With global warming, political unrest, and a cratered international economy serving as the shaky pillars of today’s world, we need pop music now more than ever. As hopeless headlines continue to paint dark horizons for us, pop is one of the few lights to shine through and inspire whimsy. Even the harshest skeptic has no choice but to relent and give into the genre. So we present Pop For Skeptics, a regular Flavorwire column committed to curating and commenting on the best ear candy from the US and around the world.
In life and pop music, nothing is more difficult than saying goodbye. It’s a word none of us want to let fly out of our lips because it indicates that something we’re intimately familiar with has ended and something scarily abstract is about to begin. Perhaps most terrifying of all, then, is saying goodbye to New York City. It’s akin to breaking up with your beloved, if your beloved happens to also embody the most lusted-after lifestyle in America.
I know all about this because I had to leave the city just last week — bidding adieu to everything from the Williamsburg Bridge to Sammy’s Noodle Shop and even the reliably unreliable 7 train — as I decided to swap New York for Detroit, perhaps at Patti Smith’s behest. And while throwing scarves, old mementos from ex-boyfriends, and books written by friends into boxes, I found a little time to construct an ideal playlist of songs that seemed to reconcile and make sense of the heavy emotional baggage that tends to come with having to say goodbye, especially to a city like New York.
Jewel — “Goodbye Alice In Wonderland”
For all the creative missteps in Jewel’s career, engineering a pop song that perfectly portrays the process of leaving a circus like New York for less frenzied departures is not one of them. In saying goodbye to the city last week, I found myself bidding farewell to a version of me who could’ve only existed in the pressure-cooker ecosystem unique to New York City — a world of soaring rents, shrinking apartments, quirky characters, and an abundance of noise that rewards its loudest citizens. Perhaps when many of us leave the city, we leave behind such proverbial, wide-eyed Alices with their sky-high ambitions and do-anything attitude to cultivate personae with more tempered expectations of the world.
Mariah Carey — “Bye Bye”
Let’s get real for a minute, though. While my own exit from New York may not have been sloppy and tear-filled, others find themselves leaving the town more reluctantly and often with unfinished business. For them there’s this classic Mariah slow jam, which is all about having to make peace with those things you lost — whether it’s a loved one or a loved city — prematurely. Ready your tissues and cry, cry, cry.
The Pipettes — “So I’ll Say Goodbye”
Perhaps in the same spirit as “Bye Bye” is this dance-floor-friendly farewell anthem by The Pipettes. It carries the same bittersweet reluctance of saying goodbye before you might be ready to, although it replaces the solemnity with a a buoyant dance beat — perhaps hinting at cautious optimism towards what lies beyond the farewell.
Spice Girls — “Goodbye”
That pressure-cooker ecosystem that spawns a wide-eyed version of you? It also spawns wide-eyed version of your best friends, and in leaving the city, I realized that perhaps it wasn’t the sights or the streets I was going to miss the most, but the cast of characters I worked hard to assemble as a solid network of friends. Saying “goodbye” wasn’t easy for them, either. Oddly enough, this pop paragon from the Spice Girls poetically sums up the kind of, “Dude, stop freaking out, you’ll be fine and, yes, we’ll still be friends,” sentiment they sent me off with.
Madonna — “The Power of Goodbye”
None of us need to be surprised, however, that the most apt aubade to New York comes from Madonna, in the form of “The Power Of Goodbye.” The first verse addresses the push-pull relationship many of us can have with the city — and which then becomes the impetus for leaving the town.
Your heart is not open, so I must go The spell has been broken, I loved you so Freedom comes when you learn to let go Creation comes when you learn to say no
In fact, it’s in that last couplet that “The Power of Goodbye” seems to draw a parallel with Joan Didion’s oft-cited essay “Goodbye to All That,” which is also about New York.
Chantal Kreviazuk — “Leaving On a Jet Plane”
So, remember when I told you that my exit from New York wasn’t sloppy? I wasn’t being completely honest, because I have to admit that as the gate agent at LaGuardia scanned my boarding pass, I began tearing up. I mean nothing says, “No going back,” like a one-way ticket to another town. While many artists have interpreted this classic John Denver tune over the years, Chantal Kreviazuk’s resonates the most.
Sugarland and Beyoncé — “Irreplaceable”
But, how about this: It’s not that I, or anybody else, have to be despondent about leaving New York City. The city itself should mourn the conditions that cause such a high turnover of residents. With 7-11s, Chase bank branches, fast-food establishments, and chain pharmacies popping up on every street corner, the city itself is beginning to resemble the other American cities that it fought so hard to distinguish itself from in decades past. Suddenly, the soaring cost of living and other increasingly hostile terms on which most New Yorkers have to make a home for themselves no longer seem justifiable; many of us are learning that New York is no longer irreplaceable.