Sharing this article from Vulture.com ranking all songs ever recorded by The Beatles. While I don’t agree with all the rankings, being a lover of lists, I found it to be a fun and interesting read. Check it out:
Whatever our own individual tastes in music, everyone dislikes or viscerally hates certain music for our own particular – or peculiar – reasons. When songs or artists we despise are immensely popular, it can sometimes be isolating; others may think or even say out loud “are you serious?!” when discovering we hate a song or artist they love. As an example, I love Coldplay and most of their music output, but know some people who just don’t care for them or even hate their music. While I can understand some not finding Coldplay their ‘cup of tea,’ I cannot for the life of me understand how someone could ‘hate’ their music. But at the end of the day, how each of us hears music and makes a determination as to whether we like it or not is really quite subjective.
That being said, there are a number of songs that I hate, and many of them were massive hits, which makes them all the more loathsome to me. In thinking about why I hate those songs, it mostly comes down to the fact that they sound very displeasing to my ears. Some of my most hated songs are downright painful to listen to. I usually try to keep an open mind about music, and realize I’m judging it through my own biases and idiosyncracies, but I like what I like, and dislike what I dislike, just like all my kind readers. Though it was a major challenge, given the number of hit songs I find repulsive, I’ve chosen ten that were #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Interestingly, many are from the 1970s, an otherwise incredible decade for music.
1. YOU’RE HAVING MY BABY – Paul Anka (1974)
Quite possibly one of most insipid songs ever recorded, this stinker from Paul Anka is so bad it’s – well, bad! The music is the worst kind of boring milquetoast that was popular in the early to mid 1970s, and the lyrics would be laughable if they weren’t so bizarre. Among other things, they touch on the fact his woman could have chosen to abort her unborn baby, but didn’t. The dumbest line is “You’re having my baby. What a lovely way of saying how much you love me.” Anka started out in the late 1950s with a string of really good pop hits, but he hit bottom with this one. Nevertheless, it was one of his biggest hits, spending 3 weeks at #1 and offering proof that, sometimes, majority should not rule.
2. CONVOY – C.W. McCall (1976)
Oh man, how I hate this song! Hated it the first time I heard it back in 1976, and I hate it to this day. It was recorded at the height of CB radio popularity. The insipid chorus is so unbelievably bad that it sounds like a parody. If you’ve never heard it, take a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Ugh!
3. ONE BAD APPLE – The Osmonds (1971)
One of the biggest regrets of my life was the time I said to my younger sister while watching the Osmond Brothers perform on the Andy Williams show as a dumb kid: “They’re good, and should record some songs.” What the fuck was I thinking?! They did record some songs – lots of them – and they all stank! “One Bad Apple” was the biggest and worst of them all. This performance of the song is especially painful to watch and listen to, especially Donny Osmond’s horrific screeching and their embarrassing dance moves. They were a pathetic white-bread version of the infinitely more talented Jackson 5.
4. RING MY BELL – Anita Ward (1979)
I was a big fan of disco in the late 70s, but I always loathed “Ring My Bell.” Though it has a catchy beat, Anita Ward’s awful baby-like falsetto vocals were like nails on a chalkboard for me. And that annoying “boo” sound that continues unabated throughout the song drove me nearly to madness.
5. THE NIGHT CHICAGO DIED – Paper Lace (1974)
How can a song be this awful? Everything about “The Night Chicago Died” is terrible: lyrics, melody, music, and vocals. The ending chorus “Na na na Na na na Na na na na na” is positively sickening. This piece of crap immediately preceded “You’re Having My Baby” at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1974. What a shitty month for music that was! Thankfully, Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff” shot those two turds from the top spot!
6. LOW – Flo Rida featuring T. Pain (2008)
Just a really stupid song with stupid lyrics and a prominent stupid clap machine setting the boring, mind-numbing beat. What makes it particularly hateful for me is that it was the #1 song of 2008. What the hell?
7. JOY TO THE WORLD – Three Dog Night (1971)
Three Dog Night was one of my favorite bands of the late 60s and early 70s, and I loved many of their songs, especially “One,” the gorgeous “Easy to Be Hard,” “Eli’s Coming” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” But I despise “Joy to the World,” which was far and away their biggest hit. I realize it’s one of those songs that nearly everybody LOVES, probably because it’s just so darn catchy, but it annoys the living shit out of me. If I never hear it again for the rest of my life, it would be a very good thing.
