Destination Jam: Our Top 5 Massive Attack tunes are a toast to the legendary trip-hop group's trippy music
Massive Attack are known for featuring a slew of talented vocalists in their lush and gorgeous arrangements, including stars like Shara Nelson, Sinead O’Connor and Elizabeth Fraser among others
Hello there, music lovers! As the world continues to spin in a disorienting way, it's important that we always keep some great music close at hand to save and soothe us. So when the British trip-hop legends Massive Attack recently teased music for their upcoming EP, 'Eutopia', which would be their first music release in four years (since 'The Spoils' EP), it was certainly a cause for celebration.
The sonically abstract and trippy artistic collective was founded way back in 1988 in Bristol, England, by Robert "3D" Del Naja, Grant "Daddy G" Marshall and Andy "Mushroom" Vowles — the latter later left the group after the release of their massively popular third full-length album, 'Mezzanine', in 1998. Massive Attack are known for featuring a slew of talented vocalists in their lush and gorgeous arrangements, including stars like Shara Nelson, Horace Andy, Tricky, Mos Def, Sinead O’Connor, Elizabeth Fraser, and Martina Topley-Bird.
Besides being nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, Massive Attack have also picked up numerous wins at the Brit Awards, Q Awards, Ivor Novello Awards and the MTV Europe Music Awards. So let's take a look at some classics from this celebrated group's discography over the years.
Let's kick off this playlist with a Massive Attack classic called 'Angel' from the band's pre-millennium heydays. The song was first released as the third single from their third studio album, Mezzanine in 1998 and featured the songwriting and vocal talents of the Jamaican singer-songwriter Horace Andy. With lyrics like "You are my angel / Come from way above to bring me love," the song was both haunting and mesmerizing and well-received by fans and critics alike. One critic stated, "While the beat here is slow, druggy, and deep, what ultimately drives 'Angel' is the wall of guitars that are reminiscent of a very early Cure." The track would go on to peak at number 30 on the UK Singles Chart, and was even included in the Guy Ritchie movie 'Snatch' in 2000, thus cementing its status in popular culture.
This is arguably Massive Attack's best-known song, first released as the second single from the group's third studio album, 'Mezzanine', back in 1998. The lyrics and vocals come courtesy of Elizabeth Fraser who was famous for her ethereal and glossolalia-like vocals during her time with the Cocteau Twins. Although this Top 10 hit's lyrics are rather abstract in nature, Fraser's mournful rendition was apparently recorded at a time when the singer had just learned about the passing of her dear friend, the celebrated musician Jeff Buckley.
"The song’s kind of about him… that’s how it feels to me, anyway," she later revealed. Interestingly, the pop diva Madonna was actually going to be the featured vocalist on the track after she was reportedly thrilled by the demo version, but she was outvoted 2 to 1 in favor of Fraser's angelic voice. The song has since gone on to become a pop culture fixture and was even chosen as the opening theme of the TV series 'House', starring Hugh Laurie.
This track is probably one of Massive Attack's darkest and trippiest numbers. It was released as the fourth and final single from their third album Mezzanine in '1998' and is fondly remembered as an eternal fan favorite. The poetic lyrics, which were penned by Robert Del Naja, talk about a tumultuous relationship that the artiste had recently gotten out of.
Lines like "Recollect me, darling, raise me to your lips / Two undernourished egos, four rotating hips / Hold on to me tightly, I'm a sliding scale" effortlessly paint a picture of an unraveling romance. Del Naja later revealed - "The idea is a combination of movements propelling yourself forward and pulling yourself back at the same time. That's what the track's about — a f***ed up relationship basically." The movement motif was further emphasized by the pulsating rhythms in the song which was inspired by some groovy çiftetelli songs from Turkey and other regions of Europe.
Moving forward through Massive Attack's discography, we come to 'Special Cases' which was released in 2003 as the first single from their fourth studio album '100th Window'. In keeping with the trip-hop collective's vision for the atmospheric and sinister song, they roped in the fabulous Irish songstress Sinead O'Connor whose graceful and fragile voice makes this performance especially goosebump-worthy.
Lyrics include "The deadliest of sin is pride / Make you feel like you're always right / But they're always to the sides / It takes dirt to make love, dirt to make a life." The song eventually peaked at No.15 on the UK Singles Chart and was interestingly the only song in Massive Attack's history to make the charts in Canada, eventually peaking at number 25 on the Canadian Singles Chart.
Let's wrap up this playlist with a gorgeous number from Massive Attack's last full-length album, 'Heligoland', which dropped in 2010. This track was released as the first single from that record and features the sublime vocals and lyrical contributions of Hope Sandoval, of Mazzy Star fame. What's more amazing about this breathtaking collaboration was that it was all done over the Internet, in a time when social distancing wasn't really the norm.
As Del Naja revealed, "None of us ever met Hope... Musically, we were trying to get a sense of being in a room, almost as if during a seance. We wanted to make it feel slightly conspiratorial, very visual and simple, and really personal and up close." 'Paradise Circus' was also later selected as the theme song for the BBC TV show 'Luther' (starring Idris Elba), making the piece one of Massive Attack's most popular songs in recent times.
Destination Jam is a daily list of songs that will keep you entertained and grooving up top in lieu of feeling drained and losing the plot. Look out for a fresh selection of great tunes from MEAWW to refresh your mood every day!