Minimalism and music. Two things typically not associated with each other. The most popular songs you’ll hear on the radio today are about living a lavish lifestyle and flaunting what one has. Due to this, it was quite difficult finding quality songs to make the cut. Unlike the film industry, where there are dozens of movies about not needing much to live a happy life, the music scene is all about indulgence.
If you’re a hip hop fan then you undoubtedly can understand the trouble in finding songs that promote minimalism. Had the post been simply about money, perhaps there would be a more prevalent showcase of rap songs. So, which genre does seem to dominate the list? Country. Country musicians apparently seem to understand the value or a dollar and not needing “things” to be happy in life. Without further ado, let’s get to my list of top ten songs that promote minimalism. By no means is this an all-encompassing list of songs.
10. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
Released in 1997, Bitter Sweet Symphony made its debut on the platinum Urban Hymns album. Formed in 1989 near Manchester, England, The Verve released two very popular albums before striking gold with Bittersweet Symphony. By far their most popular song, the band would eventually split up due, at least in part, to the success from the song. Unfortunately for the Verve, due to a lawsuit that arose from sampling a Rolling Stones song, the band would never receive any money from the single version of the track. Apparently The Verve knew first hand that life truly is a Bitter Sweet Symphony, perhaps that’s why their lyrics were so on point.
Cause it's a bittersweet symphony this life Trying to make ends meet, you're a slave to the money then you die
9. Sublime – What I got
Released in 1996, What I Got is Sublime’s most popular track. Following the death of lead singer Bradley Nowell, the song quickly became a radio hit. The video, shot after Bradley’s death, is a tribute to the lead singer and shows a collection of various images throughout Long Beach, CA, where much of the band’s success stems from. The message portrayed in the song is truly one in which everyone should try to live by, and that’s to love the life that you have because you never know when it could be taken from you.
Take a small example, take a tip from me Take all of your money, give it all to charity Love is what I got It's within my reach
8. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Simple Man
Genre: Southern Rock
Released in 1973, Simple Man is the oldest song to make the list. Along with Sweet Home Alabama and Free Bird, Simple Man is one of the most popular songs ever recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd. A mother literally telling her son to live a simple life rather than chasing the rich man’s gold, how more minimalistic can you get?
Forget your lust for the rich man's gold All that you need is in your soul And you can do this if you try All that I want for you my son Is to be satisfied
7. Zac Brown Band – Free
Released in 2008 on The Foundation, Free is a song about love conquering all. It’s about a couple who doesn’t have a lot of money but they have each other. The first of three country songs to make the list, Free would go on to be nominated for a Grammy award for best country song of the year, only to lose to Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now.
No we don't have a lot of money No we don't have a lot of money No we don't have a lot of money All we need is love
6. Hall & Oates – Rich Girl
Released back in 1976 on the Bigger Than Both of Us album, Rich Girl was the first single to hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100 for Hall & Oates, sending the duo to stardom. Hall & Oates would eventually finish with six separate singles reaching #1 status in the US, but Rich Girl was arguably their most prized. Although not entirely a song about minimalism I thought that the lyrics were good enough to make the cut to land on the top 10.
Say money but it won't get you too far Get you too far
5. Kenny Chesney – Rich and Miserable
Released in 2016, Rich and Miserable is a powerful song which defines the stereotypical American, constantly wanting more and chasing the next big thing. With a fantastic introduction to the song, the video stars actor John C. McGinley (Scrubs) as a college professor who challenges his students to determine what rich means to them. They are told that once they have it figured out to go write in on the chalkboard and then to give it to the rest of the world. Rich and Miserable leaves the listener questioning today’s society and the constant run on the hedonic treadmill.
We're too young until we're too old We're all lost on the yellow brick road We climb the ladder but the ladder just grows We're born, we work, we die, it's spiritual Enough is never enough American dream never wakes up Too much is never too much We won't be happy 'til we're rich and miserable
4. Notorious B.I.G. – Mo Money Mo Problems
Released in 1997 on Notorious B.I.G.’s album Life After Death, this song would top the billboard charts for two weeks later that same year. Although most rappers generally don’t practice living frugally and being minimalists, maybe Kelly Price had it figured out during the chorus of the song:
I don't know what, they want from me It's like the more money we come across The more problems we see
Also on the track are Mase and Puff Daddy. Puff would eventually go on to become hip hop’s highest valued star, worth an estimated $820 million in 2017. Perhaps if we all practice minimalism to its fullest we too can be shocked to find single dollar bills in our stack of hundreds (image below).
3. Lorde – Royals
Formally released in 2013 on Lorde’s first album, Pure Heroine, Royals sent then 16-year old Lorde into instant celebrity status. With a catchy hook that criticizes the lavish lifestyle of far too many artists, Lorde shows that she’s not too young to understand the pitfalls of materialism. The song would go on to win a Grammy in 2014 for Song of the Year.
And we'll never be royals It don't run in our blood That kind of lux just ain't for us We crave a different kind of buzz
2. Kristian Bush – Trailer Hitch
Released in 2014 on Kristian’s first solo album, Southern Gravity, Trailer Hitch is the epitome of minimalism. Although Kristian may have only recently made a solo name for himself in the music scene, he’s been performing top notch material for years, especially while in the duo Sugarland. If this laid back, beachy song doesn’t make you want to take a breath and rethink your priorities then I don’t know what will.
I don’t know why, know why Everybody wanna die rich Diamonds, champagne, Work your way down that list. We try, everybody tries Tries to fit into that ditch You can’t take it with you when you go Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch Never seen a hearse with a trailer hitch
1. Eddie Vedder – Society
Genre: Folk Rock
Released in 2007 on the Into the Wild soundtrack, Eddie Vedder brilliantly vocalizes his parting ways with today’s society. Perhaps best known for his lead vocals role with Pearl Jam, Eddie did a tremendous job on the Into the Wild soundtrack. In a very minimalistic manner, the video displays a barefoot Vedder singing on a surfboard with formal clothes on, perhaps transitioning from his former life to his new one.
It's a mystery to me We have a greed With which we have agreed
You think you have to want More than you need Until you have it all you won't be free
So that’s it. My top ten songs about minimalism and living life a little bit more mindfully. What are your thoughts? Can you think of any songs that should have made my list?