Lights Will Guide Us Home: A Tribute to the Gloriously Corny Songs of 2005

From The Fray to John Mayer to James Blunt to Coldplay, these were the songs that rocked you to tears.

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16 September 2015, 9:00am

This article is part of 2005 Week on Noisey, where we revist all the best and worst pop culture relics from a decade ago.

It’s 2005 Week, baby, and that means it’s time to talk about the most pressing question we all have for the year 2005: How the hell were there so many absolute classic inspirational slappers? Sure, 2005 might have been the year of Mariah and the heyday of “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” and it might have been the year indie rock started to go mainstream, but the radio was also full of all kinds of corny shit. It was truly the year of the forlorn, corny radio ballad, perhaps the greatest year for it ever. As Noisey’s resident cornballs, it was only right that we tackled just what made these songs so timeless.

Continued below.

Daniel Powter - “Bad Day”

Eric: Look, if I’m being completely honest, this song genuinely sucks and I don’t like to listen to it, but at the same time, this song is terrific and I can’t stop listening to it.

Kyle: I remember when this song came out I related to it a lot, and I was legitimately amped when I saw the video from this new under-the-radar artist on MTV—until I saw my guy’s dismal choice in knit hats. Still, the feeling of seeing those alarm clocks at the beginning of the video struck a chord with me, and I’ve got to say, as someone who has experienced far more terrible days in the corporate world since I first heard this song, I really relate! Damn, this video is real as fuck. I’m not going to lie, I had a pretty bad day yesterday, and this song is hitting home.

Eric: When I was in high school I worked at the local recreation center as a lifeguard for the pool, and the only music that was played was the local radio station named KKRL. They played the same 15 songs over and over again. This was one of the bangers included on that playlist, right in between Dave Matthews’ “The Space Between” (confirmed classic) and one of like seven Black Eyed Peas songs.

Kyle: “The Space Between” is definitely a confirmed classic. I probably listened to that more in 2005 than every song on this list combined.

The Fray - “How to Save a Life”

Eric: First things first, I’d like to state that I actually don’t think I know what this song is about.

Kyle: Eric, my guy, this song is about suicide prevention. Actually, never mind, I have no idea what this song is is about.

Eric: See, that’s what I’m saying. If you look at the lyrics of this song, they don’t make any sense. It just kind of *sounds* sad, in a very generic way that is very appealing to my ear and makes me want to cry even though there’s no real cause or justification for the tears.

Kyle: According to USA Today, it’s about the lead singer’s time working as a mentor for teens.

Eric: So you’re telling me that the guy from The Fray worked as a mentor for teens just so he could make millions off of a shitty / great pop song? I like this song even more now.

Kyle: Wow, that’s so cynical. This is the most sincere radio rock hit ever made. You’ve got to give yourself over to it completely. I love this song. Let’s all cry together.

Nelly feat. Tim McGraw - “Over and Over”

Kyle: This song technically came out in 2004, but, so we don’t have to get into this later on, this list is about the songs that ruled culture in 2005. Anyway, as much as I love Florida Georgia Line, this is the first and ostensibly best hip-hop/country crossover hit. Also the saddest Nelly single? Can you even name another sad Nelly single? That guy is always having a blast. Except here. 2005 was such a sad year.

Eric: Well, to be fair Kyle, I think you’re forgetting about Nelly’s *other* sad banger, “Dilemma.”

Kyle: Oh yeah. Well this is probably Tim McGraw’s only sad song ever ;)

Eric: Regardless, I fuggin’ love this corny ass song. Look at the conviction in Nelly’s eyes when he sings the chorus. Look at the regret in Tim McGraw’s half smile when he sings “I can’t go on not loving you.” This song is peak “I am selfish and love hating myself and don’t want you, my former lover, to be happy because I’m an immature sonofabitch”—or in other words, this song is peak Drake before Drake existed.

Foo Fighters - “Best of You”

Kyle: I spend a lot of time in 2015 making fun of the Foo Fighters, but it’s important to remember that in 2005, as I was cruising around with my learner’s permit, I would turn this up on the radio every time I heard it. I honestly kind of identified as a hard rock kid because I didn’t know much about other music. I also honestly kind of identified with this song because I was constantly being gotten the best of.

Eric: For some reason I thought this would be a good song to put on a CD I made for weightlifting when I was training for football in the off season. My friend Marc hated it so much that he yelled at me and then he broke the CD in half.

Kyle: It sounds like… someone got the best of you.

Eric: I can’t decide if I hate you or Marc more.

