It’s time to revisit our list of emotionally packed songs. If you haven’t read this post already, give it a read and listen to some of our music picks. If you’ve already read it, we need some new suggestions. What songs do you listen to that really hit you emotionally (please don’t say Lady Gaga or I’ll really think something is wrong with you).
One of my favorite bands, Black Gold, was asked the question “how does a person [aspiring musician] get to that next level?” Black Gold’s drummer, Than Luu, said this, “…Write from the heart. You know, if you’re writing songs or you’re performing do it from the heart. You know, because people can tell, I certainly can, when you’re on stage or you’ve recorded something that’s truly kinda BS. It’s not really…you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”
I’ve asked Tommy, and I’m asking anyone reading this to please send your song suggestions either via comment at the bottom of the article or via twitter (@Ryan_Kantor). I’ll try to add as many good suggestions as I can to the article (I will be updating it as people give songs). So here are some songs that were written from the heart, a they’re linked to YouTube videos so you can hear them for yourself.
“Blackbird” by Alter Bridge: I don’t even feel like I’m exaggerating when I say this is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. It is truly is flawless, both musically and lyrically. It is about a friend of singer Myles Kennedy who was ill and eventually passed away, and about how it was Kennedy’s hope that his friend would find peace.
With the haunting opening guitar pattern, the soaring and incredibly emotional vocals of Kennedy (evident throughout, but when you hear the chorus, you can’t help but appreciate the emotion and drama), and the interlude that evolves into a two-phase guitar solo (the first part is done by Kennedy, the second by Mark Tremonti) that is powerful and dramatic enough to send chills down your spine, this song is an absolute masterpiece.
“Shine” by Black Gold: The dramatic soft intro, the vocal interlude (2:41), the delivery, it all comes together in a great sounding, dynamic, emotional tune. You absolutely must watch the video to understand what the song is about and have a true appreciation for it. Please share you’re interpretation in the comments!
“Never Again” by Disturbed: If you’re going to sing about the Holocaust you better do it justice and create a musical masterpiece. Jewish-American singer David Draiman pours his soul out in “Never Again,” aptly named after the Jewish post-Holocaust rallying cry.
This emotional song takes you from sadness to anger to pride and then does it all over again. It even takes a subtle shot at Iranian President and Holocaust denier (AKA idiot), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Never Again” is one of Disturbed’s deepest tracks and hits an emotional chord with any listener, especially those that feel a connection to the Jewish community (me).
“A Man Needs a Maid” by Neil Young: A soft yet extremely powerful song. It has a somber tone throughout, and Young’s emotional vocal delivery, as well as his elegant piano work and the epic orchestration, make it a truly great song. The meaning is somewhat open for interpretation; clearly it has something to do with Young’s personal life–perhaps about him falling out of love but still being dependent on a woman.
“Venice Queen” by Red Hot Chili Peppers: Even though the Chili Peppers have had numerous huge hits, two of their best and most emotional songs didn’t get the attention they deserved. One would be “Wet Sand” from their Stadium Arcadium album, which I’ve heard on the radio, but was overlooked in favor of Dani California. The other is “Venice Queen” from their By The Way album.
Venice Queen is a tribute to the drug counselor (named Gloria) that helped lead singer Anthony Keidis overcome his addictions. The lyrics:
“I know you said you don’t believe
In god do you still disagree
Now that it’s time for you to leave
Is love my friend”
are some of the best written.
“45” by Shinedown: This incredibly emotional song has an apparently blatant meaning about suicide, but vocalist Brent Smith says that it is more symbolic than it seems. He describes the 45 as a metaphor for “what [the world] hands you every day of your life.” The main theme of the song, according to Smith, is about moving on and becoming comfortable in your own skin. Regardless, it is one of the most emotional hard rock songs I have ever heard, and it is this powerful delivery that helped it become one of the songs that launched Shinedown’s career.
“Konstantine” by Something Corporate: Epically long and packed with symbolism, Konstantine certainly fits the bill as a song written from the heart.
It’s about the singer’s ex-girlfriend who he loved, but due to his constant touring and dreams of a successful music career they were unable to make their relationship work. Open to interpretation, this ballad may be especially emotional for high school sweethearts going to different colleges or college aged couples trying to figure out what they’ll do when they graduate.
Here’s a live version that captures the epicness (is that a word?) of the song. This is my personal #1.
“The Runaway” by Something Corporate: While maybe not as emotional as “Konstantine” this song is another one written from the heart.
