post than with the behemoth of all classical arrangements in rock songs, the string section in A Day In The Life. This song is often ranked as the #1 best Beatles song, and while it’s not my #1 personal favorite, it is without a doubt an absolute, indisputable masterpiece. This is largely due to the enormous, chaotic, vaguely conducted orchestra part that builds and builds and always makes me feel like a car is about to hit me. Martin’s touch on this song is evident in its sonic power to completely overwhelm your senses and leave you breathless at its conclusion. What a song to close out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What. A. Song. Period.

Rest in peace, George Martin. I know this tribute is a few months late, but I tried to make a post that pays the proper respect to a man who was literally  and figuratively instrumental in crafting many of my favorite songs of all time. He was among the giants of the musical world, and he will certainly be missed.

 

Beatles, “Blackbird,” and Break-Up Rumors

Today I’d mostly like to discuss Dave Grohl’s recent performance of the Beatles’ famed “Blackbird” at the Oscars. I knew about a few of the scheduled Oscar performances before the date of the program, but for some reason I hadn’t heard about this one and it took me completely by surprise. When I heard those iconic opening chords and saw Dave Grohl alone on the stage with a guitar, I knew it would be a good tribute, and I was not disappointed. From spearheading production of the Sound City documentary from a few years ago, to recording “Cut Me Some Slack” with Paul McCartney, to performing on the Beatles 50th Anniversary Special, Dave Grohl has certainly earned my respect and admiration for his Beatles and classic rock-related ventures. He is one cool dude. In case you missed his feature on the Oscars, here it is for you!

One brief un-Beatles related tangent… This performance, along with some ambiguous comments by members of Foo Fighters, recently led to a rumor that Foo Fighters were breaking up, once and for all. Apparently these rumors have surfaced before, but supposedly this time Dave was striking out on his own to “do his own thing musically” and get away from the band.

So how did Foo Fighters respond to this rumor? Not with a concisely-stated tweet or Facebook post, but with this masterful 7 minute-long video. You really have to watch it yourself to get its full effect.

In conclusion, anything Beatles-related that Dave Grohl does is bound to be wonderful, and the members of Foo Fighters are complete bosses. Also in case you’re just not patient enough to watch the entire video and have not heard the news, Foo Fighters is NOT breaking up. Spoiler alert.

Anyway, going back to the original topic, I just love how Beatles music is now used to pay tribute to people that have nothing to do with the 60s or rock music in general. Their songs have become universal anthems for just about any subject or person because they were written with a timeless, relatable appeal. Not just Blackbird, but songs like Hey Jude, Yesterday, Let It Be, In My Life, and many others have been covered so often by other artists that I bet there are some people today who don’t know that those songs are originally by the Beatles. In those cases, I’d rather that they know the song’s origins, but as long as Beatles songs are still relevant in some form in this generation, their music is living on and speaking to people. That’s about all I can ask.

You didn't seriously think I'd forget his birthday, now did you?

You didn’t seriously think I’d forget his birthday, now did you?

Finally, happy belated birthday to George Harrison, who after all this time is still definitely my favorite Beatle and one of my musical and personal inspirations. I’ve devoted many a post to him on this blog, but for now I’ll just say that his music is thoughtful, creative, and truly beautiful, just like him. I wish his solo songs were more well known by the general population, but with recent releases like the “George Fest” DVD and the masterful Scorcese documentary from a few years ago, he seems to be gaining more acclaim, slowly but surely. Let’s continue that upwards trend, to 2020 and beyond!

As is the nature of the Beatles in the 21st century, something new Beatles-related is bound to come up soon, but for now I’m signing off. Enjoy your days, and may they all be Good Days (of) Sunshine. 🙂

A Magical Mystery Post

Well it’s late at night and I’ve decided to do a post where I just talk about a few Beatles and music-related things that come to mind. In the past with blogging, I’ve found that my favorite posts are borne out of an utter lack of initial ideas that then becomes an uninterrupted stream of consciousness. So let’s just see where this goes!

