Wednesday, July 15, 2009

List #5: 17 Satellite Songs

It is time to come clean. The 52 Lists in 52 Weeks project is going to have some lists that are just plain odd. This week’s list is definitely one of them.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving in my car and playing a CD. Truthfully, I can’t remember which band I was listening to, but if I had to make a guess, I’d say that it was probably the band At the Drive In. (Great driving music, by the way.) Anyways, a song comes on, the song “Hourglass” (#1) from their album In/Casino/Out. If you've never heard AtDI, you should know that this band’s lyrics are incredibly non sequitur. The placement of the word “satellite” in this song's lyrics appears to be almost entirely random, just as the word is randomly placed in the song “Extracurricular” (#2) from the album Relationship of Command.

The most popular song to feature the word “Satellite” is by The Dave Matthews Band (#3) with this word as its title. Truthfully, I don’t care for this song. On one hand, it is kind of a beautiful ballad. On the other hand, it is a beautiful ballad about nonsense. One thing is undeniable; Dave Matthews seems to have fun singing the word. How he sings the word is utterly distinctive.

A quick search on Google will tell you that musical acts including Guster, Beyoncé, Anna Nalick, Collective Soul, and P.O.D. (#4 through #8) have also recorded songs with the word “satellite” in the title. I’m not familiar with any of these songs, though I did check out Beyoncé’s lyrics. Her lyrics seem to employ the image of satellites as metaphors for two people who are attracted to each other but just keep missing each other; they just keep “flashing by.” The feeling of adoration is mutual yet unfulfilled. I can see how this kind of makes sense, but the metaphor seems like an unnatural stretch. Plus, I’m just not sure about anthropomorphizing space technology.

If any song featuring satellites in the lyrics make sense, it is probably the song “Recovering the Satellites” (#9) from the album of the same name by Counting Crows. In this song, the satellite is a metaphor for a young woman who leaves a town to set off into a big world searching for stardom. The singer, perhaps representing the town, sings about impending failure and the act of “recovering the satellites” means something like helping someone pick up the pieces after disappointment. This seems like a much better metaphor, but it is still a little too imprecise.

You would be surprised at just how often the word “satellite” appears in a song. Ironically, the word “satellite” does not appear on the Old 97’s album Satellite Rides, but their next album included a song called “In the Satellite Rides a Star” (#10). The music video is weird as the band plays the song on a TV in the bedroom of an adolescent while the adolescent spends the length of the song going crazy playing air guitar. The band Hum uses the word in their song “Green to Me” (#11). But at least this is kind of fitting as a lot of Hum’s music is space-themed.

Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the use of the word “satellite” is not all that common in music. However, I can’t think of a single song that uses the word “stalactite”, “stalagmite”, “meteorite,” or “trilobite.” There are dozens and dozens of words that would rhyme with satellite: alright, bite, blight, bright, delight, fight, flight, fright, height, kite, knight, light, might, night, plight, quite, right, sight, sleight, tight, and white, not to mention incite, ignite, excite, or invite.

Yet, perhaps the examples I’ve given do suggest a theory. Maybe musical acts choose to sing about satellites because the word is fun to sing and fun to say. Need more supporting evidence? The following musical performers also have songs with the word “satellite” in the title of the song: Luscious Jackson, Elliott Smith, Natalie Imbruglia, Modest Mouse, The Sex Pistols, and Smash Mouth. (#12 through #17.)