I waited for years before I’d watch “Donnie Darko”. I have this thing where I can’t embrace a movie or a band if its too hyped up; I feel like I’d be giving too much of my energy to conformity, and I just can’t have that. It’s why I have yet to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy, most of the “Fast and Furious” movies past “Tokyo Drift,” and why I’ve never read the “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac” comics. When it’s been completely forgotten by the main stream, then I will imbibe. When I finally did watch Donnie Darko, Drew Barrymore and the phrase “Cellar Door” took on whole new meaning for me.
Long story short, as Drew Barrymore’s character was getting 86’ed, she had the phrase “Cellar Door” written on her blackboard; saying: “This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that Cellar Door is the most beautiful.” That got me thinking about singular phrases that moved me the most.
That meditation inspired this week’s blog; a list of some of the most moving solitary lines in popular songs …as curated by me.
Without further ado and in no particular order:
- “Is there a line that I could write sad enough to make you cry?” – Found Out About You by the Gin Blossoms – As a writer, I know what the words mean to me; what’s most important to me is what the words mean to you. I’ve met Robin from the Gin Blossoms, while I didn’t ask him, I’m sure he’d agree. To me, these words are from a desperate man who is trying to get his unrequited love to understand how he’s feeling.
- “Keep my glass full until morning light, cause I’m just holding on for tonight” – Chandelier by Sia – The entire song is a very powerful encounter, a story about a young woman who has just completely gone off the rails. That one particular line has even more heft because there is a clearly defined consequence. Yes, she’s going to swing from the chandeliers and she’s feeling her tears as they dry, but in that line there is a finite end. That’s what gives the song density for me, I try to put myself in that headspace, but it’s clearly a very dangerous avenue to drive.
- “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse that sends me down to the river, though I know the river is dry?” – The River by Bruce Springsteen – It was hard to pick just one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs that moved me, and even then to boil it down to just one line. The River is one of those main songs that everyone knows because it was a title track. A song, already so full of despair, had such an eloquent line to it. Not only have the character’s lives been functionally ruined, but the one thing they had was now gone. That just made me feel things.
- “Fall upon your knees, sing: ‘this is my body and soul here.’” – Blame by Bastille – I am still not entirely educated on how this line relates to the rest of the song. In the theater of my mind, I see someone who is exposed in the most primal way, exposed to the very essence of their physical form.
- “Got my bad baby by my heavenly side; if I go, I’ll die happy tonight.” – Summertime Sadness by Lana Del Rey – The only way that I can listen to this song without any lasting psychological damage is to listen to the Cedric Gervias remix. If the lyrics are going to bring me down, the beat can at least pick me up. This whole song is just melancholy, but the line suggests happiness! …at the expense of death. Lord have mercy, she could use a hug, but I’m not going to be the one to give it to her. She’s such a talented musician and wordsmith to have crafted such a lyric.
As a writer, it’s important for me to study other people’s words, it gives me a sense of direction when crafting my own.
What are song lyrics that have moved you? If not song lyrics, then how about phrases in a novel or in a movie?
Until next time!