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No. 10: “Fireflies,” Owl City

With unshowy vocals that cue thoughts of heart-baring emo longing, and delicate synths that conjure up memories of ’90s-era indie electronic outfits such as American Analog Set, the triple-platinum “Fireflies” received the big boost its predecessors didn’t when it was covered by everyone from Lee DeWyze on “American Idol” to Kidz Bop. It also helped that bedroom-basement rocker Adam Young flew into view as something of a MySpace sensation, and the buzz nabbed him a deal with major label Universal Republic.

“Fireflies,” the debut single by Young’s project Owl City, concerned insects and insomnia. Probably few dreamed it would become an anthem for a new generation, as an audience sing-along at one Owl City show, documented in a promotional video, demonstrates. The buzzable “Fireflies” is also one of the more unusual, intimate-sounding songs on our Most Irresistible Lyrics list: “I never really had anything I wanted to say, to anybody,” Young says modestly in his label’s promo video. “But there’s always been a mood I wanted to convey via sound, which is optimism.”

Fittingly, the unorthodox “Fireflies” is also one of the few tracks with heavily searched lyrics that isn’t a love song. Instead Young touches on existential issues like the losses of youthful innocence and of connection with the natural world in the rush to grow older. “I’d like to make myself believe / That planet Earth turns slowly / It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay / Awake when I’m asleep / Because my dreams are bursting at the seams,” croons the Owatonna, Minnesota, musician, who went from toiling at a Coca-Cola warehouse to contributing to the soundtrack of the owl-heavy “Legend of the Guardians.” Those thoughts have certainly resonated with both youngsters and young-at-hearts.

–Kimberly Chun

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