Monday, August 24, 2009

HEAVENLY CREATURES

First, let's get something straight: I don't believe in angels. Years ago, I had a boyfriend who used to tell me that I was an angel sent to him from heaven. Aside from the previously mentioned fact that I don't believe in angels (or in heaven, or in hell, for that matter), he was putting me way too high up on a pedestal -- and I'm terribly afraid of heights. Every card he ever sent me had some variation on the two baby angels in Raphael's The Sistine Madonna.

I never quite understood whether I was supposed to take his angel theory as the florid romantic mumblings of a lovesick fool or simply as a matter of fact in his mind. Why should I want to be compared to an angel? Is an angel better than anyone else? In the movie City Of Angels, Nicolas Cage played an angel of death. Is that really something to aspire to?

Mr. Duncan, my seventh-grade math teacher, once asked me to stay after class because he was curious about something I had doodled on the back of one of my tests: "I believe in angels...I have a dream. I have a dream." He asked me questions about my family life, my relationship with my school mates, my relationship with my black school mates. He obviously thought he had a particularly sensitive, ambitious, oppressed, or plum-crazy student on his hands. He did, but that had nothing to do with what I had written. In reality, those words were simply lyrics from the ABBA song "I Have A Dream." (He clearly wasn't a fan). Even today, my MSN contacts read way too much into my profile "nicks" ("'I think I'm in trouble'? What's wrong?"), when, in fact, they are usually song titles or lyrics.

But getting back to angels...

Send me an angel, right now, Real Life demanded in their 1983/89 hit, and music has more than delivered. In pop, country and soul, angels are everywhere. Sarah McLachlan has one. Stevie Nicks has four. Hell, even Madonna has her own "Angel." Only "love" has made it into more song titles. If heaven must be missing an angel, it's probably in a pop song on a radio near you. Earth Angel. Fallen Angel. Evil Angel. Desert Angel. Street Angel. Sleeping Angel. Misguided Angel. Angel of Harlem. Angels in Disguise. Angels with Dirty Faces. Seven Spanish Angels. Criss Angel. (Oh, wait, he's a magician -- pictured above.) So many angels, so little time.

Despite my misgivings when it comes to angels, I'm not immune to the charms of songs about them. Here are 10 of my favorites.

  1. "Angel" Fleetwood Mac An overlooked treasure from Tusk. I wish a young country star -- Carrie Underwood, are you listening? -- would send this "Angel" flying again.
  2. "Angel" Belly "I had bad dreams, so bad I threw my pillow away." It isn't just a song lyric. It's poetry for the dazed and confused.
  3. "Angel" Anita Baker "Sweet Love" introduced her to the masses, but black folks heard this 1983 Top 10 R&B hit first.
  4. "Angels" Robbie Williams I'm kind of clueless about the meaning of Robbie's song, but it moves me nonetheless. The closest thing the UK superstar has ever had to a US hit.
  5. "Angeles" Enya Haunting and soothing. Yes, music can be both, and that's the genius of Enya.
  6. "Angel Flying To Close To The Ground" Willie Nelson My favorite Willie Nelson song, and considering that the man wrote "Crazy" and "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," that's saying a lot.
  7. "There Must Be An Angel (Playing With My Heart)" Eurythmics The duo's only UK No. 1 and a US Top 30 hit, too. Eighties music came at just the right time. It's hard to imagine anything so lovely and off kilter even making a dent in the charts today. Eurythmics revisited the theme on their We Two Are One album with -- you guessed it -- "Angel."
  8. "You'd Make An Angel Want To Cheat" The Kendalls And the award for most clever use of "angel" in a song title goes to...
  9. "Cowboys And Angels" George Michael I never quite got the connection between cowboys and angels, but then again, a really hot cowboy would probably also make an angel want to cheat.
  10. "(Angel On My Mind) That's Why I'm Walkin'" Ricky Skaggs Better on your mind than in your line of vision. Walkin'? Hell, I'd be runnin'!
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