I realised over the last few days why my list of favourite songs from a few days ago has such a high concentration of classical, soundtrack, and children’s music, and so few regular pop songs. It’s actually a combination of two things: meaning and performability.
Music has to mean something for it to be memorable. Sometimes if a song has really great lyrics or even just copious amounts of emotion in the delivery it’s enough. What was it Sabrina said about James Blunt’s “Goodbye My Lover”? You can’t cram any more saddness into that thing? Sounds about right. It’s a very short jump from there to overly sappy, just as those really heartfelt lovesongs threaten us with diabetes for being so sweet, but occasionally it works.
That’s why music from musicals and movie soundtracks appeal to me—its got context. A song has to stand well on its own, but if you know the character singing it and situation that led them to say those lyrics, a song can take on a whole new depth. “The Friendship Song” from Fraggle Rock, for example, is one of these. The two characters are singing a very simple song about pulling through tough times with their friends, but remember that they’re singing it only to stop themselves from giving up hope that they’ll live to see their friends again—”listen, you can hear her running out of oxygen!” said Ria—and it means much more. If you can look past the fact that it’s a muppet singing it, of course.
Failing these, some songs are just fun to perform. Some are great to sing along to, or have a nice piano part. There have been a fair number that I couldn’t figure out or weren’t in the right range and as a result quickly fell out of favourite. On the other hand, there are quite a few songs that I didn’t even know until I started plucking them out on a keyboard and had a lot of fun with. Throw in great lyrics and something I can sing along to and there’s a surefire favourite.
As long as nobody is within earshot, that is.