Top 100 singles of all time: 87 – Massive Attack – Teardrop

The 90s were, to my mind, a particularly fertile musical decade. Maybe it’s because I was in my teens then. I don’t get the music of now, most of the time. Chillwave sounds like call centre hold music and screamo goes sailing over my head. By the time I heard dubstep, most of the good stuff had been and gone, and now the main source of woob-woob-woob comes from cheesy advert jingles trying to sound hip.

Grunge, industrial rock, nu metal, breakbeat … these were things I could get behind. I wasn’t quite so much into trip hop, but I had the obligatory records by Portishead et al. I didn’t quite connect with Blue Lines. I don’t know why; it just didn’t really do anything for me. Of course I loved Unfinished Sympathy – didn’t everyone? It was The Guardian‘s 10th greatest song of all time – and Safe From Harm was fantastic too. I guess Massive Attack were, for me, very much a singles band. 

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What incredible songs!

1997’s Mezzanine was initially deemed too uncommercial, which was ironic given its subsequent success. The album debuted at number one in the UK, and Teardrop was its main single. Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins wrote the lyrics, and was recording them when she found out that her friend Jeff Buckley had drowned. “That was so weird,” she said, “I’d got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song’s kind of about him – that’s how it feels to me anyway.”

Before Liz was roped in, Andrew “Mushroom” Vowles sent the backing track to Madonna, who fell in love with the song and wanted to record it. However, Vowles was outvoted by the other members of the band, who insisted that Fraser’s elven tones were more suited to its style. Much as I love Ray of Light, and loved that electronica phase of Madonna’s career, it’s hard to imagine Teardrop without Fraser’s unearthly voice.

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