Have you ever listened to new song that just resonated with your writerly soul? Maybe you suddenly realized just how great the song was, so you started it over again to pay attention to every word and listen to the story it told. It transported you to another slice of the world, or you felt as though you were someone else entirely. I know I have, and I love that feeling. It’s like a short audio book set to a catchy soundtrack.
Below is just a snippet of a list of songs I have curated in my “Stories” playlist on Spotify and today I thought it would be fun to share them with you. I tried to narrow it down to some broadly recognizable tunes today.
My favorite example is Hotel California by The Eagles. I can never turn down an Eagles song when it comes on the radio, but this one is by far my favorite. Not only does the song have a clear storyline centered on an intriguing protagonist, but it’s also one of the few songs I’ve ever heard that includes all five senses in its storytelling.
This unnamed protagonist of Hotel California begins his journey “down a dark desert highway.” In the distance, he can make out the shimmery lights of a hotel and can’t wait to lay his head on a pillow. The protagonist struggles with inner demons (addiction) and the Hotel and its staff become characters of their own. There is a clear love interest slash temptress involved, and a captivating, lusty setting that is just as deadly-charming and enigmatic as the desert in which it stands. Sinister! (Can’t tell I’m a fan, can you?)
I will truly be waxing poetic about Hotel California—maybe I’ll even take my own advice and write a short story [actually, life got in the way. You can read the next post to see my rough outline]—but for this week, I challenge you all to take a listen to the stories below and if you feel daring, write something based on what you hear and email the results to me! I’d love to see what you come up with.
Piano Man – Billy Joel (Drama)
A small cast sits in a bar recalling years past and wishing for better years in the future; each of them has a story, each struggling with dissatisfaction in some way. They appeal to the man at the piano, hoping music will bring them together and make them feel better for a little while.
Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin (Drama)
A boy vies for his workaholic father’s attention. Soon, the boy is grown up, and has no time for his father.
Hotel California – Eagles (Drama)
Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men (Fantasy)
A pet dragonfly returns with stories of a rivalry in the forest. An epic battle between the bees and the birds is retold.
Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked – Cage the Elephant (Urban)
A man has encounters with strangers on the street and watches the news as a priest is arrested; he reflects on human nature and the will to survive.
Don’t Stop Believing – Journey (Urban)
Another song about longing and surviving.
Dancing in the Dark – Bruce Springsteen (Romance)
A restless writer is dissatisfied with his redundant lifestyle and loneliness. He seeks out companionship, even at the risk of going into it blind–no clear intention or plan for the future. Focusing on the present.
Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon (Romance?)
Personally I would interpret this song to be about forbidden romance and the pressure of society. (Have a different interpretation? Write about it! Let me know.)