Sep 3, 2012

Monday Music Duel #11: Shine

After a shaky start, David Bowie managed to finish strongly in last week's Ashes to Ashes duel.

Before I head into this week's battle, a brief explanation of my rationale behind my song choices. In selecting songs to go head-to-head, I'm trying to pick ditties that are relatively "equal". Some people will always have favourites, but ultimately I'm trying to make it a little bit tough for people to choose. For example, I imagine Alice Cooper's Poison would not face much competition from Bardot's Poison.

A few weeks back, I specifically excluded Thank You by The Whitlams from a duel simply because it's quite wonderful and I knew it would pull the lion's share of the votes. 

However, I've found myself stressing possibly a bit too much about getting this balance right. This is, after all, just a bit of musical fun. I'm not a proper music writer like the excellent Andrew Stafford; I've always been fairly upfront about my daggy tastes and rudimentary technical knowledge. And so with that in mind, sometimes you just have to say f*** it, I'm putting a Vanessa Amorosi song in this thing.

Shine by Vanessa Amorosi

I list Shine here because this song was HUGE in Australia when it came out in 2000. It was the most-played song on radio, Vanessa Amorosi sang it at the Sydney Olympics, it was EVERYWHERE. 

To be honest, I grew to hate it because of that over-exposure. But, with distance, I've got to admit it's a little nugget of pop gold, and there's no denying Amorosi has a powerhouse voice.

What makes it most interesting to me is that that key word "shine" was actually a replacement by producer Mark Holden (he of Australian Idol notoriety). It was supposed to be: "Look around you/everyone you see everyone you know is going to.... die" which really makes it far more bleakly complex, particularly against that optimistic melody.

Still, the word change alters the song to be a bit more life-affirming, encouraging the listener to "Grow up and make the best of what you've got". Vanessa entreats us all to stop wallowing in self-pity, even if we never had a mum, and stop "sitting on your ass and wondering why, why, why", and the choral backing lifts it up to almost mantra level. 

Like it or hate it, you can understand why this song hit a nerve; right at the dawn of the new millenium, it represented that desire for beginnings, positive changes and a life in the sun.

Shine by Collective Soul

I'm sure it will surprise many of you to discover that I was a hard-core grunge fan back in '94.

No, really. I even wore a flannelette shirt once.

OK, fine, my passion was still for Madonna, but I knew a good riff when I heard one. Shine was the first Collective Soul song I came across, back when I used to listen to the American Top 40 hosted by Shadoe Stevens, every Sunday night. I used to write out the countdown in a copybook like a COMPLETE NERD. I discovered a lot of indie-type bands - like Green Day and The Offspring - through that show, many months before they got regular airplay. Ahh, the days before iTunes, back when I could at least pretend to be "hip".

It turns out my love of Shine was not mine alone. The lead single from the band's debut album turned into a massive number one hit. I daresay it was mostly due to that steady, strong and atmospheric guitar work, which is impossible to listen to without nodding your head in time to the downstroke. Its lyrics are clear and simple and super easy to learn: "Give me a word, give me a sign/Show me where to look, tell me what will I find?" And who can resist that chorus? "Oh-oh-oh-oh heaven let your light shine down". Repeat, repeat, repeat. Great for rock fans; also for pimply 14-year-olds trying to look cool at a party while trying not to spill a plastic cup of Malibu.

Verdict: I'm going to go with Collective Soul for nostalgia's sake. Somebody bring me Lois & Clark on VHS and a can of TAB Clear.

What do you think? Leave your pick in the comments.


  1. An unenthusiastic vote for collective soul.

  2. Vanessa, grunge is called that for a reason and while somethings in life are good grungy music isn't one of them for me.

  3. I vote for the Vanessa Amorosi one with the original lyrics. 'Everyone is going to die?' That's magic.

  4. Given the lyric was meant to be die I am casting my vote for Ms Amorosi. I just listen to the song again and the swapping the word totally changes the experience.

    Also "No, really. I even wore a flannelette shirt once" don't believe it with out photo/video evidence.

  5. Toughest decision of the series to date. Amorosi, just.

  6. If Vanessa had had the guts to go with the "die" line then she'd get my vote.. but she didn't.. so I award my precious vote to Collective Soul

  7. I have a soft spot for the Amorosi version because my mum, who was completely NOT 'up with the young people's music' commented how much she liked it one day. As mum was going through a particularly horrendous bout of chemo at the time, it really stuck in my mind.

    Knowing that the original lyric was 'die' makes it even more poignant (although I suspect mum may not have been so enamoured!) So Vanessa gets my vote this week.