How “The Bad List” by Z Berg & Ryan Ross Broke Me, and Why I Loved It.

Okay guys – before we jump into why, after a ten year hiatus, I’m writing about music – let me give you a little Elle Wagner history lesson in less than 52 words.

I used to run/create a zine/blog called Not Your Music Muse. It was my first foray into journalism or media, even – and it led to experiences that could only be described as other worldly and magical for a sixteen year old kid from the smallest state in the country.

We’ll save those stories for sweeter, sunnier days – because today, I want to tell you how this 4:38 masterpiece seeped its way into crevices of my heart that I thought were cemented and filled them with a kind of somber, beautiful remorse that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It. Was. Everything.

“If it were me, I’d write another song

Something in a major key.

You and I will always be..

The dream.”

The song opens with Z’s sweet, haunting voice – and immediately gets to work with cracking you open in a way that’s uncomfortable and yet dumbfoundingly irresistible.

You and I will always be.. the dream” conjures up so much, so quickly. The simplicity of it is what really threw me – how a whole host of moments came flooding back before my eyes, practically overshadowing the video itself for me. It’s not a nostalgia that I live in anymore, it’s a world that I get to visit strictly for inspiration now – but just for a second, all of it was as real as it ever was again for me, too.

There’s more lyrics that are worth mentioning, but to keep this brief – we need to talk about the video, too. Because the real, tangible love that they captured on camera has this electromagnetic energy that manages to crawl through the screen and arrest the viewer (me). I feel really bad for them, in a way. They’re adults, I’m sure they’ve figured out why this can’t work and are at peace with that. Especially if they’ve managed to stay collaborators and, as AP put it, “best friends”. But I just feel like I know that kind of love, that “I knew you from the minute I met you” (“the only soul I knew to telephone”) kind of bond that really changes, well, everything. It’s not something you recover from, or that you should entirely. It changes the scope and depth of what you thought connection could be and leaves you a wiser, bigger person for it.

It’s the kind of love that leaves you writing things like “The Bad List”, art that wrecks you because it gets so much across so simply. It’s the kind of love that makes you consider every word with such care because shitting it out on a page cheapens what it was for you, you know? I know barely anything about these two, other than liking Z’s band “The Like” when I was younger – and I still sat here and fully mourned the ending of their partnership.. and ghosts of mine, too.

I guess, in lots of ways, it’s a coming of age song. I don’t know if that’s how they intended it – but for me, once you let go of this kind of thing.. you’re left with this knowledge that you’ll never be that hurt or that youthfully naive with anyone ever again. Because the magic that was held in that space is sacred, but impossible to replicate. And with all of the inevitable hurt it caused, why would you want to?

As a disclaimer – stable, healthy, reciprocal love that’s communicative and unconditional is obviously the goal. AMEN that I found it when I did. And it is the best love. Truly.

But it’s not what “The Bad List” is for. “The Bad List” is for when you want to be shot down a dizzying memory lane full of first everythings with someone who totally consumed your life – intoxicatingly, irresponsibly, extraordinarily.

Also, I really loved Ryan’s hair throughout the video.


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