Music Mermaid Roundtable: Songs The World Should Hear
Have you ever heard a song that you wanted to scream about at the top of your lungs? A song so important in so many ways? A song you want the world to hear?
We have. We know all our music-loving friends have too, so we asked 15 musicians, writers, publicists, and more to tell us a little about the one song they think the world needs to hear. From personal reflections to universal mesaging, from classic to modern, from soft rock to neon funk, these are the songs we want you to devour like we have.
Founder of The Music Mermaid and contributing editor for MusicNGear
When I first heard “Wooden Heart” years ago, I was shaken to my core. It didn’t sound like anything else I’d ever heard. It was gruff and delicate at the same time and it hurt me — every single time I listen to it, I’m gutted to my core in the best, most necessary way.
A remarkably raw and poetic look at both the beauty and pain of being human, “Wooden Heart” — in all its wild word magic— has taught me everything I know about what it means to be a person — it means to be broken and flawed and fragmented and beautiful. Beyond that, though, it's just such a lush arrangement of dynamite multi-instrumentation and desperate delivery. It's as close to perfect as I think a song can get.
“I chose this song because it is the most emotional piece of music I have ever heard. I’ve never listened to this song and not had some type of visceral response. I’ve cried, I’ve shivered, I’ve punched the sky, I’ve spun in a circle, and I’ve dropped to my knees listening to this short little masterpiece.”
Founder of The Wild Honey Pie
“I talk about my struggle with mental health quite a bit but when it comes to advocacy, that seems to be the name of the game. When struggling with depression, music nearly always helps me through my darkest times. ‘Blue Skies’ by Noah And The Whale came out around the time I started The Wild Honey Pie and could not have been a better pick-me-up during what was a pretty lonely time living in London. A few years later, this song took on more significance when I was struggling to get through an impossibly rough breakup. The whole album is epic but this one in particular always gets to me.”
Founder of Phluff
“As difficult as it is to pick just one song, I would say that right now the song I would ask the world to listen to is ‘Fake Sweater’ by Bethlehem Steel. There’s nothing all that grandiose or fancy or poetic about it. It’s raw, candid, and chock full of real emotion. I first heard the song this past December during one of the hardest periods of my life that I’ve ever experienced. There was something incredibly cathartic about screaming ‘WILL I BE ALRIGHT / I WILL BE ALRIGHT’ at the top of my lungs that I just can’t forget. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly difficult day, I’ll run the song through my head on repeat just to make it through.”
Founder of Impulse Artists
"‘Dreams’ has hypnotized me since I was a kid growing up in the 90s. It was constantly on the radio, even 20 years after it was written. The way Stevie's vocals and the velvety instrumentation sound against a literal dance beat is like a deep tissue massage for my ears... I've never gotten over it. I believe it is a true piece of songwriting art — written by one of the greatest songwriters in American history — that will always stand the test of time.”
“This is probably predictable for people who've had at least one conversation with me, but my song would be ‘After the Party’ by The Menzingers. It was so pivotal to me during its release and has continued to be pivotal for me every time I listen to it. I don't think this song changed my life, but it has been able to articulate my life for the past couple years, the lives of my friends, and those around me, because every time I see it live, the energy is unmatchable. Plus, the song is just fun.”
Founder of The Grey Estates
“Between the Internet and IRL interaction, men are all too eager to tell women what they should and shouldn't be doing. It can feel like you're constantly getting beaten up, and that your voice is going unheard. The first time I heard ‘Drone’ by Chastity Belt, I felt that someone else out there understood exactly what it was like to fight for your place in a world dominated by men.
There's a line — "He was just another man, tryn'a teach me something" — and that phrase sums up my entire experience as a freelance journalist and a woman with a music blog. From friendships to dating, I've often felt as if men were more interested in teaching me something than actually getting to know me.
On top of being filled with really intricate guitar patterns and these poignant lyrical moments, ‘Drone’ is a reminder to others to just be quiet. I think we can all be guilty of not listening to others or going through life with blinders on, and ‘Drone’ is a reminder to be respectful of others and also of your own power. If you feel like you're being relegated to second best or your voice is going unheard in any kind of relationship — working, friendship, dating — you need to demand more. It's hard to speak up and to recognize when someone isn't worth your time, but ‘Drone’ is this beautiful reminder that you are capable of so much more, and that if any man tries to teach you something, you should probs tell them to get lost.”
Los Angeles based producer and artist
“The first songs I thought of for this prompt were all songs I've been dying to force down the throats of the public; songs that showed how crazy an acoustic guitar can be played, how much inspiration video games can have on a production, and why exactly I'll die defending pop-punk. But while a lot of my favorite songs are examples of just how many preconceptions can be destroyed in three and a half minutes, I kinda get the feeling that's not what people are looking to hear everyday. Which is cool, who cares. No judgment. Vanilla is my favorite ice cream flavor.
So the song that I would ask the world to listen to, that I think the world would WANT to listen to is ‘Joey’ by Concrete Blonde. For someone who rarely feels the kind of emotions that other people say they feel, this song is the be-all, end-all of romantic ballads. Yeah, breaking up is sad. But breaking up with someone you love?? Who loves you too??? Good god. I am one of the least sentimental people I know, a buzzkill combination of Captain Holt and Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn 99, but sometimes I drive around and blast this song and yell at Joey that I'm not angry anymore. And that's the kind of sentimentality I can get behind.”
Los Angeles based singer-songwriter
“This song was introduced to me by my now-girlfriend Wolfy in a poetry class at USC. Even though it was over a decade old at the time I first heard it, I had never been so moved by a song — both the performance and the lyrics. To me it is the epitome of craft and art. The line ‘and when I say you sucked my brain out, the English translation is I am in love with you, and it is no fun’ felt like a punch in the gut when I first heard it. To this day, it is the most physical, visceral reaction I have ever had to a piece of music.
