Good Friday: The Playlist (Sound Theology)

Music moves me. It inspires me. I calms me. It riles me up. It helps me to discover my own emotions and explore the emotions of others. When I write, I’m sometimes listening to music, but even more often when I’m not writing and just wandering about my day thinking of my stories in the background, I’m listening to music specially curated for the story and I’m letting it inspire me in new ways.

A few years ago I created a playlist I call Good Friday: Sound Theology. (Yes, I meant the play on words, that was intentional.) And depending on my mood throughout the year, I’ll play one part or another of it. I do this partly as a way to explore my faith and to have compassion for others, which I can achieve by listening to the right kind of music. Occasionally, I even add to it.

For several years now I’ve thought, ‘gosh, I should blog about my Good Friday playlist,’ but then Holy Week comes and goes and as it’s a rather busy time for priests, I never manage it. (And you may as well be warned: this is a long blog post.) Well, this year I’m doing Holy Week from home, which means I have a bit more time.

Clearly I’ve populated the playlist with songs that I have, or that I’ve been attracted to enough to add them to my collection, but really, when making this sort of playlist one must do what works for one’s own self. So, mutatis, mutandis. (The same, but different; or, you be you.)

So the playlist has three parts. The first part could be called, ‘Oops. Did I do that?’ The second part could be called, ‘Actually, this is not fun. It’s possible I’d like something else.’ The third part could be called, ‘I choose joy.’

Oops. Did I do that?

Welcome to the fall from grace. Whether you consider the Garden of Eden (mistakes were made, people were blamed) as historical fact or metaphorical truth, this is the place that once we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole we decide to have a look around because as the old saying goes, how bad could it get? And then we find out. So here we go:

  • Alice’s Theme by Danny Elfman, off Almost Alice. This is literally down the rabbit hole.
  • Follow Me Down by 3OH!3, also off Almost Alice. This would be down the same rabbit hole, but being actively beckoned by, let us call him, the snake. And it seems like such a good idea at the time.
  • Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, off The Fame Monster. Sometimes this whole fall from grace thing feels like we’ve been in a really rough, rather abusive, all-too-intimate relationship with the ego/satan/badness. And yet something in us craves it. Until it doesn’t.
  • Ants Invasion by Adam & the Ants, off Kings of the Wild Frontier. Pretty sure this song is about the lead singer’s BDSM lifestyle and how a bad decision made there can be… painful. Really, the theme here is bad decisions instantly regretted.
  • Redeemer by Marilyn Manson, off Queen of the Damned. This is one of the two songs off the soundtrack that were meant to be composed and sung by the vampire Lestat in his little rock band. And if you know the story you know that Lestat de Lioncourt has more issues than you can shake a stick at and likes to blame everyone else for them. He hurts everyone he encounters and yet he yearns to be better, to be loved, and that is perhaps his only redeeming trait.
  • Teotihuacan by Noel Gallagher, off The X-Files: The Album. This is a seven minute instrumental with a background of falling rain. It’s always seemed to me to be sad, wistful, and meditative. In this playlist it’s a pause in the midst of darkness to reflect that actually, this sucks. This fear, this pain, this agony, it all sucks.
  • Forsaken by David Draiman, also off Queen of the Damned. This is the other song meant to be composed and sung by Lestat, and from his point of view. Amusingly, the opening line is, ‘I’m over it.’ And he’s so not. And when we are stuck in the agony, we can say that we’re over it, but we’re really not. We’re in the thick of it.
  • Numb [Gimme Some More Mix] by U2, off the Best of 1990-2000 & B-Sides. The original version of this song is just as brilliant, but the joy of the remix is that you get the extra meta level of the record industry capitalizing on someone else’s pain. (Literally, it’s part of the opening spoke bit that is utterly brilliant.) Vampires. Everywhere. Very few have actual fangs.
  • Mamma Mia sung by Meryl Streep, original by ABBA, off the soundtrack of the same name. The operative line in this song is ‘Here I go again.’ Because we all revisit the same lessons over and over until we finally learn them. And until we do, they’re just so tempting. And then we go there. And we get burned all over again.
  • Stuck In A Moment by U2, off All That You Can’t Leave Behind. (There’s a lot of U2 on this playlist because there’s usually a lot of U2 on all my playlists.) This entire section is all about being stuck in the brokenness of bad decisions, and whether they’re cosmic-sized or personal-sized, it’s the same thing. The full quote is, “You’re stuck in a moment that you can’t get out of.”
  • Love Is Blindness by U2, off Achtung Baby. Themes of suicide, because as bad an idea as it is, sometimes it seems like a fairly decent option when you’re stuck in the agony of your own personal hell.
  • Moon over Burbon Street by Sting, off The Dream of the Blue Turtles. This one is ALSO from Lestat de Lioncourt’s perspective and it’s just as full of self-loathing but less full of heavy metal. It’s a quiet, gentle sort of self-loathing.
  • Moment of Surrender by U2, off No Line On The Horizon. This is the first turning point in the playlist, and both the end of the first section and the beginning of the second. It tells the story of a person walking through a moment in their life in a total and complete daze because something inside of them has just shifted irrevocably. “It’s not if I believe in love, but if Love believes in me – oh, believe in me.”

