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Music & Podcasts

Ten Songs (2023 Version)

Rewritten from 29 April 2019 – formerly Ten Songs

I wrote a post back in 2019 about my favourite songs. My definitive list of ten songs. My eclectic Spotify library is incredibly varied and always has been. One minute, you’ll have the upbeat, happy tones of Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid, the next you’ll have “CUT MY LIFE INTO PIECES…” those iconic, opening lines of Last Resort by Papa Roach. You would think that in just four years, my tastes wouldn’t actually change that much, but when I was reviewing the original post from 2019, I knew immediately that it needed a rewrite.

Once again, I decided to eliminate the obvious choices – things like All the Small Things by Blink 182, Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus and Mr Brightside by The Killers – all bangers in their own right and songs that you will scream at the top of your lungs whenever they come on at a wedding, but at the end of the day, they’re on pretty much everyone’s list of favourite songs. Then we’ve got our queen, the one and only Ms Taylor Swift. I love her music, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that if I could only listen to one artist for the rest of my life, it would be her. While she’s the artist that takes up more spots on this list than others, I’ve made an effort to branch out, as I did four years ago.

A lot has happened since 2019. I changed jobs, I bought a house, I endured a pandemic while battling contamination OCD, and I lost my dad. So, I guess it’s only natural that my favourite songs might change.

Anti-Hero – Taylor Swift

“It’s me, hi! I’m the problem, it’s me”

Okay, I may have made a big thing about how this list won’t contain too much Taylor, but I have to go straight in with this one. Anti-Hero has to be my favourite song on the Midnights album, perfectly summing up how my brain works. Self-loathing, overthinking, insecurities and general anxiety – welcome to my mind.

Two versions of Taylor Swift do shots together

She Used to Be Mine – Sara Bareilles

“She’s imperfect but she tries, she is good, but she lies. She is hard on herself, she is broken and won’t ask for help”

This is a song I only discovered a few months ago, while in the depths of my grief playlist. While I’ve never seen Waitress the musical, I adore the film, so I know a fair bit about the context of the song. Admittedly, I don’t relate to the main character’s situation – Jenna is pregnant by her abusive husband, and she dreams of escaping both him and her day-job as a waitress to start a new life – however, the lyrics of the song hit home in a way I didn’t expect them to. 

She Used to Be Mine is Jenna’s reflection on the person she used to be, something which I can relate to, particularly in this last year. I’d be lying if I said I was “normal” before I lost my dad, but I’d also be lying if I said I was the same person now, compared to who I was a year ago. In short, She Used to Be Mine is the perfect metaphor for grief and how it changes you as a person. When you bear that fact in mind, the song hits far more differently than you’d expect.

Cate’s Brother – Maisie Peters

“If it’s gonna hurt, will it be worth it and will I recover? Are you gonna feel the way I feel? Are you for real, Cate’s brother?”

Over the last few years, my love of Maisie Peters has grown, but no more so when I heard Cate’s Brother for the first time on Radio 1 last year (as a side note, I’ve started my transition to Radio 2 since Scott Mills started on there, but I love Vick Hope and Jordan North on Radio 1). There’s no emotional meaning or attachment I have to the song – I just love it purely because of how catchy it is, and it just makes me happy. If I had to describe it, I’d say it’s a cross between Teenage Dirtbag and Stacy’s Mom – listen to it and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

For Now – The Cast of Avenue Q

“Don’t stress, relax. Let life roll off your back. Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now”

It’s no secret that when it comes to musicals, Avenue Q is my favourite. Sweary puppets, catchy songs and a whole cast of characters who have no idea what the actual F they’re doing with their lives – what’s not to love? In the last year, I’ve really started to appreciate the lyrics to For Now. It’s probably a combination of grief and my job at a hospice, but the lyrics really hit differently. For Now isn’t my favourite song in the show, but it has a powerful message. While I’m not the best at following the rule of “don’t stress, relax,” there is wisdom in the line “except for death and paying taxes…” – yes, it’s depressing, but it’s true. It’s a lesson I still need to learn, so in a way, it’s even more important that it has a placement in this list! If you want to take the edge off of how heavy the message is, just remember, the majority of the song is sung by puppets.

Blackbird – The Beatles

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly”

A surprising addition to this list, but there’s no doubt that this is one song that will stay with me for the rest of my life. There were a few songs by The Beatles that I loved, but I’m ashamed to say that I only knew of Blackbird from an episode of Glee. Cut to June 2022 when my siblings, my step-mum and I were discussing my dad’s funeral. My eldest brother mentioned that back in the 70s, Dad was a big fan of The Beatles, and he suggested two songs we could use as a tribute to him – In My Life, and Blackbird – Both of which were played at his funeral. I love both songs, but for some reason, Blackbird is the one that hits me the hardest. Maybe it’s because it ties in loosely with Dad’s love of animals, in particular his parrot, Jasper. It makes me feel sad that I never knew about his love of The Beatles, but now, every time I hear one of their songs, I think of him. It also makes me glad that we had 8 Days a Week on our wedding playlist, and it was one of the songs playing as he witnessed us signing the register. 