The way Ani plays the guitar on this song is so gritty, so guttural, so intense. Half the song is just her and an acoustic guitar, and with it she lays the perfect sonic landscape to rip your heart out with the absolute brutal honesty of her lyrics. To me, genre is the least important part of music. Music is meaningful and enjoyable because of the authenticity of the words and performance, and to me this song sets the bar for all others.”
Editor-in-Chief of B-Sides & Badlands
“I could have easily pointed the world in the direction of Linda Ronstadt (and everyone really should have her on a regular loop), but my pick goes to Holly Williams' ‘The Highway.’ It's an evocative and of-the-earth ballad in which she wrestles with chasing her dreams and aching for the simplicity of home. Since its release in 2013, as the title cut to her latest record, I am always moved to tears by her story of lonesomeness out on the road and the sacrifices she has no other choice but to make to fulfill her destiny. As someone who feels the weight of such a burden, constantly pulled in a million different directions, it's the kind of performance that transcends vocations, peoples, and cultures.”
Marcus J. Moore
Award-winning music critic and journalist
“The name James Mason might not ring bells, but in the late 1970s, the producer's blend of funk, disco, and soul made its way to several dancefloors. In 1977, Mason released his only album, Rhythm of Life, to a landscape that wasn't as receptive to disco music. Electronic music was becoming more popular, thus making his art feel obsolete. In the years since, there's been growing interest in Mason's music, mostly from international DJs who spin disco in their sets.
‘The Dance of Life’ is an obscure gem from Mason's vault. Recorded during the late-70s and released 30 years after Rhythm of Life, it's a celebratory disco tune that's all about good vibes. Given its messages of love and positivity, ‘The Dance of Life’ does wonders in any era, but it truly resonates in the current era of fake news and shady politics. Each day brings a new headline and another reason to worry. With ‘The Dance of Life,’ James Mason reminds us to let go and celebrate the victories.”
Music lover of The Discover Tab
“This was a super hard question to figure out my answer for — I spent a lot of days going back and forth between trying to pick an older, classic or ‘important’ song and more modern songs that have affected me. In the end, I picked a song from 2017 by Strawberry Runners that hit me incredibly hard the first time I heard it.
The song is a beautiful little slice of indie-pop — almost unassuming in nature — featuring singer Emi Night recounting a night spent babysitting an unnamed but titular ‘Brother.’ As the song unfolds, she reveals a lie: ‘I told you I'd be right back home, but then I left you all alone for the whole night — maybe two or three / Hadn't crossed my mind, you might be lonesome just like me.’ The song's biggest punch lands after an instrumental passage: ‘When you’re a little older, I’ll explain it all to you / Why the good will never stay and all the dark and scary things will never go away / But we’ll be bigger than them someday.’
As the song bursts open into a gorgeous refrain, it never fails to make me completely and utterly emotional; it's at once cuttingly sad but ultimately hopeful — the kind of song that can remind you the sweet is often wrapped up with some sour. I find this song a staggeringly beautiful piece of work — simple, but relatable and above all wrapped in sugary sweet and catchy harmonies. I can't wait to hear what comes next from Strawberry Runners.”
Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine
“If I could ask the world to listen to just one song, I would choose ‘Agnes,’ the closing track off Glass Animals' 2016 sophomore album, How to Be a Human Being. ‘Agnes’ has deeply personal importance to me, and I think it's a song that can help others in the same way. At once a heartfelt ballad and a turbulent cry, ‘Agnes’ captures the emotional turmoil of mourning and loss. The track is intense and intimate; it evokes painful emotions relating to a loved one who, per the story, committed suicide after years of struggling with drug addiction and dependence. Glass Animals' vocalist and songwriter Dave Bayley sings directly to the deceased Agnes, as though they’re still around and capable of avoiding their untimely death.
As the song progresses, Bayley works his way through regret and sorrow, and ultimately comes to accept this horrible outcome: ‘Guess life is long when soaked in sadness / On borrowed time from Mr. Madness / And so it goes, a choking rose back / To be reborn, I want to hold you like you’re mine / You’re gone but you’re on my mind / I’m lost but I don’t know why.’
Back in 2017, ‘Agnes’ helped guide me through my own grieving process. Its intensity is such that it gives listeners an opportunity to re-immerse ourselves in the anguish that accompanies intense loss. At the same time, Glass Animals remind us that our isolated pain is not unique — and therefore, that we are not alone. For me, this flood of emotions was a cathartic experience that allowed me to mourn, and helped me accept my mother's passing. ‘Agnes’ is a very special song: it's a vessel for both grief and empathy, a means by which an individual can cry by themselves in a group setting.
I struggled for a long time to type this response, not because I don't believe in the value of my chosen song, but because there are so many songs worthy of this deferential treatment. That being said, I think that everyone needs an Agnes in their lives: a means by which we can dwell in our deepest, darkest, most confrontational feelings, while also being reminded that we are not alone, that we have a support network in our friends, our family, and in the strangers around us. Glass Animals shattered my defenses with ‘Agnes’; they helped me feel what I needed to feel in order to recover from the worst pain in my life and move forward. Music like that is powerful, and everyone can benefit from listening to this song.”
Music is universal. Good music makes us feel heard, important, and seen. These are the songs that mean something special to all of us whether it’s because of their lyrics or their sound — listen to them all below.
Itching for more music magic? We’ve got you covered. Follow The Music Mermaid below.
P.S. We’re selling stickers! Get yours here.