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I’d Rather Have the Blues Than What I’ve Got

Posted by Shamir Lee on 08/14 at 04:52 PM

Film noir is, in my opinion, one of the most creative genres of film. The dark themes, the suspense, the psychological element, it was all so different from what was coming out of Hollywood at the time. The style was provocative and daring, a great shift in the film industry. The cynicism of the genre was one of its most prominent traits, and that trait reflected in the music that made up the soundtracks. In 1955’s Kiss Me Deadly, Nat King Cole’s “I’d Rather Have the Blues” was a good representation of that cynicism.

Cole might be well-known to many for his more optimistic song “L-O-V-E,” but his vocals on “I’d Rather Have the Blues” fit perfectly for the film. The instrumentals drag in the background, illustrating a dark and rainy night, with a man walking the city streets alone, the higher octaves acting as the wind. Cole sings “you don’t know what you’re doing to me,” leading me to believe a woman has broken his heart.

I first heard this song last November, and coincidentally it was a dark and wet night. This song played in my mind incessantly. I was intrigued by the lyrics’ ability to express so much without giving any explicit details about feelings and emotions. We never know what he’s “got,” but in that moment I knew what it felt like to “rather have the blues.” I long for music as subtle and mysterious as this. I wish this song was more well-known and recognized as one of Nat King Cole’s classics. Listen to it below.

If you would like to hear another one of his more haunting songs, listen to “Nature Boy,” which has been covered by many artists over the years, including Kerli and Celine Dion, both are very different from the original, reflecting the distinct style of each artist. I personally enjoy listening to Dion’s romantic cover.

{name} Author: Shamir Lee
Bio: Shamir Lee is a senior majoring in Advertising. She’s a writer for Penn State’s CRITIQUE, a student-run business magazine. Additionally, she has created ads and flyers for One Heart, an organization fighting against child sexual abuse. She’s interested in looking at cats, doing ballet, exercising, and ending animal cruelty. In her free time, she enjoys watching horror movies, some of her favorites being Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ("sorry, I just really like the cinematography"). Music is a big part of her life, as she plays piano, a little bit of guitar, and used to play saxophone. Some of her favorite musicians are Jason Becker, BUCK-TICK, Megadeth, Aivi Tran, Missing Persons, Nina Hagen, Prince, and Koji Kondo.

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