It’s been 23 days since the news broke that David Bowie had died, and though some of the initial shock and disbelief has passed for me, I still find myself listening to his songs a lot more than I ever have before. I stand by my favorites that I posted last month, but as I’ve continued to dig deeper into his catalogue, I’ve discovered more songs of his that I absolutely love, including Hang On To Yourself. I had never heard of this song until about a month ago, but one day it came up on shuffle and I could not stop listening. I think it’s one of his catchiest and most fun songs, and certainly an underrated cut from the Ziggy Stardust album. It also sounds kind of punk-ish, yet another example of Bowie being musically ahead of his time. Definitely take a listen if you don’t know it already! (or even if you do, because it is a fantastic song)

This week also marks 52 years since the Beatles first landed in America to perform on the Ed Sullivan show, thus spurring the Beatlemania we all know and that I’ve posted about many, many times before on this blog. Once again, I continue to admire how strong of a presence the Beatles have in society today. They’ve even made it into children’s books!

Awwww this is just so cute!

Awwww this is just so cute!

My mom sent me this picture of a cute book she saw recently, which made me realize that the Beatles are truly at “textbook-status” now. They’re basically historical figures, synonymous with an era in history defined by revolutions in music, politics, fashion, and countless other things. The fact that books like this are being published to make the Beatles accessible to young children is truly heartwarming. It gives me continued confidence that the greatness and brilliance of the Beatles will never fade from the world.

Random Beatles Song I’ve Been Listening To A Lot Recently: You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away

For some reason I couldn’t find the original version of this on YouTube, nor could I find the clip with it from the Help movie. 😦

Anyway, one thing I’ve realized about this song as I’ve listened to it more and more is that it is, in my opinion, one of the Beatles songs that has aged the best. It really sounds like it could be released today, that’s how timeless it is, and I absolutely adore the melody. As much as I love the Beatles’ more experimental songs like I Am The Walrus, I also admire their simpler, more folksy songs that can be performed with just a guitar and a voice. This is one of my favorite Beatles songs to walk around singing to myself. I never get sick of it! If I one day learn how to play guitar, I will learn this song for sure.

That’s all for now folks. I’ll be back soon!

 

My Top 10 Favorite David Bowie Songs

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A master of his craft, David Bowie is certainly gone too soon ❤ 

I definitely was not expecting to blog quite so soon after my last post. When I woke up this morning to the horrible news that David Bowie had died of cancer, I immediately prayed that it was another celebrity death hoax, but when I saw the news on his official Facebook page I knew it had to be true. Though I have not listened to the majority of his astounding 25 studio albums, I do consider myself a big fan of his. His incredible, artistic music aside, David Bowie seemed like a musical and artistic genius to me with how he continually reinvented himself and refused to duplicate his past work.

He is also a musician whose existence I suppose I took for granted, in that I just assumed he’d be around forever to promote his album, musical, and various future projects. I sincerely wish I had listened to him more and fully appreciated his artistry while he was alive. But I suppose the best I can do now is to honor him by posting my ten favorite songs of his and why I love them. Again, these may be somewhat mainstream choices because I am not familiar with all of his extensive catalog, but I hope to remedy that in the near future. This list may change for me, but at this moment, these are my favorites, so that’s what I’m going with.

10. Ashes to Ashes

I forget when exactly I first heard this song, but I do recall being extremely intrigued by the opening. It has a really interesting sound that I can’t quite put my finger on, and I love how it brings back the Major Tom character from “Space Oddity.” One thing I’ve noticed about David Bowie’s songs is how they often have the same beat throughout the entire song, which you might think would make them eventually tedious but they somehow never are. This song is just magical and I love it!

9. The Man Who Sold The World

I actually first found out about this song from the Nirvana cover on their MTV Unplugged album. I’m very thankful for that, because the original version is so intricately arranged that each piece seems like a puzzle piece meant to perfectly fit in a whole. The guitar riff is also somewhat ominous and unresolved, which adds to this song’s mystique and strengthens its overall appeal for me.

