Ryan Downey: 8 Songs Of Longing

Ryan Downey has a thing for a committed vocal take. “A lot of my favourite songs seems to be about longing,” the Melbourne crooner says. “I guess desire and desperation are great fuel for a potent, embodied vocal performance.”

Following the release of his debut album Running, here’s Ryan’s  playlist of “stunners” – from Sufjan Stevens to Selena Gomez.


‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’

Jacques Brel

For me, this is the quintessential song of longing because a translation is almost unnecessary – you can feel exactly what Jacques is singing about. Longing, regret, promising the world to get your lover back but accepting defeat at the end of every breath.

‘Die 4 You’

Perfume Genius

I love the physicality in all of Mike Hadreas’ performances, recorded and live. This song takes that physicality to extremes, using erotic asphyxiation as a metaphor for following desire to our mortal limits in the pursuit of fulfilment. I like when an artist can bring the highest stakes to a song and still make it musically enjoyable.

‘Somebody To Love’


Freddie is one of my all time faves. He takes power in everything, even desperation.

‘Total Control’

The Motels

This song sees longing go in to absolute tunnel vision mode. My favourite thing about music in general is the ability to play with tension and release, to be able to control real time in that way and this song does it exceptionally.

‘Bad Liar’

Selena Gomez

I’ve thrown this in because it deals with the playful and pleasurable sides of longing. I just think this is a really great pop song – it does a lot of typical pop things, but in an understated way and her vocals manage to stay subtle and real. Great clip too.

‘Drawn to the Blood’

Sufjan Stevens

This album in general is one of the most heartbreaking yet hopeful I’ve heard. Sometimes the hardest longing is for answers. I think this song is Sufjan at his best and most affecting.

‘Saint Claude’ (French version)

Christine and the Queens

Like Sufjan, Héloïse Letissier deals with longing in the broader humanistic sense – longing for a place and a sense of connection in the world. There’s great vocal restraint in this song, and the couple of brief moments where she breaks out kill me.

‘Se Piangi Se Ridi’


Before you translate it, this song sounds full of desperation but is actually about comforting a loved one who feels lost. Mina takes their longing and transforms it into connection. I’ve ended with this as I find it restorative.

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