If I had to chose only one song that I would be allowed to listen to for the rest of my life, I would be brokenhearted about all the wonderful music I would lose, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a second about which track I’d choose.
Nightwish is the musical love of my life. Their power metal gave me power to get through the darkest moments of my life. Their symphonic metal managed to combine into single songs my passion for both classical music and heavier sounds. Seeing them perform live was no doubt the most eargasmic experience of my life.
And their Tuomas Holopainen is IMO the greatest modern composer. Absolutely no doubt about it.
Which brings me to the song that is the absolute peak of their work, combining plentitude of talent, years of experience developing their style, the refined technique, and a beautiful, powerful message.
“The Greatest Show on Earth”.
Let’s start with the message. It can’t get more solemn than the story of the universe, of life and everything. Than asking the big questions, who are we and where are we going. Than contemplating life and death, creation and destruction. It’s all there.
The whole album is inspired by one of the most brilliant and important theories in the history of science: Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory. The album’s name actually comes from Darwin’s “Origin of Species”. And the name of the song itself comes from the title of Richard Dawkins’s book about evolution.
Speaking of which, the album features Dawkins himself as a guest. He reads excerpts from both Darwin and himself, including this powerful quote from “Unweaving the Rainbow” that provides a wonderful solace for the fear of death without there being an afterlife:
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. [...] In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?
Musically, the song is actually a mix of genres, even being a bit tribal or a bit pop in some places. As it tells the story of the entire universe, it consists of multiple vastly different parts, yet all of them fitting so well together. It’s a whole conceptual album in one song.
And it’s being sung by Floor Jansen – immensely talented woman with a beautiful voice, and probably the most versatile one that I’ve ever heard – together with Marco Hietala, who manages to both contrast and complement Floor’s voice. Simply wonderful!
And on top of that, they manage to take this already top-notch song and create a live show that elevates it even further – with a great stage design, sometimes even fireworks, or in case of the concert that I attended – weaving in my second-favourite song from Nightwish, Ghost Love Score.
Considering all that – could I make any other choice than going for The Greatest Song on Earth?