Category Archives: The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 30

And so it comes to a close, with the final category:

A Song That Makes You Want to Be a Better Person.

Here are the staff picks:

Tara Seetharam: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Aretha Franklin

Maybe it’s the way the gospel arrangement evokes a guttural reaction or the way the lyrics are shamelessly selfless. As with the best songs, I can’t quite put my finger on why it moves me – but this song makes me want to live for others.

Kevin Coyne: “Hell Yeah” – Neil Diamond

This is how I want to look back on my life when it’s all said and done. I’m about halfway there.

Leeann Ward: “Man in Black” – Johnny Cash

This is a tough and weighty category for sure. “Man in Black” could just as easily fit the “worldview” category for me, but then, “What You Give Away” could fit this one too. Somehow, these lyrics, however, make me want to try harder to be better toward those around me: “I wear the black for those who’ve never read/ Or listened to the words that Jesus said/ About the road to happiness through love and charity/ Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.”

Dan Milliken: “Square One” – Tom Petty

My worst vice is that I’m perpetually behind on several things at once. Not just long-term shoulds, like “I’ve been meaning to call my old pal Jan,” but short-term imperatives like “I need to start that paper that was due three weeks ago.” I’ve gotten away with play-first-and-maybe-work-later for most of my life, and while it’s made me less uptight and more understanding of others’ foibles, it also means I’m usually walking under an invisible raincloud of sorts. The burden of something unfinished – let alone several things – is like an awful condom on the fun you can actually experience, the care you can give to other people, the love or joy you can feel – everything good about living, basically.

I want to be Tom Petty in “Square One.” He’s fought his way through his respective “world of trouble” and finally come out clean. “My slate is clear,” he sings, in the sweetest Tom Petty tone ever; “Rest your head on me, my dear.” With his baggage cleared out, he can finally live fully in the present, taking full advantage of the people and experiences he’s blessed with.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 29

Today’s category is…

A Song That No One Would Expect You To Love.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “3 Peat” - Lil Wayne

My friends all think I’m a big wimp. They’re right. But I do like Wayne. (Though even in this case, I’m drawn to the vulnerability in the song more than the aggression.)

Tara Seetharam: “Disco Inferno” – 50 Cent

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of my friends in real life, but those in the blogosphere probably wouldn’t expect me to love 50 Cent as much as I do. I could list a handful of songs here, but this one is a blast.

Kevin Coyne: “Symphony No. 5″ – Beethoven

Best. Intro. Ever.

Leeann Ward: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” – Jay-Z

I imagine this selection might successfully do the trick of surprising people, but I really do love this song.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 28

Today’s category is…

A Song From Your Favorite Songwriter.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” – Darrell Scott

A modern masterpiece.

Dan Milliken: “Restless” – Robert Lee Castleman  (performed by Alison Krauss & Union Station)

No one writes individualist cud-chew better than Castleman, and no one sings it better than Krauss. Each new pairing of theirs is a gift to all over-thinkers with secret over-feeling streaks, those who revel in connection but resent constraint, who ask only for honesty because that’s all they themselves can promise sometimes.

Tara Seetharam: “Cowboy Take Me Away” – Marcus Hummon and Martie Seidel (performed by Dixie Chicks)

I don’t really have a favorite songwriter, but I guess Marcus Hummon is the closest thing. I won’t even try to speak more poignantly about this song than Dan did back when we counted down the greatest singles of the 90s; he nails its transcendental sparkle that makes it more than just another love song.

Kevin Coyne: “Don’t Let it Trouble Your Mind” – Dolly Parton

Writing great songs for more than forty years.  What’s amazing  isn’t so much how great she still is, but how great she’s been all along, as this early track demonstrates.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 27

Today’s category is…

A Song That Expresses Your World View (Or Somethin’ Like That.)

Here are the staff picks:

Kevin Coyne: “Something Worth Leaving Behind” – Lee Ann Womack

Live your life for yourself, your life dies with you.  Live it for others, it lives on long after you’re gone.

Leeann Ward: “What You Give Away” – Vince Gill

I like the way this guy thinks. I wholeheartedly believe in this philosophy and tend to be a sucker for any song that expresses it.

