Today’s poll question about people’s favorite song off of Duran Duran’s latest, Paper Gods, is getting quite a lot of attention. I love how many people have voted and I love when people comment on one form of social networking or another about why their favorite song is their favorite. It got me thinking. (Always dangerous, I know!) What makes a favorite song, a favorite? Then, I started to think about songs that I really bonded with as a kid vs. the songs I bonded with as an adult. They have definitely changed. Is it because my criteria for a favorite song has changed? I think so!
When I was a kid, I remember getting certain songs in my head. In fact, they were so in my head that I couldn’t get them out and I drove everyone around me crazy with them! Let me give a couple of examples. First, I remember having the chorus to Save a Prayer stuck in my head one afternoon when I was hanging out with my best friend, at the time. It was summer and we were hanging out in my backyard. I kept singing the chorus out loud over and over again. (Much like what my students do to me now!) My childhood best friend was also a Duranie so you would think that she would appreciate this. She did, too…for like the first two and a half hours. Then, she had enough! A similar situation happened when the Reflex came out. Luckily, this time, both of us were completely addicted! We were so addicted, in fact, that whenever and I mean whenever it was on MTV or the radio we would call each other up!! We spent a lot of time on the phone in the spring of 1984! Thus, as a kid, what made a favorite song was that it got stuck in my head! It had to be catchy! I didn’t think of the lyrics or dive deep into the instrumentation. Now, though…
When I think of my favorite songs now, they tend to be ones in which the instrumentation really sticks out! My favorite is Planet Earth, which has the fabulous call and answer between guitar and keyboard, not to mention that fabulous bass line! I also love how the lyrics capture this spirit that Duran has with popular culture, science fiction, humanity. Therefore, the lyrics tend to be super important to me as well now. I might go so far as to say that, for the last couple of albums, what has really hooked me is the lyrics. Let me give some examples. All You Need Is Now, the song, took me a few listens to grasp the instrumentation with that jarring and unusual beginning. What kept me listening, though, was the lyrics. “Stay with the music. Let it play a little longer” is a sentiment that most Duranies have felt or feel even now about the band. Many of us loved that the song seemed to be about them and US and our history together. Then, another one of my absolute favorite Duran songs of all time grabbed me, lyrically, from this album, too, which is Before the Rain. In this case, I loved the feel of the song, musically, but didn’t have a connection to the lyrics until my beloved cat and grandma died ten days apart. All of a sudden lines like, “On the bomb ticks that is my heartbeat. In every life flash, in every car crash. I hear the silence waiting to fall” took on new meaning as I watched two lives come to an end, leaving my broken heart beating and silence.
Lyrics have become so important to me that I do think they played a huge role in me really grasping and embracing Paper Gods. I had been listening to the album for a week or so and had begun to really enjoy it but I wasn’t hooked yet. All of a sudden, I was listening to it with earbuds on to really focus on the songs when I noticed the lyrics to Last Night in the City, a song that I had initially dismissed. Lines like, “Hearts’ spinning all around on me (together). Now they’re surrounding me. This is how we get connected. Running out the shadows into light!” This is how I feel on tour! Let me listen again! More lines that feel like touring like, “I’m not gonna sleep tonight. Till the morning fills the sky,” and “This is our time!” Holy crap! At that very minute, I got a text message from Rhonda who had realized the exact same thing! For literally the next two hours, Rhonda and I went back through each song, listening to the lyrics, analyzing them, connecting to them.
Fast forward to a Sunday in October as I sat on a plane heading back home from tour and once again, I found myself listening to the album. I had a piece of paper in front of me that held my flight info. Throughout my flight, it became more than that. It became a paper filled with more lyrics, more lines that now held new significance to me. I still have that paper as it represents an even deeper connection to the album than I had before. Each time I listen to Duran or really dive into the lyrics, I’m reminded of how SMART the lyrics really are. They make me think. They make me feel. They also often feel like they are directly speaking to and/or about me. Perhaps, this is why how I choose my favorite Duran songs have shifted. Lyrics matter a lot more now.
What about the rest of you? How do you choose your favorites? Has the process changed?