Shake it Off – Taylor Swift

“But I keep cruising, can’t stop won’t stop moving, it’s like I’ve got this music in my mind saying ‘it’s gonna be alright’”

The only song that made it from the 2019 list! Shake It Off is just the epitome of happiness for me. It’s light-hearted, it pokes fun, and it’s an absolute TUNE. The person I think of whenever I hear this song is my best friend, Lillie. It’s a song that we dance to pretty much every time we’re drunk, and each time, it just fills me with sheer joy. Let’s also be honest, the phrase “shake it off” is a mantra we could all do with using more of, particularly if you deal with anxiety. So much so, it’s tattooed on my foot.

All Eyes on Me – Bo Burnham

“You say the ocean’s rising, like I give a shit! You say the whole world’s ending, honey, it already did. You’re not gonna slow it, heaven knows you tried. Got it? Good, now get inside”

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that in recent months I’ve developed an obsession with Bo Burnham in the same way I became obsessed with Paul Mescal in my Normal People phase. I first watched Inside when it came out in the depths of lockdown, but didn’t quite appreciate it. Since then, I’ve watched it multiple times, and with each watch I feel myself relating to Bo’s mental state even more. The whole concept of Inside revolves around Bo’s declining mental health, with it coming to a head in the penultimate number, All Eyes on Me. He talks about how he previously quit live comedy due to having severe panic attacks on stage, and how he spent five years working on his mental health, only to decide to re-enter the world of performing in January 2020, when “the funniest thing happened.” 

Silhouette of Bo Burnham from his Netflix special, Inside

For me, the song depicts depression perfectly. It may not be the same for everyone, but I find that when my mood is at an all time low, I want to be left alone, but at the same time, I’m also desperate for attention. I’m desperate for someone to reach out and ask me if I’m okay, but the thought of talking to someone about how I’m feeling makes me want to punch a hole in the wall. All Eyes on Me is a painfully accurate depiction of depression generally, but when you combine it with one’s mental health during the depths of lockdown, it adds a whole extra level of pain.

You & Me – Lifehouse

“It’s you and me, and all other people with nothing to do, nothing to lose, and it’s you and me, and all of the people, and I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you”

So this song was our first dance at our wedding. You may recognise it from the very first episode of Gavin & Stacey, and it also featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I’m not sure how we came to decide on it, but I can tell you there were so many vetos. Unfortunately, when my husband and I got married, Lover by Taylor Swift hadn’t been released yet. You may be wondering why this song didn’t make my original list, and don’t worry, I’ll tell you. My husband has been my rock this last year. He’s held me when I’ve been a snivelling, disgusting mess, he’s fed me chicken nuggets when I’ve barely been able to eat, and he sat through me watching reruns of The Inbetweeners because I desperately needed a laugh. He’s put up with way more than he should have in this last year, and for that, I am insanely grateful. Despite the fact I’ve been drinking way more than I should during an average week, the fact that I cry at most episodes of The Mandalorian (Grogu and Mando belong together), and the fact that I regularly tell him I’ll sell my share of our house to get tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, he hasn’t left me. Knowing he’s stuck around with me at my absolute worst makes the memory of us dancing to this song at our wedding even more special, and (don’t tell him because he won’t let me live it down), I’m not sure I’d have got through this last year without him. Scrap that, I definitely wouldn’t have.

Visiting Hours – Ed Sheeran

“I will close the door but will open up my heart, and everyone I love will know exactly who you are”

Yaaass, it’s another death song. If there’s one song that’s brought me solace in this last year, it’s this one. Ed Sheeran has a knack for writing grief-songs that just sum up exactly what you want to say – whether it’s Supermarket Flowers or his latest track, Eyes Closed – his lyrics are heartbreakingly accurate. There are multiple lines in Visiting Hours that hit me hard, including “Can I just stay a while, and we’ll put all the world to rights?” because that’s exactly what we used to do. I’d pop into Dad’s house, and he’d be sitting there in that same armchair. We’d have a cup of tea and he ask me what was new. I’d tell him about my job, about life at home, about Tilly. In just an hour or two, we really would put the world to rights. Then he’d walk me to my car, take the piss out of how filthy it was, and then give me a kiss goodbye. I would give anything to experience that one more time. The line mentioned above is something I live by, in that I never stop talking about my dad. In fact, one of my friends and colleagues said to me recently: “I love the way you talk about your dad.” He’s gone, but I won’t ever stop talking about him.

Bejewelled – Taylor Swift

“Best believe I’m still bejewelled, when I walk in the room, I can still make the whole place shimmer.”

Another fairly new addition to my list is my second-favourite track on the Midnights album. Bejewelled is all about self-love and unleashing your sparkle, something which, as you’ll probably have guessed, I could do with at the moment. It’s the perfect song for when you’re getting ready for a night out, or when you just need a bit of a confidence boost (in my case, always). Let’s also just give a nod to the music video, which is absolutely ICONIC.

Taylor Swift in the music video for Bejeweled

So there you have it, a completely different ten songs compared to four years ago. Who knows? In another four years, it might be completely different. Only time will tell. 

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