My first exposure to Matchbox Twenty was a concert at the RPI Fieldhouse with my boyfriend, now my husband, back in 1999. I remember enjoying the music and noting that “that lead singer” liked to hit himself in the chest a lot as he sang. Now I know Rob Thomas’s name, I own all of Matchbox Twenty’s CDs, and I’ve been to three other Matchbox Twenty concerts since then.
Rob Thomas has such a unique voice. I’ve enjoyed hearing his solo tracks on the radio, but I’d like him to get back to work with the band so they’ll start touring again.
But which songs would I place in my top ten? It’s a tough call, because I’m a bit biased toward More Than You Think You Are, but I’ll try to balance it out a bit by revisiting some of their older material.
1. Bright Lights
I have a hard time picking an “absolute favorite song” by my favorite bandsÃ¢Â?Â¦ usually. But “Bright Lights” is my absolute favorite Matchbox Twenty song. I love the way it builds and builds to the end, “For God’s sake, turn around!” The piano, the guitar, Rob’s voiceÃ¢Â?Â¦ It all adds up to an excellent song that probably makes other drivers on the road load at me strangely when I’m rockin’ out and singing along. “Baby, baby, baby / when all your love is gone / who will save me / from all I’m up against out in this world?”
2. Hand Me Down
Every time I hear this song, it reminds me of those sad, sad days back when I was dating random guys before I met my husband. It’s very powerful and emotional; you can hear it in Rob’s voice, the way he wants to take this girl and love her the way she doesn’t believe she deserves to be loved. “Somebody oughta take you in / try to make you love again / try to make you like the way they feel / when they’re under your skin / never once did you think that they would lie / when they’re holding you / then you wonder why they haven’t called / when they said they’d call youÃ¢Â?Â¦”
3. Back 2 Good
Ignoring the way the number 2 replaces to word “to” in the title, I must say this was one of the first Matchbox Twenty songs I liked. I didn’t quite realize it was about people drinking and cheating on each other, but knowing that doesn’t detract from its musical merits. I like the between-verse vocalizations that don’t make it into any of the lyrical transcriptions. I think he says, “No-o, no” or something similar, but the exact syllables aren’t really important. It’s very catchy. “Every here is wondering what it’s like to be with somebody else / everyone here’s to blame / everyone here gets caught up in the pleasure of the painÃ¢Â?Â¦”
4. 3 A. M.
On the album or in its live “stripped down” form, this is a good one. Though most people probably don’t realize it, Rob explained that he wrote this song about his mother’s struggle with cancer when he was a teenager. “When she says baby / well, I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes / says the rain’s gonna wash away, I believe it.”
5. Mad Season
I got caught up with the catchy instrumentals in “Mad Season,” also the title of the album on which it appears. The video is great as well: the guys all wear signs around their necks that say “rockstar,” and they are mobbed by crazed fans who destroy their limo. It’s crazy. Maybe that’s what it’s about. “I feel stupid / but I know it won’t last for long / I’ve been guessin’ / but I could’ve been guessin’ wrong / you don’t know me now / I kinda thought that you should somehow / does that old mad season got ya down?”
6. Last Beautiful Girl
This is a beautiful song about a girl that used him and broke his heart. But he’s not going to make that mistake again. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could learn from their mistakes and not go back to the jerks who broke their hearts? “It’s over now / and I’ve gone without / ’cause you’re everyone else’s girl / and it seems to me / you’ll always be everyone’s girl.”
I don’t know, but I guess this song sums up some things I wish I’d been able to say to a few ex-boyfriends of mine. I’m sure I’m not the only one. “I’m not saying there wasn’t nothing wrong / I just didn’t think you’d ever get tired of me / but if that’s how you’re gonna leave / straight out from underneath / then we’ll see who’s sorry now.”
8. You Won’t Be Mine
I love the piano in this. Not only is there a great piano introduction, but there’s an amazing “hidden track” about eight minutes of silence following the regular studio track. It’s a full orchestral instrumental version of the song. Amazing. There’s something about a man and a piano. I’ve seen Rob play piano himself when performing this live. Fantastic. “Over the lies / you’ll be strong / you’ll be rich in love / and you’ll carry on / but no – oh no / no, you won’t be mine.”
I don’t think it’s the lyrics I like for “Downfall.” I didn’t even particularly like it when I first heard it on the album. But seeing this on stage backed up by a gospel choir group just made it for me, and now I can envision that every time I hear it on my CD player. And Rob sings it with a lot of soulÃ¢Â?Â¦ though more about that with the final song on my top ten. “Lay it down / I’ve always been with you / here and now / give all that’s within you / be my savior / and I’ll be your downfall.”
The title of the song says it all. Much like “Downfall,” I wasn’t crazy about “Soul” until I saw it performed live. I love it when a rock star gets soulful. “But we all know there’s / always something tearing you apart / always so much longer than you counted on / it hits you so much harder than you thought / but you don’t worry / don’t worry / ’cause you’ve got soul.”