This week’s Top 10 Tuesday was so much fun to compile. I’m no songwriter (shout out to the songwriters out there– you’re the real MVPs!), but some musical artists are just as good at storytelling as Stephen King, or any other author. I immediately thought about Michael Jackson’s Thriller. One could take the lyrics straight from the song, place them on a page, and slap a cover on it. There really are infinite choices.
10.) The Script, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved: This particular song is another great story, this time one of unwavering love. I loved this whole album. The year it came out, I visited my grandfather in Turks & Caicos for the summer. I remember this album keeping me company on the beach in the moments when I was otherwise alone.
9.) Santana, Maria, Maria: Beyond the brief story of Maria, we also get an idea of the area in which she lives. There’s context provided, which is different than many of the other songs on this list, that merely describe people, moments, or feelings.
She reminds me of a west side story
Growing up in Spanish Harlem
She’s living the life just like a movie star
She fell in love in East L.A.
To the sounds of the guitar, yeah, yeah
Played by Carlos Santana
8.) Dispatch, The General: War stories never get old. In my opinion, stories of war, like stories of love, are some of the most timeless ones out there. The General encapsulates both, making it an effective anti-war song It’s the story of an old war-torn general who gives his troops another chance at life. It’s not the most realistic story, but I can just imagine a great character study on the general himself– we’d get a better idea of what he’s seen in his life, and the battle he saw in the distance.
7.) N.E.R.D., Provider: The struggle to make ends meet and the hope for better is universal, and told so well through Provider. The video also does a great job of telling the story. At the very least, its fun to see Travis Barker, Pusha-T and Tony Hawk with cameos.
Someday, someday, this will be over
We’ll raise a family
I’ll get a job and I’ll be a voter
And if I die
It will change you
I watch over a family
But only as an angel
6.) The Beatles, Eleanor Rigby: In all honesty, I didn’t grow up in a Beatles household. Eleanor Rigby is one of the first songs I ever heard by them. It’s been years since the first time I heard this song, and it still sticks with me. Sure, I’ve heard other Beatles songs, but none of them quite top the storytelling power of Eleanor Rigby.
5.) Kendrick Lamar, Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst: I couldn’t have published this list without something by master lyricist Kendrick Lamar. He’s another artist with so many songs that qualify for this list. Check out his latest Grammy performance here.
This orphanage we call a ghetto is quite a routine
And last night was just another distraction or a reaction
Of what we consider madness, I know exactly what happened
You ran outside when you heard my brother cry for help
Held him like a newborn baby and made him feel
Like everything was alright and a fight he tried to put up
But the type of bullet that stuck had went against his will
4.) Tracy Chapman, Fast Car: Without a doubt, Fast Car is one of my favorite songs. It’s perfect in every way, whether you’re listening to a live or studio version.
So remember when we were driving driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone
3.) Adele, When We Were Young: I could name a handful of Adele songs that would fit into this category. I picked When We Were Young because it’s my favorite Adele song of the moment. Some songs give you images of a place, but others sit you inside a feeling. That’s the type of song this is– I can’t help but be swallowed up by my feelings every time I listen to these lyrics.
Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
Before we realized
We were sad of getting old
It made us restless
It was just like a movie
It was just like a song
2.) Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit: A graphic song depicting commonplace lynchings, Strange Fruit would undoubtedly make the most depressing short story. but I’d be eager to read it.
Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
1.) J. Cole, Wet Dreamz: This song is exactly what it sounds like, which makes it so worthy of this list. I’m not an adolescent boy, but I really felt like I was experiencing his first time this with him. J. Cole’s lyrics are refreshingly self aware, and the video is unexpectedly adorable.
Honorable Mention, mainly because I’m embarrassed: Backstreet Boys, The Call. Y’all can’t tell me that wouldn’t make a great short story. Maybe it would even clear up that convoluted music video, too.
Alright team! It’s time for some of your additions. I know I likely missed some big songs on this list, so put them in the comments!