This will be a different sort of post. I always write to music; I find it nearly impossible to create without it. Depending on the emotion needed for my current project, I’ll usually just pick one of the songs that fits that mood and put it on repeat, switching it up after maybe a half dozen plays. So today I thought I’d simply list the 10 songs that help me write best and give my thoughts on them. Please note that I’m not a musician or music reviewer (my girlfriend insists I’m actually tone deaf); I’m just here to tell you what I like. Hopefully you’ll find something on here that you haven’t listened to before and can use to inspire you. So without further ado, here’s the 10 songs that help me write best.
#10 – “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows
“These lines of lightning mean we’re never alone.”
Most of my written works are sad or at least bittersweet. My girlfriend jokes that depression is my favorite emotion. But sometimes you just need to write something purely happy. When that’s the case, this is the song I go to. Everything about this song screams pure joy, from the opening guitar to the repeated declarations of “I’m in love!” If you need to get in a good mood fast, throw this on.
#9 – “Closer” by Joshua Radin
“All you have to do is cry.”
Such beauty in this short piece. The words paint a story of a relationship ending, but Joshua Radin sounds almost happy as he quietly regales the state of his relationship. It’s as though he has pure understanding; he knows the relationship ending is for the best, he will remember the good times, and he wants nothing but goodness for this woman he still loves. That’s what I get from it, anyway. This song has a beautiful minimalism, just Radin singing, playing the guitar, and a few other quiet notes popping up in the background. One of my favorites.
#8 – “We Might be Dead by Tomorrow” by Soko
“Give me all your love now, ’cause for we all know we might be dead by tomorrow.”
I first heard this song in that viral “First Kiss” video.
You remember? The one that made us think love and magic still existed in this world and then turned out to just be an ad campaign? What a fun emotional journey that was.
Questionable advertising methods aside, this song is breathtaking. I adore whenever you can hear a singer get lost in the emotions of their work, and Soko definitely does that here. There’s pure regret in every word, and the backing violin comes in at just the right moments to drive home the feels. This is a wonderful listen and easily gets the creative juices flowing.
#7 – “Please Don’t Leave Me” by P!nk
“I always say how I don’t need you, but it’s always gonna come right back to this. Please don’t leave me.”
In my mind, this is the definitive Jimmy Neutron song.
I’m sorry, but if you haven’t noticed this show is going to come back in my blog a lot. Read my first real post “On Fanfiction” for the reason why.
It perfectly encapsulates how Cindy feels about Jimmy. Yes, she’ll knock him down and push him away. But at the end of the day, she never wants him to leave. This song helped me write so many sad Jimmy/Cindy scenes in my fanfics.
But beyond the Jimmy/Cindy aspect, this is just a beautiful song. Most people can relate to the sort of dysfunctional relationship P!nk sings about, and the pure sorrow in her trembling voice is touching. It’s a great listen and sure to stir something inside you.
#6 – “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato
“You can take everything I have, you can break everything I am…”
Yes, haha, I’m a guy and I like Demi Lovato. Get it all out and then we can move on to how awesome this song is. The lyrics to this song definitely get the job done, but the reason this hits so hard with me is all Demi. This is some of the most raw emotion I’ve ever heard in a song. You can tell she’s drawing on some real painful experiences here. Half the time her voice sounds like it’s going to crumble under her sorrow, but then she immediately lifts it back up and sings about rising from the ground with such unstoppable power. A perfect sad song with a hopeful twinge. Awesome job, Demi.
# 5 – “The Adventure” by Angels & Airwaves
“Even if your hope has burned with time, anything that’s dead shall be regrown.”
Growing up, I heard a lot of Blink 182 because it was one of my father’s favorite bands. It quickly became one of mine as well. I’m always fascinated by how they transitioned from a bunch of angry kids mocking authority to adults singing about sorrow and lost love. It sucks that Tom Delange went his own way with Angels & Airwaves, but man are their two albums good. This is my favorite and helped me write a lot of my fanfic “The Final Battle.” This is the perfect song to write about wondrous adventure and space travel. The opening melody is ethereal and the lyrics portray the beauty of pure hope. As this song says in its final words, “Life’s just waiting to begin.”
#4 – “Let Your Heart Hold Fast” by Fort Atlantic
“To believe that I walk alone is a lie that I’ve been told.”
I first heard this song last year on the episode “The Final Page” of How I Met Your Mother. I instantly fell in love with it. This song has a special meaning to me because it sums up how I felt as a kid. For so long I felt so awkward and thought that I was destined to be alone. Whenever I hear this song I think of how I used to be like that, and how lucky I am now to have my wonderful girlfriend, Louise.
I love you honey!
Unlike the other sadder songs on my list, this one has a really uplifting message. It’s a beautiful mix of sorrow and hope and helps me nail those bittersweet scenes.
# 3 – “To Galaxy” by Neil Davidge (Halo 4 Soundtrack)
Halo has always been known just as much for its heart-pounding music as its adrenaline-inducing action. Martin O’ Donnell did an absolutely astounding job with his scores to the original trilogy, but I think Neil Davidge just squeaked past him with this piece for Halo 4. The first 10 seconds to this song are some of the most incredible notes I have ever heard. We come in from an auditory void, hear a slight whoosing, and then just immediately get blasted with a deep pounding that narrows your eyes, steals your breath, and gets you ready for a fight. No song has helped me write action scenes more than this piece.
#2 – “Mad World” by Gary Jules
“I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad. The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”
This song played a big role in helping me write “Paranoia.” It’s the perfect song for my book; all about a man numb to the world around him and desperate for an escape. My favorite part of this piece is the line I’ve quoted above. Not only is it haunting that someone longs for death so much, but the duality of humor and sorrow shows that he realizes both the ridiculousness and horror of his desire. It paints the song’s protagonist in a much more nuanced light and makes his depression all the more sorrowful.
#1 – “How to Save a Life” by The Fray
“I would have stayed up with you all night, had I known how to save a life.”
More than any other piece of music I’ve ever heard, “How to Save a Life” has touched and inspired me. From the haunting piano, brilliant use of drums, and chillingly regretful lyrics, this is a masterpiece. I first heard this wonderful song while watching the episode of scrubs titled “My Lunch.” In it, Dr. Cox has accidentally killed two patients by transplanting them organs from a patient he didn’t know had rabies. J.D. tries to comfort Cox and assures him that these deaths weren’t his fault as “How to Save a Life” plays in the background. Just as it appears J.D. has brought Cox back from the brink, their pagers go off. A third patient dies from the transplants and Dr. Cox storms off, lost in his grief, as the song ends. It’s a brilliant use of the song and perfectly encapsulates the singer’s regret at his inability to save a life.
This is always my go to song whenever I need to get in a solemn mood. It’s impossible not to immediately get swept up in the raw emotion, but my favorite part is at 3:40 seconds. Throughout the song, the chorus has been sung smoothly. The tone was certainly sad, but Isaac Slade’s voice kept a beautiful steadiness. But at this moment, during this last rendition of the chorus, his voice snaps while crying out, “Somewhere along in the bitterness and…” Just that last cracked syllable of “bitterness” perfectly captures the heart-wrenching sorrow of this song.