Kelly Clarkson - “Because of You”

Kyle: Wow. This song is so dark. I was definitely not emotionally equipped to process this in 2005, although I do remember feeling sad. Now that I think about it, I still am not emotionally equipped to process this.

Eric: As of writing this blurb, this song has 121,222,669 plays on YouTube since it was uploaded on October 2, 2009. That means the human race has experienced at least 121,222,669 broken hearts in the last six years. No wonder everyone on the planet seems fucking depressed. Just look at this screengrab:

John Mayer - “Daughters”

Eric: This is another song that technically didn’t release in 2005 but it hit its peak in the mid-aughts so we’re bending the rules a little bit here. And since we’re getting so deeply personal and emotional in this piece, I’ll go ahead and let y’all know this this fun little fact about my life: I lost my virginity to a John Mayer record. Yep. It wasn’t this song, but it was to that sweet, sweet gangly motherfucker’s breathy voice while he made weird faces playing the guitar. This is another song that lyrically doesn’t make much sense to me—and I’m pretty sure John Mayer said somewhere that he wrote this song specifically for the check (“Go back and listen to ‘Daughters, bitches”)—but I don’t really care. I’ll never admit to actually liking this song, but I do love how it somehow makes me feel nostalgic and regretful and hopeful and sad all at the same time. I’m such a loser.

Kyle: John Mayer: America’s sweetheart.

Gavin Degraw - “Chariot”

Kyle: I honestly never really considered that Gavin Degraw and Josh Groban were not the same person. I have no idea who Gavin Degraw is. I am vaguely aware this song exists.

Eric: I saw Gavin Degraw in concert once. He stood on his piano. That's all I really have to say about this.

Lifehouse - “You and Me”

Kyle: Holy shit! I thought this song was by, like, Jesse McCartney or something. One thing I am discovering about 2005: I really kind of forgot what it was like to hear songs all the time and not know what they were. Now, in the rare event that we’re not listening to something we ourselves have curated via streaming service, we have Shazam, or—very worst case scenario—Google. I guess technically you could use Google for lyrics in 2005, but there weren’t smartphones back then, so you would have to write down the lyrics on a piece of paper and remember to use Google when you got home. And then you’d probably download some malware because in 2005 the internet was sophisticated enough for that to exist and didn’t really have any other forms of monetization, so every website was crawling with it. Seriously, do you remember how common it used to be to download viruses? I know that cybersecurity experts will tell you that we’re under more of a cyber threat than ever before, but at least Rap Genius doesn’t just start putting porn on your computer because you want to know who sings that song about you and me and all of the people. Anyway, I never knew who this song was by, but honestly I hope they play it at my wedding because “I don’t know why / I can’t keep my eyes off of you” cuts straight to the heart.

Eric: I appreciate this song because it’s not trying to do anything except exist in the corniest manner possible. Everything about the song and video just goes full on corn. The acoustic guitar. The orange leather jacket. The breathy baritone voice. The whimsical looking off into the distance. I’m fairly certain that this song was created in a laboratory in which songwriting scientists got together and designed what they determined was Peak 2005 Culture. It’s kind of breathtaking.

Rob Thomas - “Lonely No More”

Kyle: Speaking of which, I always unfairly hated Maroon 5 just a little bit extra because I assumed this was their song. This is a garbage song. A stain on Rob Thomas’s legacy. More like CRAPbox 20.

Eric: Nice burn, Kyle. This was another one of those songs I heard while lifeguarding. When it’d come on the speakers, I’d always go check the pool’s chlorine levels so I wouldn’t have to listen to it. I can’t even ironically get down with this song. It blows.

Imogen Heap - “Hide and Seek”

Eric: The first time I ever smoked weed, I listened to this song.

Kyle: Unlike many things on this list, this song was actually cool and edgy until Jason Derulo made that lame version that sampled it. Frou Frou was the first band I pretended to like so girls would like me, and I found out about Frou Frou because of this song, so, hey, extremely cool in my book.

Green Day - “Wake Me Up When September Ends”

Eric: Nobody wake that fucking dude up, it’s still September.

Kyle: It’s Sempterbe and the guy… still asleep. Makes you think.

