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Sometimes we just need an escape from the real world. Some of us like to read books, some like to watch films and some like to listen to music. What if, however, I told you there's a way to combine all three? Here's David and Maxim's top ten songs for you to get lost in the story of.
10. Started A Band - Ben Burgess
This is admittedly a bit of a rogue choice, and not a song I immediately warmed to, but it’s nonetheless a track that provides a hugely memorable storyline. Our protagonist takes his girlfriend to a concert, only for her to end up going home with the lead singer following the after-show Meet-and-Greet. As he wallows in his frustration, Burgess decides to start his own band in retaliation. At first, he only has the proverbial ‘man and his dog’ to perform to. However, in a satisfyingly cyclical conclusion, Burgess ends the song by - truthfully - recounting playing in front of a hundred thousand fans in support of country megastar, Morgan Wallen. And, perhaps less truthfully, the girl that spurned him all those years ago turns up for the Meet-and-Greet. Does she go home with him? In a wonderfully petty move, Burgess details what happens, “When she ran around back when the show was over/I took the picture, acted like I didn't know her”. Despite being a musically intense song, it has a light-hearted, fun feel - and the hook is irresistibly catchy. MM
9. Stan - Eminem
This weird and wonderful tune came from the era of peak Eminem. From the perspective of an infatuated fan, the song details the letters that Stan writes to Em, which for the most part don’t get to him. Stan becomes increasingly infuriated at his lack of response and the letters grow increasingly obsessive, aggressive and strange. The tragic end to the song is the tape Stan records driving down the highway with his long-suffering girlfriend locked in the boot before the car goes flying off the edge. It’s certainly not an easy listen, but has always intrigued me as a song, and the iconic chorus from Dido, also performed live by Elton John, is somewhat of a shining light in an otherwise very dark song. DD
8. Wait in the Truck - HARDY ft. Lainey Wilson
Another classic country murder ballad, HARDY and Lainey Wilson combine to produce one of the stand-out songs of 2022. HARDY outlined that the song was inspired by a non-physical altercation that his wife had been involved in, where a guy had tried to chat her up in a bar. He expanded out the idea and created a darkly captivating song about a man who comes across an abused woman while driving one night. He tells her to “wait in the truck”, and he subsequently heads straight to the man’s house and delivers the woman’s retribution. Despite going to prison for his crime, HARDY definitely comes off as the hero of the song, and the ominously dramatic music video that accompanies it is well worth a watch. MM
7. I Don't Care - Quadeca
This is one of my favourite songs, and I actually wrote a piece on it in the last issue. A great song to listen to, but also an incredibly clever and well written one. Within the song, Quadeca is clearly suffering, struggling to come to terms with his successes and life in general. However, this isn’t made apparent to us from the off. We only really find out that ‘I don’t care’ is not a genuine statement, but an attempt to convince himself, when in the second verse he details the story of a message he received on Instagram from someone whose friend was a fan of Quadeca, and tragically just killed themselves. The climax, and the ‘plot twist’ if you will, is when Quadeca discovers the kid that killed himself had messaged Quadeca before, and he had consciously ignored the message as one of the many he receives from fans every day. A tragic story but a really beautiful song. DD
6. Jamie - Zach Bryan ft. Charles Wesley Godwin
This is one of my favourite songs at the moment, and undoubtedly one of the hidden gems in Zach Bryan’s impressive repertoire. With the help of the stunning vocals of his good buddy, Charles Wesley Godwin, Zach tells the tale of a man who stumbles out of a bar late one night, and decides to take a long drive. At first, we’re not sure where he’s heading, but we then learn that he’s on his way to meet his love. He realises he’s being followed by the Police, presumably for drunk driving, but he continues on regardless. When he finally reaches his destination at dusk, his pursuers draw their guns, just as we learn that Jamie’s actually been driving to the grave where the love of his life was laid to rest, after she passed away when they were only young. The story concludes in a beautifully bittersweet way, with the man being shot, which means that he is free to return to dance with his love “in the stars”. It’s full of visceral, haunting lyrics, such as, “The flashin' red and blue in a cracked rear view/He remembers a smile he once owned”. Be sure to check out the duo’s iconic live rendition of ‘Jamie’ on Zach Bryan’s new live album, which dropped on Christmas Day. MM
5. Ballad of the 20th Maine - The Ghost of Paul Revere
This song is a recent discovery for me, as are the band that sing it. Whilst curiously wandering around the Long Road festival this year we ended up stopping at the Buddy’s Good Time bar stage for a little. Having become impressed by the group performing; we then managed to hear them later on the Interstate stage. This beautiful folk song details the story of Andrew Tozier, who left his home in Maine to fight in the war in 1861. The song is absolutely beautiful to listen to but is also beautifully written. The lyrics play off like a ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ style war poem as the song details the battles and bravery of those involved. It’s one of those that, despite having nothing to do with the American Civil War or living anywhere near any of it, you can’t help but be filled with pride and energy as you listen. Unfortunately, I learned that, just as I had discovered this great band and their beautiful songs, they have decided to call it quits after 11 years. Thankfully I got the chance to see them live, and their music remains on Spotify! DD