This song is about a girl (“the runaway”) who Andrew McMahon is in love with but unfortunately the love isn’t mutual. In fact the love may not be healthy, which I take from the lyrics “I find myself in you” and even more so from the lines “I know what you really need, what you need, or I need, but either way this is where you should be, here with me.”
The inflection in McMahon’s voice and the accompanying guitars, drums, etc make this tune stand out.
Missing the Cut:
“Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence Suite” by Dream Theater: “This is the band’s longest song to date, at an insane 41:58. Broken up into movements (classical music buffs know what I mean here), the song focuses on six different mental illnesses, and six different characters, each afflicted with one of the aforementioned illnesses.”
Submitted via comment by Chris Dianora
“I Would Be Sad” by The Avett Brothers: Submitted via Twitter by @TrobTiger: While the song was probably written with some genuine emotion, it doesn’t make the cut because it isn’t delivered with emotion and simply doesn’t sound good…at all.
“Keepsake” by State Radio: Submitted via Twitter by @uublog: This song doesn’t make the cut because the music behind the lyrics is weak and unappealing.
If I may, I would like to suggest several songs to add to this list, if not solely as honorable mentions:
The Needle Lies – Queensryche. Since Ryan opened the door to battling one’s addictions, I feel that this song (for those who know it) is a no-brainer. The song is about a man who decides to fight his heroin addiction by going cold-turkey (he has no alternative choice). The song vividly depicts this man crawling down a dark alley, throwing himself against the alley walls to draw his attention away from his cravings. He finally beats the addiction by CARVING the chorus of the song into his arm – “Don’t ever trust the needle, it lies”.
Creep – Radiohead. While I’m not a fan of Radiohead in general, I will say that this song is one of the saddest I’ve ever heard. A song about a social outcast who just wants to be noticed by an unnamed woman (“I wish I was special…”). The quiet, somber tone evokes a feeling of pity for this person, who questions his existence, and is willing to sacrifice his entire being (“I don’t care if it hurts…I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul”) just for this woman to acknowledge him. These feelings, excellently conveyed, will affect any person who hears the song to some point.
Save Me – Shinedown. I’m surprised my brother didn’t mention this song. Yes, it is overplayed, and yes, it is not an accurate representation of the band, but the emotion is there. Another song about drug addiction, it revolves around a man crying out for somebody to help him out of the hole he finds himself in. During the song, he reflects on his situation, and is disgusted by it. At the end of the song, he even cries “Please don’t erase me!” – a plea that passers by will not simply dismiss him and allow him to fade from the world.
Panic Attack – Dream Theater. As the title suggests, the song is about a panic attack. What brings this song to this list is how Dream Theater uses every instrument in their band to emulate a panicked feeling. The rapid bassline, sweeping keyboard, intense drums, and even James LaBrie’s high pitched, frantic voice, make the song’s message clear.
(continued in the next post)….
(continued from above)
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence Suite – Dream Theater. This is the band’s longest song to date, at an insane 41:58. Broken up into movements (classical music buffs know what I mean here), the song focuses on six different mental illnesses, and six different characters, each afflicted with one of the aforementioned illnesses. The six mental illnesses are: bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, autism, postpartum depression, and dissociative identity disorder. Each character has a segment of the song devoted to them, some in the first person. As one can imagine when describing characters like this, emotions run high. The most emotionally charged story, War Inside My Head, features the PTSD character vividly reliving his experiences in Vietnam (this is a guess based on references to a jungle and burning villages with napalm). If you have the time, you should check this piece out.
Just Barely Breathing – Killswitch Engage. First off, a warning: this song is not for the faint-of-heart. It is relatively unrefined metalcore, and very harsh. That being said, the metalcore quality, and the soulful screaming (he actually used too much emotion in his work, and blew out his voice) of Jesse Leach makes the song that much more real. Told from an observer’s standpoint, the song poses the question “are we living life to the fullest, or just living for the sake of living?” This is summed up in the chorus of the song: “Are we alive, or just breathing?” The narrator of the song is sad and depressed that we as a people have gone from enjoying life to just hacking through the daily grind. It is a call to wake up and enjoy life to the fullest.
Well, that was a lot of typing… Many of these songs need to be heard in order to appreciate the emotion in them. Despite my attempts here, there really isn’t any substitute for listening to them yourself.
What’s your opinion?
Thanks for all the songs. I’ll have to listen to them and decide which to add. I’ll definetely add all those to the tags. Just so you know, we nearly added “Save Me,” but decided to go with “45.”
