As always, '80s music is there to get us through the hard times, and here's a list of some of the decade's finest winter-themed songs. Winter has always been one of Nature's most maligned seasons, hated for its extreme cold, occasional fury and general dreariness. But with the aid of '80s music, it's revealing to explore the many facets of the season, especially when it comes to mood changes hinging on the pursuit of warmth or the endurance of cold.
This song serves as another one of my soft rock weak spots, a tune that I enjoy immensely despite the slick, edgeless production and its fixation on unreachable romantic ideals. Still, the concept of luring an estranged lover back into one's arms as a respite against winter's chill stands out as a fairly original one, and everything Davis does vocally and compositionally acts as a soothing salve for love's psychic wounds. I remember hearing this track often in 1982, when even before I hit puberty I had grasped the dull pain of romantic longing enough to have been struck distinctly by the melody and earnest sentiment. This is one I know I should feel guilty about liking, but instead I might be willing to get into a slap fight defending it.
Well, this song may not deal directly with winter, but it certainly does so metaphorically through the hearth-and-home reference in its title. A crackling fire to take the edge off the cold has long been an archetypal image suggesting safety, comfort and even romantic well-being. Here, songwriter Kevin Cronin may not break any particularly new ground, but he does match a nice melody with a consistent lyrical strand that goes perfectly with the band's arena rock sound. Sexual connotations within these lyrics remain subtle if they're even present at all, but the song's wholesomeness notwithstanding, its sentiment speaks to the joy and warmth (physical and otherwise) of a certain kind of close companionship.
If winter is definitely not your season in the sense that it makes you question the value of existence itself, you may gravitate toward this little ditty, an early Metallica exploration of fear and the deepest of human horrors. If you can get past the despair in James Hetfield's growling vocals and lyrics depicting a particularly unpleasant sort of confinement, then maybe you can view this song as a fairly good assessment of what it's like to live in the upper Midwest or Canadian plains in January. The unrelenting nature of winter in extreme climates must be difficult to endure and probably harbors some genuine depressive pitfalls, and this harrowing portrait of oppression and affliction seems authentic in every way.
Speaking of the Midwest, Minneapolis' own Replacements probably know a thing or two about numbing cold simply by virtue of geographical origins. Even so, frontman Paul Westerberg takes an interesting angle on the topic by setting his protagonist's romantic longing against the titular connector bridges between buildings designed to protect urban dwellers from the elements. Ultimately, our hero is left out in the cold either literally or figuratively (if not both) as he watches the object of his affection take a path that fails to cross his own. The song also establishes the skyway as a place of warmth, whatever good that may do ("It's got bums when it's cold like any other place, it's warm up inside. Sittin' down and waitin' for a ride").
Although it never received a proper release during the era it was conceived, this undoubtedly stands as one of the Canadian songwriter's most effective, musically eclectic and moving compositions of his early-'80s career. Cockburn never seemed like an '80s artist even if some of his music seemed to fall into the wide net cast by new wave. As such, this tune sounds like it could have been released during nearly any decade of the rock era. That sense of timelessness becomes even stronger when applied to the precise and often interrelated topics of loneliness, depression and frigid nights that Cockburn covers here. But who better than a somber, contemplative Canadian to provide a memorable and emotional song predicated on cold weather?