Dan Milliken: “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” – The Byrds

Ecclesiastes and Pete Seeger wrote this classic in a Music Row living room after eating some barbecue and swapping stories about their weekends. “Turn! Turn! Turn!” gets that life paints in shades of gray – things that seem undesirable to us may yet be necessary, and different courses of action may be morally sound or not depending on circumstance. But the song also doesn’t shy away from advocating for peace at the end, as if to say, “maybe we’ve already served enough ‘time for war,’ you know?”

Tara Seetharam: “What a Wonderful World” – Louis Armstrong

I know it seems like a simplistic pick, but lately its message has really resonated with me. It’s incredible –mind-blowing, really– how much beauty and humanity you can see in the world every day if you choose to see it. And life is significantly more rewarding when you do.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 26

Today’s category is…

A Song About Time.

Here are the staff picks:

Tara Seetharam: “For the Good Times” – Jamey Johnson

About a man spending one last night with his lover, frozen in the “good times” instead of thinking about the pain that will inevitably ensue. There are plenty of versions of this song that I enjoy, but Johnson’s hits on the exact swirl of genres that just gets to me.

Kevin Coyne: “Pushing Up Daisies” – Garth Brooks

My favorite metaphor about time and the importance of making it count is captured in the chorus of this song.

Leeann Ward: “Wayside (Back in Time)” – Chris Thile

When I looked through my iTunes to find a song about time, as you might imagine, many of them were reflective and conveyed some sort of sentimentality. But I love this breakneck version of Gillian Welch and David Rawling’s “Wayside (Back in Time)” the best.

Dan Milliken: “Time Changes Everything” – Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys

The sweet, simple truth: If you think you’ll never get over being discarded, wait.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 25

Today’s category is…

A Great Song That You Discovered After Everybody Else Already Heard It.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Lord I Hope This Day is Good” – Don Williams

What can I say? I like to think I have a strong overview-type knowledge of country music, but I guess everyone’s got some inexplicable holes in their cultural patchwork. I’ve known of this classic by name for years and have listened through a fair amount of other Don Williams, but I’d never actually bothered to fire the song up until Leeann used it as her pick for one of these categories the other day. Good stuff, though.

Tara Seetharam: “Amen” – Edens Edge

This song was released months ago, but I just heard it for the first time on the radio the other week. There’s something about it – between the 90s-esque melody and the adorably written storyline – that totally hits my sweet spot.

Kevin Coyne: “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele

I don’t know how I missed this one, but in the last two weeks, I’ve played it more than all but seven songs on my iPod.

Leeann Ward: “Chasing Pavements” – Adele

Well, as indicated by their respective titles, her first album was recorded when she was 19 and her second album was released very recently at age 21, so it’s taken roughly 2 years for me to discover Adele, even though the rest of you have known about her for a while by now. Since I don’t live under a rock, I’ve of course heard her name, just not her music.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 24

Today’s category is…

A Great Song You Just Discovered.

Here are the staff picks:

Leeann Ward: “The Last Bus” – Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers

One of my favorite moments is when I put my iPod on shuffle and discover a song that I’ve never heard before and fall in love with it. Such an occasion occurred a few weeks ago. I’ve had this Zoe Muth album for quite some time, but as often happens, I bought the album and hadn’t gotten around to listening to it yet.

The song has my favorite kind of gentle instrumentation and Muth’s performance exudes the kind of melancholy that is easy to get wrapped up in, which is a testament to a well interpreted and well crafted song.

P.S. The whole album is highly worth checking out.

Dan Milliken: “Lost Horizons” – Gin Blossoms

I knew them as the band behind two of my favorite 90’s singles, “Found Out About You” and “Follow You Down,” but I’d never listened through one of their albums until I happened upon a used copy of New Miserable Experience a few weeks ago. “Lost Horizons” is the opening track, and it’s a killer marriage of depressive angst and jaunty power-pop: “I’ll drink enough of anything to make this world look new again / I’m drunk, drunk, drunk in the gardens and the graves.”

Tara Seetharam: “One and Only” – Adele

Love this album, love this song. The lyrics are simple and its sentiment isn’t groundbreaking, but its vocal nuances and gorgeous throwback arrangement make it an instant favorite for me. I can’t get enough of the fierce tenacity in Adele’s performance and how sweetly it contrasts with the song’s soothing vibe.

