Everyone has small or lingering obsessions with bands and artists over their lifetime. Some of them may have hit while you were younger and now you can’t believe you even nodded your head while listening to it, some maybe just lasted a week or so and don’t mean that much to you. We all have these bands that when we hear it played now, it really brings you back to that exact moment when looking back all you can hear is that soundtrack. How an artist sometimes may as well be a home movie of you back in 8th grade mowing the lawn to earbuds plugged into your Dell DJ that you told all of your friends was better than the iPod.
I have countless examples of this, but what I have more fondness of sometimes are the single songs that you can get lost in. Those single songs that you will put on repeat for hours on end, and can map out perfectly every single change in a beat or subtle inflection. Some of these songs may not even be from bands you hold on your list of favorites, but that one song hits you so perfectly, it renders you unable to discount that band from critics. Sometimes that one song has been your gateway to finding one of your favorite band. It can also send you feverishly trying to listen to that band’s entire catalogue, influences you found in an interview they gave, or similar artists that were recommended to you on fan page, just trying to find something that is like that perfect song. These are the songs that you never skip when it comes on the radio.
So here is my list of songs that I have real trouble getting out of my head, and fail to control myself from hitting repeat one more time:
Beach boys: The Little Girl I Once Knew
This song has the highest number of plays for me in a row, which is almost an eery coincidence that this would happen with a Beach Boys’ song because crazy yet genius songwriter, singer, producer Brian Wilson had one of these especially manic obsessions with a song too, “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, what he considered to be the greatest pop song ever recorded. He apparently had someone go through the arduous process of cutting just the chorus from the song and looping it around his home studio on a giant tape loop, then blasted the song for about five hours straight as he lay on the ground.
It was fall of my 5th semester in college. I was taking a Beach Boys class at the time which is no wonder that I had to go that extra semester, and when the professor played this song I immediately wrote it down and the first thing I did when I got back to my apartment was put it on. I wasn’t as frenzied about the song as Brian was, hopefully, but I did look at the play count at the end of the day that I had first heard the song and it was 108. That may seem extreme, and it is, but the song just really hit me right and on a day where I had no plans to get in the way of just sitting inside, hooking up the song to my stereo, hitting repeat, and going about my day apart from any human interactions.
What I think resonates with me about this song is mainly the gorgeous sonics of that opening. As melodic as anything the Brian Wilson melody machine ever put out. That opening could almost precede any song. The arrangement is just perfect. The guitars are so moving with their unique bell-like texture, and the bass moves seamlessly in between the riffs. It all seems to swirl around when I picture the song, I literally cannot help but move my head and smile when this song comes on. Then, with that Brian Wilson falsetto and outrageous harmonies, that’s the kicker. The lyrics never really did anything for me, which is why when I play this song after prefacing my obsession, most people tilt their head in confusion. The lyrics are maybe simple and cheesy, but the Beach Boys sell all of their lyrics by making it feel real. Even though i’m not feeling the connection of the lyrics I know that Brian did, as it is sung so earnestly that you never doubt for a moment that it was real for him. What does make me play this song over and over is that you don’t need the lyrics to this song. I still relate to this song strongly, but not to the words. It could be a modern classical piece with no singing and I would still relate to the feelings in the piece. Without hearing explicitly of the young girl the singer lost and now wishes he had, I can still understand the emotion in this song; longing and hopefulness.
The Replacements: Unsatisfied
This one falls into the category of songs that almost solely make you identify as a fan of the artist. I will forever say I love The Replacements, but truthfully only have a handful of songs that I ever listen to from them. I first heard this song senior year of college and as I listen to it right now, makes me want to go get in my car and turn it on indefinitely as a drive for hours. The arpeggiation of the guitar at the beginning as it changes with the inaudible echoes in the background edging toward that abrupt stop when the loud guttural grunt signals what the song will now resemble. Not to mention it’s another one of those songs that makes you turn your head every time you’re driving due to the far off car horn noise.
The words ‘unsatisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ are sung in this song about 17 times, and every single time it has a different level or urgency of emotion. When the song hits the first verse and Paul Westerberg’s initial gritty ‘satisfied’ is sung it is soft and annoyed. By the end it’s almost overflowing in disgust. I think Westerberg found all of the ways to sing that word and it’s fantastic. It is a song that I have lost my voice while singing alone in my car on a couple occasions, and it’s worth it every time.
Radiohead: Knives Out
This is one of the first examples I can specifically remember listening to a song more than three times in a row that I wasn’t doing ironically by trying to annoy my sister or entertain friends. This song sparked my love with Radiohead that I maintain today.
I think I was a freshman in high school. I had never listened to Radiohead before except probably hearing “Creep” on the radio. They were really one of the first cool newer bands that I got into. I didn’t know much about Radiohead and had no friends who were into them. I was immediately obsessed. I hadn’t heard anything like it before, and was unsure of what they even where. When I started buying up their albums I didn’t know if I was supposed to like them because where I was, no one was talking about them, and wondering why no one was always talking about them like I was to myself.
I have no idea how or why I found this song. All I remember is being on my computer on some page I found that had the song streaming. It was a couple hours before I left the computer, just clicking play over and over. I had no way of getting the song off of the website at the time so the next time I went out I had to buy the record that housed it, Amnesiac, which is still one of my favorite Radiohead albums.
The song introduces that smooth jazz-like guitar from Johnny Greenwood that make you want to twist your head back and forth like a snake being summoned. The guitar sounds like it’s gulping as it slides with the bass hitting just right beneath it. Thom Yorke’s vocals with the ends of all the words trailing off so that it doesn’t even resemble a word anymore, just a noise. It all comes together beautifully and feels to be moving the whole time, never repeating.
Britney Spears: The Beat Goes On (Sonny and Cher cover)
No explanation will be given because I have none.