Talking Heads - Road To Nowhere (1985)
A brilliant song about the futility of life. Our only certainty is death, so we may as well enjoy the journey towards it. Accompanied by a great video which was nominated for a VMA for Best Video of the Year in 1986.
Queen - ‘39 (1975)
Written and sung by Brian May, the lyrics reveal his background in astrophysics as the song tells a story about exploring space and Einstein’s time dilation effect. A group of space explorers set out on a journey to find a new home for the people of Earth and return a year later. However, upon their return they realize that a hundred years have passed and all of their loved ones have died. This is one of my absolute favorite Queen songs, I love the narrative form and the harmonies in the chorus (in which you can clearly hear Freddie Mercury’s voice). It could almost be the plot of an extremely depressing episode of Doctor Who…
Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence (1965)
Written in the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, this song has become one of Simon & Garfunkel’s most popular songs as well as a quintessential folk-rock song. A beautiful, poetic song about people’s inability to communicate with each other.
Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue - Where The Wild Roses Grow (1996)
An unusual duet by pop singer Kylie Minogue and the Australian rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, from their album Murder Ballads, this song is a dialogue between a killer in his victim. The contrast between Minogue’s sweet, high voice and Cave’s low growl combined with the disturbing lyrics makes this a chilling but stunning song. The video was inspired by John Everett Millais’ painting Ophelia.
Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal (1987)
One of his signature songs and looks: if this video doesn’t prove to you that Michael Jackson was fucking badass, then nothing will.
Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love (1986)
The imagery in this song is stunning, and that haunting drumbeat adds to the feeling of being chased, continuously on the run from something you cannot escape. Watch the video, it’s gorgeous and very romantic!
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
A melancholy and heartbreaking song about Ian Curtis’ failing marriage, released only a month before his suicide. I always get chills from those first few chords.
Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit (1967)
Obviously about the effects of an LSD trip and Alice In Wonderland, this song has an incredibly epic feel to it even though it’s so short! Grace Slick’s voice is a true force of nature.
The Human League - Don’t You Want Me (1981)
The lyrics about a failed romance are slightly creepy (‘You think you’ve changed your mind? You’d better change it back or we will both be sorry’), but backed by that wonderful synthesizer and told from both parties’ points of view in a duet, this is another one of those fantastic eighties classics!
Don McLean - Vincent (1971)
A song about Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, also known as “Starry Starry Night” because of its opening lines. McLean very beautifully references several of Van Gogh’s works through gorgeous imagery, as well as the painter’s tragic life and the lack of recognition for his work. It never fails to leave me in tears.