Ranking the 5 Best Slow Songs by The Kinks

The Kinks have assumed several different guises in their impressive rock and roll history. They began as furious riff-rockers, segued into intelligent popsters, took a hallowed pit stop in theme album territory, and eventually returned to their hard-rocking roots. But all along that journey, they’ve been impressive balladeers.

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With that in mind, we thought we’d rifle through their catalog to find the five best slow songs. We’ll even rank them in descending order. Check out if your favorites made the cut.

5. “Misfits,” from Misfits (1978)

Ray Davies’ songwriting always possessed an overt, empathetic streak, and it comes into play on this somewhat forgotten title track from The Kinks’ 1978 album. By that time, they had mostly left behind their concept albums from earlier in the decade and focused on more concise individual artistic statements. “Misfits” features a nice blend of acoustic and electric guitars and a tender melody. You can hear the genuine concern in Davies’ voice as he tries to get through to those he’s addressing, trying to convince the outsiders that there’s a way back in to love and companionship.

4. “Strangers,” from Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (1970)

Davies’ concepts could get a bit muddled at times, especially if you were trying to follow them in a narrative sense. But that didn’t stop the band from churning out individual beauties from those records that sound great in any playlist. In the case of “Strangers,” it sort of fits into the overarching theme of record industry machinations. But why not enjoy it separate from all that, because it’s a downright lovely track. Written and sung by Dave Davies with sweetness and vulnerability, “Stranger” finds the narrator reaching out to an old friend with this moving statement: We are not two, we are one.

3. “Oklahoma U.S.A.,” from Muswell Hillbillies (1971)

No complaints about Muswell Hillbillies as a concept album: It’s airtight. Ray Davies delivered a treatise on bucolic living that’s beautifully realized. But it’s not in any way idealized, as he shows that kind of life for good and bad. In “Oklahoma U.S.A.,” the narrator imagines the titular location as a kind of perfect place, in large part because her free time is spent watching Hollywood musicals and imagining that she could one day live in one. Ray Davies sums up her predicament with piercing wisdom: All life we work but work is a bore / If life’s for livin’, what’s livin’ for?

2. “Waterloo Sunset,” from Something Else by the Kinks (1967)

Bet you thought this was going to be No. 1, right? It is pretty perfect, that’s for certain, but No. 1 hits us just a little bit harder. Nonetheless, “Waterloo Sunset” is beautiful proof how a specific moment experienced by a single person can resonate with so many. Of course, it helps when you have a songwriter like Ray Davies translating that moment. The narrator is driven to loneliness when he sees the happiness of the young couple, and then is redeemed from it by the picturesque natural beauty. You can practically see the single tear welling in his eye when you hear the song, that is if you’re not fighting off a tear of your own.

1. “Days” single (1968)

Ray Davies was dealing with the sorrow of his sister moving away at the same time his own band was in a transition period. The thick emotions those tribulations engendered came spilling into “Days,” which is somehow one of the best songs about friendship and the best song about goodbyes all rolled into one. Gratitude and warm feelings come pouring over every note. How we all wish we could come up with a sendoff as apropos as I bless the light that shines on you. Meanwhile, the galloping beat delivers the momentum to send the narrator off into a new, bittersweet tomorrow.

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