Song 69: Ryan Adams, “Monday Night” (2000)

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Why do some songs end up on the sidelines? There are countless answers to this question, from legal reasons to record label disputes, band breakups to offhand decisions that nobody can remember. But I do want to know why a song like “Monday Night,” a song so good that it sounds like a latter-day Replacements B-side, made its only appearance on an alt-country label compilation.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a great compilation. Down to the Promised Land was released to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Bloodshot Records, and so many songs are winners. There’s Neko Case’s “Favorite,” Alejandro Escovedo’s “Evening Gown,” and the faux-old-timey “Bloodshot’s Turning 5” by the incomparable Robbie Fulks. Then there’s “Monday Night,” a song more pop-rock than alt-country, which may explain why it didn’t end up on the Adams masterpiece Heartbreaker the same year. (It would have sounded more at home on the more rock-oriented Gold, but that record was on Lost Highway, so maybe Adams simply needed to unload the recording before moving on.)

I love this song’s melody, which is so catchy that you’ll find yourself humming it days after hearing it. And I love the arrangement, which is largely acoustic but nothing that makes you think of folk or country music. This is pop, plain and simple, and though the song has some killer lines (“Aw man, wish I could talk to you/Aw man, wish that I wanted to”), it’s all pretty straightforward.

Now that Adams puts out 15 albums a year, it can be hard to remember what a big deal Heartbreaker was when it came out. Until its release, he was the scrawny kid from Whiskeytown, and then he was singing with Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch. Or maybe it just seems that sudden in retrospect.

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