(5) Morphine, "I'm Free Now"
Any band named for a Schedule II painkilling narcotic automatically got considered for an at-large bid (Codeine's record was underwhelming so they were on the wrong side of the bubble), but add the fact that Morphine's best and best-known record (though we like their whole remarkably consistent discography) was titled Cure for Pain, and add in the fact that Mark Sandman died of a heart attack onstage in Rome in 1999, and it's obvious that Morphine ain't here for the laurels. They're notable for being maybe the only non-Tori-Amos/Gary Jules band in the bracket that doesn't feature a guitar, and the only one to reliably rock the baritone saxophone. Damn, and what an identifiable sound it is, right? Two or three notes and you know it's Morphine, and you know it's gonna be a downer, but one with a little swing to it that helps to cut the straight sadness, and so it is. We stayed away from the obvious song choice ("Cure for Pain") largely because we view this as the sadder song, about anxiety and desire, the dubious freedom of being cut loose from a relationship. It doesn't matter now who did the cutting; the fact is that you're free, yeah, you could do anything: "direct a movie / Sing a song or write a book about yours truly," but then, what's the point? It just gives way immediately to "How I'm so interesting I'm so great / I'm really just a fuck-up and it's such a waste." Sometimes being tethered is the lesser bother.
(12) Morrissey, "Suedehead"
At first glance, Morrissey would appear to offer a surfeit of sad songs. But dig a bit, and it gets harder. This one’s a little too sardonic, that one’s enjoying the pain a little too much (the committee had no tolerance for songs that were mostly about wallowing), and all of them seem to have a too-healthy dose of schadenfreude. Eventually, “Suedehead” emerged as the consensus. Like nearly all Morrissey songs, there’s a lot going on, emotionally: “Why do you come here / when you know it makes things hard for me?” coupled with the repeated “I’m so sorry”s offers sadness but also regret and growing frustration with a lover who won’t let go. Perhaps most interesting is the edge of shame throughout the song. Whoever the sender of silly notes is, s/he’s clearly not someone the speaker cares to be seen in public with. The speaker is toppling a bit, up there on his high horse, and it’s this combo of spurned lover and shamefaced rejecter that give “Suedehead” a bleak biting edge.