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
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,"
It doesn't belong to you,"
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.