June 2nd, 2005

[MEME] My Six Favourite Songs

runyon has music-tagged me, I suppose one would say in the current day's parlance. I do love to write about pop music, after all. What can I do but accept the challenge, borrow ad_lectorem's format, and make my case?

1. Shakespear's Sister - "Stay" (1992)

If this world is wearing thin
And you're thinking of escape
I'll go anywhere with you
Just wrap me up in chains
But if you try to go alone
Don't think I'll understand

I admit that this song first caught my attention in music-video format, but extracted from that visually remarkable Sophie Muller-directed format it still stands up well. "Stay" is a postmodern love song, a duet between the high-pitched Siobhan Fahey and the low-voiced Marcella Detroit that explores the tensions inherent in love, between the desire to experience risk and the reluctance to experience loss, combining selfless succor with possessive jealousy. I still think it a remarkable song, more than a decade after its release.

2. Eurythmics - "Here Comes the Rain Again" (1983)

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you?

While I think that the 1987 Savage album is their best album and though I honour "Sweet Dreams" as a seminal moment in 1980s popular music, "Here Comes the Rain Again" stands a good chance of being the best song written by Lennox or Stewart. There's so much about it that I like: the desperate momentum of the song's melody; the sweep of the strings; Lennox's low throaty voice; the longing for some sort of contact.

3. Pet Shop Boys - "Rent" (1987)

And look at the two of us in sympathy
And sometimes ecstasy
Words mean so little, and money less
When you're lying next to me
But look at my hopes, look at my dreams
The currency we've spent
(Ooooh) I love you, oh, you pay my rent

Despite the recent failure of their London stage musical, the Neil Tennant-Chris Lowe writing team can lay proud claim to a host of melodic and wittily profound songs. "Rent" is my favourite Pet Shop Boys song, exploring as their best songs do ambivalence. Is this love, is this business, is this both? Who knows? In the meantime, best to listen.

4. Mylène Farmer - "C'est une belle journée" (2002)

C'est une belle journée
Je vais me coucher
Une si belle journée
Qui s'achève
Donne l'envie d'aimer

I blogged just this week about my love for this song. To recapitulate, I think that "C'est une belle journée" does a wonderful job of describing both the space between despair and hope and the fact that this space can be navigated.

5. David Bowie - "Hallo Spaceboy" (1995)

Hallo Spaceboy, you're sleepy now
Your silhouette is so stationary
You're released but your custody calls
And I want to be free
Don't you want to be free?

David Bowie's concept album Outside deserves more respect than it got at the time. It's just a pity that he's unlikely to release Outside's sequel album, since the prototype was a rather entertaining twisted concept album. "Hallo Spaceboy" was the album's big hit single, a disjointed-sounding song recounting the anomie of someone who I believe to be Nathan Adler, Outside's art-detective protagonist. The song also finishes the story of Major Tom described in "Space Oddity" and "Ashes to Ashes." I caught the remix featuring the Pet Shop Boys being performed live on the Brit Awards back in the mid-90s, which made the connection explicit. At the time, I didn't know why I found the lines "Do you like girls or boys?/It's confusing these days" so funny.

6. Kate Bush - "Jig of Life" (1986)

"This moment in time,"
(She said.)
It doesn't belong to you,"
(She said,)
It belongs to me,

"And to your little boy and to your little girl,
And the one hand clapping:
Where on your palm is my little line,
When you're written in mine
As an old memory?

1985's Hounds of Love is a brilliant album, as I discovered the first time I listened to the album uninterrupted. When the authentic fiddle of "Jig of Life" began , I was hooked. The replacement of vinyl with CDs hides the fact that Hounds of Love was originally a two-part concept album, side A containing the hit singles (Hounds of Love) and side B (The Ninth Wave) recounting the story of a drowning woman. "Jig of Life" catches the woman at a critical stage, as she is being resuscitated and/or as she is deciding whether to keep on struggling or quiet accept death. It's an intense song, and good for all that.

I was somewhat surprised to be music-tagged. I was still more surprised to realize, through my song choices, that I'm actually a bit of a desperate romantic. I was unsurprised, I have to admit, that there does appear to be a correlation between my tastes in popular music and my sexual orientation. Perhaps I'm not as straight-acting as I thought?

* * *

Who will I music-tag? Look below.
  • Current Music
    Kate Bush, "Jig of Life" (Remix)

[LINK] The Future Balance of Power in Global Public Opinion

A recent opinion poll by Toronto polling firm GlobeScan suggests that most people around the world favour Europe taking a higher profile in the world. Just as interestingly, France is the country most widely seen as having a positive influence on the world; the United States ranks alongside Russia as one of the least popular countries. China seems to be an increasingly popular country thanks to the positive perception of Chinese trade and popular culture, though the idea of China becoming a military power remains unpopular worldwide. Countries and regions more notable for their soft power (Europe, China) tend to be significantly more popular than countries notable for their military power.

Worldwide, the Globescan report notes that the well-off, the educated, and the young seem to tend to not feel ot to be friendly towards the United States. This is not a good trend for the United States, though one wonders: If Europe and China develop military establishments as capable as the American, what will world opinion be then?

[BRIEF NOTE] My Problem with the Abrahamic Faiths

Of all the children and teenagers who attended Trinity United Church back in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, I'd like to think that I was one of the more pious. I listened to the Sunday school teachers when the other kids fidgeted; I filled in the assignments when my fellow students talked to each other; I tried to get into the cabinets for more materials after I finished the too-brief assignments. While I've no basis for direct comparison with others, I do think that I was a fairly sincere young communicant of the United Church of Canada.

That passed. One of the things encouraging me to follow my family's trend towards unobservant agnosticism was the Book of Job. Most of the commentaries that I had read before my lapse, and the ones that I have since read, on the Book of Job concentrated upon Job's suffering. Some of the more critical ones debated the question of why faithful Job was made to suffer at length. Even as a credulous teenager, this seemed to be missing the point entirely.

And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand." So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and there came a messenger to Job, and said, "The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabe'ans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you."
While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you."
While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "The Chalde'ans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you."
While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house; and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you." (Job 1: 12-19)

To summarize: In order to win a debate with Satan, God killed Job's ten children and dozens of servants in order to test him. The legitimacy of the test, or the debatable pointlessness of God's bed, isn't what disturbed me. What made me uncomfortable was the fact that, in order to make a point, God killed a very large number of people only peripherally involved with the question at hand. The Book of Job says nothing about whether or not Job's children deserved to get crushed, or about the desirability of burning or hacking Job's servants to death. Unless we Christians and other Peoples of the Book are supposed to believe that human beings are so reprehensible that they deserve to be put to death at God's whim, in the Book of Job God killed an impressive number of innocent human beings just to make a point, to Job and to his society. As David Byrne sang of New York City's hot and dangerous summer of 1977, "Psycho killer, qu'est que c'est?"

I wonder if I shouldn't have been surprised by the popularity, among Christians and Muslims alike, of apocalyptic literature. After all, we all come from a tradition where God is described as having a serial killer's mentality. I hope that I'm wrong; I hope that I've missed out on some critical commentary. As aggressively and happily secular as I am, there's still a significant part of me that yearns for the certainty of religious faith. If I haven't, though ... Enough said.
  • Current Music
    Shakespear's Sister, "I Can Drive"