“Favourite song” is a label that is thrown about a lot. Usually, at parties, a song will begin playing and a response similar to “OH MY GOD THIS IS MY FAVOURITE SONG!!!” will no doubt be screamed back in reply. Then another song will play five minutes later and the same response will be repeated. But while there may be numerous songs that I hail as some of the best ever made, there is only one song that I am sure is my definitive number one song of all time. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know my favourite band is Gorillaz. And if you really paid attention in my breakdown of their albums, you’ll also know that Plastic Beach is my favourite album. So it should come as no surprise that my favourite song features on that project. The first single to be released, On Melancholy Hill.
In comparison to the vast amount of Gorillaz songs, On Melancholy Hill is definitely one of their most simple ones to be released. It uses a very common chord progression and Damon Albarn himself questioned whether he wanted this to be the lead single for the album as he thought it was “too poppy”. And yet despite everything the snobbish side of my brain tells me, I can’t help but absolutely adore this track.
To start off with, the instrumentals are outstanding. You’re immediately taken into a warm embrace of the synths and pulsing basslines and as the drumbeat picks up, you can’t help but enjoy the mellowness and serenity that washes over and completely envelopes you. And whilst this mellowness certainly never wavers throughout the song’s duration, it also never gets boring. The song builds and builds on the sounds it starts off with and as it goes on enough elements are added throughout the track to keep you engaged and distract you from the slightly repetitive melody. The quiet piano keys create this almost dream-like impression and the added high pitched notes develop a kind of nautical theme that fits with the overall motif of the album it features on.
Then there are the vocals and lyrics to this song. I have seen Damon Albarn be referred to as the ‘King of Melancholy’ and I think this song demonstrates this perfectly. His delivery is so adorably innocent and intimate -whilst simultaneously being forlorn- that it makes the warmth of the synths he’s singing over seem like a direct contrast to the longing expressed in his voice. And that is what I feel like is the main emotion that comes through in Albarn’s delivery. That sense of longing for a person that is no longer there. Its almost as if the so-called ‘melancholy hill’ is a place you go to when you’re alone, alone to a point where only the presence of someone you hold dear can take you away from it. The line “Cause you are my medicine, when you’re close to me” may well be one of the saddest and yet somehow endearing lines in music I’ve ever heard. The thought of someone being so important to you that their absence may cause damage to yourself is just so heartbreaking.
But what really strikes me about this song is how it acts as the perfect song, both when you are in love or when you are out of it. Whilst I can only speak from experience, in my perspective and in my interpretation of the song, lines like the aforementioned “Cause you are my medicine when you’re close to me” invoke both the feeling of being enamoured with someone so much, that they become vital to your happiness and well being, whilst also invoking the sadness of losing a loved one in your life and the feeling of sheer loneliness that comes with it. Almost to the point where losing this person is like losing the medicine you need to even continue on.
I realise I may be gushing about a song that to many others may seem like a run of the mill, average synth-pop that happens to have some pretty cutesy lyrics. And I realise that my experience of love is so limited at this point in my life that for me to make any profound statement on the way a song makes me feel about it can come across as ignorant or stupid. But to me, the warmth of this song has not been replicated in any other song I have heard in my short 16 years on this planet. No song has wrapped me in a thicker blanket of love and sorrow than On Melancholy Hill has. And that is why it is without a doubt, my favourite song.