Fun with Playlist Synergy

Fun with Playlist Synergy

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, I have playlists for everything. I have playlists to get me in the mood to write, lists for while I’m writing and epic music to listen to while I’m editing (because I need particular inspiration during that part of the process). I have play lists for when I need a pick-me-up on a bad day, a play list for soothing me off to sleep, and every one of my characters has a playlist all the own (some a mile long).

I have vast taste when it comes to music. There’s little I won’t listen to. I’m a child of the ’80s, so ‘weird’ is not really a factor to me. I love to create lists that capture a certain mood or tone, particularly useful if you’re going to be writing a scene and you want to evoke a particular emotion.

It happens a lot that artists get the same idea. Sometimes two movies will come out at about the same time, or two authors will write similar books, and then everyone wants to know if one was inspired by the other. But actually, it’s not all that strange or uncommon for two (or more) creative people to have similar ideas that are totally unrelated to each other, without ever knowing anyone’s done something similar. That’s one of the reasons doing things your way and developing a unique voice are so important.

But I digress. As I compile these various playlists, I encounter a lot of this synergy; songs that pair so well together you almost wonder if the artists planned it. So here are a couple of the pairings I find most intriguing.

Iron Savior – by Iron Savior
Electric Eye – by Judas Priest
What’s interesting about these two songs is that each feature a man-made surveillance device, possibly evolved beyond the point where man can control it. Each evokes the image of a giant, computerized eye watching over all man-kind. Iron Savior’s song is included on an album by the same name, featuring the story of an artificial intelligence known as the “Iron Savior.” Created to protect the inhabitants of earth, the Iron Savior has been hijacked by an enemy force and, instead, attacks man-kind. The song seems to come from the perspective of the oppressed populous, pleading with the AI to set them free. Electric Eye, on the other hand, is sung from the perspective of the ever-watching device. It’s purpose seems to be to keep undesirable thoughts and activities out of society, similar to 1984‘s ‘Thought Police.’ Both give the impression of a futuristic dystopia, great if you’re looking for some sci-fi inspiration.

Common Themes:
The ever-watching artificial intelligence, constructed by mankind to watch over mankind:
Iron Iron Savior – Godness in the sky
we can’t hide from your cold, staring eye
(Iron Savior)

Electric eye, in the sky
Feel my stare, always there
(Electric Eye)

The unstoppable AI overlord keeping the population in line:
You think you’ve private lives
Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I’m watching all the time
(Electric Eye)

The Savior knows what’s wrong or right
He made up his artificial mind
Now mankind’s fate is in his hand
Will he ever understand?
(Iron Savior)

Brave New World – Iron Maiden
Brave New World – Iron Savior
It’s kind of obvious these songs will pair well, given they share a name. But there’s so much a title can’t tell you. Both these bands based their songs on the dystopian novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The theme of the novel is that humans are no longer born, but grown and conditioned to take specific roles within society. Family relationships no longer exist and individuality is considered obscene. But while both songs are based on the same literature, they each take a different approach to expressing that theme. Iron Maiden’s song starts out slow and haunting, while Iron Savior’s song jumps right into the heavy riffs. Iron Maiden slowly paint a picture of a world that should be beautiful but, instead, is twisted and horrific, while Iron Savior appeal to the listener to wake up and rediscover their humanity.

Common Themes:
Loss of individuality and humanity:
What you see is not real, those who know will not tell
All is lost, sold your souls to this brave new world
(Iron Maiden)

Escape the nightmare you can’t even dream
Your nature is human – you ain’t no machine
(Iron Savior)

And both songs include jarring juxtapositions between beauty and horror, serenity and struggle:
Where the perfect people live perfect lives
And individuals get pulverized
(Iron Savior)

Dragon kings dying queens, where is salvation now
Lost my life lost my dreams, rip the bones from my flesh

Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
It’s All Coming Back to Me Now – Celine Dion
I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this blog post, but both of these songs were written by Jim Steinman – no wonder they pair so well! It’s All Coming Back to Me Now was originally intended for Bat Out of Hell III, another joint album between Steinman and Meat Loaf. However, when Bat III fell through, Steinman took his music elsewhere. He claims the inspiration for the song was Wuthering Heights. Total Eclipse, on the other hand, started as a vampire love song. Both embrace the dark side of love, the idea of the dead coming to life, resurfacing memories, love lost and longed for. As an added bonus, both feature powerful female vocals (even the videos are strikingly similar). (As an interesting side note, Meat Loaf has since been able to record a version of It’s All Coming Back to Me Now, but I still like Celine’s version better.)

Common Themes:
The memory of and longing for an intense love, now lost:
And if you only hold me tight
We’ll be holding on forever
And we’ll only be making it right
‘Cause we’ll never be wrong together
(Total Eclipse)

If you touch me like this
And if I kiss you like that
It was gone with the wind
But it’s all coming back to me
(All Coming Back)

I finished crying in the instant that you left
And I can’t remember where or when or how
And I banished every memory you and I had ever made
(All Coming Back)

Once upon a time I was
I was falling in love
But now I’m only falling apart
(Total Eclipse)

Hallowed Be Thy Name – by Iron Maiden
Renegade – by Styx
Bohemian Rhapsody – by Queen
As an added bonus, our final group includes three songs that share a common theme; facing execution for a crime. All three of these songs are about facing one’s mortality, including last minute regret and the desire to be spared. While Queen’s song never directly mentions the subject facing execution, it’s safe to assume he’s on the run for his life. Both Hallowed Be Thy Name and Bohemian Rhapsody focus heavily on the regret of a life gone wrong, while the regret in Renegade seems more about getting caught. The subjects of all three songs wish to be spared their terrible fate. In Hallowed Be Thy Name, the subject wonders if there is an afterlife awaiting him. There are some ways that each song pairs with each of the others better than all three group together, but the themes are so common, and each addressed uniquely enough, that I think they warrant the grouping.

Common Themes: Facing execution or punishment for a crime:
Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time
Cause at 5 o’clock, they take me to the Gallows Pole
(Hallowed Be)

Oh, Mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law
Hangman is comin’ down from the gallows and I don’t have very long

Too late, my time has come,
Sent shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.
(Bohemian Rhapsody)

Staring one’s last moments in the eye:
Tears flow, but why am I crying
After all I’m not afraid of dying
Don’t I believe that there never is an end
(Hallowed Be)

And I don’t wanna go, oh, no
Oh, Mama, don’t let them take me

I don’t wanna die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.
(Bohemian Rhapsody)

What do you think? And what are some of your favourite song parings?

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