Jesse McCartney - “Beautiful Soul”

Eric: There was this girl I dated in high school who was an incredible singer and, boy oh boy, did she love shitty pop music. She drove a Toyoto Camry that had a surprisingly great factory sound system, and sometimes on Saturday nights—because there was literally nothing to do in my hometown—we’d spend the evening just driving around town listening to the pop radio station out of Des Moines. This song was played at least once an hour, and she would sing it at the top of her lungs while we sped through the streets. The windows were down. She’d break the speed limit. I'd feel the most alive you can feel while listening to trash pop music with a girl you're in love with. Later, we’d talk about how one day we’d get out of this bullshit town and go see the world together. I haven’t seen her in almost a decade.

Kyle: One of my favorite interviews we’ve run on Noisey is this one our writer who is from the same town as Jesse McCartney talking to him about him being her teen crush. I’m pretty sure I sent you this video like three times the day I was editing that. Anyway, this is a perfect song.

Mario - “Let Me Love You”

Kyle: One of the definite subcategories of the songs on this list is dudes singing about how they’re going to fix the broken girls they’re in love with. 2005 was the year of the Nice Guy. These guys would get torn apart for that kind of paternalistic shit in 2015, but, hey, the intentions were earnest. And I don’t know if it was just where I stood or where the whole culture stood in 2005, but it seemed like a great time to be a Nice Guy. Masculinity was still trying to wrap its head around the jingoistic post-9/11 Bush years, when being a man meant being the type of dude who drove a huge truck and wanted to put a boot in the ass of the terrorists. Being a guy who was literally just aware that feelings existed was a coup, I think? And as a guy with a lot of feelings and a lot of unrequited crushes, I was convinced I could be the perfect replacement for those other dudes. Needless to say, this song struck a chord.

Eric: One time I went camping during the summertime when I was a teenager and it rained so I ended up just hanging out in my friend’s camper all night. This was one of the first times I “drank” “alcohol” and was up to four in the morning “drinking” “alcohol.” We played poker (I think) and various other card games. If I remember correctly, I won about 20 bucks—which is the equivalent to a million dollars when you’re in high school—and we listened to this song on repeat and ended up making out with a stranger. Ah, youth.

Jason Mraz - “Wordplay”

Kyle: Yo, honestly, fuck Jason Mraz.

Eric: I agree.

James Blunt - “You’re Beautiful”

Eric: When I graduated from high school and went to college, I left—like most people probably did—a love of my life in my hometown. I drove to school with my mom and dad and, for some reason, this song ended up on a mix CD said love of my life made me for our farewell. I listened to it probably around 70-80 times on that drive and hated my existence because life as I knew it was over. Don’t get me wrong, this song is pretty terrible, but there’s something kind of endearing about how it just embraces just how corny it is. It’s not attempting to be subtle. It’s not attempting to be poetic. It’s just leaving all of its emotions out—which can be summed up with a simple, “I’m sad”—and allows them to be exposed, and doing that takes a certain kind of courage. Yes, that’s right. I’m claiming to you fine Noisey readers that James Blunt is courageous. However, I never did quite understand the video and why he gets naked. I guess nudity is just another form of bravery?

Kyle: Let me spin you a little tale about globalization: In the summer of 2005, I spent a month in France, much of it by myself because all the people I was staying with had jobs or other things to do. I went to Fnac, which is like the French Barnes and Noble, a lot, looking for cool French music, and this CD was always prominently displayed instead (along with The Black Eyed Peas’ Monkey Business). This song was playing everywhere. Of course, there was a girl who I met one night—a night that was, at the time, one of the crazier ones I’d ever had, due to the fact that I drank like three beers and ended up hanging out with real French teens who smoked real French cigarettes in a real French apartment flirting with a real French girl. She was leaving town the next morning, which was, as the French say, dommage, because she totally kind of seemed interested in me. I pined after that girl for the rest of the summer. If there were ever a face that I saw and knew I would never be with, it was yours, Virginie, mon amour perdue. Je pense à toi toujours.

Akon - “Lonely”

Kyle: Akon is the unacknowledged genius and pop architect of our generation, and this is the song that made me understand him. “Soul Survivor” was a bigger hit in 2005, but it was a clear a radio smash. “Lonely” was, just, a bummer. That little chipmunk soul vocal in the background? That is what it is like to feel lonely. Akon has a magic voice—he can party, but, more importantly, he can plumb the depths of the soul, he can capture what yearning feels like (just listen to the way he sings the clincher “stop playing girl and come on home”). And isn’t that why we all party sometimes anyway? Because we’re yearning for something greater? Akon knew, man.

Eric: Yeah, I don't really know how to add to that. This song is just sad as hell.

