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It’s a bittersweet symphony, that’s life
Trying to make ends meet
“Bitter Sweet Symphony” is the title of a song by English alternative rock band The Verve, the lead track on their third album, Urban Hymns. It is based on music from an Andrew Loog Oldham adaptation of a Rolling Stones song, “The Last Time“, and involved some legal controversy surrounding plagiarism charges. “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was released on 16 June 1997 by Hut Recordings as the first single from the album, reaching number two on the UK Singles Chart. The song’s momentum built slowly in the US throughout the latter months of 1997, ultimately leading to a CD single release on 3 March 1998 by Virgin Records America, helping the song to reach number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song’s music video, which received heavy rotation on MTV, focuses on Ashcroft lip-synching the song while walking down a busy London pavement, oblivious to what is going on around and refusing to change his stride or direction throughout. At the 1998 Brit Awards, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” was nominated for Best British Single, and at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, the song was nominated for Video of the Year, Best Group Video, and Best Alternative Video. In 1999, the song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
Regarded as the band’s signature song, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” has featured in best ever song polls; in 1998, BBC Radio 1 listeners voted it the third Best Track Ever. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it number 392 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time“. In 2007, NME magazine placed the song at number 18 in its list of the “50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever”. In September 2007, a poll of 50 songwriters in Q magazine placed it in a list of the “Top 10 Greatest Tracks”. In the Australian Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time, 2009, the track was voted the 14th best song of all time. Pitchfork Media included the song at number 29 on their “Top 200 Tracks of the 90s” list. In 2011, NME placed it at number 9 on its list “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years.