8. DARK HORSE – Katy Perry featuring Juicy J (2014)
I like Katy Perry well enough, and really do like a few of her hits, including “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “Wide Awake” and “Roar.” But oh how I hate “Dark Horse.” The lyrics are ridiculous, and Juicy J’s parts of the track are terrible, serving only to inject some street cred like some other white pop artists have done by adding a rap element to their songs (see Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift). But what really sets me off about this song is Juicy J’s line: “She’ll eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer.” That is so offensive and tacky, especially to relatives of Dahmer’s victims. Few seemed to mind, though, as it spent four weeks at #1. The YouTube video, which I’ll admit is visually stunning, has been streamed nearly 2 billion times!
9. Anything from Milli Vanilli (1989)
Beginning in the summer of 1989, two German guys named Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, who went by the artistic name Milli Vanilli, had a string of forgettable #1 hits: “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” and “Blame it on the Rain.” I didn’t care for any of them, and was honestly perplexed as to why they were so popular. Needless to say, I felt vindicated when it was later revealed that Morvan and Pilatus had not sung any of the songs, and were stripped of their Grammy award.
10. AMERICAN PIE – Don McLean (1972)
“American Pie” was one of the most popular songs of the 1970s, so as with all big hits, it was played to death on the radio. To make matters worse, it was so damned long, clocking in at over 8 1/2 minutes, and seemed to go on forever. I liked it OK at first, but after a few months of non-stop airplay (back in the day when hearing songs on the radio was our main form of listening to music besides playing them on our stereos), I came to loathe it. As soon as I’d hear “Long, long time ago…” my finger pressed the station selection button on the car radio quicker than a pitcher’s fastball. If I were the DJ of my own radio station, “American Pie” – along with all the other songs on this list – would not be allowed in the building.
Imma Be – Black-Eyed Peas
Fergalicious – Fergie
Bills, Bills, Bills – Destiny’s Child
Bad Blood – Neil Sedaka & Elton John
Go Away Little Girl – Donnie Osmond
The Streak – Ray Stevens (yet another dreadful song from 1974)
I Am Woman – Helen Reddy
Crank That (Soulja Boy) – Soulja Boy Tell’em
I’m Real – Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule
Bad & Boujee – Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert
I’ve been thinking about the greatest rock songs of all time, and there are likely well over a thousand worthy candidates spanning a period of more than 50 years. I’m certain you could gather 100 people in a room and no two of them would agree on which songs are the greatest. I started to compile a list of what I thought were the best ten or twenty, but it was just too difficult. So, I decided to break it up into the ten best for each decade, and will be posting a series of lists over the next few months.
I’m starting with the 1960s, the decade that hard rock as we know it came into being. Among other things, it was the use of the amplified electric guitar that ushered in a new, heavier sound than had ever existed previously. Just as the rock’n’roll of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Bill Haley & the Comets thrilled young people in the mid to late 50s, the new hard rock music excited them to no end while driving their parents crazy in the mid to late 60s. As a kid, I remember my mother, who liked softer acts like the Mamas & Papas, Beatles and The Supremes, yelling “turn that shit off” when a Stones or Led Zeppelin song played.
After a lot of careful consideration, here are my picks for the ten greatest rock songs of the 1960s. Naturally, the Rolling Stones are prominently featured, as they were without question the greatest rock band of the 60s, and one of the greatest of all time.
10. JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH – Rolling Stones (1968)
The hard-driving “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is among my favorite Rolling Stones songs. It’s also the most frequently played song at their concerts. As with so many of their songs, Keith Richards’ guitar work is fucking incredible. Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in a 1995 interview that the song emerged “out of all the acid of Their Satanic Majesties Request. It’s about having a hard time and getting out.” And in a 1968 interview, Brian Jones described it as a return to their “funky, essential essence” following the psychedelia of Satanic Majesties. As for the song’s title, Richards said that he and Jagger were inspired while staying at his country house, where they were awakened one morning by the sound of Richards’ gardener Jack Dyer working outside. When Jagger asked what the noise was, Richards said: “Oh, that’s Jack – that’s jumpin’ Jack.” The song and lyrics evolved from there.
