It’s time for the third installment of S-Tier Songs. For an outline of the parameters and a master list of every S-Tier song, head to this page.
This week is Oasis week on the blog, a day ahead of the theatrical release of the Knebworth documentary. On that note, my next pick for induction into my “song hall of fame” is the fourth track from the world-conquering album What’s The Story Morning Glory?
Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
The song is a curiosity from the get-go as guitarist/songwriter/head honcho Noel Gallagher sings the track as opposed to his brother, singer/man of the people/loose cannon Liam. It was an interesting choice and one that might be criticized in retrospect. The story goes that Noel told Liam he could choose between Wonderwall or this and Noel would tackle vocals on the other. Liam chose Wonderwall, probably correctly, and the rest is history.
It’s fun to imagine a world where Liam sang this tune but it doesn’t matter. Noel guided the ship well through the song. Of course, when you write a song as magnificent as Don’t Look Back In Anger, it’s probably not hard to carry a tune along with it.
As with much of Oasis, the song does borrow from the realm of the Beatles. In this case, DLBIA has direct ties to John Lennon. The song’s intro hearkens back to Lennon’s magnum opus Imagine, while lines in the pre-chorus like “the brains I have went to my head” and “gonna start a revolution in my bed” are culled from things Lennon said and did.
The song becomes Oasis’ own in the chorus, and it marks one of music’s signature anthems. The song’s message of letting things go really hits when “So Sally can wait…” comes on. It is an iconic chorus that has taken on a life of its own, often belted out at soccer/football matches. It’s also a song that, much like Live Forever, gets airplay at weddings, funerals and the like.
Of course the central theme of Don’t Look Back In Anger is spelled out directly in the title. And yeah, it’s an important one. I’ve been known to hold a grudge or two in my day, but as time wears on it becomes clear that holding on to old resentments is tiring and unproductive. It’s almost always wise to let shit go and let your soul slide away.
Don’t Look Back In Anger would help Oasis’ home city rally in the wake of tragedy – after the terrorist bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017, the town used the Oasis anthem to find their way through the devastation. A lone woman at a rally led the crowd in an impromptu rendition, and later at the One Love Manchester tribute concert Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland would serenade Ariana Grande with the tune.
Why is this an S-Tier song?
Don’t Look Back In Anger is a masterful anthem with a gorgeous melody and an iconic chorus. The song’s message of letting it all go is powerful and important, and at times the world has used the song to soothe disappointment and even tragedy. In a time period when Noel Gallagher was maybe the hottest songwriter on the planet, this song perhaps stands out even over many of the other memorable tunes he wrote.