Existentialist Songs

Here is a brief list of songs dealing in the murky subject of existentialism. By no means a complete list, but just some prominent candidates.

Credit to peaceonearth888 for the title picture.

Waterloo Sunset

This song oozes the beauty of insignificance. The faceless Terry and Julie are watched from a window by the singer as they all carry out their mundane lives. The singer's momentary gaze is paradise, the flickering thing that is life is both heavily insignificant and heavy in significance.

The rendition of the song itself by the Kinks is as close to perfection as humanity can strive.

Bright Eyes

A profound song that is largely a series of questions on the nature and experience of death.

Is it a dream?
Is it a shadow?
Where do you start?
What does it mean?

The chorus then places the incongruity of life and death side by side. Two experiences but one existence. How is it that something that lives dies?

This song gracefully refuses to attempt to answer.

Nothing Was Delivered

This hilarious piece analogises the disappointment in life with the disappointment in not having some goods delivered. I like to think those goods would be a fridge or a washing machine, because that would reduce the lofty philosophical musings even more.

Bob Dylan overlays the transactional exchange between a buyer and an empty handed delivery man on the angst suffered when we are presented with a meaningless existence, although we seem to have been promised something else entirely.

Now you must provide some answers
For what you sell has not been received

The heights of the chorus contain a master-stroke of equivalence.

Nothing is better
Nothing is best

That which we value, is dust. Absurdly, value is merely placing things on top of other things.

Once in a Lifetime

They just don't get any better than this. This here, this song, is an aural Picasso. If there was a soundtrack to life, this is it.

Byrne tackles equivalence from the opposite side of Dylan. Instead of becrying the nihilism, Byrne paints all human history and all personal history as the "same as it ever was". In a similar plaint to Bright Eyes, a series of questions are asked that are never answered.

What is that beautiful house?
Where does that highway go to?
Am I right?
Am I wrong?
My God!...What have I done?!
How did I get here?
How do I work this?
Where is that large automobile?

It is an incredible thing that one of the most moving and meaningful songs of contemporary times involves itself with issues of meaninglessness and emotional detachment.


The cheek of the fellow...

Rogers and Clarke delve into heart breaking world of epistemology. They personify the grand dame Knowledge, sing her a love song, and moan her inaccessibility.

Not that it is all shallow and tacky.

They put forward the valid proposition that in order to recognise that one knows nothing, one must know that in the first place. Which is knowing. Knowing nothing.

Knowing nothing is knowing.

Why am I so empty
When I don’t want to be so?
I know something
That’s that
I know nothing
Isn't that something?

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