Originally published on August 19, 2010:
It’s no secret that I’m a music lover. And I’m a sucker for a good melody. I’ve compiled a list of ten songs that I think are notable for their melodies. This isn’t a countdown, and it isn’t necessarily a list of my favorite songs, though some of my all time favorite songs are on the list. I’ve tried where possible to link to videos of the songs.
Note: I stuck to vocal music. I could’ve included some wonderful instrumentals (like “Jessica” by The Allman Brothers Band or “First Breath After Coma” by Explosions In The Sky), but I chose to make the playing field level, as it were.
Here we go, in alphabetical order by song title:
“Came To The Rescue,” Hillsong United — This is one of my favorite worship songs for many reasons, not the least of which is the melody, especially on the bridge.
“Fall At Your Feet,” Crowded House/Jennifer Kimball — This is one of Crowded House’s more obscure songs, so obscure in fact that I was familiar with Jennifer Kimball’s version (which I couldn’t find on YouTube) before I was the original. It’s become my favorite Crowded House tune.
“Green Summer Lawn,” Vigilantes Of Love — My friend Bill Mallonee has written a bunch of amazing songs, many of them rousing rockers. But this one is a beautiful, Brit-pop masterpiece and one of the most encouraging songs I know.
“Long Time Gone,” Dixie Chicks — Say what you want about their politics; say what you want about country music. But you’d be hard pressed to deny that this song’s melody is innovative and just fresh and fun. One of the highlights of a stellar album. Here’s a live version by the songwriter, Darrell Scott.
“Polaroids,” Shawn Colvin — This beautiful, wandering story song kicked off the Fat City album, and I rewound the tape (did I date myself here?) over and over. Thank God I have the CD and mp3 now! (On a side note, does she look totally uncomfortable talking about the song onthe video, or what?)
“Sound Of Melodies,” Leeland — This was the first song of Leeland’s that I heard, and of all the great melodic songs they’ve done, this is my absolute favorite.
“Suddenly I See,” K T Tunstall — This song makes the list for one line of melody. Check out the melody on the lines “Everything around her is a silver pool of light” and “She fills up every corner like she’s born in black and white.” Innovative, and proof that a single melody line can lift a song to a whole new level. (Two other songs of hers, “Other Side Of The World” and “False Alarm” get honorable mentions.)
“Useless Desires,” Patty Griffin — Here’s another really beautiful, sad story song. I think the melody really helps convey the sadness and resignation of the song.
“You Never Give Me Your Money,” The Beatles — Paul McCartney wrote some of the Beatles’ most enduring melodies, and this song about the precarious state of the band’s finances in their waning days together is one of them. The three distinct sections of the song, each with its own strong melody, combine to create a whole that’s more than the sum of its parts.
I’m sure I’ve left something out, and maybe I’ll come up with a Part 2 list one of these days. In the meantime, what are some of your favorites?