Actually, this is not fun. It’s possible I’d like something else.

This is the middle part of the playlist that goes deep into that odd, liminal place where we’ve recognized that we need a change, that we want a change, and yet not every part of our being is entirely sold on the idea. This is, in dieting, were we have to talk ourselves into going to the gym, but often we fail, or talk ourselves into eating differently, but only succeed part of the time. Part of us says, ‘yes! give me something different!’ and part of us says, ‘really not sure this is worth the effort.’

  • Moment of Surrender by U2, off No Line On The Horizon. This is the first turning point in the playlist, and both the end of the first section and the beginning of the second. It tells the story of a person walking through a moment in their life in a total and complete daze because something inside of them has just shifted irrevocably. “It’s not if I believe in love, but if Love believes in me – oh, believe in me.”
  • God Part II by U2, off Rattle and Hum. This song embraces mental paradox or if you like, hypocrisy.
  • Volcano by U2, off Songs of Innocence. This is one of my very favorite songs, and it is because it is literally about us being hot messes. “Do you live here, or is this a vacation? …Volcano, you don’t want to know… something in you is about to blow…”
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go? by The Clash, off Combat Rock. This is the ultimate song of waffling wafflers from Wafflton.
  • Love Is All We Have Left by U2, off Songs of Experience. This song might belong in the third section, except that it is so painfully wistful. It’s, as my systematic theology professors would say, proleptic. It is a little vision of what we could be like before it even happens, but we’re usually not ready for that (or we’d already be there) and so there’s always a bittersweetness to it.
  • All Along The Watchtower sung by U2 originally by Bob Dylan, off Rattle and Hum. This song always speaks to me of watching, waiting, and looking for the perfect time. ‘There must be someway out of here, said the Joker to the Thief. There’s too much confusion here; I can’t get no relief.’
  • Bad by U2, off The Unforgettable Fire. The name might say it all. ‘If I could, I would let it go. Surrender.” The desire for something different even while being stuck where one does not want to be.
  • The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance by Vampire Weekend, off the self-titled album. A significant jab at the record industry, it also points out that this world is stacked against the innocent. No, it’s not just you. This world is stacked against a lot of us, some more than others.
  • Every Breaking Wave by U2, off Songs of Innocence. Every song off this album has a corresponding song off Songs of Experience, and so we’ll see those in the next section. This one heralds the beauty of doing the best you can, today, even if it’s not nearly enough. Not nearly enough.
  • Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons, off Sigh No More. This is a song about taking personal responsibility for your own self care and emotional/spiritual progress even as it reaches out for help. And then at the end, it’s gone as far as it can go and screams defiance at anyone daring to say there is more work to be done.
  • Open Letter to the Entire Wizarding Community by The Whomping Willows, off Welcome to the House of Awesome. This is a piece of sung fanfic, which I always love. And it is an open letter which opens, ‘Make your words mean more than nothing, because they don’t mean nothing.’
  • Magnificent by U2, off No Line On The Horizon. This is Bono’s Magnificat. Here we start shifting from the wistful to the powerful. We’re not yet to total joy, but we are starting to embrace the change we want to see in our lives, so make sure your tray tables and chair backs are in their upright and locked position, turn the volume up and get ready to sing at the top of your lungs. And if you’re not on a plane, feel free to dance around your kitchen. I won’t judge.
  • England 2 – Columbia 0 by Kirsty MacColl, off Tropical Brainstorm. This is a song about owning one’s own capacity to make bad decisions at every turn.
  • Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot by Sting, off Mercury Falling. ‘When you’re down, and they’re counting…’ It’s all about trusting that still small voice inside that fills you with love and peace.
  • The Blackout by U2, off Songs of Experience. Another kitchen danceparty moment, celebrating the fact that even post-personal-apocolypse, life continues and you and I will have to figure out how to love, then, too. ‘When the lights go out and you throw yourself about in the darkness where you learned to see… when the lights go out, don’t you ever doubt the light that you can really be.’
  • If God Will Send His Angels by U2, off Pop. Cross reference ‘Bono’s Christmas Playlist’ which means it’s bleak, as all his Christmas songs are. ‘No one else here, baby. No one here to blame. No one to point the finger. It’s just you and me, in the rain. Nobody made you do it. No one put words in your mouth… it’s the blind leading the blonde, it’s the stuff, the stuff of country songs.’
  • Wonderful by Adam and the Ants, off The Complete Radio 1 Sessions. This is the artist remorseful after an unhealthy relationship ends and he sees what what he’s lost.
  • Song to the Siren by The Chemical Brothers, off Singles 93-03. An instrumental song that seems to me to cry out in pain and longing. And maybe a bit of hope.
  • Please by U2, off Pop. This is a song that acknowledges the ways in which we mess up totally and entirely devalue ourselves, but that also wants us to stop attributing everything – mercy and forgiveness both – to God, and to get up off our knees and actually change. ‘Please, please, please, get up off your knees.’
  • Technical Difficulties by 2CELLOS, off In2ition. This is an original instrumental from the duo, and reminds me of a helicopter in distress, about to crash. Which could be a metaphor for our lives, sometimes. (Oh wait, that’s the video. Still. That’s what I think of.)
  • Pride (In The Name of Love) by U2, off Rattle And Hum. This is a song dedicated to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and it mentions Jesus about as much.
  • Imagine by John Lennon, off Imagine (Remastered). A dreamy vision of what life might be like if we could just possibly, maybe, get the hell over ourselves.
  • On Your Own by Blur, off the self-titled album. ‘Holy man tip toes his way across the Ganges, the sound of magic music in his ears, videoed by a bus load of tourists, shiny shell suits and drinking lemonade.’ Ironic juxtapositions meant to point out that we’re all the same in the end: we’re on our own.
  • Galileo by Indigo Girls, off Rites of Passage.  Oh, the horror of realizing you might actually have to work of karma from heinous past lives. Oh, the joy of realizing you’ll never run out of plots for your novels. Apply always, always, to the brightest light you can find, even if it’s Galileo who kept his daughters illiterate. ‘Then you had bring up reincarnation over a couple of beers the other night. And now I’m serving time for mistakes made by another in another life time. How long till my soul gets it right?’
  • 13 (There Is A Light) by U2, off Songs of Experience. This is the last one of this section, and perfectly placed. ‘And if the terrors of the night come creeping into your day, and the world comes stealing children from your room; guard your innocence from hallucination, and know that darkness always gathers around the light. There is a light we can’t always see, if there is a word we can’t always be. If there is a dark, we shouldn’t doubt, and there is a light, don’t let it go out. When the wind screams and shouts, and the sea is a dragon’s tail, and the ship that stole your heart away, sets sail. When all you’ve left is leaving, and all you’ve got is grieving, and all you know is needing… This is a song, a song for someone, someone like me. I know the world is done. But you don’t have to be. I’ve got a question for the child in you, before it leaves: Are you tough enough to be kind? Do you know your heart has it’s own mind? Darkness gathers around the light: hold on. Hold on. There is a light you can’t always see if there is a word you can’t always be. If there is a dark then we shouldn’t doubt, and there is a light, don’t let it go out.’

