Every time I interview an artist about a song that they love I feel like I come out with a new understanding about the music they make. Chance the Rapper talks about the importance of Church in his music and now I hear gospel in his songs. The National’s Matt Berninger told me his favorite song writers were Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and Nick Cave, and now I understand the way he writes about love. And Mac Demarco questioned why everyone rags on Billy Joel and it made complete sense that it’s totally cool for him to embrace the un-cool. I hope this does the same for you.
Hear all 5 Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To:
1. Chance the Rapper picks Kirk Franklin’s “Melodies from Heaven”
Justin Barney: “Chance, what is one song that you can’t stop listening to?”
Chance the Rapper: “There is a song called “Melodies From Heaven” by Kirk Franklin. There is the modulation in it. There are several key changes that just make listening to it each time feel like a level up. You know what I’m saying? And you realize like, you know how people say ‘Different day, same sh*t.’? It’s like ‘New key, same changes.’
It shows you what growth means and how growth is a cycle. I feel like that song always lifts me from where I am, and always makes me feel like I’m doing something better, something new. So this song is not going away, I’m probably going to listen to this song forever.
- Listen if you like: The song structure of Chance the Rapper songs, church, background choirs
2. Mac DeMarco picks “Don’t Ask Me Why” by Billy Joel
Justin Barney: Hey Mac, at Pitchfork we talked off-mic about “Don’t Ask Me Why” by Billy Joel.
Mac DeMarco: “Mmmmmm love that song.”
JB: “I liked that you picked that song because I feel like Billy Joel oftentimes gets a bad rap.”
Mac DeMarco: “Yea, I don’t know why. He’s the king. He’s one of the modern kings. You know?”
JB: “What do you like about Billy Joel?”
Mac DeMarco: “Billy is like a con-artist, which I like about him. All of his songs are pretty much…like all of his songs sounds like Cat Stevens, exactly like Paul McCartney, exactly like Bruce Springstein, Elton John a lot, you know? It’s like, well him and Elton are homies. But yeah, he like essentially, takes someone else’s style, like the same style song and makes the lyrics about New York. So then, everybody in New York loves him. I didn’t really understand it until I lived there for a little while. Once I lived there for a little while I was like, ‘Man, this is always on the radio.’ Then you start seeping in and you’re like, ‘Oh…’ He’s got a lot of great, beautiful songs.”
- “Don’t Ask Me Why” was released in 1980 on the album “Glass Houses”
- Listen if you like: Mac Demarco, happy songs, con-artists
3. The National picks “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen
Justin Barney: Matt, what’s one song that you can’t stop listening to?
Matt Berninger: “Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen. Every time I hear that, it’s one of those songs that’s like a novel, it’s like “The Great Gatsby,” one of those things that you want to read again and again. You can’t quite figure out exactly all of the relationships are and how it all plays out but it’s like a 3 minute novel.
Justin Barney: What do you like about Leonard Cohen song writing?
Matt Berninger: I love the mixture of mellow drama and silliness, I mean Leonard Cohen has a song, “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard On”, and it’s not “h-e-a-r-t”, and it’s funny and emotional crushing too.
Justin Barney: I have artist that I call the Holy Four artist of mine.
Matt Berninger: Who are your four?
Justin Barney: Tom Waits, is at the top and on the right and left you got Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and on the under belly is Scott walker.
Matt Berninger: The first three are my favorite too! Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen as far as lyrics, those are exactly my three. Even their worst stuff is really exciting. They all write about sexuality in a direct, and knowing self-deprecating and funny. They’re funny, horny men and they write about it in a funny way. They’re all romantics too, unapologetically mellow dramatic and romantic, I love that.
- “Famous Blue Raincoat” was released in 1971 on the album “Songs of Love and Hate”
- Listen if you like: Tom Waits, Nick Cave, The National
4. The Hold Steady picks “Dream Lover” by Destroyer
Justin Barney: Craig Finn, thanks for being here. Is there one song that you can’t stop listening to?
Craig Finn: “’Dream Lover’” by Destroyer. That song is like the best song of the year. It’s got that real cool Bowie thing, and all the saxes. You know there are people out there and people close to me that aren’t big sax people. I am not one of them. I hear a sax and I’m psyched. You know, I would put more sax into all of my music if people would let me.
You know there is an emotion that comes with the sax that is singular to that instrument. And it makes me feel cool. But I think for younger people, I think some younger people think that it’s kinda square.”
JB: “I think that the sax is pretty close to the range of the human voice, and so, to me, it’s always felt like a very human instrument.
CF: Yeah, and I mean the most obvious example is Clarence Clemons. But when you are listening to Springsteen, or especially when you’ve seen him live, and when it goes to the sax solo, it is, I think, way more transcendent that a guitar solo. It’s out-of-your-seat-wails, but it can also do that melancholy thing. It’s just fantastic and ‘Dream Lover’ is just a really good use of the sax, and saxophones.
- Destroyer’s album “Poison Season” is available now via Merge Records.
- Listen if you like: Screaming sax, Clarence Clemons, The Hold Steady
5. Atmosphere picks Egyptian Lover – “Egypt, Egypt”
Atmosphere: “It’s called Egypt, Egypt. There’s a comma between the two Egypts and it’s by an artist named Egyptian Lover. If you find the right one it’s probably about eight minutes long. You know for me, the peak of the song comes about halfway in when it busts into a weird kind of fake synth version of there’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance. But the song itself, here’s the deal. I got a one year old and a four year old and a one year old at the house right now. They live at the house with me. They don’t pay rent. So I put this song on, and they dance. They immediately start doing the robot and break dancing. And I’m pretty sure neither of the kids have ever actually break dancing, you know what I mean? Like, there’s nothing to inform them of what they’re doing. This is just their natural reaction to Egypt, Egypt, which I think is hilarious. Watching a one year old get on his butt to spin around and watching a four year old doing the robot because there’s robot voices in the song. So he starts doing the robot without realizing that there is a connection and a history to this song and that move. When I was a kid I used to breakdance to Egypt, Egypt so now they ask for the song and when they don’t ask for the song I still play the song. It probably gets more play around my house right now that any other song.”
- “Egypt, Egypt” was released on the album “On the Nile” by Egyptian Lover in 1984.
- Listen if you like: old school hip-hop, that song that you sang as a kid that goes “there’s a land in France where the naked ladies dance,” Atmosphere
Hear “5 Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To” every weekday at 9am and 7pm on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.