Home is a funny concept in this transient age; the word itself means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, home will always be the place they spent their childhoods in; it will always mean the smell of cookies baking when they got home from school, or the sound of their mother’s voice as she told them a bedtime story. For others, home is the life they’ve created for themselves as young adults; it’s the family they’ve created out of their friends and other found loved ones. For some, home is ever-shifting, it’s not location-specific, it’s all about a feeling; home can be as simple as the spot on their loved one’s chest where they love to rest their heads. And for others, still, home is but a fantasy, a place for which they still search, an elusive dream.
No matter what home means to you, there’s no denying its powerful pull. Here, then, are some of our favorite songs that make us think about all that home can be—the good, the bad, and the complicated.
Simon and Garfunkel, “Homeward Bound”: It’s almost impossible for the idea of home not to carry a wistful interpretation. Home so often feels like a place from which we’re far away; hopefully, we can return there, sometimes we’ll always be left searching. In this song, S&G perfectly capture the fantasy-like quality of home as a place where everything is perfect—music’s playing, lover lies waiting—and even if it’s just a fantasy, isn’t it a pretty one to have?
Perfume Genius, “Take Me Home”: For so many of us, home just means someone to love us. This song captures that need beautifully, complete with the very specific ache that comes from searching for a place where we can be quiet and just feel at peace.
The Magnetic Fields, “You’re My Only Home”: Stephin Merritt’s simple lyrics elegantly capture the desperation that can accompany love and a desire to stay safe in the home that love creates; he shows how home is a plea, a wish, a bargain we’re willing to strike, all in an effort to feel like we belong.
Nina Simone, “I’m Going Back Home”: Simone gets real here, specifically addressing all the things about her youth that she wants to experience again, those things that don’t exist in her citified adulthood. She misses “friendly faces and the country smiles,” and wants to leave the big town life behind, all to go to “where the people are real,” to be back where she was born. This song is pure joy, a resounding tribute to the simple pleasures of returning home to a more innocent time and place.
Fiona Apple, “Pale September”: Many of these artists talk about the homes that their loved ones create for them. Not Apple. Rather, she sings about the home she has created for her lover; she sings of the cost it exacts upon her, the price she has to pay to take away his worries and fears. Apple brilliantly captures the vulnerability that goes along with offering up a place in our homes, and our hearts.
Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die”: Of course, because it’s Lana, “home” is a fucked-up, complicated place, one whose very existence is dependent on the kind of troubled love that’s inevitably doomed. But what a ride it will be while it lasts. And, hey, not all homes are stable, right? They’re still home, though.
Arcade Fire, “We Used to Wait”: This song has lots of nostalgic elements to it that instantly send listeners into a spiral of contemplation with regard to what it is that their home actually means to them. Beyond that, though, is the still-cool-even-though-the-technology-is-now-six-years-old interactive “video” which accompanied the release of the song. Check it out now, and just try not to tear up. We dare you.
Bob Dylan, “Shelter from the Storm”: Haven’t we all had those moments in life where we feel like we’ve come “in from the wilderness, a creature void of form,” and all it takes is one person to open their arms and give us shelter from the storms that rage outside and inside and quiet all that noise? Sure. Of course, we have. And sometimes that shelter doesn’t stay a home forever; sometimes we destroy it ourselves. But for a fleeting moment, anyway, we felt warm and loved.
Beyoncé, “Daddy Lessons”: Bey sings here about the power of home—without, of course, ever using the word itself—and the impact that our parents have on us throughout our lives. An incredibly moving examination of the ouroboros that is love and family and home, Beyoncé shows once again why she is the one of the greatest of all time—at, like, everything she does.
Tom Waits, “House Where Nobody Lives”: Waits explores what it is exactly that makes a house a home; it’s the people inside it, obviously; it’s their love and their laughter and their tears and their dreams; it’s their humanity. It’s all the things that we should all look to bring into our lives no matter where we are or who we’re with so that our home can be carried with us to provide us shelter no matter where we are.