Song of the Day #3,309: ‘Sky High’ – Ben Folds Five vs. Counting Crows

Our next third round matchup in Montauk Madness pairs up a couple of 90s alternative bands: Ben Folds Five and Counting Crows.

Ben Folds Five leaves a pair of indie acts in its wake, having defeated Aimee Mann in Round One with 60% of the vote and Vampire Weekend in Round Two with 75%. Counting Crows enjoyed a unanimous victory against Morrissey in Round One before taking down the legendary David Bowie with 63%.

I know my readers are big fans of both bands, so I’m curious to see how this one shakes out.

One argument in the Crows’ favor is that they’re still actively touring and (maybe?) recording while Ben Folds Five broke up for a decade before reuniting for (maybe?) a one-off album. But even given that wide gulf in years spent as an active band, Counting Crows has released only one more studio album than the Five.

Another thing to consider: Ben Folds showed up in Round Two as a solo artist, but given that he was battling The Beatles I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler alert to say this is his only appearance in Round Three. So whichever act loses here is lost for good.

Interestingly, both artists have referenced the other in song. The Counting Crows song ‘Monkey’ contains the line “I got nowhere but home to go, got Ben Folds on my radio right now” while on Ben Folds’ experimental album Fear of Pop he starts the title song this way: “I can see me three stories tall floating high above the mall like Adam Duritz, my bedroom wall, I’m taking pictures, I’m lifting off.”

A member of a Ben Folds band that predated Ben Folds Five even went on to play bass for Counting Crows. Lots of connections between these two.

Anyway, I’m just postponing what in the end is a pretty easy vote for me. Both of these bands meant a hell of a lot to me in the 90s and I still love their music today, but Ben Folds Five was more than a discovery, it was a revelation. They get my vote here.

Shattered at dawn, so far for so long
Feeling newly baptized
Thinking I don’t want this thing to end
And all the blue sky

Where our stony paths meet
Coffee-coloured sheets
Looking down at pale knees with a cigarette
And my morning beat under the blue sky

Last night at the bar, I was wrong, I was only hurting
And you were acting too polite
When we held onto the pain, through the storms and the rain
Like a crumpled, empty, discarded Newports box

Ah, the blue sky
Ah, sky high
Ah

Pawn-shop billboard, We Buy Gold
Old dreams just fade and twist, it’s a heartache that never ended

The brightness of air
Out walking somewhere, and when they ask you
Just tell em that you knew me back when, under the blue sky

Ah, sky high
Ah, below the blue sky
Ah, sky high

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3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,309: ‘Sky High’ – Ben Folds Five vs. Counting Crows

  1. Dana says:

    Boy, this isn’t an easy one for me at all. Had Folds been unified with the Five in this round of the contest as he should have been (and had not gone up against the friggin’ Beatles), I would have gone with Folds against the Crows. However, that’s apparently not the game! So, I need to consider BFF without Folds’ mostly excellent solo work and also factor in BFF’s breakup vs. the Crows staying together, even if the record output is roughly equal.

    With all that in mind, my vote goes to the Counting Crows, though I will certainly be okay to see either band advance.

  2. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    I could spend the whole day deliberating over this decision but to me though I love both of these bands an insane amount and they probably are my 2 favorite bands or both in the top 5, Counting Crows gets my vote on this one. To be honest there isn’t much I could say about Counting Crows’ lyrical and musical prowess that couldn’t also be said about Ben Folds Five. Though, I didn’t have to think too much about this decision, that only speaks to how special a place in my heart Counting Crows has and by no means is this an easy decision from an objective standpoint. Both these bands are in a league of their own and like Dana said, I’ll be happy if either continue.

  3. Amy says:

    I agree with Daniel’s observation that the fact that this is a relatively easy pick speaks more to the emotional impact that band has on me than anything. If they lose here, as I suspect they might, I’ll be happy to see BFF advance. I’ll listen to Anna Begins to soothe the pain.

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