Without further ado, here’s my playlist, in it’s entirety:
You can enjoy it now, while I break down the list in no particular order, starting with the first selection:
“Triumph” – Wu Tang Clan
What you may notice from the top is that there is surprisingly little hip-hop on this list. It surprised me too, but because the idea is that you only get one CD worth of songs, I didn’t want to fill it with just one type of music. (I failed, but we will get to that in a moment.) But, if I had to choose one song to place in the Pantheon, it would be Triumph, every time.
The name is completely appropriate for the record, as it announced the triumphant return of hip hop’s most elite rap group to the stage after their critically acclaimed debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and an amazing collection of solo albums. This song found the Wu in top form, striding the beat like roman generals returning to the fanfare of an adoring public.
Triumph is hip hop in its uncut, purest form. There were no weak links; every verse was as hard and precise as the next, and there was no room for a hook as every member of the clan got a turn. Old Dirty Bastard played the role of hype man here, and set the tone for one of the hardest records the genre had ever produced.
This song could easily be picked as the swan song of Hip Hop’s golden age. The album was pretty uneven, ranging the gamut from bangers like “It’s Yours” and “Reunited” to abysmal dreck like “Black Shampoo”. But at the time, that didn’t matter: I personally can’t remember a song that made me feel the level of anticipation for an album that I felt the first time I heard it.
And if I had to choose one Hip Hop song to bring me back to the genre’s finest hour, I doubt I could find a better replacement.
“One More Time” – Daft Punk
These days, everyone knows who Daft Punk is: The Pharrell Williams-helmed “Get Lucky” has been played almost half to death. But at the time of Discovery’s release, the electronic duo were mostly relegated to club play, and “One More Time” was their first big hit. It was also the song that made me aware of the genius of these two perpetually helmeted Frenchmen, and from the moment I heard the song and saw the anime infused video, I was forever hooked.
The reasons for this selection are relatively simple: I like house. It’s an obscure genre, one that gets barely any recognition and even less airplay on mainstream radio, but it has soul. And I’m always on the lookout for any music that can make me feel something, if but for a fleeting moment. Also, on a desert island, you need a record that can lift your spirits and make you forget about your abysmal circumstances. One More Time fits the bill, and then some.
Baden and I will worry about constructing the vine elevator for the tree-house tomorrow. Tonight, we’re gonna celebrate.
“Love Ballad” – L.T.D
This is but the first of many soul records that made the list. Earlier, I said that my favorite songs are the ones that make me feel something. It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s no wonder to me that the warm inviting tones of soul would dominate.
70’s funk group L.T.D. was not exactly a ground-breaking band; in fact, most of their music would barely stand out from the dominant R&B sound of that era. But “Love Ballad”, beautifully arranged and featuring the glorious vocals of Jeffrey “The Wizard Of” Osbourne, is the group’s lighting in a bottle moment.
It’s one of those rare songs that simply and perfectly encapsulates what love, the thing we all long to obtain and hold on to, is all about. The final refrain sums of the intangible quality of love better than any song I’ve ever heard before:
What we have is much more than they can see…
There was a moment when I debated replacing this song with “I Love You” by Lenny Williams, but I like the tempo of this record a little bit better, so it won out.
“Paradise” – Sade
In keeping with the vein of enjoying your imposed vacation from the things of man comes the music of Sade. Music is an ever changing medium, and some older artists are stuck in a time capsule, either producing music that sounds dated, or failing miserably to keep up with current musical trends in order to stay relevant. Listen to just about any 90’s Michael Jackson record, then compare it to his newer stuff, and you’ll know what I mean.
I like Sade’s sound particularly because it never changes, yet never sounds out of date. It’s that timeless quality that I believe makes this a perfect addition to the desert island playlist.
Trouble – “Coldplay”
Before Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin became a of favorite of rap moguls and tabloid fodder for his “conscious uncoupling” from Gwyneth Paltrow, he and his band were blowing up with their debut album Parachutes, and “Yellow” was getting played all over the place. Their more subdued follow up single, “Trouble”, is my favorite song from the band, and, like Daft Punk before it, hooked me to them.
A simple song about a guy attempting to apologize for messing something up horribly, it just struck a chord with me, as it reminds me of the many situations I’ve personally FUBARed over the years.
And, if you’re stuck on a desert island, the chances are pretty good you messed up somewhere along the way.
“Requiem for a Tower (Lux Aeterna)” – Simone Benyacar, Daniel Nielsen, and Veigar Margeirsson
At some point on a deserted island, the longing for human physical and emotional contact will win out, and your mind will either break, or focus on one thing: escape. It’s at this moment you will need a selection to inspire you, and get you prepared for the daunting task.
“Requiem for a Tower” is an orchestral remix of Clint Mansel’s “Lux Aeterna” from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, that was made for the trailer of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The original is hauntingly beautiful, and perfectly underscores the hopelessness that permeated that film. The remix, with its full orchestra and chorus, adds power to the equation, transforming the piece from one of heartbreaking struggle to one of epic glory. It cuts out abruptly, leaving the outcome of the struggle ambiguous, which makes it perfect for sailing a raft made of two sea turtles roped together with back hair into the great unknown.
Will you make it? Will you die? There’s no way to tell, but this song will hype you up just enough to try, dammit.
“Summer Madness” – Kool and The Gang
A desert island is a great place for peaceful reflection, and I imagine that, on nights when you can get past your circumstances, would be pretty beautiful.
“Summer Madness”, one of only a handful of pure instrumentals by Kool and the Gang, is a perfectly tranquil track for enjoying a crisp sunset, contemplating life and its meaning, and just general relaxation – something you will have plenty time for when the sea turtles break free from their flimsily constructed hair restraints, and leave the waves to wash you back to your tropical prison.
You’re probably gonna be here for a long time; you might as well enjoy it.