Kevin Coyne: “Racing the Angels” – Matraca Berg

From her exquisite new album The Dreaming Fields, this is the highlight among highlights.  A real heartbreaker, Berg is mourning her husband’s death alongside the death of the woman that she used to be.  Enjoy it by the songwriter now, and by a nineties artist with great taste on some future album.  My money’s on Yearwood.

 

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 23

Today’s category is…

An Oldie But Goodie.

Here are the staff picks:

Kevin Coyne: “Tell It to the Rain” -  The 4 Seasons

You can tell it’s the mid-sixties because they’re dabbling a bit with production gimmicks.  I think it’s their coolest-sounding record, one of their best compositions, and Frankie Valli at the peak of his vocal prowess.

Leeann Ward: “Baby Blue” – George Strait

Since I picked on George strait for “Check Yes or No”, it seems only fair that I spotlight one of my favorites by him. Anyone who claims that he doesn’t sing with emotion should listen to this one again.

Dan Milliken: “Up Above My Head” – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

One of Elvis’ heroes. Check this out toot-sweet.

Tara Seetharam: “Someone to Watch Over Me” – Frank Sinatra

Or anything by my man, Frank. Most people don’t know that after country music, this is the genre that feels the most innate to me.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 22

Today’s category is…

A Story Song.

Here are the staff picks:

Tara Seetharam: “The Dance” – Garth Brooks

I’m not sure if this song really constitutes as a “story”song, but its metaphor is so beautifully written that it feels as rich as the best country songs in this category. Regret is a funny thing; sometimes it’s easier to succumb to it than it is to own and embrace your memories – fleeting though they may be. Brooks takes this somewhat tried and true theme and spins it into a poignant, lovely tribute.

Kevin Coyne: “Lucille” – Kenny Rogers

Only Kenny could turn a song this dark into a sing-along.

Leeann Ward: “Here Comes That Rainbow Again” – Kris Kristofferson

Based on a scene from John Steinbeck’s book, Grapes of Wrath, this is a beautiful story of a simple act of kindness that affects me every time.

Dan Milliken: “Her Diamonds” – Rob Thomas

This may be more “progressive scenario” than “story,” but either way I can’t get enough of the theme. It’s about seeing someone you love suffer and realizing that, despite your best intentions, there’s nothing you can do to fix or even understand their particular pain. No man is an island, the saying goes, but on a certain level we’re fundamentally disconnected from each other’s experiences, limited as we are to our own. You can tell this couple communicate as authentically as they can, but he can’t fully inhabit her hurt, and she can’t fully know the depth of his caring. The best they can do – tonight, at least – is spend their respective alonenesses together.

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The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 21

Today’s category is…

A Song You Used to Love But Now You Don’t.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Homewrecker” – Gretchen Wilson

Here for the Party came out when I was fourteen and just getting really into country music, and it was so much fresher than most of the mainstream stuff at the time that it instantly became one of my favorite albums. “Homewrecker” wasn’t my favorite on the set (that was “Chariot,” which still sounds cool), but I did find it amazingly clever and funny in a way I couldn’t once I had gotten properly acquainted with Loretta Lynn.

Tara Seetharam: “Because You Loved Me” – Celine Dion

I thought this was the greatest song ever in elementary school, and I think I may have even concocted a dance to it with my childhood best friend. At that time, its vague, grandiose proclamations didn’t really phase me; now they leave me a little cold, though I suppose I’ll always enjoy it on some level.

Kevin Coyne: “Vibeology” – Paula Adbul

Whatever. It was 1991.

Leeann Ward: “Check Yes or No” – George Strait

In the last couple weeks, I’ve actually been weeding out songs from my iTunes, which has turned out to be over 10 gigs of music that I’ve decided I don’t feel I need to listen to anymore. It’s been surprising how many songs I’ve decided I’m totally over—whether it was due to over saturation (my fault since I don’t listen to radio) or change in taste over time. I used to absolutely adore “Check Yes or No”, but now it feels like a song that I’d obliterate if I was to review it. I remember thinking it was a cute story, but now I think it’s schmaltzy and predictable. My poor cynical heart.

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