Chris, thanks again for the suggestions. I have a lot going on so I apologize in advance for not listening to them all yet. So far I have only listened to Panic Attack. I thought it was a pretty cool song, but I’m not sure if it belongs in the same list as Blackbird, Never Again, Konstantine, Shine, and 45. Those are our 5 locks at the moment. Venice Queen, The Runaway, and a Man needs a maid hopefully we eventually get beaten out by songs submitted by others. I’ll take some time to listen to the rest of your suggestions when I can. Have you heard all the songs on our list?
That song by Killswitch Engage is way to heavy for me. I can’t pick up on the emotion because it is overshadowed by the pure heaviness of it. The epic 40 minute song seems pretty cool. I listened to the first 9 minutes. It is pretty enjoyable, but I’m not sure I can say it has emotion comparable to “45” or “Konstantine.”
Panic Attack is an awesome tune, and the idea of panicking is expertly portrayed by the chaotic nature of the music, but I don’t know if that can really be considered EMOTIONAL.
The Killswitch Engage song was quite heavy…I have to say I prefer Howard on vocals, but I did like the few instances where Jesse sang cleanly. I’ve grown to enjoy that type of music slightly more (I used to hate it), and the emotion is evident, but I’m not sure it cracks the list.
Well, it’s been too long since I re-visited this post. I finally listened to “The Needle Lies” and realized that I have definitely heard this song before, but I just never knew who it was or what the song was called. It’s an awesome tune, but again, I’m not sure if the emotional delivery ranks up there with some of these others. Nevertheless, the sense of urgency is there, and I would certainly rank it above “The Runaway” and “Shine”, but Kantor will whine. It is borderline list material; a decision will soon be made.
Chris, you also suggested pretty much anything off Hurt’s album, Vol. 1. I have to agree with you there. The emotional delivery in all of those songs is quite intense. I would personally recommend “Overdose” and “Falls Apart”, but basically any song on that record is worthy.
Lastly, I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this band yet, because I’ve been obsessed with them for months, but many of Lacuna Coil’s songs from the album Comalies and their work prior to that can be in the conversation. Comalies is just an awesome album, and when I think of the most emotional tracks, the ones that come to mind are “Unspoken” and “Entwined”. I’d probably have to go with “Unspoken” in this case. The orchestration and synths, as well as the vocal delivery, create a very dramatic and epic feel. The lyrics are very metaphorical; without delving into too deep of an analysis, I can at least say that the song is probably about a bad relationship. There is also an acoustic version…though not as epic since it lacks the orchestration, the way the band composed it is brilliant and the vocal emotion shines through even more.
Kantor inexplicably hates this band (maybe he’s just prejudiced against female singers). He has failed to appreciate their wide-ranging sound and their ethereal nature that, while somewhat detached, pulls listeners in. LC, while still pretty good, has strayed a little bit from this style. Hopefully they can get back to that in the future.
Man, that was a long comment. Maybe I should go to bed now.
I listened to every song Chris was nice enough to contribute. Some I enjoyed, others I didn’t. Just Barely Breathing was way too much for me to handle. The long Dream Theater song–“6 degrees of inner turbulence”–was pretty interesting. I added it to the list of the 3 songs that missed the cut and explained why.
There are 5 songs on the list that stand above the others. They are “Blackbird,” “Never Again,” “Konstantine,” “Shine,” and “45.” I’m hoping someone will eventually knock “The Runaway,” “A Man Needs a Maid,” and “Venice Queen” off the list, but I’m not gonna take them off the list just to do it. We need more contributions from more people.
Tom, I listened to “Unspoken” and wasn’t repulsed. It was somewhat enjoyable. I don’t see anything special about it though. I’ll listen to “Overdose” as you recomended.
You not being repulsed by Lacuna Coil is a huge step forward in your evolution as a music fan. I’m pretty sure that can knock “The Runaway” off the list. So can “Entwined”, “The Ghost Woman and the Hunter”, “Distant Sun”, “To Live Is To Hide”…..I could go on forever.
I have a very interesting add…having just seen the immensely dark and haunting film, Requiem for a Dream, this song is in my head.
It’s the main theme from the movie, and I’m sure most people will recognize it, as they have likely heard the re-done, longer version in various film trailers and sports montages. However, this one is the more haunting and dark one, and while some might not think it fits into the category of emotionally packed songs since there are no words, it still manages to convey a truly somber and haunting (did I say that before?) tone.
Interesting song, not sure it tops the similar song from Inception though. It’s tough to make this list though.