Songs of Superman

Superman has inspired and/or been referenced in a number of popular songs over the years. Here are a few of significance:

Five for Fighting: “Superman”
This somber, soulful melody came on the radio while I was driving home yesterday, and inspired this post. It never actually references the character's name, but rather humanizes him by giving us a glimpse of what it must feel like to be an icon when “Even heroes have the right to bleed” and “Its not easy to be me”. I'm pretty sure it was incorporated into an episode of Smallville at some point but if it hasn't, it captures the essence of the concept of the show that's so great, even if the execution of it isn't always consistent. I'm barely going to mention the Remy Zero theme to the series, especially since the band appeared in an episode playing it at the school prom, forever cementing themselves a place in one-hit theme song history alongside The Rembrandts(who've since sunk to covering an ‘80s cartoon theme song).

R.E.M.: “Superman”
Catchy, boppy and repetitive, the lyrics give us insight into either a real or metaphorical Man of Steel, jealous that his girl has left him and boasting the things he can do to keep her if he abuses his abilities. “I know you don't love that guy cause I can see right through you/If you go a million miles away I'll track you down girl.” In all likelihood it is meant as a metaphor, a lovelorn geek retreating into fantasy to deal with a situation in which he is in fact powerless.

Eminem: “Superman”
Speaking of abuse, I hesitated to include this track, since it portrays a much darker ego trip on the part of the vocalist. Lyrics are extremely, extremely explicit, so you may want to skip clicking this one in which the vocalist envisions himself as a Superman that can “Leap tall hoes in a single bound.” Catchy rhythm; horrible character.

Spin Doctors: “Jimmy Olsen's Blues”
Here's something much lighter, and one of the first tunes I gleefully recognized as referencing a comic book, around the same time I discovered Weezer's “In the Garage”. Rather than focus on the hero, this tune imagined Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen crushing on Lois Lane and bemoaning the impossible competition he would face with an invulnerable superhero.

3 Doors Down: “Kryptonite”
He may be invulnerable, but he does have one weakness: Kryptonite. Granted, he's also vulnerable to magic but for the sake of the 90% of readers not aware of that obscure fact, I'll focus on the irradiated rocks from his destroyed home world. In this song, the singer muses over his own weakness and hard times, and the one person he'd want to stay by his side and treat him as the (super) man he was, even as he deteriorates.

Lazlo Bane: “I'm No Superman”
I've referenced this Scrubs theme before. The song delivers the same message Aunt May told her nephew in Spider-man, and as my music teacher used to tell me: “I can't do this all on my own/No, I know, I'm no Superman.”

Crash Test Dummies: “Superman's Song”
When I sat down to write this article, I planned to limit these thoughts to songs I'd actually heard. The lyrics to this one sounded interesting enough, that I may have to check it out. Is anyone familiar with it?

* * *

Superman Returns June 28th, 2006 and may include some of the John Williams theme from the 1978 film. From the shows before I was born, to the movies of my childhood and the animated series and other shows like Lois and Clark, a distinctive style of fanfare always captures the inspirational and heroic nature of Superman, even as the popular songs explore other facets.


Blogger Darrell said...

Cool trivia: REM's version of "Superman" is actually a cover. The song was originally recorded by a band called The Clique... some obscure band that I guess Michael Stipe really liked.

The REM album that their version of "Superman" appears on is "Life's Rich Pageant." It's the only REM album I can still listen to. I absolutely LOVE the song "I Believe" from that album. It's my own personal favorite REM song. Download it sometime. Three minutes of pure, catchy pop brilliance.

6/10/2006 10:14 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Hey, I'm being anal about this, but I gotta point it out... If you go to Amazon to sample the few seconds of "I Believe" from "Life's Rich Pageant," for some reason the song samples are screwed up. Instead of hearing a few seconds of "I Believe," you hear a few seconds of the song "Cuyahoga," which is a fine song, too.... but it's not "I Believe." The samples on that page are all screwed up. "These Days" actually plays a few seconds of "Hyena." "Fall On Me" plays a few seconds of "What If We Give It Away." If you click on "Hyena," you hear a few seconds of "These Days." It's just all screwed up.

Anyway, if you actually want to hear a few seconds of "I Believe," you have to click on the sample of "What If We Give It Away."

Stupid Amazon!

6/10/2006 10:21 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

It's so funny you chose to write about this now. Just the other day I was watchng a trailer for the new Superman and liked the song I heard. So I went online today trying to figure out what the name of the new song was, but I didn't get very far.

Even you don't seem to have that information yet, but the chances of us both writing about Superman in the same 24 hour stretch is pretty freaky, no?:)

6/10/2006 11:01 PM  
Blogger neolithic said...

Amazingly enough, I have heard Superman's Song by the Crash Test Dummies. Loads of times. It was quite popular when it came out, around when I was in first year university (gawd has it been that long ago already?)

Though it will come up in net searches, I'm not surprised you haven't heard the song, as the Dummies really didn't get recognition outside of Canada until 1993, in the Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmmm days.

As for the song, along with the video, it definitely has the feel of Superman's funeral. The song sounds like a memoriam, very chilling, as Brad Robert's vocals can bring a strong "harmonic", so to speak, of emotion.

6/11/2006 3:27 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

I, of course, know the Crash Test Dummies' song--and the video is one of my favourite mini-movies. However, Neolithic said evrything I had thought to say.

6/11/2006 10:39 PM  
Blogger RC said...

There's a band named Pillar that has a song called superman too...kind of fun.

I like the Five For Fighting and Crash Test Dummy ones a lot.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

6/13/2006 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Mayor of Kentonville said...

I enjoyed the post, put a link on my page

8/24/2008 9:02 PM  

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