Give Your Ear For a Second, A Life Changing Decision

When presenting his last show after 13 years at Radio 1, Zane Lowe was faced with every dj’s zane_lowesimultaneous dream and nightmare; presenting a playlist that summed up and wrote off his entire experience as an admirer and purveryor of music. It was pretty awesome. His explanation of one of the choices – Blood by The Middle East – stuck out to me in particular: “sometimes it just takes one song, it doesn’t take a whole career, it doesn’t take a bunch of albums or incredible shows, just one song can stick with you for life…. this song’s got me through times good and dark; I put it on, I listen carefully, I get lost in it, and it’s still the only song I’ve ever really known of this band properly, but I love it so much.”

Much is often made of having a relationship with one of your favourite artists, an artist that comes back year after year with new music that surprises and excites you, so you ultimately end up with a *music journalism cliche alert* ‘connection’ with that creative. And no wonder; for me there is nothing more exciting than listening to the newest development of a sound whose creator you hold in saintlike reverence.

It’s compelling easy to think and talk about these kind of connections, but I find the phenomena that Lowe talked about in the above quote to be just as interesting. Musical artists are complicated beings who broadcast their various emotions and experiences to the world; sometimes their voice and point of view are just inherently right for their listener’s ears, like an old friend whose words are gratefully received, be it on a the tube to work or the drunken stumble back from the pub. However, this isn’t always the case; sometimes you may feel that someone’s music simple isn’t ‘for’ you, with the exception of one particular song which resonates with you as a brief moment of clarity, like that moment when a conversation with a taxi driver at 6am unexpectedly leads to a deep revelation that reverberates in your head in the shower afterwards.

A particular example of this for me is the above track, named ‘Float On’ by Danny Brown and Charli XCX. I had been aware of both artists for some time when it was released; the former was a 32 year old Detroit rapper who I generally don’t 1380554017Danny_Brown_f133423a‘get’, as his instrumentals and rapping flow are so eclectic I find it hard to focus on either, and the latter was a young British singer who wrote three of the biggest choruses of the last couple of years (I Love It, Fancy and Boom Clap), and is generally a little too sugary-sweet for my palette. The first time I heard it was the morning after a particularly tenuous night shift at work; I had got about 50 minutes sleep during my 3 hour break due to an uneasy mind, and when I walked back through my front door I was feeling exhausted but too on-edge to sleep, plagued by various worries. My solution was to lie in bed with Annie Mac’s (sadly now defunct) sunday evening show ‘The Musical Hot Water Bottle’ on iplayer, and on came a song that captured what I was feeling perfectly. Its verses articulated my own emotions in a way that felt both ingenious and immediately, obviously comprehensible, and its chorus directed me towards a clear, simple solution, mindset-wise. I’ve never been someone capable of lifting my own mood with bouncy, happy music, and this song has acted as a perfect anaesthetic for various anxieties ever since, encouraging me not to pretend my problems don’t exist, but to have faith in my ability to transcend them. I still haven’t ever really got into anything else by either artist (admittedly I know all the words to nearly every chorus Charlie XCX has ever wrote, but then and again so does most of Europe), but I’m certain that I’ll continue listening to Float On for years to come, even if I still don’t really feel compelled to listen to much more of the music by its creators.

I would be fascinated to hear of any other examples my reader(s) might have of this phenomenon, so please comment below if you have any examples of tracks which perfectly resonate with you far more than the rest of their creator’s music. I’ll leave with an example sent to me by a (really good) band I interviewed towards the end of last year called Kate Boy, after I emailed them – having had such an interesting, fulfilling interview – asking for an example for my article:

‘The fact that Eno and Bowie intended to keep this song an instrumental track for the album and just decided at the last minute to put some vocals on it makes it a masterpiece. It feels so genuine and spontaneous, like Bowie is singing exactly what was on his mind right then and there. Robert Fripp contributing with one of the most simple but haunting guitar parts in rock history. It eats into your body and soul and when Bowie goes up the octave towards the end he breaks your heart completely. The quotation marks around the title adds a deeper meaning to the lyrics. It is a perfect song with a “perfect” title.’