Deep Cuts: Songs called “Shine a Light”

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“Shine a Light”

Artist: The Rolling Stones

Album: Exile on Main St.

Released: May 12, 1972

Though the Rolling Stones’ 1972 double album Exile on Main St. is now considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time, its penultimate track, “Shine a Light,” with its groovy, honky-tonk chorus that is nothing but uplifting, is a step above. Filled with sweet guitar riffs and a relentlessly jammy piano hook, “Shine a Light” is a hootenanny of a track, with beautiful daubs of gospel licks stuffed in there for good measure—without ever feeling bloated. Four minutes of shifting, soulful classic rock, this quintessential Stones cut is a slice of bliss from start to finish.

“Shine a Light”

Artist: Madonna

Album: Shine a Light EP

Year: 1980

The deepest cut of them all comes from the Queen of Pop, the almighty Madge herself—but from 1980, a few years before she became the Material Girl that we all know and love. Though it’s not quite the dance pop Madonna is known for, it still features her airy yet commanding voice, with hints of her future pop dominance, but this time on top of a buoyant bass line and shuffling drums. At a scant 101 seconds, this tune is gone too soon—as was Madonna’s embrace of this sound. Nonetheless, it makes a great impact during its brief runtime.

“Shine a Light”

Artist: Constantines

Album: Shine a Light

Released: August 19, 2003

One of the hits by Guelph, Ontario rockers, Constantines, “Shine a Light,” features irregular time signatures in verses that give way to a heavy chorus. Though not a bleak tune, it’s not a particularly uplifting one either, working to keep the listener on edge: Clean guitar noodling is juxtaposed with a heavy, walking bassline and eerie synths. Compounded with Bry Webb’s raspy, howling vocals, the track plays with mood before jolting to life for a gritty, guitar-driven rock climax. It’s fun, unsettling, and definitely not your standard rock tune, taking calculated breaks and bridges to maximize the impact of the song’s climaxes.

“Shine a Light”

Artist: Wolf Parade

Album: Apologies to the Queen Mary

Released: September 27, 2005

Coming off the heels of labelmates Constantines’ smash album/single of the same name, Montreal art-rockers Wolf Parade’s take on the phrase is a little happier in comparison. Built around a chugging chord progression, this lighthearted, stompy rocker features guitarist Dan Boeckner—now of Divine Fits and synth-rockers Operators—on the mic for some jagged, breathy vocals. With some jangly guitars in the background, Wolf Parade’s track is fun, synthy indie rock at its best, including a great, riff-filled climax to round things out. Though Wolf Parade is no longer active, its “Shine a Light” is just one of many great tunes to come out of the Montreal group—and a reminder of the sharp rock they crafted during their time together.