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The Thursday Throwback Track - Episode 193: The Smiths & "Lost Found"

Welcome to WEEK 193 of 4T! (Video Episode #19) The Smiths – Strageways, Here We Come (1987)

Happy Music – Sad Lyrics – Happy Me

Life ain’t black and white. That’s not a revelation, and yet we constantly have to be reminded of it, because our brains WANT IT TO BE. It’s much more comfortable to slot things into categories. WELL if there’s one thing you know about me, it’s that I prefer artists who defy categorization. In most cases – like Prince or The Beatles or Bowie – those artists genre hop at will. They don’t let walls or rules contain them. In other cases – like this week’s band, The Smiths – they don’t so much genre hop as they create their own brand new genre.

There are so many reasons to love The Smiths. Morrissey’s incomparable voice. Johnny Marr’s genius guitar. The surprising (though it shouldn’t be to anyone who knows them) number of catchy pop hooks. Their not giving a shit about trends. But the thing I’ve always liked best about them is they lived in the grey. They melded happy-ish or lush & mellow-ish songs, with straight up sad and often harrowing lyrics. Like reveling in mud. All good music comes from a place of joy. Even the hardest, bleakest dirge metal is written and performed with joy. Joy is not happiness. It’s the pumping blood and breathing air of life. The Smith’s ability to revel in the joy of sadness was an instant heart-drug to me. Still is.

From Strangeways, “Girlfriend in a Coma” is the perfect example of a happy sounding song with bleak lyrics. But really the entire album is exemplary and amazing. It would be unwieldy for me to list the numerous songs I’ve written that juxtapose happy music with sad lyrics. Dozens easily. Really there’s not even one definitive one. So here’s one of the latest:

What do you think of The Smiths? What other artists can you name who have happy music with sad lyrics, OR sad music with happy lyrics (like The Cure’s “Love Song” or Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”)? Do you prefer black and white music, or do you swim in the grey too? Discuss dammit!

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