8. The Jean Genie

My favorite part of this song is definitely the guitar throughout. I just cannot get enough of it, it’s so catchy! Beyond that, the lyrics are fun and the harmonica is awesome, also the bass at the end is pretty badass. I don’t have a ton else to say about this one, I’ve just always gotten very happy when it comes on the radio and it is one of my favorite Bowie songs!

7. Starman

This is an absolute gem off of the Ziggy Stardust album, which is filled with gems. I know it was kind of the point of the album, but I love how many songs on this album involve stars. It all seems so fantastical and otherworldly, which judging by Bowie’s look during this period was fully intentional. I also love the part of this song where the music stops except for some cool spacey star sounds, I honestly don’t know what instrument that is but I think it is pretty self explanatory. Also I’ve noticed the lyrics to this song take on an entirely different meaning in the context of Bowie’s death. Something to think about.

6. Under Pressure

This song is a true classic for both Queen and David Bowie, but I felt compelled to include it here because it is so brilliantly crafted to show Bowie’s talent. I love how it builds and builds to a triumphant climax and then tapers off again towards the end. It’s one of those songs that I have to listen to all the way through if it comes on the radio or anywhere because though it is an extremely popular song, it is not overrated in the slightest. Somewhere right now, I bet David Bowie and Freddie Mercury are singing it together. 🙂

5. Ziggy Stardust

I hope it’s not terrible to say that whenever I hear this song, I first think of Jimmy Fallon’s “Tebowie” skit that changed its lyrics to apply to Tim Tebow. That video always makes me laugh, but aside from that, this is yet another well-crafted rock song from David Bowie. The guitar here absolutely makes the song for me once again. In fact, this is probably one of my favorite guitar-heavy songs that I can think of by any artist. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Jimmy’s “Tebowie” character is certainly the highest form of flattery for this fantastic song.

4. Life on Mars

This may not be #1 on my favorites list, but musically this is an absolute masterpiece. It may well be his very best song ever. The piano here is stunning, it reminds me of “Rocket Man” by Elton John a bit with its complicated, unpredictable, majestic chord progressions. How funny that both songs are about outer space in some way. Anyway, for me this is up there with “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a truly perfect example of rock music at its finest and most artfully cinematic.

3. Suffragette City

This is probably one of the most fun, upbeat David Bowie songs out there, and I think it was also one of the first songs I heard by him. The chorus with its piano part reminds me a lot of the Beatles’ “Back In The USSR,” and in general it is just an awesome song. I get really excited whenever I hear it and could honestly play it on repeat for hours on end. It’s that good!

2. Fashion

To be honest, it was really hard for me to choose between the top three songs on this list. I basically like this song just as much as my #1 choice, but for different reasons, so I put it at #2 here. The whimsical lyrics here are fun and lovable, the guitar is percussive and slightly abrasive, and the whole song is, for lack of a better word, fantastic. I think I identify with this song on a spiritual level, it means that much to me!

And…

1. Heroes

I didn’t discover this song until I saw “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” a few years ago, which is a wonderful movie, but it quickly became my favorite David Bowie song and one of my favorite songs in general. “Heroes” is truly inspiring, empowering, and uplifting. The guitar is lush and magical, and as always, David Bowie’s distinctive voice soars above the instrumentation. This song touches me emotionally like very few songs do, even including Beatles songs. Whenever I hear it, I feel like I can become a hero and do anything. I, like Charlie in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” feel infinite.

Honorable Mentions: TVC 15, Space Oddity, Changes, DJ, Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Rebel Rebel

I did not really anticipate posting about David Bowie on this blog, but as a fan of the Beatles and all whom they inspired, which includes Bowie, I felt it was necessary. May David Bowie join John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, and the ranks of rock stars whose legend only grows after their untimely death. Rock on, Starman.