12 October 2006

the most common song title ever

I have a point, I promise.

Okay. Having unpacked the last box in our new flat, I thought that now was the perfect time to post this. I've long been curious about what's the most frequently used song title ever – not the most frequently used word in a song title (in which case, it would probably be the pronoun "I"), but the most frequently used song title, period. And they have to be unique songs, not covers (in which case, Help! by The Beatles would be the hands-down winner). Unfortunately, I don't know of any authoritative source that keeps track of these things. The closest I could find is allmusic, which has a massive song database; you just have to know what you're looking for. One Googly afternoon, I found a web forum that discusses this very subject, and the list gathered by members looks like the following. (I've added their allmusic count for reference. I doubt that allmusic only counts unique songs, but what, pray tell, is the alternative?)
  • Hold On - 963
  • You - 885
  • Freedom - 742
  • Stay - 703
  • I Want You - 658
Not a bad sample. We can all think of songs with those titles. Hold On was actually the first thing that came to my mind; I first noticed how popular it is as a song title after Sarah McLachlan released her album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. I compared the forum members' list with my iTunes library (at 15,646 songs as of today, this is larger than the average, but still small by collectors' standards), and then I ran the most frequently used song title in my library by the allmusic database. The result: Home, with 11 unique songs in my iTunes, and 971 mentions in allmusic. Here is one of them:

home : cary pierce
click here or on the image below to listen. 3m 46s

I was surprised by the result. How many Home songs do you know? How many Home hits have there been? Not much, I would wager. And yet, a lot of major artists have one, from Louis Armstrong to Alan Jackson to Depeche Mode to Sheryl Crow. But my point is that home is something we always think about, but not something we choose to bring out in the open. Who wants to broadcast every little dysfunctional thing about their family? Which brings me to my next point: that the concept of home is quite distinct from the family unit. Many of the Home songs you will hear are not about family relationships but the nostalgia of growing up, the comfort of the familiar, the return to proverbial innocence. Home as your personal world, as you choose to see it, as you want it to be. In this song, Cary Pierce calls home "the way things were," "a place where no one ever lets me down," and a place that he can come back to to keep his life on track. (Can you guess who the female back-up is? The answer at the bottom.)

this world is not my home : his name is alive
click here or on the image below to listen. 2m 40s

Not that I'm saying Home is the most common song title ever. To be sure, love is still the overriding theme in music, and at 1,150 songs, I Love You has more allmusic listings than Home. But I guess you can make a case that after love in all its dimensions, songwriting is ultimately drawn to the idea of home and all its permutations. Apart from what Pierce describes above, home is also a represenation of – cue orchestral music – our place in the larger world, including the spiritual. Here, Michigan indie group His Name Is Alive borrows two lines from the gospel staple written in 1936 by Albert Brumley: This world is not my home, I'm just passing through, And I can't live at home in this world anymore. (Am I the only one to think this is a bit suicidal?) HNIA sings this version with clinical numbness, unlike the acoustic version on their myspace page, which is quietly unsettling.

broken homes : tricky feat. pj harvey
click here or on the image below to listen. 3m 35s

For the most part, of course, love is what makes a home, and its absence or betrayal destroys it. In fact, this theme often brings about some of the best songs in pop music. My favorite? Burt Friggin' Bacharach's A House Is Not A Home. I'm not meant to live alone, Turn this house into a home. I get all weepy just playing Brooke Benton's version of it in my head. An absolute classic, in spite of Luther Vandross's beautiful but overproduced rendition. This song I'm posting is not exactly about broken homes in the clich├ęd tradition of most ballad songwriters, but being Tricky, this one is freaking tremendous. Enjoy.

Oh, and the answer is Lisa Loeb.

1 comment:

  1. there is over 62 unique songs named Mary Jane http://grooveshark.com/playlist/Most+Songs+With+The+Same+Title/85377360

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