9. WHITE RABBIT – Jefferson Airplane (1967)
One of my favorite songs of all time, “White Rabbit” was written by Grace Slick while she was with the band The Great Society. After they broke up in 1966, she joined Jefferson Airplane to replace their departed female singer, Signe Anderson. The first album Slick recorded with Jefferson Airplane was their incredible opus work Surrealistic Pillow – in my opinion one of the greatest albums ever recorded – and Slick provided two songs, “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.”
She has stated the song was a slap to parents who read their children novels like Alice and Wonderland, then wonder why their children later used drugs. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, she mentioned that besides Alice in Wonderland, her other inspiration for the song was “the bolero used by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on their 1960 album Sketches of Spain,” which was itself inspired by the famous classical composition “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel. It’s the buildup to the crescendo that makes both “Bolero” and “White Rabbit” so wonderful. Here’s a great live performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
8. MY GENERATION – The Who (1965)
“My Generation” is one of the most popular and signature songs from The Who, and is their highest charting song in the UK though, shockingly, it only peaked at #74 in the U.S. The song is an anthem of youthful rebellion, with one of the most quoted lines in rock history: “I hope I die before I get old.” It’s also considered a precursor of the punk rock movement that would emerge roughly ten years later. It’s been said that Pete Townshend was inspired to write the song after the Queen Mother allegedly had his 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through London’s Belgravia neighborhood.
7. WHOLE LOTTA LOVE – Led Zeppelin (1969)
The first time I heard “Whole Lotta Love” I was blown away. I was very young and, while I found it too hard and even repellent at the time, I was also intrigued by Led Zeppelin’s aggressive and relentlessly heavy take-no-prisoners sound and Robert Plant’s fierce, high-pitched vocals. Eventually, I came to love it and now appreciate its status as a revolutionary song in the history of hard rock. There’s no denying that the cacophanous mix of intense guitar riffs, crushing bass, tons of wild reverb and Plant’s screams and moans all working together create one of the most complex and exhilarating rock songs ever. If all that weren’t enough, the racy lyrics pushed the envelope beyond anything even the Stones or the Doors had put out: “I’m gonna give you every inch of my love.”
6. I PUT A SPELL ON YOU – Creedence Clearwater Revivial (1968)
An important and now classic song in rock and roll, “I Put a Spell On You” was originally written and recorded by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in 1956, and has been covered by a number of artists over the past six decades. But in my opinion, the version recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968 stands above the rest. It’s truly an epic recording that was under appreciated at the time, not to mention the band’s greatest song. Their powerful bluesy rendition, with its fierce, wailing guitar riffs and hammering drums is jaw-droppingly magnificent. John Fogerty’s impassioned screaming vocals bring goosebumps every time I hear the song.
5. CROSSROADS (Live at Winterland) – Cream (1968)
The definitive version of “Crossroads” is the recording from Cream’s legendary concert in 1968 at Winterland in San Francisco. Eric Clapton’s guitar riffs and Jack Bruce’s bass are so drop-dead phenomenal that they bring chills to my bones and tears to my eyes. And Ginger Baker pounds his drums like his life depended on it. Rock just doesn’t get any better than this! I’m going to paraphrase WestLAGuy, who created this pretty decent video mash-up of the audio from that concert with footage from their farewell concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. His discussion of Cream and the song is so good I cannot say it any better.
“At the zenith of Cream’s tenure, you would see painted on walls around London ‘Clapton is God’, and this track is a good an example of why people felt that way. For me, the graffiti should have noted three deities, because on their respective instruments, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were just as unique as Clapton. Eric came from a blues background (John Mayall and the Yardbirds); Baker and Bruce may have had some experience with the style, but certainly both were excellent jazz musicians. Clapton was right [up] there, as well. Cream never played a song the same way twice. This version of the Robert Johnson song, “Crossroads” is a perfect example of three great players making music at that moment.”
4. (I CAN’T GET NO) SATISFACTION – Rolling Stones (1965)
One of the Stones’ biggest hits, and their first #1 charting single in the U.S., “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is a brilliant hard rock tirade about rampant commercialism, the stress of touring and sexual frustration. Keith Richards’ three-note guitar riff overlying a crushing bass line makes for an intense powerhouse of a song. In the UK, the song was initially played only on pirate radio stations because its lyrics were considered too suggestive, though it eventually received widespread airplay and reached #1 there. This electrifying performance took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in February 2006, when all the band members were in their early 60s.
3. ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER – Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
Jimi Hendrix is widely considered the greatest guitarist of all time. In fact, in a panel assembled by Rolling Stone magazine in late 2015 of many of the greatest living guitarists – including Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen, Ritchie Blackmore and Joe Perry – Jimi Hendrix came out on top (you can read the article here). In his tribute, Tom Morello wrote of Hendrix: “[He} exploded our idea of what rock music could be. He manipulated the guitar, the whammy bar, the studio and the stage. His playing was effortless. There’s not one minute of his recorded career that feels like he’s working hard at it – it feels like it’s all flowing through him. He seamlessly weaves chords and single-note runs together and uses chord voicings that don’t appear in any music book. His riffs were a pre-metal funk bulldozer, and his lead lines were an electric LSD trip down to the crossroads, where he pimp-slapped the devil.”
The song was written by Bob Dylan, who recorded it in 1967, but Hendrix’s cover is the most iconic. In a 1995 interview with the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinal, Dylan described his reaction to hearing Hendrix’s version: “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I liked Hendrix’s [recording] and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way. Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him…”
“All Along the Watchtower” was a groundbreaking song in late 1968 for all the above-stated reasons. Hendrix’ guitar riffs are beyond amazing, creating an aural orgasm of otherworldly psychedelia. It was a great tragedy he died at such a young age, denying us all the opportunity to hear more incredible music from him.
2. GIMME SHELTER – Rolling Stones (1969)
Though not a big hit for the Stones, the powerful “Gimme Shelter” is one of their signature songs that some critics consider their best work. I certainly do. Written by Jagger and Richards at the height of the Vietnam War, the song speaks to the social upheaval and violence of the time. “That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really,” Jagger said in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone. “It’s apocalypse.” Richards later said that his guitar fell apart on the last take, “as if by design.” Ironically, the song was released just days after a man was murdered at the Altamont Music Festival, which was headlined by the Stones.
The intro, strummed on an electric-acoustic guitar, conjures up feelings of impending menace before Jagger’s harmonica enters the scene. Guest singer Merry Clayton’s powerful wailing vocals do chilling justice to the searing lyrics as she screams: “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away.” Clayton, who was pregnant at the time, was summoned from her bed by producer Jack Nitzsche for a last-minute recording session. Shortly after returning home she suffered a miscarriage, which she attributed to her exertion during recording.
1. LIGHT MY FIRE (extended version) – The Doors (1967)
I’ll admit up-front that it might be arguable whether “Light My Fire” is the greatest rock song of the 1960s, however, the extended seven-minute album version is unquestionably a rock masterpiece. It is that epic long version that I believe is the greatest rock song – and my personal favorite – of the decade. In fact, it ranks #2 among my all-time favorite songs (“Stairway to Heaven” being #1). One of the things that makes the song so uniquely compelling is Ray Manzarek’s skillful use of the Vox Continental organ to create the incredible signature sound that continues unabated throughout the entire seven-minute track. For the recording, session musician Larry Knechtel played a Fender Precision Bass guitar to double the keyboard bass line (Wikipedia). The song was written by Robby Krieger, whose guitar solo during the instrumental break is spectacular, and Jim Morrison’s seductive and soaring vocals are positively electrifying.
Interesting bit of trivia: “Light My Fire” was performed live by the Doors on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 17, 1967. The Doors were asked by producer Bob Precht to change the line “girl, we couldn’t get much higher”, as the sponsors were uncomfortable with the possible reference to drug-taking (back in those days nearly everything was either taboo or illegal). The band agreed and did a rehearsal using the amended lyrics, “girl, we couldn’t get much better.” During the live performance, however, Morrison sang the original lyric. Ed Sullivan was furious and did not shake Morrison’s hand as he left the stage, and they were never invited back.
I could just as easily have included any one of these fantastic songs:
Paint It, Black – Rolling Stones
Sympathy For the Devil – Rolling Stones
Honky Tonk Women – Rolling Stones
Gimme Some Lovin’ – Spencer Davis Group
House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix Experience
Break On Through (To the Other Side) – The Doors
Sunshine of Your Love – Cream
I Can See For Miles – The Who
Born to be Wild – Steppenwolf
Piece of my Heart – Big Brother and the Holding Company
What are your favorites? Did I miss any great ones?