4. There Goes My Life - Kenny Chesney
I accept that I may well be a tad biased, but for me, nobody pulls off a heart-wrenching, no-I’ve-just-got-something-in-my-eye ballad as well as King Kenny. The song opens with a young man finding out that his partner is pregnant, and all he can think about are the plans, hopes and aspirations that he’ll have to kiss goodbye as a result - “There goes my life”, he says. Then, we find him “a few thousand diapers later”, and he’s watching his beloved daughter, thinking, “There goes my life”, this time referring to her. Lastly, after another fast-forward, our protagonist is waiting to say goodbye to his daughter as she’s loading up her car and getting ready to head off to college. With a tear preparing its descent down his cheek, he muses wistfully, “There goes my life”. I’m not crying, you are. MM
3. The Dance - Garth Brooks
This song is one of Garth Brook’s most famous, which, considering he is one of the best-selling artists of all time, tells you how well known it is. The song is one of those that somehow seems to be simultaneously happy and sad. It focuses on a protagonist who reminisces about the beautiful moment he and his partner shared when they had ‘The Dance’ and looks back on how perfect it was. The thought is interrupted by the protagonist thinking about the eventual end of the road, imagining if only he could have known then that things wouldn’t work out. The real beauty in the song, and what makes it meaningful for a lot of people, is that he banishes these thoughts. He’s glad he didn’t know back then that the end was nigh because it would have ruined this perfect moment, and no matter what has or what will happen, he will always have that perfect moment to look back on. It’s a real tear-jerker, and for reasons you can imagine the song has since gained a lot of meaning to people who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Although the song is really about a break-up, the sentiment translates perfectly, forgetting the end for a while to hold on to those precious moments, something that will always be with you even if the person isn’t any more. My one frustration with this song, or with Garth really, is that his songs don’t seem to be anywhere! You can find covers but unless you get hold of an old CD or something you’ll probably struggle to hear his version. DD
2. Next Thing You Know - Jordan Davis
After the success of ‘Buy Dirt’, many were wondering how Jordan Davis was going to follow up the CMA-winning single. ‘Next Thing You Know’ is how. This track flicks affectionately through all the key chapters of a man’s life, from meeting someone in a bar to moving in with them, and the next thing he knows he’s getting married and sitting happily “on a honeymoon beach”. The dexterity of how each stage of life is portrayed in all its colour and vibrancy, despite each one only receiving a couple of lines apiece, underlines how Jordan Davis is settling into the bigger-picture, storytelling sweet-spot that ‘Buy Dirt’ pinpointed. The most powerful lyrical sequence comes after he’s just found out his wife is pregnant: “Cause next thing you know/You're wearing scrubs and a funny white hat and the/Doctor's sayin', ‘How you doin' there, dad?’ and/Nobody's ever called you that”. MM
1. Paradise By The Dashboard Light - Meatloaf
What I didn’t realise when assembling this list is that most of the storytelling songs I know err on the sadder side of things; thankfully this one doesn’t! One of the most iconic songs from one of the most iconic albums from one of the most iconic artists, if I had to sum up this song with a word I’d have to say it’s…iconic! Thanks to Meatloaf's experience on the stage and the unique operatic writing style of Jim Steinman, this song is a full eight or so minutes of emotions and drama. The song follows two young teenagers who are sitting in a parked car getting hot and heavy. Meatloaf can’t believe his luck as a 17 year old enjoying the company of one of the prettiest girls in the school; "All the kids at school, they were wishing they were me that night". As the song moves on the mood gets steamier, but just before it's all systems go, the girl demands that they stop! Before they go any further she wants to know that he isn’t just using her. She insists that Meatloaf promise her that he will love her forever, but Meatloaf is reluctant; "Let me sleep on it, baby baby let me sleep on it", As you would expect, the 17 year old boy finally succumbs to his desires and makes all of these promises to the young girl - he’ll love her forever. This brings us to the final act of the song, suddenly we are 30 or so years in the future and Meatloaf and the girl are sick to the back teeth of each other! He can’t break his promise to stick until the end of time, but just wait in hope for that time to come! "I’m waiting for the end of time, so I can end my time with you". Honestly it’s so hard to do it justice with a written synopsis, because it has so many twists and turns and as you listen it evolves and evolves throughout. It’s an all-time favourite of mine and is a style of songwriting and performing that sadly we are unlikely to see again. DD
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