TOP 10 SONGS THAT DESERVE BOOKISH ADAPTATIONS

In these decidedly bookish places of the internet, we discuss adaptations incessantly. Books are being optioned for the big screen. Books are being optioned for TV. Books are adapting old books into retellings for a new generation. Comics are adapted into novels. Graphic novels are adapted into series.

We really like our adaptations here.

The one art form that rarely makes the cut, however, is music. And alongside books and visual arts, music is the missing piece of my triumvirate. I don't know a lot about movies. I don't know a lot about television. But music, ah...

... Sorry, I lost my train of thought and about two hours. I got sidetracked on Spotify.

Of all storytelling mediums, songs are ones with the least amount of adaptations into a bookish format. And it's high time we corrected this.*


(* FBI warning: I have the weirdest music taste ever, and I am unapologetic about it. If you find you've heard about one of the songs on the list below, it's most definitely a case of it's not you, it's me. Feel free to make your own lists and take your own less random picks.)







1. Hotel California by Eagles

"Relax," said the nightman,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check out anytime you like,
but you can never leave."


As it currently stands, Hotel California* is a short story. It is a divine short story of mayhem and debauchery, of raucous parties, of madness and confinement, of appearances and perception. However you choose to interpret it, it's a downright narrative experience. It has an inciting incident. It has high stakes. It has a midpoint. It has a plot twist. It has the darkest moment. It has a reversal. And it has an ambiguous ending.

But by our literary standards, it is much too short.

So to have this mad hotel stuck back in time which admits people but never lets them go adapted into a full-length story would be long overdue and much too appreciated. Mystery. Thriller. Magical realism. Paranormal. Contemporary. The possibilities are as widespread as the current interpretations of the song.

* As an added bonus, Hotel California is just about my favorite song in the world. So there's that, too. Nothing like enormous bias to kick off a list.



2. The Lighthouse by The Hush Sound

There is a girl who haunts that lighthouse
She saved me, I was swimming
So young, I almost drowned
Under the water, she sang a story
Of losing her lover, she calls a warning


It may take a few replays to realize, but the lyrics to The Lighthouse by The Hush Sound also tell a highly specific story. The song is narrated in dialogue form between two lovers who seek refuge from a fire and debate whether hiding out in a cursed lighthouse is better than just braving the fire outside. In and of itself, the song is haunting and ethereal, and ends on such a sudden and shocking note that cliffhanger-loving authors everywhere ought to be clamoring to adapt it into a novel.

I mean... WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Sirens and mermaids, lovers lost at sea and haunted lighthouses. Paranormal, historical or contemporary fiction - either way it's a story that hasn't been told enough, and a story I'd dearly love to read.



3. Alice by Tom Waits

I must be insane to go skating on your name
And by tracing it twice, I fell through the ice
Of Alice


The world needs more books which feel the way a Tom Waits song feels.

Tangentially, the song Alice does reference Lewis Caroll and the inspiration behind Alice In Wonderland - both real-life and imaginary. So in a way, this song is already an adaptation of a novel. But in true Tom Waits fashion, Alice is also so, so much more. It's evocative and dreamlike, it's more atmospheric than even the book that inspired it. (And I don't say this lightly. Alice In Wonderland is one of my favorite classics.) The winter wonderland takes on a whole new meaning. The song abounds in nautical references, in shipwrecks, in men set adrift and in tempestuous oceans.

There can never be too many books about oceans and longings to sate my taste for them.



4. Dance With The Devil by Breaking Benjamin

Say goodbye as we dance with the devil tonight
Don't you dare look at him in the eye
As we dance with the devil tonight


Be still, my anti-hero-loving heart. Unlike most other songs featured on this list, Dance With The Devil doesn't come with verses and verses full of long lines which tell fantastical stories. But in its clear message, in that mixture of warnings and longings, it captured me. Too often an anti-hero evolves into a good guy with a sarcastic streak, so this throwback to the anti-hero/villain in their full glory just stands as a reminder of how many more books I'd love about them. If literal dancing with one is involved, well, all the better! I'm a bit of a dancing fiend myself.



