28. Ben Lee

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 28 is Ben Lee.


When I think of Ben Lee, I think happy thoughts. Ben Lee’s music is full of optimism. He sings about messages of hope, togetherness, and the promise of the future. The Australian-born Lee, who shares a September birthday, is six years my elder. Although started a solo music career at the ripe young age of 16, it wasn’t until he released Awake is the New Sleep in 2005 that I was introduced to his music. Immediately, I was hooked.

I took this photo of Ben Lee with Jessie after he opened for Dashboard Confessional in April of 2006.
I took this photo of Ben Lee with Jessie after he opened for Dashboard Confessional in April of 2006.

That album blew me away and remains a personal favorite. Thirteen of that album’s 14 tracks made it onto at least one Matt’s Mix, an astounding feat that I believe is a record. Eight of those tracks made it onto this ultimate collection, including “Whatever It Is,” which doubles as the opener for both Awake is the New Sleep and this compilation.  “Just do it, whatever it is,” Lee implores, instilling a world-conquering confidence in the listener.

The equally catchy “We’re All in This Together” and “Catch My Disease (That’s the Way I Like It)” are perfect fits for any feel-good party playlist you’re putting together. (Don’t worry: the disease Lee sings of is metaphorical and most certainly not life threatening.)

Another one of my favorite Ben Lee songs from that album is “Light,” a 9:48 opus that is primarily instrumental with a resounding repetition of the phrase “You’re gonna fill this world with light.” To me, the song sounds like a sunrise, the glorious beginning of a brand new day. And in staying with the message of much of Lee’s lyrics, the day is going to be as awesome as you make it.

Lee’s follow-up to Awake is the New Sleep was Ripe in 2007, which landed five songs on this compilation. I loved Lee’s take on love on that album, especially in “Is This How Love’s Supposed To Feel?” and “Just Say Yes”—a question and statement in song form that most people can relate to at some point in their lives. The lines from “Just Say Yes” in particular hit home for me at points in my relationship with Jessie when she was doubting our future together and I was convinced that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

Love is a reason to exist
So let it all go and just say yes
If it feels right then why resist
Throw down your arms and just say yes

The Rebirth of Venus came out in 2009, and it was mostly disappointing, but the three tracks that made the cut for me were “What’s So Bad (About Feeling Good),” “Sing,” and “Rise Up.” The first two are straightforward, sugary pop-rock tunes that make you feel good and want to sing. The slower tempo “Rise Up” reads like the second half of the saga that began in “Just Say Yes.” It’s like, OK, now that we’ve said yes. We’re committed. We’re in this together. Now what? Lee sings:

Sometimes we gotta fight
So don’t you complain
Cause I never promised this
Would be easy babe

You and me are gonna rise up
and they will be surprised, yep

The confidence in the power of “we” (even when it’s not easy) and the defiance of the societal “they” (the doubters/haters) struck me and served as marital anthem of sorts. We are gonna rise up. We are going to do great things in this world. Together.

If you need a healthy dose of optimism and positive thinking in your life, I recommend checking out Ben Lee, particularly the songs I included on this compilation.

MM 30 at 30: Ben Lee tracklist (finalized Nov. 15, 2013):
1. Whatever It Is
2. Get Gotten
3. We’re All In This Together
4. Is This How Love’s Supposed To Feel?
5. Blush
6. Desire
7. Just Say Yes
8. Into the Dark
9. Catch My Disease (That’s The Way I Like It)
10. What’s So Bad (About Feeling Good?)
11. Sing
12. Close I’ve Come
13. Let Your Heart Decide It
14. Ripe
15. Love Me Like The World Is Ending
16. Rise Up
17. I’m Willing
18. Light
19. Birthday Song

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