January is typically a rough month for new releases, whether it’s a movie studio dumping some of its less desirable projects, or lackluster new albums. (2013’s Long.Live.A$AP being a notable exception to this.) This week’s Music Monday post honors the sluggish first month of the year, with a list of 10 great “cold” songs.
“Coldest Winter” & “Cold” – Kanye West
A two-for starts this this list off, by none other than Yeezus himself. Despite similar titles, these songs could not be any more different. The former is from an essential winter album, 808s &Heartbreak, while the latter is from the pop-friendly Cruel Summer. “Coldest Winter,” came during a very emotional period in Kanye’s life — the song was dedicated to his mother who had recently passed away. This is a bare all, powerful song, that fits the bleakness of the season it’s named after. Conversely, “Cold,” formerly known as “Theraflu,” is a song that fits in the club scene, including an inexplicable DJ Khaled credit. It’s a strong song (and perhaps overlooked) and digs into Kanye’s personal life, specifically his relationship with Kim Kardashian.
“Don’t Leave (When Winer Comes)” – Cunninlynguists (feat. Slug of Atmosphere)
This single from the Cunninlynguists’ Strange Journey tapes is perfect for this dreary time of year. The title alone evokes a feeling of desperation or a last-ditch plea. The beat has a chilly, almost distant feeling, especially after the Natti’s verse, with the semi-hopeful repetition “gonna keep on walking forward.” It’s a fantastic sample and really works with the moodier feeling that the cold brings.
“Winter Winds” – Mumford and Sons
Perhaps the most cheerful, uplifting song on the list, “Winter Winds” is a great, folksy song that brings warmth into the season, rather than bring out its bitterness.
As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts
Oh the warmth in your eyes swept me into your arms
The horns start this song in grand fashion, and lead singer Marcus Mumford wrings meaning out of every note in typical fashion. It’s a song that emphasizes hope, moving forward, and things getting better. So if you’re looking for a song that will help you fast forward last this time of year, then look no further than “Winds of Winter.”
“Winter” – The Rolling Stones
There’s a funny history behind the recording of The Stones’ “Winter.” Oddly enough, it was recorded in Jamaica, rather than a climate that actually experienced winter. Regardless of where the band was, the song itself is one of the great, slow Stones songs. “It’s sure been a cold, cold winter,” repeats Jagger throughout the song, usually followed by a somber line about wishing things were different. Unlike “Winter Winds,” this song seems a lot less optimistic.
“Cold World” – GZA (feat. Inspectah Deck)
Like 808s & Heartbreak, GZA’s Liquid Swords is also a fantastic album for the winter season. The one track that perfectly exemplifies this is “Cold World,” a raw, unforgiving song. “Shit is deep on the block when you got me locked down/In this cold, cold world,” Life sings on the chorus, book-ending GZA’s verse on inner-city violence.
It was the night before New Year’s and all through the fucking projects
Not a handgun was silent, not even a Tex
It’s a shot of realism to what’s a usually a celebratory time of year. GZA dedicates his verse to describing the seemingly inescapable dangers of the projects, from robberies to murders. Inspectah Deck keeps up the theme with yet a other relentless verse. It’s the kind of song that makes you wish winter would end sooner…
“Snow ((Hey Oh))” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stadium Arcadium came during a transitional period for the Californian band. The days of BloodSugarSexMagik were far behind RHCP, their more boisterous, irreverent music traded in for a softer, more melodic sound. “Snow ((Hey Oh))” was one if the songs that perfectly represented this change, both lyrically and stylistically. The guitar riff from John Frusciante is light, matching Anthony Kiedis’ calm crooning. Kiddies mentioned that this song is about change and starting fresh, explaining that the snow in this case is similar to a blank slate. Outside of holiday-oriented music and traditional winter songs, the Red Hot Chili Peppers seem to be one of the few using the season as from an almost entirely positive perspective.
“Freeze” – Clams Casino
Clams Casino has grown in popularity over the past couple of years, working with artists such as A$AP Rocky and Lil’ B. His production is noticeable for its relaxed, wavy beat, and can subtly bring out an artist’s voice. Clams has a great ear for music and has an interesting history of sampling that doesn’t just visit the pop culture trough. “Freeze,” a beat made for A$AP Rocky and Jim Jones, is a great instrumental to understand Clams Casino as a producer. It’s a slow, somewhat minimalistic track that doesn’t try to do too much or overshadow the rappers themselves. It’s a chilly beat, that’s somewhat bleak, but somehow is very relaxing. Clams Casino’s body of work, especially some of his tracks from Live.Love.A$AP are great for winter, and really represent that sluggish atmosphere during these times.
“Winter in America” – Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
Soul and winter can really work well together. Scott-Heron is a master of bringing so much emotion and passion to everything he brings forth, and “Winter in America” is no exception. In the liner notes of the LP, there is an explanation for the song (and album’s) title:
Winter is a metaphor: a term not only used to describe the season of ice, but the period of our lives through which we are travelling. In our hearts we feel that spring is just around the corner: a spring of brotherhood and united spirits among people of color.
It’s certainly a powerful metaphor, and like several other songs on this list, uses winter as a metaphor for something that we must surmount for a more positive future. The song itself is uplifting, with a light and airy flute dominating the instrumentation. While the song itself is not on the LP mentioned above, it still maintains that connection, and the message is clear: winter is something we need need to overcome.
“Cold as Ice” – Foreigner
Oh, come on. You had to know it was coming. Cheesy? Yes. Overplayed? Maybe. Classic? Abso-friggin-lutely. The oft-sampled, oft-remixed, and oft-covered Foreigner song is an obvious choice for the winter season. Whether you remember it fondly when it was first released, are a fan of the covers, or have the guilty pleasure of singing it tipsy at karaoke, it has a special place in your heart. Once that piano comes in, you can’t help but join in singing what is an undeniable classic. Either that or a it’s a super kitschy song, that you listen to ironically, you hipster, you.