I choose joy.

Just as the name implies, this is the part of the playlist that is less like Good Friday and more like the Easter Vigil, where one is waiting in the darkness, yes, but holding a candle, and holding a vigil for one’s own resurrection which is coming. Hope is no longer involved. Faith need not apply. Revelation has occurred. Knowledge has entered the picture. And the rest is just a matter of time.

  • Jacob’s Chain by Jamin Winans, off Ink The Complete Soundtrack. I highly suggest the movie Ink for your Good Friday Good Vs. Evil Movie Marathon (another blogpost for another time). This instrumental takes place at the turning point of the movie where all the angel characters are desperately trying to help one of the main characters throw off his demons and finally make some decent life choices. Jacob, a blind angel who hears the rhythm of the world, sets off a chain of events with a slight breeze in just the right place, like a butterfly in the amazon, that leads to a situation where the character could choose freely without being influenced by good or evil – just his own self. (Good and evil were busy having a knock-down-drag-out fight in the hallway. Also a metaphor.)
  • Ray of Light by Madonna, off not sure which album, actually. You and I, we are rays of light. ‘And I feel like I just go home.’
  • Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way by U2, off Songs of Experience. Title says it all? ‘The door is open to go through.’
  • Human (Armin van Buuren Club Remix) by The Killers, off Human (Remixes) EP.  ‘Are we human, or are we dancer?’ Are we, at our essence, not this flesh and bone, but something bigger and more beautiful? And always choose the Club mix over the Radio edit mix.
  • American Soul by U2, off Songs of Experience. This is the mirror image to Volcano, or as I like to call it, ‘the hot mess we all sometimes are’. This is the song that would have us understand that deep down, we’re really not volcanoes. We’re rock stars. We are Rock ‘n Roll itself. And it starts with a wonderful half intro shared from the song before’s exit, of a black preacher rephrasing the sermon on the mount; ‘Blessed are the bullies, for one day they will have stand up to themselves. Blessed are the liars, for the truth can be awkward.’
  • In Sea of C (After T. Riley’s In C) [DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid Remix] by Grand Valley State University Music Ensemble, off In C Remixed. Instrumental. Terry Riley wrote a piece of music in the style of Philip Glass, conducted it, then gave it to two dozen artists to remix. This piece of music is intrinsically hopeful. It reminds me of the clarity one can experience after the storm has passed.
  • Red Flag Day by U2, off Songs of Experience. This is the mirror image to Every Breaking Wave which had extolled doing the best you can even when you fail miserably. This is the song that knows just how capable you are, and how you’re about to amaze the hell out of yourself. The ‘red flag day’ referenced is the sort where the lifeguard sets out a red flag which means don’t go in the water. ‘I am made of all I’m afraid of… I can feel your body shaking, I’ll meet you were the waves are breaking; baby it’s red flag day, but baby let’s get in the water: Taken out by a wave, where we’ve never been before. Baby, it’s a red flag day, but baby let’s go a bit further; paradise is the place you can see when it’s yours. …today we can’t afford to be afraid of what we fear.’
  • Thunderstruck by 2CELLOS, off the single of the same name. This is another original to the duo, entirely instrumental, and it has a hilarious video with an exceedingly amusing classical intro that isn’t present on the studio album (you can tell the artists are having a grand time). To me this song is all about throwing away one’s staid expectations on life and embracing the beautiful and carefully managed chaos that God has in store for you when you finally are ready to choose love.
  • Beautiful Day by U2, off All That You Can’t Leave Behind. This is a song about seeing what is good about this world despite all the horror all around. ‘The heart is a bloom, shooting up from the stony ground.’
  • Hora Zero by Rodrigo Y Gabriela, off 11:11. This is the final song on the playlist, and entirely instrumental. The name translated means the zero hour, or the last moment. This association is entirely subjective (arguably the point of a playlist to begin with), but one of the first times I heard this song I had a mystical experience and due to the particular subject of the experience, I strongly associate this with waking up and becoming enlightened. And so for me, in the final hour, this is the final song.

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