When I asked for “songs of joy”, I wasn’t necessarily meaning songs that “joy” or even “happy” in the title. What I was looking for were uplifting songs that make you (or me) feel joyous. Songs that will make me smile, make me feel better in one way or another, even just trigger a happy memory. What made this doubly difficult is that for some reason, I hit something of a blue patch on Sunday into Monday, and perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to write this. But you know what? Listening to these songs again as I wrote this helped to shoo away that unwelcome black cloud a bit.
/Tuesday Ten/343/Song of Joy
The responses I got were actually an interesting set, as many people implicitly understood what I had intended, and suggested the songs that bring them joy – and a number of the final ten selected do exactly that for me, too. Some stats for this week, too. There were a total of 148 suggestions, with 141 unique songs – eight of which had been used before, from no less than 76 contributors. Thanks to you all!
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/England Keep My Bones
I rarely need an excuse to feature Frank Turner, but this song is a perfect example of the joy that music can bring to me. Hearing this song open Frank Turner’s set at the Roundhouse in May was probably one of the most joyous moments I’ve had watching live music in twenty-three years – as three thousand of us bellowed our hearts out to this short, simple song that offers an acceptance that you may not be a great, or “remembered” by thousands, but “at least [you] fucking tried”. It’s certainly the only eulogy I need, and just thinking of this song, and being part of the huge choir that it meant something to, makes me want to go and do it all again.
One of the people that brings me joy is my wife, and this song was her suggestion – a song that never fails to make her happy (and sing along to it!). Mutya Buena was part of the Sugababes‘s most celebrated line-up, who had a run of excellent pop singles – although it is probably fair to say that ex-bandmembers have not had much luck as solo artists. The initial signs for Buena, though, were different, particularly with this outstanding, Prince hat-tip, electro-funk track that has an utter monster of a chorus, a lyric-as-internal-monologue, and a distinct theme of moving on (and trying to find the happiness in doing so). Oh, and the video was filmed about 300m from the our-now doorstep in Finsbury Park.
/Reasons To Be Cheerful Pt. 3
/Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll – The Essential Collection
Someone else close to me suggested this one, a song where Ian Dury – and his band The Blockheads – simply lists off the many, many things that make him happy, cheerful, joyful, whatever. The list is very, very long indeed – the 12″ version of this track is the best part of seven minutes long – and is almost, perhaps, the first London-based rap song, as Dury’s delivery is certainly not singing. That, and the backing beat is not far off disco-funk, a mile away from the pub rock and punk scenes that Dury was often associated with. Dury’s work in general, actually, is often surprisingly upbeat and witty, but none quite have the incredible, joyous rush that this song has.
Kevin Saunderson is considered (and rightly so) as one of the originators of techno, and this mighty track is one of the early tracks to cross over to the mainstream, perhaps helped by the Second Summer of Love that happened in 1988 – yes folks, this track is three decades old. Everything about it screams joy – the crisp beat, the piano hook, and most importantly Paris Grey’s vocal that simply entices you to dance, to let loose, to have fun and enjoy the moment.
/Big Time Sensuality
Talking of enjoying the moment…amid the darker songs on Björk’s still-extraordinary Debut (which was released twenty-five years ago in July), there were moments of joyous abandon, and this is perhaps the pinnacle of that. A song celebrating the idea of not making plans, of taking things as they come, and most importantly enjoying everything life throws at you. The sugar-rush of the house rhythms are perfectly-matched by Björk’s, er, violently happy delivery (Violently Happy, by the way, is not half as happy as it first appears), and her joy only shows all the more in her dancing on the bed of a flatbed truck in New York in the video.
Released at a distinctly unhappy time – 9/11 happened just weeks after the release of this album (which was swiftly renamed to Jimmy Eat World in the aftermath, only returning to the original name some years later), not to mention the remainder of the Dubya years – this album is actually actually a surprisingly bright and positive listen, particularly this glorious song that acts as a sub-three-minute pick-me-up to me and a number of my friends, judging on the reaction to the suggestion of this song in the original thread. “Everything will be just fine” goes the song – and while it teeters on the edge of twee self-help at points, the message overall is a sound one. Stick to your guns, do the right thing. And with a song this fucking joyous, who is to argue?
/If I Can’t Change Your Mind
On first thought, when I saw this suggested, I was going to dismiss it out of hand. “It’s a break-up song”, surely? Then I got the song wedged into my head, and quickly, my thoughts changed. This is Bob Mould – of Hüsker Dü fame, of course, hardly a band that were ever full of anything remotely close to joy! – providing a glorious, catchy kiss-off to an ex-lover, content in the feeling that he can do absolutely fuck all about them leaving, and instead, he is content to wander off into the sunset, happy to start something anew – and with this as the soundtrack (as well as the rest of the wonderful Copper Blue, which has done the remarkable feat of continuing to sound as ageless as when I first heard it in 1992), I feel I could take on anything that is put in my way – and have great fun dealing with it.
The Gay Dad story is one of those curious tales of press hype that made for unattainable expectations for all concerned – and perhaps potential listeners were all the more cynical for the fact that the main person behind the band (Cliff Jones) used to be a music journalist. And while, perhaps, the debut album that eventually arrived, wasn’t all great, it had at least two absolutely stellar singles. To Earth With Love – the song that started the record label scrum in the first place, and with good reason – was one, and the other was Joy!.
It turns out I own four songs titled Joy – and quite a few more than involve the word in the title – but let’s be clear, this is really the only song of them that fitted, particularly as this was an album that, upon release, was a rare burst of colour and happiness in a pretty miserable time generally for me. A synth-powered power-pop track at its root, it has a jackhammer of a drum beat, a gospel coda, and a chorus that aims for the stars, and very nearly gets there – and listening to it again for the first time in years (and this is the first time that the band have made it into a Tuesday Ten, remarkably), I still knew this glorious song surprisingly well. Time, maybe, for a rethink, away from the original hype?
/Just Like Heaven
/Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
It is easy to forget that The Cure wrote some utterly glorious, sunny-sounding pop songs in their time – rather making a mockery of their image of dour Goths (which they could also do brilliantly, of course). This song, perhaps, is the greatest example of the former – and vastly better than the perhaps overplayed Friday I’m In Love, too. The familiar deep basslines are there – in fact, musically it is immediately The Cure (and Goth as all hell) – but lyrically this has a brighter disposition, and indeed could well be said to be joyous. It is certainly still brilliant.
/Birdhouse In Your Soul
I’m rather painfully aware that this is one of those songs that a great many people can’t stand – and after the mention of it by someone else online the other day, I saw at least three subsequent posts confirming their hatred for it. But for me, this song is joyous. A curiously strange song – a song from the point of view of a nightlight “looking over” their sleeping person – the incessant repetition of the chorus and smart lyrics make for an extraordinarily persistent earworm, and more importantly, a song that never fails to make me smile from the first note, and by the end of it, I’m swelling with joy. This is what music I love can do. It makes me happy, it makes me forget the bad for just a short while. Music is an escape, and I like to use that to its full potential.
I delve into Mathematics for two weeks next. You’d best get revising, particularly your algebra.