Given the current political upheaval in the U.S., much of Europe and elsewhere in the world, I’ve been thinking about protest songs and the impact they’ve had on spurring conversation and action. There are so many great ones that it was difficult to choose only ten, but I’ve whittled them down to what I think are the ten best protest songs. Many were inspired by either the Vietnam War or racism.
1. WHAT’S GOING ON – Marvin Gaye (1971)
One of the most beautiful and compelling songs of protest ever recorded, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is a masterpiece. Recorded in 1971 as one of many tracks for his brilliant album of the same name, the song was originally inspired by a police brutality incident during an anti-war protest in Berkeley, California’s People’s Park, witnessed by Renaldo “Obie” Benson, a member of the Motown group The Four Tops. Gaye had likewise been inspired by events such as the 1965 Watts riots and Vietnam War, which made him question how he could keep writing and singing love songs when the world seemed to be exploding around him. The song was composed by Benson, Al Cleveland and Gaye, and produced by Gaye after Motown exec Berry Gordy was set against recording such a song (and album). Rolling Stone named “What’s Going On” the fourth-greatest song of all time. Sadly, most of the issues Gaye sang about are still thorny in 2017.
2. MASTERS OF WAR – Bob Dylan (1962)
The week Bob Dylan arrived in New York City, Dwight Eisenhower, in his final address as President, warned of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” His words were largely ignored, and just two years later the world was on the verge of nuclear war, while the arms industry was making a fortune and spreading money all over Washington. The situation enraged Dylan, and he funneled this anger into writing “Masters of War.” The lyrics are searing: “I hope you die and your death will come soon. / I’ll follow your casket in the pale afternoon and I’ll watch while you’re lowered to your death bed and I’ll stand over your grave ’til I’m sure that you’re dead.” The song has been covered by scores of musicians, including the Staples Singers, Ed Sheeran and Pearl Jam in this chilling version.
3. WAR – Edwin Starr (1970)
The defiant anti-Vietnam War anthem “War” was written by legendary Motown songwriters Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong (who penned numerous hits for the Temptations, Four Tops, and Undisputed Truth, among others). It was initially recorded by the Temptations for inclusion on their album Psychedelic Shack but, fearful of alienating their fan base, both the Temptations and Motown executives decided against releasing their version as a single. Motown contract singer Edwin Starr volunteered to record the song, and man did he deliver, his fierce vocals spitting and screaming the lyrics. It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was later covered by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bruce Springsteen and, more recently, Black Stone Cherry.
4. HOLIDAY – Green Day (2005)
From Green Day’s brilliant album American Idiot, “Holiday” is a true protest anthem, inspired by the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. Billie Joe Armstrong emphatically rails against the neo-conservatives who pushed for war and their strategy of pitting one group against another. According to Armstrong, the chorus’s refrain – “This is our lives on holiday” – was intended to reflect the average American’s ambivalence on the issues of the day.
5. OHIO – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
In May 1970, students at Kent State University in Ohio were demonstrating against the Vietnam War when the Ohio National Guard attempted to disperse the crowd. Ultimately, four unarmed students were shot to death and nine others injured, resulting in outrage throughout the nation. A few days afterward, Neil Young saw the now Pulitzer-Prize winning photo of 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of college student Jeffrey Miller. Young was so infuriated that he immediately wrote the song “Ohio” and convinced his fellow band members to record the song with him. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming / We’re finally on our own / This summer I hear the drumming / Four dead in Ohio.” Interesting bit of trivia: future Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde was then a student at Kent State and witnessed the event.
6. STRANGE FRUIT – Billie Holiday (1939)
Perhaps the most haunting protest song of them all, “Strange Fruit” was first written as a poem, then later set to music, by teacher Abel Meeropol in 1937. It protested American racism and the lynching of African Americans, and ‘strange fruit’ is a metaphor for lynching victims hanging from trees. The most iconic recording of the song was by Billie Holiday, but deeply moving versions have also been recorded by Nina Simone, Diana Ross, Jill Scott and Annie Lennox. Simone called it “the ugliest song she had ever heard.”
7. BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND – Bob Dylan (1962)
Though not originally intended to be a protest song, Bob Dylan’s classic “Blowin’ in the Wind” quickly took on powerful meaning for many people in the ways it spoke to the issues of war, peace and civil rights. Dylan recorded it in 1962 for inclusion on his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but it was the beautiful cover version by Peter, Paul and Mary in 1963 that made it famous, becoming a #1 hit.
8. AMERICAN IDIOT – Green Day (2005)
Another hard-hitting protest song from Green Day, “American Idiot” was inspired by the American public’s patriotic support of the Bush Administration’s war against Iraq. Band frontman Billie Joe Armstrong believed that mass media orchestrated paranoia and idiocy among the public. Citing cable news coverage of the Iraq War, Armstrong recalled, “They had all these Geraldo-like journalists in the tanks with the soldiers, getting the play-by-play.” He wrote the song after hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “That’s How I Like It” on his car radio. “It was like, ‘I’m proud to be a redneck’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that?’ This is exactly what I’m against.”
9. FIGHT THE POWER – Public Enemy (1989)
“Fight the Power” by hip hop group Public Enemy was written for the Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing. The song is a scathing attack on racism and classism, incorporating various samples and references to African-American culture, including civil rights, black church services and the music of James Brown. The website NME observed that “the brilliance of ‘Fight The Power’ is that it recognizes that cultural imperialism can be just as repressive a force as more obvious forms of state authority. Everyone knows about the Elvis lyric – but only Chuck D could tease out the unsettling racial stereotypes reinforced by Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’.”
10. EVE OF DESTRUCTION – Barry McGuire (1965)
“Eve of Destruction” was written by singer/songwriter P.F. Sloan in 1964, when the Vietnam war was still in its infancy, but the Cuban Missile Crisis was a very recent memory and there was widespread fear of nuclear war. The lyrics also address civil rights injustice. Sloan initially presented the song to the Byrds, who rejected it. It was subsequently recorded by the Turtles, Jan and Dean and the Grass Roots, but the version that became most famous was by Barry McGuire. His recording was a rough demo not intended for release, but it somehow got leaked to a DJ who began playing it, and it quickly became a huge hit, going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.
Fuck tha Police – N.W.A.
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger
Sun City – Artists United Against Apartheid
A Change is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
The Blacker the Berry – Kendrick Lamar
Killing in the Name – Rage Against the Machine
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – Marvin Gaye
Sign O the Times – Prince
I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag – Country Joe & the Fish
The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall – Bob Dylan
Hurricane – Bob Dylan
For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
Mississippi Goddam – Nina Simone
Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud – James Brown
S.O.S. – The HØnest Man
Revolution – The Beatles
Divisive – Calling All Astronauts
2016 was a year of music highs and lows. Lots of excellent music was released, yet the year also saw an unusually high number of untimely and significant losses of legendary musicians – most notably David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole (on New Year’s Eve), Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Bobby Vee, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day and, most tragically, the entire promising young band Viola Beach.
There were a lot of great albums, but I’ve honestly heard only a fraction of the hundreds released in 2016. My personal favorites are the gorgeous albums by Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool), The 1975 (I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It), David Bowie (Blackstar) and Matto Rules (What Comes Around, which I reviewed previously on this blog). A few other highlights were the eagerly anticipated albums from Green Day, Metallica, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest and Bon Iver.
Now I unveil my 100 Best Songs of 2016. These are my favorite songs of the year, and I’m confident everyone seeing this list will disapprove of some of my selections, and that’s fine. Music is very subjective and what sounds good to me may not sound good to someone else, and vice versa. My favorite genres are alternative and hard rock, so my list reflects that. However, I never expected that a Justin Bieber song would end up in my top 40 -lol. There were hundreds of songs that I really liked, so picking only 100 was difficult. Some songs on this list were released in 2015 (and “Walking on a Dream” from Empire of the Sun was released in 2009, but didn’t get airplay in the U.S. until seven years later), but they were “hits” or appeared on my Weekly Top 20 in 2016. A few songs overlapped both 2015 and 2016, and are therefore in my Top 100 for both years. Those songs are marked with an *.