5. The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Sing once again with me our strange duet
My power over you grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me to glance behind
The Phantom of the Opera is there, inside your mind


I just want a Phantom of the Opera retelling, okay? Most ignore the fact that it was a book before it was a musical or a movie, but a book it was. And despite having loved the original, to see it retold in all its villainous, Victorian operatic glory in today's fantasy-climate would make my whole year.

I have yet to determine the deity to which I'd have to sacrifice my soul to bring this about.



6. Howl by Florence And The Machine

Be careful of the curse that falls on young lovers
It starts so soft and sweet and turns them to hunters
A man who's pure of heart and says his prayers by night
May still become a wolf when the autumn moon is bright


With a lengthy paranormal craze behind me wherein I devoured supernatural books like hotcakes, it's a sad, sad fact that I can think of one where werewolves weren't woefully misrepresented and underused (Maggie Stiefvater, because my Maggie Stiefvater craze surpasses all other crazes). The wolf spirit, such as Native American legends narrate it, has yet to make an appearance in its full glory. And if ever there was a song which captures these legends perfectly, it's Florence and the Machine's Howl. (Not to mention, this song incorporates a drum beat pattern and an arrangement which strikes me as very reminiscent of the Native American drum circle. Not that I am as well-versed in the subject as I'd like to be.)

I'll work on that while someone works on this book.

(Also possibly me. But someone more experienced wouldn't hurt, either.)



7. The Bard's Song by The Blind Guardian

There's only one song left in my mind
Tales of a brave man who lived far from here
Now the bard songs are over and it's time to leave
No one should ask you for the name of the one
Who tells the story


Granted, The Bard's Song in and of itself is a kind of serendipitous tribute to The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. (Or rather vice versa. The song predates the series by a good number of years.) But here's my philosophy:
·         The Kingkiller Chronicles are amazing.
·         Bards are amazing.
·         Fantasy is amazing. (Don't let anyone tell you otherwise - this would be a fantasy novel.)

And precious few would complain about more fantastically fantastic fantasy tales (in which this sort of sentence is considered a grave faux-pas and is answered with a swift execution by dragon). So however many books were written to The Bard's Song on repeat in lieu of a playlist - I would be the first in the preorder line. Not that such a line technically exists. But you know. Theoretically. To do justice to this song would be to pen a legendary series for the ages.



8. La Boheme by Charles Aznavour

Dans les cafés voisins, nous étions quelques-uns
Qui attendions la gloire 
Et bien que miséreux avec le ventre creux
Nous ne cessions d'y croire 


Okay, so, La Boheme is in French. But (awkward) translations do exist. And for those more ambitious -  mastering French is well-worth it if only to be able to understand this song. Take my word for it. I'm only slightly (except entirely) biased. La Boheme a tale of starving artists at Montmartre in their bouts of inspiration and their sleepless nights before canvasses and endless quests for elusive muses. It laments a place in time that no longer exists and a feeling that's no longer there, and it's 75 kinds of nostalgic, and a 107 kinds of beautiful. 

Now imagine it in book form. (Methinks Jandy Nelson would pen the world's most stunning adaptation of this particular song.) Done right, it could be a modern classic in the making - a foregone conclusion, perhaps, given that the chanson is also a classic. As it is, fiction novels about artists are scarce. Possibly this has something to do with the fact that non-fiction artist biographies read like fiction anyway, and possibly because those read tragically enough as it is.

So, a fictional story about artists, for a change! And one with a nostalgic rather than outright suicidal ending, for a change!



9. Sarah by Bat For Lashes

Adopting Sarah's heart
Was never gonna be easy


This, perhaps, is the definition of a vicious circle. Sarah by Bat for Lashes was inspired by a book of the same title - Sarah by J.T. Leroy. So technically, this book already exists and this song has no business being featured on this list. But in keeping with my painfully literal interpretation of song lyrics this particular Tuesday, Bat For Lashes's interpretation of Sarah deserved a mention. (And also, I worship Bat For Lashes. So that probably factored heavily in this decision as well.) 

