Inspirational songs. David sings them a lot. David seems to talk about them even more. But really what defines an “inspirational song”? What is it that makes one song “inspirational” and another one not? Mushy gushy lyrics? Verses full of optimistic clichés? Does it have to have a title like Lean On Me, Gotta Get Through This or Things Are Gonna Get Better for it to qualify? As soon as a negative or selfish lyric comes into a song, is it automatically thrown out of the “inspirational” box? And really who gets to decide what’s inspirational and what’s not? A song one person might find really inspiring and motivating, another just might not get at all. So who gets to make that call?
Whoever gets to decide, I think we can all agree there’s at least one song of David’s which wouldn’t be considered an “inspiration song.” Falling. Remember that bonus track from that first album which no one ever seems to talk about and David never sang (except for that one time at that ASCAP EXPO). Probably the only song of his that anyone would ever qualify as “depressing.”
I remember hearing rumours at the time that David didn’t even want it on the album because he thought it was too depressing (and that’s when the last few lines were added, to make it a little more uplifting). No idea how true that rumour turned out to be, but you can’t deny the song doesn’t really fit with the rest of the songs he’s ever written. I mean, it was written about a suicide. Not anything anyone would ever classify as “inspirational.”
Well, I was re-listening to some older David music the other day (something to do while waiting for August 7th 🙂 ), and when I got to Falling it felt like a totally different song than I remembered it. I saw it in a completely different way than I ever had before. I hadn’t listened to it in ages and I guess a couple more years of life experience gave me a new perspective. But what I used to see as a purely depressing song, I now saw as an anthem of sorts for people struggling, fighting, and battling hard for their mental health.
David really manages to capture the person’s fight and will power in the lyrics. This is not just a song about someone being sad about the position they’ve found themselves in and complaining about the state of their life. Upon first glance it may seem that way, but look a little closer and you’ll see how it’s really about a person trying their hardest to get past it. This person is living through hell but they are fighting with everything they possibly can to get through it. They are at war with themselves and they are trying desperately to survive. Just check out the lyrics:
Struggling for one more breath
As I’m drowning in a painful death
Can someone reach out for me?
In this dark and dreary sea
‘Cause it seems like no one can
Hear the voice that’s calling
Try to take the most I can stand
But I keep falling
I try to chase the memories away
But they haunt me everyday
I hope I get over this phase
‘Cause I’m stuck inside this haze
All I need is a simple lift
Such a sweet and precious gift
So I don’t lose it all before / What I have left is nothing more
In my isolating misery / I feel like the epitome
Of darkness and despair / Just leading onto nowhere
Will I be able to win this race? / I’m runnin’ at a slow pace
Trying hard to press on / But the motivation’s gone
‘Cause it seems like no one can / Hear the voice that’s calling
Try to take the most I can stand / But I keep falling
It may not have to be this way / Waiting for me there could be a new day
Maybe I can revise / And escape from the lies
There could be something more
To what my life may have in store
I’ll move from where I began
Keep on pressing through to the end
The person David is creating with his lyrics here is a fighter, not a quitter. Everything is going wrong for them and yet they are trying more than anything to “win that race”. They are “trying to take the most they can stand” even when their world is falling apart around them. Day by day they are fighting an internal battle, with no real end in sight. And yet they are still battling it out. How can that not be inspirational?
Inspirational doesn’t have to be happy-go-lucky. It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows. What it has to be is real. relevant. relatable. To me, the best inspirational songs will give you a feeling of “I get that. I can relate to that. I understand exactly what this person is going through… and maybe, just maybe, I can get through this too.”
P.S. So what do you guys think makes a song “inspirational”?