Okay, lemme let you in on the rules of the game. You know those songs where some nameless bastard is lamenting over the girl who got away, or some poor woman is singing about her unrequited love for some guy named “Jim” or some bullshit? Yeah, I hate those songs too, but today’s post is dedicated to those types of songs, songs that are named after people. Because, here’s the thing, shockingly enough? They’re not all bad. in fact, there are some that are, dare I say, good. The musician has the ability to make you feel like you know the person or at least give a shit about them. I mean, that’s the power of good music, right? So here’s my top 5 of best songs named after people.
5. Lilly White – Rocky Votolato
Rocky Votolato is easily one of the most talented singer/songwriters out there right now, no question in my mind. What is it that sets him apart? he hasn’t forgotten the craft of storytelling. “Lilly White” gives glimpses into the decaying ruins of a relationship and the battered man that remains. It’s tragic, it’s sweet, it’s exactly the kind of song you want written about you, but never wanna tell anyone. I mean, sure, it’d be devastating knowing that you caused someone so much pain, but this song is unbridled passion and remorse personified. Votolato’s vocals ache with every word and the soulful harmonica only adds to the beauty.
4. Samson – Regina Spektor
Now, for most people I don’t even hafta introduce this song. “Samson” is known well enough by most folks, but that shouldn’t disqualify it. However, there are a couple reasons that it didn’t make higher up on the list. First and foremost, Samson isn’t Regina Spektor’s story. Most people who even have a casual knowledge of the bible (or even the misogyny inherent in the bible) know the story of Samson and Delilah. Sure, Spektor makes the distinction in the song, but the similarities are pretty damn strong. Secondly, the song works better as a piece of the puzzle. It fits into a larger framework of the entire album. Still, it’s a beautifully told story paired with delicate vocals that deserves recognition.
3. Astair – Matt Costa
Wow, really? Yet another sad bastard song. What can I say? I guess I’ve got a type. “Astair” is about a woman leaving a man and his desperate search to figure out what he did wrong. Anyone who’s ever been broken up with can relate to this simple tale. The hours, even days, spent going over and over things again in your head. It’s brutal. But still Matt Costa finds a way to make it seem sweet. he captures that painful combination of longing and confusion that only somebody who’s been through a bad breakup can understand.
2. John Allyn Smith Sails – Okkervil River
Okay, this is one of the more unusual entries to make the cut, but I have my reasons. It tells the story of John Berryman, who dabbled in alcoholism before taking his own life at a relatively young age. It’s by no means a happy story, but Okkervil River does the man justice. It’s a beautifully composed song and a surprisingly rich narrative. In fact, truth be told, I had to look up some more information on John Berryman because I didn’t know how all the lyrics directly linked to his own story, but it’s a fascinating tribute to a tragic man’s life.
1. Veronica – Elvis Costello
It seemed cruel to not even have one</i. remotely upbeat song on the list, plus considering Costello's love of women's names (I debated over including "Allison") it's kinda impossible for him to not make the cut. Some have said it's about his grandmother's Alzheimer's, which would actually make this yet another sad bastard song, but it's the music that sells this song. The instrumentals aren't tragic at all, which makes the contrast even more jarring and ultimately, kinda sad. Still, Costello's talent for hooks overrides any depression that results from this song. It's sweet and sorta sad, but you'd never be able to tell from Costello's musical arrangement.
What about yours? Any I forgot to mention or that you felt deserved a shot at the top five?
Leave a comment and let me know what I'm missing out on!