It would have been way too easy to dedicate this playlist to another bleak and dark topic, just as we did in the past few weeks. Unfortunately, not enough has changed to give us real reason for optimism or significant change in the foreseeable future. And yet, I was very happy to learn that this week I am to dedicate the weekly Justice Adda playlist to a slightly lighter topic: unity, healing and togetherness. This is, after all soon after the holidays, and while we have no reason to be complacent, we could try to think about how to make 2017 better; and as some of us are lucky enough to have spent a few days at home with our families, we can hope that through social change this luxury will become a reality for more people in the year to come.
LCD Soundsystem—Christmas Will Break Your Heart
Last Christmas, December 2015, one of the funkiest ensembles in the history of mankind (my opinion) released their first single in years, shortly after announcing their 2016 reunion tour. This tour was one of the musical highlights of year gone by, and I was lucky enough to witness them playing live in the Primavera Sound music festival in Barcelona. Quite different from the kind of material LCD Soundsystem usually play at concerts, the 2015 single “Christmas Will Break Your Heart” is a rather melancholic tune. It’s a rather pessimistic and depressing holiday song, not exactly your run-of-the-mill Christmas carol, and it described various situations in which the holiday make people feel sad and lonely, with lines such as: “Christmas will break your heart like the armies of the unrelenting dark // once the peace talks fall apart”. However, every verse ends with the optimistic turn: “But still I’m coming home to you”, and the song itself ends on a happy and comforting crescendo. Perhaps it’s symbolic of how 2016 turned out, and perhaps it’s just a good reason to keep on keeping on.
Sufjan Stevens—Ring Them Bells (Bob Dylan Cover)
Bob Dylan’s 1989 album “Oh Mercy” is considered by many to be one of the best Dylan albums outside his so-called golden age. I myself don’t know it very well as an album, but it does have one my favorite Dylan songs. “Ring Them Bells”, for me, is a hopeful portrayal of a simple life. It holds many religious references in both its lyrics and its melody, and rather Christmasy at that. That being said, however, it does not come without criticism and protest, present in lines such as: “Ring them bells for the time that flies // For the child that cries when innocence dies”. It was Sufjan Stevens’ cover of this song, which is featured on the soundtrack of “I’m Not There”, a movie loosely based on the life and work of Dylan, that made me fall in love with this song. As great as the original is (and some Dylan fans out there will kill me for saying this), something about the cover makes it even more pastoral, more holy, relaxing and emotional. The tender guitar licks and the mighty brass riffs accompanying Stevens’ soft voice really drive this song home, and to the heart of every listener.
Yes, I know. We lost Leonard too in 2016. And it completely broke my heart. But no matter what, his lyrics and poems will be with me for the rest of my life. Not only in my mind, as I hum his fantastic tunes, but in every inch of my being as I keep acting in the world whilst knowing how much that one artist influenced me. It’s tough to even consider choosing a favorite line, track or album, but “Anthem” does stand out in being a very personal call for social action and solidarity. It is moving for the individual, and it is empowering for movements advocating justice, human rights and a more moral conduct worldwide. Cohen reminds us that “Yeah the wars they will be fought again // The holy dove she will be caught again // Bought and sold and bought again // The dove is never free”. However, he promises us that it is not a situation that we must accept, and that we must use whatever tools and instruments we have to bring more light to the world: “There is a crack, a crack in everything // That’s how the light gets in”.
Ben E. King—Stand By Me
Before I knew “Stand By Me”, the Ben E. King song, I knew “Stand By Me” the Rob Reiner 1986’s coming-of-age film. I remember watching it again and again, as it was a kind of cult movie when I was growing up, analyzing it with friends, family members and teachers, and how some scenes from the movie became so iconic for me, that they represent to this day what I consider to be “American”. But most importantly, it taught me about friendship and devotion (incidentally, much like the group of friends in the movie, me and my closest friends constitute a party of four). As great as the movie is, it is all the more greater thanks to a brilliant choice of a title song. Ben E. King’s 1961 hit “Stand By Me” is to this day one of my all-time favorite soul songs. It features a great sound, with it’s signature percussion and rhythm, and King’s iconic singing. It is a great reminder of how together we can overcome obstacles. It was very recently covered by Florence + The Machine.
Curtis Mayfield—People Get Ready
A religious anthem of sorts, Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” is a fantastic soul song, that always moves me. To an extent, every time this song—and particularly this live version of it, with its distinctive guitar intro—plays or comes up on my shuffle, I stop everything I’m doing, take a deep breath, and remember that I am alive. I am not a religious person myself, and therefore it strikes me as odd, but I think there is something very universal about it, and while it’s full of Christian elements, it sends a very humane and moral message. It is truly fantastic, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Happy new year!
More Songs On the Weekly Theme:
The Hollies—He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother https://youtu.be/Jl5vi9ir49g
Youngbloods—Get Together https://youtu.be/TMTK8oMTiJw
Tom Waits—In the Neighborhood https://vimeo.com/160627705
Beck—Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometime (The Korgis Cover) https://youtu.be/PaI1sLqFOuE
Kanye West—Never Let Me Down (Feat. Jay-Z and J. Ivy) https://open.spotify.com/track/06TqBu4Vi2DEu2F2wNTEnb