tl;dr: Why Underground by Cody Fry is amazing and you should listen. Please Do.
For a long time I've lived by the philosophy that you can tell the mettle of a person by whether they return a shopping cart at the supermarket.
If you haven't read about this theory you can do so here.
The basic summary is that returning a shopping cart is a simple task, easy to do, that we don't need to do.
The act of returning a cart means we inconvenience ourselves slightly to do something that we know someone else is employed to do. Returning our cart make that person's life a little easier and generally help keep order in car parks.
But…. we don't have to do it. There is no legal or moral obligation.
So the theory argues that this a good general test of whether someone is a good or bad person. Do we think about only ourselves, or about others and a greater good?
Personally, I think it's legit.
The Are you a real human? test.
The humanity test is based far more on my personal opinion than any philosophical theory. But hey, I still argue for it.
I jest of course. It's my way of sharing something amazing that brings me so much joy and that I am incredibly grateful that my teenager shared with me late last year.
And that is…
Underground, by Cody Fry.
What is this, you ask?
Underground is a pop song played alongside an orchestra and it is… by far… the most impactful piece of music I have listened to for decades. Possibly ever.
Now, before you run off to listen to it and give your “ho hum” response, please make sure you are set up well for it.
Listen to it with good headphones – the best quality headphones you can find. I suggest over-ear studio quality headphones – not cheap ear buds or excessive bass bumping brands (looking at you Beats).
Sit quietly, start playing at reasonable volume and… listen.
I remember the moment my teenager first shared this with me.
I was driving along Marshland Road towards Kaiapoi and Millie asked if she could play something. When the song started I thought it was interesting and catchy. There was no immediate choir bursting from the heavens proclaiming this was the greatest song of all time… but to be fair we were only 15 seconds in.
The magic truly doesn't start until about 40 seconds in when the orchestra starts to swell with the strings and wind instruments. From there the song starts to build and build with increasing tension and emotion until the bridge hits at 1 minute and 57 seconds in at which point…
I burst into tears.
Completely, unexpectedly. Overwhelmed by emotion I started to sob – tears streaming down my face while I struggled to drive.
Millie reached over, putting a hand on my leg and quietly said “I know, right?”.
In that instant we shared a moment that I'll remember for the rest of my life.,
Once the song finished and I collected some composure I calmly
“What the FUCK was that?”
…and asked to listen to it again.
Over the next two days I listened to Underground 20 or more times. Sometime towards the end of second day my focus finally started to move from the orchestra to the lyrics – the first time I truly listened to the story – which caused me to one again exclaim loudly…
“What the FUCK?”
“A TRAIN? “
“He was hit by a FUCKING train?”
Oh man, this song. First the orchestra kicked me in the arse and knocked me down. Then the lyrics came along and kicked me in the head a few times for good measure. I was so shocked by the lyrics I literally felt ill for the rest of the day before starting to accept that this contrast – incredible lifting music and devastating lyrics – is also part of what makes Underground so great.
I have never had a song impact me this powerfully.
We are coming up to a year since Millie introduced me to it and I still listen to Underground at least once every couple of days. Often still multiple times a day. And yes, it still causes me to tear up on a regular basis. In fact, it's a good litmus test of my general emotional state / level of exhaustion.
Millie told me yesterday that Underground is their most played song in the last 12 months according to Spotify.
Me too, kiddo. Me too.
So anyway, what's the humanity test in all of this? This:
I challenge you to listen to Underground for the first time, in a quiet place with good headphones. If you well up or cry when the bridge hits then congratulations – you're a human being. If you don't, well then I don't really know what to say to you and we can't be friends any more.
But in all seriousness, Underground is a masterpiece for anyone who loves classical or orchestral music. It will bring you into the Cody Fry fan family where you will discover some of his other songs which are also incredible. Underground is the best though.
To be fair, Millie and I are both neuro-divergent and I strongly suspect this is why we are so greatly affected by this music.
We have both spent the last few days scouring through hundreds and hundreds of other songs on Spotify and Google Play music that combines pop / modern music with an orchestral accompaniment and neither of us have found anything that comes remotely close to Underground (other than Cody Fry's other music).
So, at last, I present to you Underground by Cody Fry.
Note that this version includes the 2 minutes pure orchestral introduction “Caves” which leads straight into “Underground”. Caves is amazing in it's own right but I ask you to listen and wait… because Underground is where the magic is truly at.
Please listen. Quiet place. Good headphones.
Tell me if you cry.
Once you've listen a few dozen times and have composed yourself then I invite you to listen to the breakdown of how it was made. This is for serious nerds only.
The level of subtle detail and thought that when into developing this music is incredible. My favourites: having the brass instruments blow to give the sense of wind and the doppler effect on the trombones instruments as the train passes. Wow.