Defunkify Yourself TBTV: The Smiths; Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

As we barrel toward November 8th in this very political town, I think the consensus feelings are those of exhaustion and despondency, with the last month having taken an especially large toll on our emotional wellbeing. Today’s edition of Throwback Thursday Videos features two songs that, although depressing on the surface, have always helped drag me out of even the deepest of funks.

First off we have 1984’s catchy “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” by The Smiths. Some situations make you feel bad, and even when things change in the direction you want, you still feel bad. Yay! But there is something strangely uplifting about Morrissey sweetly crooning the title phrase ad nauseum, and the tune is remarkably upbeat for the subject matter. Together, these things suggest that maybe the band is just being dramatic and things aren’t so terrible after all. (This is unlikely given the moroseness of the rest of their catalog, but at the very least, it's evidence that when depressed, a good amount of snark and sarcasm will help you laugh through it all.) Moreover, the song offers excellent advice for avoiding discontent in the future: don’t spend your time and energy on people who don’t bloody deserve it.

My second pick is “Picture Window” from 2010’s Lonely Avenue.  The album was an experiment where author Nick Hornby wrote words for songs independently, and Ben Folds crafted music for the lyrics. Although Hornby frequently writes about music in his works (most notably in High Fidelity), he is not a musician, and the album’s lyrics caught flak for their awkwardness. However, I see beauty in their crudeness, the affecting topics, and the way in which a sardonic edge is softened by optimism. These qualities are most evident in this tune, in which a family battles illness at an incredibly inopportune time – New Years’ Eve. The refrain of, “Hope is a bastard, a cheat and a tease/Hope comes near you, kick its backside”, encapsulates how infuriating unexpected and/or chronic illnesses can be. But the tone in which it is sung evolves over the course of the song, ultimately portraying the story of, as Hornby says, “a woman who is fighting against hope, and loses the battle.”

I fully encourage you to belt these songs at top volume to increase your odds of an improved outlook. Here’s hoping that they help you emerge from any negative situations you might be experiencing – including this election cycle – unscathed.