Ten ridiculously captivating 'Valerie' songs

There was a recent list posted on the internet about "Mary" songs so we thought we would do one about Valeries.
Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson at the Brit wards
Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson at the Brit wards / JMEnternational/GettyImages
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NO. 7: “VALERIE” by REEL BIG FISH (2002)

This “Valerie” is so pathetically vindicative that it could really only work with a happy, upbeat musical arrangement. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the Huntington Beach boys are good at. The driving ‘60s drums/guitar open gives way to RBF’s trademark horns, and we seem to be off on another happy, peppy ska journey.

Then Aaron Barrett starts singing. “Back when I met you, I didn’t have a clue – Of the horrible agony you would put me through.” And it gets both better and worse from there.

By the time we hit the chorus, Barrett and mates are blasting out what shoulda’ coulda’ been a huge pop anthem. But the lyrics tell a different story. “Valerie – You make me wish I was dead – Valerie – You’re like a knife in my head.” And as in all great RBF numbers, after proclaiming “My life is ruined, you’re to blame,” Barrett unleashes a “Let’s Rock!” shout and then takes off on an upbeat guitar solo.

One of the greatest examples of creative clashing between music and lyrics I know of. Seriously – this is “Pumped Up Kicks”-level discordance. Do you think a Mary could inspire that?


I don’t know the first thing about Douglas Ray Jaffe. Sometimes it’s better that way. On “Laughter is the Best Revenge,” he tells the same story the Beatles told in “She’s Leaving Home” and Jimmy Buffett told in “Fins.” But he does it in a bright indie/emo voice that marries a languid groove with an optimistic look toward the future.

It begins with our heroine out on her own – “Valerie’s lost in the northwest – All she can do is do her best.” She rejects a path of pursuing vengeance for some unnamed wrong, and by the time we reach the end, “Lately Valerie’s learning to fly – In the face of disaster once again – Proving that laughter is the best revenge.” It’s a beautiful message nestled within a beautiful song.