Top 10 Songs by Melissa Etheridge

When Melissa Etheridge hit the scene with her self-titled debut in 1988, the project was an underground success. Soon the industry took notice, as the album peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 and earned the singer a Grammy nomination for her debut single “Bring Me Water.”

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By the time Etheridge released her third album Never Enough, she picked up her first Grammy Award for the single “Ain’t It Heavy.” It wasn’t until her fourth album, Yes I Am, with hits “Come to My Window”—which earned her a second Grammy win for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance— and “I’m the Only One,” that the Kansas native, who had written all of her albums in their entirety up until that point, was finally getting the recognition she deserved as a bonafide songwriter.

In 1996, Etheridge received ASCAP Pop Songwriter of the Year Award and continued earning more Grammy nominations throughout the years. Etheridge won her first Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2007 for the Al Gore-helmed documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

The secret to Etheridge’s songwriting: books. “I have many, many books of poetry that I’ll just pull down and read,” revealed Etheridge in a 2015 interview. “I’m always amazed at how a poet will use a word or a phrase to describe something in a way that I never would have thought about. I think that’s important for songwriters to understand. That’s what the art of a word is.”

Pulling from her deep catalog of prose in song, here are 10 timeless tracks released by Etheridge throughout her nearly 35-year career. (All songs are written by Etheridge unless otherwise noted.)

1. “Bring Me Some Water” (1988)

Etheridge was still under the radar with her self-titled debut, even though she earned a Grammy nod for her debut single “Bring Me Water.” Etheridge wrote the song while living in Los Angeles and reluctantly agreed to have a non-monogamous relationship with her then-girlfriend. The lyrics to “Bring Me Some Water” came out at the thought of someone else with her lover.

Tonight I feel so weak
But all in love is fair
I turn the other cheek
And I feel the slap and the sting of the foul night air

And I know you’re only human
And I haven’t got talking room
But tonight while I’m making excuses
Some other woman is making love to you

2. “Ain’t It Heavy” (1992)

By the time Etheridge released her third album Never Enough in 1992, she stepped up another rung of success with the album reaching the Top 40 at No. 21. The album also gave Etheridge her very first Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the single “Ain’t It Heavy.” Exploring the heaviness of hard times, Etheridge shared a live rendition of “Ain’t It Heavy” during her EtheridgeTV sessions, which she began broadcasting on YouTube during the pandemic in 2020.

Sometimes I know that it’s never enough 
Survival is fine but satisfaction is rough 
I try with an angel tonight 
Spread these wings and I’m on for the ride 
Cruise these streets where my innocence hides 
There’s some things you can’t deny 
What is it about this human condition 
I need some kind of promise 
Some kind of submission tonight

3. “I’m the Only One” (1993)

After releasing her second album Brave and Crazy in 1989, and the followup Never Enough in 1992, Etheridge shared her juggernaut of an album with Yes I Am, and its first single “I’m the Only One.” The song peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart and remains Etheridge’s biggest hit on both charts.

But I’m the only one
Who’ll walk across the fire for you
And I’m the only one
Who’ll drown in my desire for you
It’s only fear that makes you run
The demons that you’re hiding from
When all your promises are gone
I’m the only one

4. “Come to My Window” (1993)

The second single off Yes I Am, “Come to My Window” is a sing-along anthem of love and longing that was universal. It was the first single Etheridge released after coming out as gay in 1993, as conveyed in the lyrics, I don’t care what they think / I don’t care what they say / What do they know about this love, anyway?

The song was an immediate hit and spent 44 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart where it peaked at No. 25 and earned Etheridge her second Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Come to my window
Crawl inside
Wait by the light of the moon
Come to my window
I’ll be home soon

I would dial the numbers
Just to listen to your breath
And I would stand inside my hell
And hold the hand of death
You don’t know how far I’d go
To ease this precious ache
And you don’t know how much I’d give
Or how much I can take

Just to reach you
Just to reach you
Oh, to reach you

5. “I Want to Come Over” (1995)

The success of Yes I Am spilled into Etheridge’s fifth album released two years later, Your Little Secret. The project birthed another hit with “I Want to Come Over.” Another tale of a torturous romance—what Etheridge tends to write best—the song peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100.

I want to come over
To hell with the consequence
You told me you loved me
That’s all I believe
I want to come over
It’s a need I can’t explain
To see you again
I want to come over

The video, directed by Pam Thomas (The Kids in the Hall and Sex and The City), stars actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The clip was shot in a derelict hotel, which had one person still living in the building at the time. The tenant was bribed with a bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey to allow them to film.