The plot as the song constructs it (with a hefty dose of additional tweaking and literalisms from yours truly): having another girl's heart transplanted into the protagonist's chest. Witnessing the protagonist's ever-growing obsession with the girl whose heart she has gotten. Eventually coming to realize that the protagonist is trying to become (or, on a more pararnormal note, supernaturally becoming) the original heart's owner.*

* Somewhere in the distance, Natasha Khan is beating her head against the wall at this simplification.

But really. Why hasn't this been done before? (Except, less literally, in Sarah by J.T. Leroy.)



10. Rocky Road to Dublin

Down among the pigs, played some hearty rigs
Danced some hearty jigs, the water round me bubbling
When off Holyhead, I wished meself was dead
Or better for instead on the rocky road to Dublin



Rocky Road To Dublin is self-explanatory, really. Not only is it a traditional tune (this is basically the musical equivalent of a classic), it's also... the Rocky Road To Dublin. It tells the tale of perhaps the worst, drunkest, most debaucherous cross-country trip of all time, interspersed with an occasional Irish jig. There's really no way to adapt this song wrongly. And it very likely constitutes some sort of a crime that it hasn't been done yet.







Off to Spotify the day away! But before you follow suit (or google my bonkers and highly questionable musical tastes), leave us a comment and let us know which song you'd love to see adapted into a full-length novel. What do you imagine it'd be about? And which dotted line does one sign to make it happen?




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TOP 10 SONGS THAT DESERVE BOOKISH ADAPTATIONS
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6 comments

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24 February 2016 at 06:00

AHHH THIS WAS GREAT. And I LOVE Florence and the Machine and now need to listen to Howl for like, ever, thanks for thanks. Ahem. OMG I REALLY WANT MORE VILLAIN STORIES. And have you read Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine? It's a Phantom of the Opera retelling...although I didn't really like it? my bad. XD OH OH and next year AG Howard is coming out with a Phantom retelling! FOR THAT I AM FREAKING EXCITED BECAUSE SHE IS LIKE ONE OF MY FAVOURITE AUTHORS OMG.

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24 February 2016 at 22:40

I love this! There are so many great books to be written out of these songs. You should write some of them!

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25 February 2016 at 08:26

YES MORE SONGS AS BOOKS PLEASE. Omgggggg. Hotel California would be great. And I love when songs are actual stories - makes it so much more interesting. I especially like Ed Sheeran songs for that. Yeah, mainstream maybe but sooo pretty :)

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25 February 2016 at 14:51

HOW, HOW, HOOOOOOOOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THESE THINGS?! *GRs ALL THE POTO RETELLINGS IMMEDIATELY* Bless youuuuuuuuuuuuu, Cait, oh wise and informed dragon queen!

But seriously, Howl is the world's most perfect song and needs to be immortalized in all kinds of print, too. You're welcome for the DAYS of Howl-replaying ahead of you. I live to make your lives more unmanageable. ;)

- Lexie

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25 February 2016 at 14:52

I just MIGHT, Aubrey! ;) I'm stuck in that plotting-and-structuring stage of my next Camp NaNoWriMo novel. And the plotting-and-structuring stage of any novel is ubiquitously most famous for AN INVASION OF OTHER UNRELATED PLOT BUNNIES. This is pretty much that invasion. I want to write it aaaaaaall! But feel free to pilfer some ideas, too, if you are so inclined. ;)

- Lexie

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25 February 2016 at 14:55

WOULDN'T IT, THOUGH?! Just imagine THAT insane story! (And she said, "We are all just prisoners here of our own device" is the line which made me fall madly in love with the song, and it opens up SUCH possibilities for a full-length novel!)

And both myself and Natalie COMPLETELY agree with you! 100% of The Honest Bookclub agrees about Ed Sheeran. I'm not the world's biggest fan of music videos, but Ed's Give Me Love one is honestly a story in its own right even without a novel to supplement it. <3

- Lexie

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