Maroon 5 - “She Will Be Loved”

Kyle: I wasn’t that cool in 2005, but I had at least pretty firmly established over the preceding years that Maroon 5 sucked (how devastated was I when Kanye said he liked Adam Levine’s voice? Extremely). This song was such a guilty pleasure! But it is still the best Maroon 5 song. In retrospect, there are some debatably fucked up relationship dynamics going on here, but let’s glide past those and focus on the chorus of “I don’t mind spending every day / out on your corner in the pouring rain.” If it hasn’t already become abundantly clear from reading this, I was in high school in 2005, and I spent a lot of time pining for girls who weren’t into me (totally different from every other phase of my life). And, dammit, it may not have made sense to stand on the corner in the pouring rain, but I would have! Fortunately for all parties involved, it never came to that. But I still would. Totally. If you are a girl I’ve pined after for whom the only thing that I could do to prove my affection to you is stand on the corner in the pouring rain, hit me up in the Weather.com forums and let’s make arrangements.

Eric: It’s funny you mention that line about standing in the pouring rain because it—along with this song in general—fit into the weirdly ideal situations romantics make up in their heads. If only it could rain heavily so this person I care immensely about could see just how immensely I care about them because, when it’s downpouring, I’ll stand outside their door and they’ll see me and be like, “Whoa. He cares.” “She Will Be Loved” plays into the bullshit lies we tell ourselves in order to convince our own stupid brains that the problem in a relationship is most definitely 100 percent with the other person and could in no way possible have to do with our own way of thinking. This is the 2005 version of “Hotline Bling.” This is also the second time I've mentioned Drake in our tribute to corny old songs from the mid-aughts. Coincidence?

D.H.T. feat. Edmee - “Listen To Your Heart (Edmee’s Unplugged Version)”

Kyle: This is one of those songs that I have no specific memory or awareness of—I definitely could not have told you who performed it without the internet, I’m pretty sure I’ve never intentionally sought it out, and I had no idea it was a cover—but I still know every word. It just has kind of floated around for a decade, and I think it’s always playing at Kohl’s.

Eric: This was a song that they’d always play at high school dances and everyone would sing along at the top of their lungs. But the real way I really identify with this song is that this soundtracked the first time I ever made out with a girl in public (It was in a dark corner during one of aforementioned high school dance singalongs).

Coldplay - “Fix You”

Kyle: Ah, this is the one. The ultimate tear-jerker. Coldplay was my favorite band in 2005. I bought X+Y the day it came out, which coincidentally was the day before I left for the aforementioned France trip. You better believe it was one of the albums I loaded onto an MP3 CD for that trip.

I swear to god this is a real screenshot of my LiveJournal from that summer:

What else is there to say? “Fix You” is the perfect song to have feelings to. It’s so vague—”when you lose something you cannot replace” can be about literally anything—and it works in any sad situation because, at the end, the lights will guide you home. At the end of that summer, I went to see Coldplay play at the Walnut Creek Ampitheatre in Raleigh, and they did the same thing they do in the video, where Chris Martin swings the lantern out into the crowd. It was an incredibly magical night. Soon after, I wrote a review of it for my high school newspaper: the first music review I would ever publish. Nine years later, I spent some of the early weeks in my job at Noisey on the semi-ironic Coldplay beat and ultimately wrote a way better review. That’s the kind of perfectly corny twist of fate that Coldplay songs are meant for. “Fix You” wasn’t the immediate hit off of that Coldplay album, but it’s the one that stuck with us because it was the one that captured, just, that feeling. You know, the sad one—the sad one that feels good to feel.

Eric: You are sitting on the curb of a street. You stand. You begin to walk. You’re in a tunnel in London. You look down as you walk, slowly, below streetlights. You have a lantern. Then you don’t. Now you’re walking in the middle of the street. You have a lantern again. Then, again, you don’t. You loved someone but it’d gone to waste. You’re too in love to let it go. You’re on a busier street now. A car drives by. You peer at the headlights. You’re stuck in reverse. But could it be worse? You’re still walking. And then, you run. Where are you running? You don’t know. But you run. And you run. And you run. Up the stairs. You hop in your white shoes. You have a lantern again. You’re on stage. You’re skipping, bouncing up and down. You spin the lantern and spin it again and again and then you throw it out over the thousands of people before you. The music explodes. You sit down at the piano. Your tears begin to stream. Down your face. You’ve lost something you cannot replace. Thousands sing along. Thousands learn from mistakes. Thousands are guided home. Thousands will try, to fix you.

Eric Sundermann and Kyle Kramer were obviously losers in 2005.