In the wake of being isolated and quarantined due to the Coronavirus, I figured it was as good a time as any to restart the blog. For my first post in months, I’ll still to something more light-hearted and fun rather than heavy and overbearing. We could all use some fun and interactive reading, right? So this will simply be a list of some of my favorite lyrics in songs across all genres and eras. Hopefully this will lead you to new artists and possibly even rekindle a love for a former artist or refresh a memory long since forgotten.
Counting Crows – John Appleseed’s Lament
Lyric: “I cigarette the winter air/ and then I Fred Astaire my way down 7th Street”
The song opens with a bluesy riff with Adam Durtiz recounting seemingly normal, everyday events in his life, but, in typical Counting Crows’ fashion, romanticizes and laments on the ordinary. This lyrics specifically paints a vivid picture of anyone walking down the street in winter, breathing heavily and dancing around like Fred Astaire, their breath being visible because of the frigid winter air similarly to how a cloud of smoke appears from a cigarette. The song provides beauty and whimsy to an otherwise mundane event; plenty of people walk down seventh street and see their breath. Why does Adam Duritz feel special enough to write an entire song about winter, and what does John Appleseed have to do with any of it? The Crows are known for their complex metaphors and somewhat disconnected lyrics, but “John Appleseed’s Lament” at its surface is an extraordinary example of maintaining youthful intrigue and playfulness and finding joy or happiness in any event. There’s no embarrassment for dancing down a busy Manhattan avenue; only bliss.
Rise Against – Audience of One (acoustic)
Lyrics: “We ran away/ Now all my friends are gone/ Maybe we’ve outgrown all the things that we once loved”
This whole song is really packed with incredible lyrics that pack a nostalgic, reflective punch. This song in particular hits me hard, especially this lyric. It’s one of the first songs my band learned in middle school, and a reminder that as we grow up things don’t always bring the same amount of joy that they used to. My bandmates are my lifelong best friends, and we all still talk and hang out as regularly as possible, and this song is a testament to that friendship in my view. It’s also a reminder of the fragility of youth and the innocence that dissipates instantaneously. Any attempt to regain past experiences or to take up old hobbies to try and feel the same sense of fulfillment and joy are either futile or short-lived at best. We can’t get back time we’ve lost, no matter how hard we try. Despite that, we all seem to try our best to relive our glory days and postpone our youth, even when we are long past our prime. It’s a helpless, hopeless feeling to want to regain the innocence lost with age, but it’s impossible to recapture. One of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with in this life is accepting the fact that I can’t go back and that things have to change and become more difficult.
Ben Rector – “Old Friends”
Lyric: “You can grow up, make new ones/ but truth is, there’s nothing like old friends,/ ’cause you can’t make old friends”
Keeping with the nostalgic theme, Ben Rector perfectly describes the relationship between old friends and the relationship/role they played and still play. The song is laced with minute observations only old friends would know: what their parents’ back porch looked like, what in-line skates they each had, the names of first loves and ex-girlfriends, etc. As a whole, the song is happily reminiscing on old times while still acknowledging that times have changed. Ben Rector performs the song with his high school bandmates and features them each prominently in the lyrics, as well. For anyone who misses old friends they’ve lost contact with or don’t see as often, it is the perfect song to put you in a sentimental mood and remind you of your childhood friend group. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.
John Mayer – Stop This Train
Lyric: “So scared of getting older/ I’m only good at being young.”
Another song chalk full of incredible lines, and another song that exemplifies the growing process and dealing with becoming more independent. When youth is all you know, anything else seems so scary and unpredictable. Typically we seek advice from our parents in unfamiliar/scary situation, and this song includes a conversation between John and his dad, who comforts him by saying that life is beautiful in all of its stages. Regardless of how much we relish or long for the past, the next stages will contain beauty and innocence of their own. It might be harder, but it’ll be worth it.
The Avett Brothers – Swept Away
Lyric: “What more is a rainbow/ Than colors out of reach?”
A song that encompasses the infatuation a man feels for a woman, “Swept Away” is one of the more notable Avett Brothers songs and it contains a sequence of philosophical phrases within the lyrics, my favorite of which being this line. To me it talks about the pinnacle of natural beauty, a rainbow, as being something out of reach, almost comparing this woman he’s infatuated with to something out of reach. He’s unsure of her seriousness with him, but thinks he knows he wants to be with her. She’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen in the sense that a rainbow is the most beautiful thing someone has seen: no matter how great it looks it is never tangible. The lyric beautifully describes one of the initial steps to falling in love by thinking (or knowing) that who you love is unattainable.
Alkaline Trio – I Remember A Rooftop
Lyric: “I took my lousy shot at public recognition/ Could never pull the trigger if I wasn’t shaking”
Poetic throughout, this song portrays the artist making it through tough times in his hometown of Chicago. I emotionally connected to this song at 19 (which the lyrics cite being 19) when I began to realize I couldn’t stay at the college I was enrolled in at the time. The song itself is bigger than that and is a commentary on youthful love, loss, and navigating the heartache and growing pains. For a punk song, it is completely vulnerable and stripped down, lyrically and musically, being a painful acoustic account of agonizing past experiences.
Dean Lewis – A Place We Knew
Lyric: “‘Cause it never mattered where we were/ ‘Cause we were falling in love”
An acoustic ballad that traces simple memories to when two people fell in love, the sentiment behind this lyric is that love can come anywhere. The feeling and assumption is that this love came from a young couple with not much more to their names than each other. Love doesn’t have to be some grand spectacle, nor does it have to sprout from fancy dinners or fancy events. Dancing in a hotel room or just being with each other and talking and enjoying each other’s company can lead to a lifetime of happiness.
Little Feat – Willin’
Lyric: “And I’m still willin'”
A song about loneliness, experiences, and life on the road, “Willin'” provides a hopeful feeling of determination. No matter what we go through, no matter how lonely I am, dirty I am, drunk, drugged out, hopeless, or anything else, I will always be willing to do what needs to be done. It is a song that perfectly encapsulates the human spirit while acknowledging the difficulty of accepting our mortality and our status in life. The song specifically talks of a truck driver, but can relate to anyone doing a job just to get to the next stop, whether that be the next promotion, vacation, retirement, or something else. No matter the odds, the human spirit will never die, and this song is evidence that humanity can fight through anything, no matter the struggles.
Randy Travis – Forever and Ever, Amen
Lyric: “As long as old men sit and talk about the weather/ As long as old women sit and talk about old men.”
Randy Travis wrote a few songs that properly displayed the feelings and emotions of love in easy-to-understand terms, and this song is no exception. This lyric in particular compares the intensity and longevity of his love to something seemingly eternal. The line itself is simple, but creative, clever, and observational. Perhaps the most redeeming quality of the lyric, though, is its honesty and truthfulness. Go to any small town cafe and eavesdrop on conversations of old men and old women. The characterization Randy Travis attributes in this song is dead on to actual events and also cleverly describes the length of a person’s love for someone else.
Jellyfish – New Mistake
Lyric: “Love is blind, deaf and dumb, but nevermind”
A tongue-in-cheek commentary on love and its place in pop culture, this lyric is witty and humorous in its mention of the improper confinement of love being blind in pop culture, or in general, and quickly disregards that acknowledgment by dismissing the other aspects relevant to love. Love isn’t strictly blind and it does not mean that anyone can fall in love with someone else despite their looks; it is also deaf and dumb because you can fall in love with the wrong people despite your close friends and/or family suggesting it not being the best for you and disregard their attempts to sway you in another direction.