What’s your favourite song?
This possibly qualifies as one of the most annoying questions you can be asked. Who thinks you can pick out one song above the other millions in existence on a spur of the moment? You’ve probably never really put much thought into it. Or if you have, the song in question is probably going to change. Often, maybe. But that’s okay. It’s not gonna get you in trouble if you pick an unpopular song, it’s not like you can’t change your mind, and hey, it’s not like it represents what’s going on in your inner psyche at any given time… Well, that’s not exactly true. I think favourite songs can say a lot about a person, and as such are something to wholeheartedly embrace. Music snobbery doesn’t come into it – it’s personal. Finding that one song that makes you want to dance or scream or cry, or all three at once maybe, can be pretty great.
Music has such great power to uplift, comfort and inspire. I recently saw videos made by Radio 1 in the run up to the BBC Music Awards, in which artists were asked about their favourite song. I found it really interesting to see how the choices were so revealing of the artists’ personalities and how, once revealed, you could see instantly that each choice really suited the individual (or maybe that should be, each individual really suited the choice?). Each choice had made a certain impression on the artists that is audible in their own music today. Wretch 32 chose Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry”, James Bay picked Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”, for John Newman it was “Change Gonna Come” by Otis Redding [Classics, one and all]. I’m sure each of these songs have found their way into the playlists of other peoples’ lives, whether for the same reasons or completely different ones. Evidently, when done right, one 3-minute song can have a pretty big impact in someone’s life.
I have thought about that elusive “my favourite song” many a time. There is something about the notion of having that one “favourite” that makes something more special, more personal. Your favourite book might have been one that moved you to look at the world in a different way. Your favourite restaurant might be one where you went on a first date with the love of your life, and so, despite the average food and hostile waiting staff, it holds a special place in your heart. Having favourites is as lovely as it can be arbitrary; I know I used to ask myself what my favourites were just to pin them down and be able to show them off, as mine I suppose.
But I think I’ve got it. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s Motown classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” may have taken second place in my favourite songs repertoire to David Bowie’s “Heroes”. This song has, to me, everything a great song should have. Bowie is such an innovative and inspiring artist, a thought that doesn’t fail to come to my mind every time I listen to his music. I love the diversity of his songs that shows obvious progression as an artist. Each song completely transports me to another era; his storytelling is awesome and lyrics captivating. For me, the essence of this power of storytelling is fully epitomised in “Heroes”, a great love story set in Berlin, inspired by the scene of a couple kissing by the Wall. The melody is so beautiful, with undertones of melancholy that really punctuates the story. It is a story of hope, and loss. It is as haunting as it is emotive and poignant, and I love it. Every time I listen to it, I feel like I am somewhere else. And it has personal value to it too, which is often the biggest factor in defining the meaning of a song for you as an individual. When I listen to this song, I immediately think of times when I’ve been at my happiest; sharing great adventures and fuzzy kisses, and it’s just been there, playing in the background, like my own soundtrack to the incredible loveliness of such moments.
So that’s why it’s my favourite. It might not always have been so – I’m sure my younger self would have more appreciated the anthems of such classic bands as S Club 7, Misteeq or 30 Seconds to Mars to name but a few. And maybe one day I’ll look back at this and think I was getting a little too emotionally involved in David Bowie songs and turn instead to smooth jazz for comfort. That’s the great thing about having favourites. They change as we grow up, it’s just inevitable. But that doesn’t undermine the concept. Looking back on the things that influenced us at certain points in our lives can really change our perspective. For someone who has a really bad memory, having little souvenirs evoked at the sound of my favourite song, from any stage of my life, is kinda brilliant.
So I will be that obnoxious person who can’t gauge what makes good small talk, and ask you, what is your favourite song? Think about it.
(I really think “Heroes” is going to stay on my list for a while though, it is pretty epic to be fair.)