I would argue that most of us have the same attitude toward 2016: Get out of here. Bitterly reflective as we all are toward those 366 days (leap year!), what better group to listen to than one whose music is full of aggressive contemplation? This month, I’ve been listening to The Smiths nonstop. Though it seems random that the ‘80s rock band would be relevant now, they have a track collection that is a mix of anger, resigned acceptance to hardship, and at a few instances, unrestrained joy. I think it’s more fitting than ever for the end of a difficult year and the first month of what we all hope will be a bright future. And at a time like this, we are doing more than hoping: We are working toward it, and I’m confident that as a society we are in a more self-aware place thanks to the trials and tribulations we endured. Here’s 20 songs by The Smiths to complement that exact mood:
1. I Know It’s Over
Not only is 2016 over, but a lot of things ended last year on a personal, national and global level. This song is about the feeling of being lost, of not quite knowing what to do when a chapter of your life has closed.
“I know it’s over, still I cling, I don’t know where else I can go, over and over and over…”
2. What Difference Does It Make
The lyrics are about someone accepting that a relationship was toxic for both participants and it’s a good thing it’s over. He harbors some feelings toward the person, but he says that it makes no difference, because what’s done is done.
“And your prejudice won’t keep you warm tonight.”
3. Bigmouth Strikes Again
Mistakes and more mistakes. After misspeaking and ruining a relationship of his, Morrissey sings about how this makes him feel like he doesn’t deserve his place in the world. In a word, regret.
“And I’ve got no right to take my place in the human race.”
4. A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours
In 2016, we were all the protagonist of this song, in a strange state of mind where we know what we need to do to become powerful individuals, but the lethargy we felt didn’t allow us to really make the push. I hope we've all started doing it in 2017.
“There’s too much caffeine in your bloodstream, and a lack of real spice in your life.”
5. The Queen Is Dead
This song is a commentary on the role of the British monarchy, and how despite its lack of real importance (according to the songwriter), British culture was still rooted in it. America doesn’t have a monarchy, but this is extremely relevant to a year during which challenges caused us to question the roots and significance of the political system we use. The inauguration, Women's March and various other protests have brought this even more to light.
“We can go for a walk where it’s quiet and dry, and talk about precious things, like love and law and poverty.”
6. The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
We all have obstacles, and in the case of this song, a musician's obstacle is the music industry itself, never believing him or giving him a chance.
"The boy with the thorn in his side, behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire... For love."
7. Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
Like many of us experienced in recent trying times, the singer feels dejected. He can’t handle being disappointed again because he has been so many times already. It has a hopeful undertone, though; maybe this time it will happen. Maybe this is the day, the week, the month, the year.
“See, the luck I’ve had can make a good man turn bad.”
8. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby
Have you ever kept trying and trying to achieve a goal or a certain state of contentment or happiness and no matter what, it just doesn’t happen? Of course. And the worst part is that hard work keeps getting brought up when you ask for advice, as though you haven’t done all you can.
“You just haven’t earned it yet, baby… You just haven’t earned it, son.”
9. How Soon Is Now?
As classes start and 2017 rolls on, still fresh, we are all impatient for something good to happen.
“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does.”
Though The Smiths' saddest song, there is a twinkling optimism (listen to the very end of the song) in it; even if the worst happens, there is a lullaby. There is a better world.
“There is another world… There is a better world, there must be.”
11. Still Ill
A summary of inner turmoil, this track remains relevant as we try to use this relatively new year to work through what is deeply troubling us.
“Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body?”
Do you want something? Over the next 11 months, go and get it. Plain and simple, "Ask" is about getting rid of your inhibitions and going after what you want.
“Coyness is nice, and coyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.”
"Panic" paints a picture of group anxiety. Our U.S. political climate has caused some figurative and even literal "panic in the streets of London" (and for good reason).
“Burn down the disco, hang the blessed DJ, because the music that they constantly play says nothing to me about my life.”
14. His Latest Flame/Rusholme Ruffians
This medley, which features an Elvis cover into an original song by The Smiths, always puts me in a great mood. So many things are happening in the world at once, and the microcosm of Manchester, Morrissey's hometown, that's given in "Rusholme Ruffians" is eerie and electric, and it reminds me of the way the world is today.
"And though I walk home alone, I might walk home alone... But my faith in love is still devout."
15. Vicar In A Tutu
Our current social setting, while still tumultuous, has at least given way to a lot of progress. Slowly but surely, people are becoming more able to be themselves, like the priest wearing a tutu described in this song.
"A vicar in a tutu, he's not strange, he just wants to live his life this way."
16. This Charming Man
An iconic song for LGBT listeners, "This Charming Man" has lead singer Morrissey describing his encounter with a flirtatious man who gives him a ride when his bicycle breaks down and on their ride advises Morrissey to call off his engagement. I think it's impossible to not be in a good mood after listening to it.
"He said 'return the ring'; he knows so much about these things."
17. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
This one, I think, goes without saying. Hope never dies. We will always, always have the hope of joy and love.