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The most beautiful song ever?

We all love a tearjerker. We all love a song where a lyric makes us well up, where a chord change makes your gut melt. And it is probably the most difficult skill to get right, but when a songwriter can do it and do it well, it’s unsurpassable. As Wilco once memorably put it ‘Yes, I am trying to break your heart’.

The reason for this is that I heard this morning my candidate for the most beautiful song ever on the radio, the heartcrushing ‘Always On My Mind’.  It was, admittedly, not the best version recorded, being the Pest Shop Boys Eighties Number 1, but it still resonated with a depth and sadness that very few other songs have. The best version, of course, is Willie Nelson’s, in which the red-headed stranger wrung out every last drop of loss, regret and pain from the wonderful lyrics. It’s truly a work of art.

The reason, I think, that this is my favourite is that it isn’t obscure. this has been a hit record for many, many people, yet is still a deeply affecting song which resolutely refuses to lose any of its power after damn near a half century. You want classical music? THIS is classical music! It also manages to be touching without being trite, to be inspiring without being insincere. That’s some trick to pull off on what was, after all, a mere pop record.

So, good folk of the ELM Universe, let’s hear your nominations. One rule; it has to have been a hit. There are lots of great bands out there making really beautiful, touching music, but the winner of this title has to have had a universal pull. Apart from that, anything goes; any act, genre or style accepted.

And if you all come on and go for ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Keane just to annoy me, I shall be very cross.


32 Responses

  1. I don’t like the restriction of it having to be a hit. So FUCK YOU.

  2. Crystal Gayle: Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
    Linda Ronstadt: We’re All Alone
    Badfinger: Without You
    Labi Sifri: It Must Be Love

  3. Bertrand – none of those were hits. Abide by the rubbish rules!

  4. our gaff, our rules!!


  5. The saddest most beautiful song ever made will never be a hit. ‘Hits’ usually have the soul taken out to become hits.

    I’m going with Take it With Me by Tom Waits.

  6. Hits? You sold out ELM. You sold out big time. Well, go enjoy your Judas music so!

    Cat Power’s live cover of “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” is the most emotive song-of-a-bitch that I have ever had the good fortune to hear.

  7. She’s in love with the boy by trisha yearwood makes me well up, but that could just be hormones.

  8. FFS you lot!

    The criteria was put in to avoid us snobs picking off something off the fourth Mojave 3 album!

    My point is that you CAN write a truly heartbreaking song that millions love – ‘Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town’ is as absolutely fucking devastating as anything The Blue Nile ever wrote.

    Oh and Swineshead, those songs WERE hits, maybe not for the original artists, but still….HA!

  9. You’re right of course. If you open it up to all music you know some pretentious cunt will list a song by some rare Bulgarian band that only he knows about so he can show the world how clever and diverse he is.

    I think in that case I will have to go with ‘2 becum 1’ by the girls of spice. Gets me everytime. “Move a little bit closer baby…get it on…get it on…”

  10. That’s a good call actually.

    I’d also like to throw in ‘Time After Time’ by Cyndi Lauper, which is a complete heartbreaker.

  11. Somebody called?

  12. Smartarse! But very impressive!

  13. The rules are fine. I don’t know any rare Bulgarian Bands, and therefore would have felt myself vetoed from the post… lol

    My ipod is loaded with fairly upbeat stuff but classics I do love are:
    Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
    Do what you have to do, Sarah McLaughlin (its mainstream, but is it a big enough hit?)
    The First Cut is the deepest – Cat Stevens/also Sheryl Crow

    I do also love REM; Everybody Hurts, but it tends to mend me a little rather than push me the other way 🙂

  14. Everybody Hurts by R.E.M. is satantic cat’s piss on the floor of humanity Bambina.

    And even mentioning Cat Stevens round here is a yellow card offence. God, I hate that hippy shite!

  15. That’s the problem with hits. Everybody Hurts probably started out quite nice and then some suit with a giant cigar said ‘That could be a hit…any way to make it blander so more people buy it?’

  16. The video makes me wretch.

    I do like that they went back and re-made it on Monster with the vastly superior ‘With love Comes Strange currencies’.

    In terms of blandest emotional music….I’m looking at Coldplay…..but know in my heart of hearts it’s David Gray.

  17. I have to play Clocks in my band. I just switch off mentally and pretend to be somewhere else.

  18. ahahahahah!!!!! it is NOT! What do you want me to listen to when I’m a little quiet, Iggy Pop?

    i didn’t say it was one of life’s musical masterpieces I said it is mildly soothing! I have never seen the video, when did it come out? 😉 ahaha… and “Hippy shite” has its place in the world too – I love Joni Mitchell, are you going to tell me you hate her too you nazi? 😀

    “The Hippies: The Philosophy of a Subculture.” The article described the guidelines of the hippie code: “Do your own thing, wherever you have to do it and whenever you want. Drop out. Leave society as you have known it. Leave it utterly. Blow the mind of every straight person you can reach. Turn them on, if not to drugs, then to beauty, love, honesty, fun.”

    I can practically see you curling your lip ELM. lol. Now I don’t hold with all of this – I did finish uni etc, but generally speaking they had some of it right. there’s nothing wrong with being eclectic old boy. (even if it it “shite” you are gathering as your influences…)

    The first cut is the deepest is a great song!

  19. Nightswimming, if we’re talking REM, was a single (Top 40 I think) and is quite moving. One of the few good things that crappy outfit’s done.

  20. Pretend to be playing ‘You Shook Me All Night Long.’

  21. It was indeed one of the 136 singles from ‘Automatic For the People’.

  22. Yes, I do indeed hate Joni Mitchell. I’d like to hammer nails into her teeth.

  23. ouch…… 😉

  24. Indeed.

  25. Sorry, but, you would hammer what into where?

  26. yeah, don;t worry about the overt aggression. He’s like that when he’s had too much coffee, or not enough, or in fact just the right amount!!

  27. It wasn’t a hit, but “straight to you” by nick cave and the bad seeds is one of the most beautiful love songs ever written.

  28. how about “after the gold rush” by Neil Young?

  29. ‘The Dark is Rising’ by Mercury Rev made the top 40, so it has to be in.

    LO – her teeth. There are various celbrities I’d like to hammer nails into, but alwyas in different places;

    Cilla Black – cheeks.
    Ant off of Ant and Dec – big spam forehead.
    Tom from Keane – tongue.

  30. ‘The Dark is Rising’ by Mercury Rev made the top 40, so it has to be in.

    LO – her teeth. There are various celbrities I’d like to hammer nails into, but always in different places;

    Cilla Black – cheeks.
    Ant off of Ant and Dec – big spam forehead.
    Tom from Keane – tongue.

    Just joking! Ish.

  31. Mercury Rev have been terrible since 1995, everyone knows that.

  32. Pish.

    Derserters Songs and All is Dream are great albums.

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