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Best Damien Rice Songs: 10 Folk Masterpieces From Ireland’s Finest
List & Guides

Best Damien Rice Songs: 10 Folk Masterpieces From Ireland’s Finest

Deeply poetic and emotionally profound, the best Damien Rice songs prove that folk balladry is the best vessel for our melancholic impulses.

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Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, singer-songwriter Damien Rice has built a legacy as a masterful storyteller and a maestro of heart-rending ballads. From his debut studio album, O, to his majestic third record, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, the best Damien Rice songs have long exuded raw emotion and haunting beauty, often exploring themes of heartache, love, loss and romance through powerful folk-based songwriting that explores the depths of the human experience.

With a pen as sharp as those wielded by Seamus Heaney and WB Yeats, and a voice that carries the weight of a thousand emotions, Rice’s songwriting transcends mere verses, connecting with millions of listeners across the globe and becoming a vessel for feelings of melancholy everyone can relate to.

As this countdown of the best Damien Rice proves, he remains one of the finest songwriters ever to emerge from Ireland.

Listen to the best of Damien Rice here, and check out our best Damien Rice songs, below.

10: My Favourite Faded Fantasy (from ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, 2014)

Set to sweeping string arrangements, the title track from Damien Rice’s third studio album, My Favourite Faded Fantasy, is a masterclass in raw emotion. Rice’s soulful voice, paired with melancholic lyrics and a spellbinding melody, emerges from misty orchestration to give voice to a poignant narrative of love and loss that truly awakens the senses (“You could be my favourite taste/To touch my tongue”). An example of how the best Damien Rice songs can translate as pure poetry, My Favourite Faded Fantasy is an achingly beautiful love song that’s as touching as it is powerful.

9: Rootless Tree (from ‘9’, 2006)

A soul-stirring mix of anger, heartbreak and vulnerability, the stripped-down Rootless Tree cuts straight to the core as Rice explores the inner conflicts that can arise from misplaced love. With a feverish crescendo marked by a cathartic release of expletives (“So fuck you, fuck you, fuck you/And all we’ve been through”), it’s a gut-wrenching moment of unfiltered authenticity among the best Damien Rice Songs, capturing the messy, turbulent realities of human relationships. Issued as a single from Rice’s second album, 9, Rootless Tree turns regret and resentment into a work of art.

8: The Greatest Bastard (from ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, 2014)

Like the ghostly voice of an ex-lover emerging from the great beyond, Damien Rice’s hushed tones give The Greatest Bastard an almost spiritual poignancy. With unflinchingly honest self-reflection, Rice confesses to his shortcomings and owns up to past mistakes by laying his soul bare (“Some make it, mistake it/Some force and some will fake it/I never meant to let you down”) across delicate guitar picking and subtle orchestration, making The Greatest Bastard an exceptional piece of songwriting among the best Damien Rice songs.

7: Delicate (from ‘O’, 2002)

A profoundly beautiful folk ballad that acknowledges the fragility of romance, Delicate paints a picture of love in its most brittle state. Tender and intimate, Rice’s gentle acoustic guitar work and pained vocal expression is deeply emotive, pulling the listener into a narrative that invokes Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as Rice seemingly questions the sanctity of physical love (“Why do you sing Hallelujah/If it means nothing to ya?/Why do you sing with me at all?”). Few songwriters can render listeners mute purely with words, and Delicate is easily one of the most spine-tingling songs in Damien Rice’s discography.

6: It Takes A Lot To Know A Man (from ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, 2014)

A sprawling, introspective opus tackling modern masculinity and our collective need to understand and connect with others, It Takes A Lot to Know A Man ranks among the best Damien Rice songs for conveying words of wisdom that speak to all of us, particularly in an era when male suicide rates are endemic (“It takes a lot to give, to ask for help/To be yourself, to know and love what you live with”). Clocking in at over nine minutes, the song’s haunting melodies and palpable vulnerability are nothing short of heart-wrenching.

5: Volcano (from ‘O’, 2002)

Released as a single in February 2002, Volcano was a visceral outpouring of profoundly relatable catharsis that peaked at No.29 in the UK. With lyrics spilling out of him like lava from Earth’s crust, Rice exposes romantic relationships for being as intense and as unpredictable as the shifts in tectonic plates, his raw and impassioned confessional ranking among the best Damien Rice songs to encapsulate the tumultuous essence of love and desire.

4: I Don’t Want To Change You (from ‘My Favourite Faded Fantasy’, 2014)

Containing a powerful message of embracing someone for who they truly are, flaws and all, I Don’t Want To Change You is a tribute to unconditional love. With a sparse arrangement predominantly featuring lush strings and acoustic guitar, Rice’s voice shines with sincerity as he simply and honestly spells out the nature of love in its most purest form (“Wherever you are/You know that I adore you”).

3: Cannonball (from ‘O’, 2002)

When an X Factor cover sent Rice’s version of Cannonball to No.9 in the UK, almost ten years after its original release, the song reached a wider audience than ever before. Striking with all the force of an artillery projectile, Cupid’s arrow inspired some highly poetic lyrics from Rice as he expressed his willingness to surrender to love. With great depth of feeling, Cannonball finds the singer succumbing to the overwhelming impact of romantic devotion, crafting a timeless ballad that never fails to knock you off your feet (“It’s not hard to fall/When you float like a cannonball”).

2: 9 Crimes (from ‘9’, 2006)

Framed by a melancholic piano melody, Damien Rice’s duet with Lisa Hannigan on 9 Crimes is one of the most chilling compositions from Rice’s second studio album, 9. Tinged with an almost doom-laden sense of shared pain and impending heartbreak, the song peaked at No.29 in the UK upon its release in November 2006, thanks in part to a memorable music video featuring Rice desperately trying to reach out to the dismembered head of Lisa Hannigan as it floats away like a balloon. Ranking highly among the best Damien Rice songs, 9 Crimes is a heartbreaking piano ballad that stands the test of time as a truly affecting masterpiece of deep emotion.

1: The Blower’s Daughter (from ‘O’, 2002)

With lyrics as cryptic as Bob Dylan at his best, an air of mystery surrounds The Blower’s Daughter. Famously, Rice has kept the true meaning of this tearjerker close to his chest, though some fans have speculated that it’s Rice’s tale of unrequited love for his clarinet teacher (“The pupil in denial/I can’t take my eyes off you”) while others suggest it’s simply a romantic work of period-set storytelling about a glass-blower’s daughter. One thing’s for sure: this bittersweet acoustic ballad, from Rice’s debut studio album, O, is a timeless masterpiece that conjures profound feelings of yearning and obsession. Selling over 400,000 copies in the UK, The Blower’s Daughter is a devastatingly gorgeous love song that still brings a tear to the eye, and that’s why it tops this list of the best Damien Rice songs.

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