Greatest Hits: Gemma Elgar | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Greatest Hits: Gemma Elgar

Music’s Gemma Elgar takes us through her life in five songs

Melodies and lyrics can have such a forceful impact on our emotions. Songs embed themselves into our souls. It’s crazy to think over the course of my life just how many songs have passed over my ears that didn’t grip me, that I wasn’t into, that I just never really “got”, but these are the songs that did.

Razorlight - 'Who Needs Love'

For a long time before I sat down to write this article, ‘Who Needs Love’ was the only song that I was sure would be on the list. The song is a track from Razorlight’s self-titled album released in 2006, meaning that the band were present for most of my remembered childhood. They were one of those bands that kept, and still keep, popping up for me wherever I seem to go, and for that reason it didn’t really matter which song I chose for this list, as long as it was by Razorlight. My reasoning for choosing ‘Who Needs Love’ (as well as it always being my personal favourite), is the relatability of its lyrics. Whilst simple, they tell an all-to-real negative message, and yet its melody plays with this in such a way that it’s still uplifting, still a feel-good song. Not only that, but its rhythm and subtlety in vocal melody makes it a perfect background/soundtrack song – but it was used in the film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, so hey, maybe I’m biased.

Supertramp - 'Goodbye Stranger'

Anything by Supertramp will always make me think of my Dad. I remember when I was little, their Best Of album was always his go-to to play in the car. Supertramp remind me of car journeys, long or short, with my parents and sister, and therefore the band holds a generically nostalgic feeling for me. My Dad has always had a musical influence on me, too, making this song, and artist, even more meaningful; he’s a big part of the reason that I’m an indie kid at heart, but there’s a lot of 80s music running through my blood. My favourite part of ‘Goodbye Stranger’ is the drum sequencing through the chorus: a kick drum and crash played once simultaneously before each line, with a nice hi-hat rhythm ticking along throughout. The impact of the drums here really makes each lyric stand out, and if you’re looking for something extra, the 2010 remastered version is essentially an extended cut.

Bleachers - 'Rollercoaster'

During my time at secondary school, I was one of the few people who actually got on really well with their form tutor, to the point where he became a real guiding figure for me (which I suppose, to be fair, is what they’re supposed to do). Right at the beginning of my first year, he played this song in our form class and something about it really hit home with me – I went home, looked into the band, and they still remain one of my favourites. I became obsessed, and showed it to my Dad who loved it too. The song, and the video with it, are representative of the freedom of music. There’s also something unapologetically clichéd about the band playing on the roof of a moving van that I absolutely adore. It’s a feel good anthem that reminds me of the support system that I am lucky enough to have always had around me, whether that’s my parents, academic support or anyone else.

All Time Low - 'Weightless'

I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t include ‘Weightless’ in this list. Alongside Taylor Swift’s Fearless, All Time Low’s album Nothing Personal was one of the first that I ever listened to seriously, at the age of 13. Everything before this point had been Pop Party or Ultimate Boy Bands, either a compilation album or something my parents had played in the background that only resonated with me years down the line (the likes of ‘It’s Raining Again’). Nothing Personal, and particularly the leading track from the album, ‘Weightless’, was the first time that music had ever really been mine. The song itself is nothing special – it’s generic pop-punk, emo stuff (we’ve all been there, right?), but when I was 13, the angsty positivity of Alex Gaskarth’s message meant everything to me.

The Fratellis - 'Star Crossed Lovers'

The Fratellis have been my favourite band for a while now. I saw their 10-year anniversary tour of Costello Music on a last-minute whim in 2016, and they won me over as soon as the opening bars of ‘Henrietta’ started playing (a lovely choice for the opening track, as Jon Fratelli came on stage and did the little “hello!” at the start of the recording). Up until 2018, ‘Whistle For The Choir’ had been my favourite song of theirs. It had been my safety net song, if you will, through heartbreak and other bad times. However, in March earlier this year, The Fratellis brought us their latest album (In Your Own Sweet Time) and with it a tracklist that I would defend of not having a single bad song. ‘Starcrossed Losers’ was the song that really stood out to me, and has taken over from ‘Whistle For The Choir’ as my new heartwarming safety net song; simply because the melody of the chorus gives me that warm fuzzy feeling that all the good songs do. From the guitar riff throughout, to those beautiful high notes scattered through the chorus, ‘Starcrossed Losers’, the bizarre love story of a goth girl and a nerd boy, gets my little heart fluttering every time.

English literature student, music writer at Redbrick (@bloodyspiffing)


7th December 2018 at 7:00 am

Last Updated

6th December 2018 at 6:04 pm

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