It happens to the best of us: You find yourself on the wrong side of the wrong people. It could be juiced up Teamsters, Yakuza psychos, or fettuccine magnates–whatever shadowy crime syndicate operates in your zip code.
Welp, you’re fucked! There’s nothing more embarassing than getting murdered on vacation, so you can’t skip town. No, what you need to do is start planning the Motown-infused needle drop that provides a poignant, ironic, and/or festive backdrop for your unexpected but long-anticipated demise.
Let’s take a look at your options, counting-down style:
9: Tired of Being Alone — Al Green
Starting things off we have Al Green at peak horniness. The titular line and aformentioned bonerism give you the age-old commentary on murder as a form of connection along with its inherent eroticism. Always solid.
And the performance! Al gasps his way through this silky jam with a prolonged desperation that would be perfect over any strangling, head bashing, or drowning. It could even work for an extended sequence in which your corpse is dismembered and disposed of with some kind of depressingly ingenious know-how. The possibilities are endless.
8: Please Mr Postman — The Marvelettes
Okay this one gets bumped down the list because it has limited range (hitman needs to be dressed up like a postal worker). That said, the sweet, optimistic harmonies of:
Mister Postman look and see
If there’s a letter in your bag for me
go perfectly with a mail carrier who–surprise!–is here to deliver some hot lead. Into you. Also the opening kicks ass.
7: Hey Hey Baby — Otis Redding
What we have here is a perfect tune for a murder ’em up montage. You know, when the whole crew is getting whacked all in a row or whatever.
Otis brings the energy while the band absolutely brings the swing and shuffle as ice picks plunge into the backs of heads and cars are pushed into bodies of water. Superb bassline.
6: Come See About Me — The Supremes
Besides the perfect-as-usual harmonies and overall smoke-filled room vibe of Come See About Me, the titular lyrics sound like the fishy, coded stuff mob guys say in movies: “Go see about a guy, do a thing” and all that crap. Now make the mob guy Diana Ross. Success!
This song is so perfect for a mob hit that if you walk into a room with it playing and see an old Italian man with extremely bushy eyebrows: Get the fuck out of there. That’s Martin Scorcese and you are about to get murdered.
5: I Can’t Help Myself — The Four Tops
This one gets a lot of points for being an earworm that everyone’s heard on the radio and in movies since forever. The sheer nostalgia and over the top jubilance of the The Four Tops’ delivery calls for an extremely gruesome murder. Like getting punched to death, which would absolutely suck. I dunno that’s a first thought use it as a springboard.
4: You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me — Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
While an objectively great song, this is a replacement-level murder soundtrack until you pair it with a good old-fashioned strangling or the ‘ol piano wire from the backseat of a car. Plus it’s a duet, and isn’t a mob hit sort of like a duet? Damn, that’s deep.
3: Eleanor Rigby — Aretha Franklin
Listen: Enough recontextualizing well known numbers by having little kids sing them. It’s over. Ship them off to middle school or whatever.
Now we can move onto more exciting stuff, like this Aretha Franklin cover that reworks the cold, detatched dread of the original into a chaotic and mesmerizing portent of doom. Masterfully delivered in the first person by possibly the best singer ever, the call-and-response vocals are a Greek chorus channeling its own demise.
To that point, the lyrics continue to focus on how being dead sucks, which makes it a perfect backdrop for you getting thrown off a bridge by a guy named Moose. Strong choice.
2: The Way You Do The Things You Do — The Temptations
I know what you’re asking: Why would we overlook employing the beloved standard “My Girl” as a femme fatale breaks your neck? The answer: Too obvious. On the nose. Grow up.
Meanwhile, “The Way You Do The Things You Do” brings the signature yearning-warmth that only The Temptations can provide. The lyrics are a truly sweet missive to the object of someone’s desire, but check out the first line of the refrain:
Well you could’ve been anything that you wanted to
I can tell
The way you do the things you do
I like the way you do the things you do
Haha okay! Cool! Love to be referred to in the past tense! What’s this red dot doing hovering on my forehead?
1: I Heard It Through The Grapevine — Marvin Gaye
This one was never close. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” brings the most fucked energy possible for a Motown production. Everything from the the ominous minor-key spiral to the highly paranoid lyrics throughout gives this ode to gossip an aggressively dark tone.
In fact, this song (and others on the list) has probably already been used over contract killings in TV and film for decades! If that’s the case, I am a genius. Thank you.
Finally, you may have noticed (depending on what you define as “Motown”) the absence of Stevie Wonder and the the Jackson family from this list. The reason for the exclusion is that you absolutely cannot afford the rights. Get real.
That’s it. Good luck starting your car!