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At Your Funeral: Sia’s “Breathe Me” & Suede’s “The Next Life”

on April 19, 2010, 2:15pm

There is a certain catharsis to finality, to the expiration of whatever gooey center we humans reserve during our individual lifespans. Like paying taxes and swearing unholy vengeance on MTV, death is inevitable; like love and hate, life and death are polar opposites in tandem that can inspire some very poignant, very moving art in a multitude of fashions. No matter your spiritual background or lack thereof, no matter your social status or taste in song between alt and Top 40, fatality is absolute, as no one gets out alive (not even Toasty or his pet hell-hound from Duck Hunt).

Eventually someone must plan your funeral (way to skip out on the bill, asshole)–someone picks the caterer or arranges a post-burial potluck, someone chooses an appropriate Bible passage or sacrificial animal, and someone has to provide music. The songs selected will be for the wake and the pallbearer march respectively, in adherence with a distinguishable mood. Since mourners will most likely not share my views on “going out with a bang” or “partying like Bernie,” the original sheet music for Ted Nugent’s “Free For All” was scrapped for a more somber pair of songs: “Breathe Me” by Sia and “The Next Life” by Suede.

Sia – “Breathe Me”

This song pulls at my strings every time it plays and–in much the same way as my second selection–the reasons for this hearken back to television, not music alone. Let us take a ride in my time machine to 2001, the year HBO was ripened with two of the most critically acclaimed dramas ever to air: The Sopranos (third season) and Six Feet Under (first season). While millions watched The Sopranos for the patriarch’s therapy sessions and Jersey mafia family lives, Six Feet Under wrapped our heads around a family running a funeral home after its patriarch’s demise and how different people cope with death (internal monologues turned talking corpses included).

Six Feet Under was the first real dramatic series I ever got into, and through five seasons with the Fisher household, one could feel everything they felt or experienced, so to give the proper send-off was key. Six Feet Under ended in 2005, leaving cast-member Michael C. Hall freed up to pursue the title role on Dexter via Showtime. I cannot stress enough the importance of a great series finale, let alone the finale to a show about human “finales”, as it were. Since no one could possibly sum up the entire series’ plot line in one paragraph, CoS has given you this link to the Wikipedia article and a YouTube clip of the finale itself, set to the song “Breathe Me” by Sia.

This is the actual song used in the finale, and for those who have seen this show, I need not remind you to bring tissues. (Warning to others: SPOILER ALERT!)

Sia’s “Breathe Me” is the only song I’ve ever really sunken into by said artist, since I’ve seldom traversed her discography, and it was initially tied with another song on Six Feet Under‘s two stellar soundtracks–Radiohead’s “Lucky” (those who remember the scene that coincides with Radiohead know why it was a close tie). That song, played alongside the episode in question, sealed the deal and cracked my tear ducts like nothing on television ever has before or since. Maybe I’m a pussy for that, maybe I had a crush on Claire Fisher, but neither is relevant to an underlying truth: This song is personal to me, since it felt like the funeral theme to a beloved friend and TV show simultaneously, watching how everyone pivotal to the show ended in due process. Just be thankful my selection wasn’t Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, or we would all be bawling at the seams no matter who wound up dying.

Suede – “The Next Life”

The ’90s was a decade for angst-riddled, emotional songs; grunge-rock flannels and punk rockers have their softened innards courtesy of the influences of ’80s balladry and “plain ol’ fashioned emo”–but nothing touches the free forms of true Britpop. Also prevalent in our culture regardless of decade are TV movies and lackluster weekend films that sold badly in cinemas (you can thank Hallmark and Lifetime nowadays). Where do these radically different fields of entertainment meet? Charlie Sheen. In 1994, one of the corniest action comedies (“comedy” portion probably unintentional) was released, entitled The Chase. I ran across this atrocity some years back during a free weekend of Cinemax; it is a legitimate attempt to market both Charlie Sheen and the ’94 California punk movement. Between an unreleased soundtrack comprising the likes of The Offspring, Bad Religion, and The Rollins Band, to guest appearances by Anthony Keidis, Flea, and Henry Rollins, you would think this trash film would at least be a nice punk-cult vehicle.

Unfortunately there’s a central plot: Sheen’s hapless escaped-con character accidentally kidnaps a spoiled rich girl with a Butterfinger pistol while vomit-covered cops and news choppers make it great television (not to mention cadaver roadkill and a near-impossible moving-car sex scene). Besides being accidentally funny as hell, the only redemption for The Chase comes at the film’s climax, whereupon being surrounded, the now-an-item fugitive and hostage part ways and Sheen has a “red herring” dream sequence in which he exits the car with a lit cigarette, pulls a fake gun-wield maneuver, and goes “suicide by cop” in slo-mo.

Despite this being a fictional finale (the real ending is fucking hilarious and unreasonably idealistic), Sheen of all people going out in a blaze of glory gets cemented–not by slick punk rock–but by Britpop band Suede, with its slow-grip song “The Next Life”, the closing track from said band’s debut alt-rock album Suede. This film did three things for me: gave me a taste of Ignition-era Offspring material, reminded me that Martin Sheen has a funny son pre-Two and A Half Men, and shows that the right song can make even Charlie seem hella-fuckin’ epic. I need “The Next Life” to be my personal funeral march for that reason (afterward buttoned by “The Imperial March”), as anything that potent just has to be worth going out on in style.

Suede produced only three albums and really did not get enough airplay at all, so this is a nod to them because I truly believe Radiohead would never have existed had Suede not been around at some point. The Chase also rolled credits to The Offspring’s “Take It Like A Man” and a Rollins Band track, so frankly that could be my post-script for good measure. All in all, if Sia’s “Breathe Me” is the crying song, “The Next Life” is heralding and uplifting exit music to my film (Radiohead reference intended).