6. “Angels Would Fall” (1999)
Written by Melissa Etheridge and John Shanks

Marking one of the few times Etheridge has co-written one of her songs until this point, “Angels Would Fall,” off her sixth album Breakdown, was fleshed out with writer and producer John Shanks (Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker). The album title alone projects the state of Etheridge’s mind during the time of recording, and “Angels Would Fall” was penned during one of Etheridge’s darkest moments. The soulful rock ballad addressed a crush she had on someone else’s girlfriend while she was in a relationship with Julie Cypher. The two first met while Cypher was working on Etheridge’s video for “Bring Me Some Water.” Cypher later left her husband, actor Lou Diamond Phillips, to be with Etheridge.

“‘Breakdown’ was such a dark period in my life,” said Etheridge on her Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled DVD, released in 2005. “All the songs were turning out so dark that I even had to go to John Shanks, who was producing this album. It was a very artistic time and the songs were very moody, very dark, and I finally said [to Shanks] ‘Look, do you have any pieces of music maybe I can write to because I am scraping on the bottom of my soul.'”

I’ve crept into your temple 
I have slept upon your pew
I’ve dreamed of the divinity 
Inside and out of you
I want it more than truth 
I can taste it on my breath
I would give my life just for a little death

So I’ll come by and see you again
I’ll be just a very good friend
I will not look upon your face 
I will not touch upon your grace 
Your ecclesiastic skin

7. “Breathe” (2004)
Written by Greenwheel (Ryan Jordan, Brandon Armstrong, Andrew Dwiggins, Douglas Randall, and Marc Wanninger)

Etheridge’s ninth album Lucky features the song “Tuesday Morning,” which was dedicated to Mark Bingham, one of the passengers who tried to retake the United Airlines Flight 93 from hijackers on 9/11. Also featured on the album is another powerful ballad, “Breathe,” which was actually a cover of a song originally released by the former Missouri band Greenwheel. Etheridge’s version reached the Top 10 and earned her another Grammy nomination.

I played the fool today
And I just dream of vanishing into the crowd
Longing for home again
But home is a feeling I buried in you
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe
And I can’t ask for things to be still again
No, I can’t ask if I could walk through the world in your eyes
Longing for home again
But home is a feeling I buried in you
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe
I’m alright, I’m alright
It only hurts when I breathe

Shortly after the release of Lucky, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and was forced to cancel the promotion of the album to undergo treatments.

8. “I Need to Wake Up” (2011)

Written by Etheridge for the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, directed by former U.S. vice president Al Gore, “I Need to Wake Up” won her an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It also marked the first time a documentary won in the category.

The film, which also picked up an Oscar for Best Documentary Film, and the song address the detrimental effects of global warming.

And as a child
I danced like it was 1999
My dreams were wild
The promise of this new world
Would be mine
Now I am throwing off the carelessness of youth
To listen to an inconvenient truth

That I need to move
I need to wake up
I need to change
I need to shake up
I need to speak out
Something’s got to break up

9. “A Little Bit of Me” (2014)
Written by Melissa Etheridge, Jerrod Bettis, and Christian Seibert

The first album off Etheridge’s own ME Records, and her 13th, This Is M.E. boasted the stripped back and soulful “A Little Bit of Me.” Working with songwriter and producer Jerrod Bettis, whose credits already included Adele and Gavin DeGraw, Etheridge wrote the song while on a flight to New York, working off a melody and beat he had shared with her.

If you believed, if you tried
It could be enough to know you were alive
If you knew the truth it couldn’t be denied
It would change the world enough that you might find
That the world goes round and around and around
And everybody walks on common ground
We gotta pull together if we’re gonna pull through
There’s a little bit of me in a little bit of you
The world goes round and around and round
Everybody feels a little upside down
No need to be afraid of anybody you see
There’s a little bit of you in a little bit of me

10. “One Way Out” (2021)

Technically, the songs on Etheridge’s 16th album One Way Out are tracks she originally wrote in the 80s and 1990s and first recorded with her band in 2013. Shelved soon after, the collection of songs sat around until Etheridge unearthed them while working on her 2019 album The Medicine Show. Re-recording the tracks in 2013 with her original band from 1988, Etheridge says she left the songs off in a better place than when she first wrote them, reworking each to sound the way it was meant to from the beginning. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Etheridge went to work curating the lost songs for her 16th album One Way Out, named after one of the tracks.

“I call it a time capsule of a time capsule,” Etheridge told American Songwriter in a 2021 interview. “It has a real hard rock edge to it. What I really enjoyed about them was that they’re simple, straightforward rock and roll songs that I was writing back then before I got influenced by modern musical trends and stuff. They were just straightforward.”

Join two musical icons on tour! Secure your Jewel and Melissa Etheridge Tour 2024 tickets and witness the magic of their collaboration live.

Photos: Elizabeth Miranda / Primary Wave PR

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