1. STRESSED OUT – twenty øne piløts *
2016 was clearly the year of twenty øne piløts, as the duo saw their fame skyrocket with their enormously successful Emotional Roadshow World Tour and the immense popularity of their magnificent album Blurryface. I think they’re one of the best bands to emerge in many years, with a totally original sound that is like no other act around today. Their song “Tear In My Heart” was my #1 song of 2015, and their follow-up single “Stressed Out” is my #1 song of 2016 – and one of my favorite songs of the past 10 years. It’s a brilliant song about facing the burdens of responsibility of adulthood while longing for the simplicity of one’s childhood: “Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days. When our mama sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.” I also think it’s a particularly appropriate song to top the list, as 2016 was certainly a stressful year on many levels. “Stressed Out” was #8 on my Top 100 for 2015, but it had such staying power that it ends up at #1 for 2016. twenty øne piløts have three songs in my top 10, a feat accomplished by only two other artists: the Beatles in 1964 and Foster the People in 2011.
2. DARK NECESSITIES – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been making music for 30 years, and have had scores of hits. But “Dark Necessities” is their greatest song yet and a masterpiece in my opinion. The complex music and meaningful lyrics show a real maturation of their sound, which is totally appropriate for a band whose members are now in their late 40s to early 50s. Without question one of the best songs of 2016.
3. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
The exhilarating “Ride” was the fourth track from Blurryface released as a single, and is further proof of the high caliber of the songs on the album. Literally every track could be a hit song. The song’s lyrics speak to uncertainties and anxieties over the meaning of life. Tyler Joseph fervently sings “I’ve been thinking too much, help me.”
4. MOUNTAIN AT MY GATES – Foals *
Let me just state up front that UK band Foals is awesome and I passionately love their unique sound. “Mountain At My Gates” is a gorgeous anthem about overcoming life’s obstacles. Lead vocalist Yannis Philippakis has an amazing and immediately identifiable singing style that smolders, wails and soars. The powerful song builds to a climactic flourish that gives me chills every time.
5. BURN THE WITCH – Radiohead
The release of Radiohead’s amazing album A Moon Shaped Pool was one of the music highlights of 2016. The brilliant single “Burn the Witch” has dark lyrics, hauntingly sung by Thom Yorke’s beautiful falsetto, and set to a gorgeous arrangement by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and lush strings performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. The clever, stop-action animation video, directed by Chris Hopewell, pays homage to the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man.
6. BANG BANG – Green Day
Green Day proved their staying power with the release of their 12th studio album Revolution Radio, 26 years after their first album 39/Smooth in 1990. The album’s hard-driving first single “Bang Bang” stays true to the band’s penchant for topical themes, with lyrics that speak to America’s culture of gun violence and mass shootings in an era of narcissistic social media. The song’s high points are the furious guitar riffs and Tré Cool’s awesome drum solos.
7. ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME – Coldplay *
Coldplay pulled out all the stops with their joyously upbeat “Adventure of a Lifetime.” Jonny Buckland’s gorgeous swirling guitars, Will Champion’s spot-on drums and Chris Martin’s signature soaring vocals make for a truly great song. Guy Berryman’s strong bass gives the feel of a heart beating and the mandolin at song’s end is stunning. The whimsical video has the bandmembers as gorillas cavorting about in the jungle.
8. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals
“Life Itself” is one of the most interesting and musically complex songs on this list and I adore it. Glass Animals employs all kinds of instruments, from harps and tom toms to tambourines, piano and unusual guitar synths to create an exceptionally strong track. Lead singer Dave Bayley’s vocals are hypnotic and mesmerizing, and the lyrics about being a millennial slacker are superb: “I can’t get a job, so I live with my mom. I take her money but not quite enough. I sit in the car, and I listen to static. She said I look fat, but I look fantastic.”
9. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts
The brilliant “Heathens” was recorded for the Suicide Squad film soundtrack. The dark song has a haunting arrangement set to a slow hip hop beat. Mournful piano, rough scratching sounds, Tyler Joseph’s monotone vocals, and a mysterious disembodied voice chanting “watch it” contrast with the sweeping orchestration, creating a menacing sense of danger.
10. TROUBLE – Cage the Elephant
Another one of my favorite bands, Cage the Elephant returned at the end of 2015 with their album Tell Me I’m Pretty. Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, the album really shows his strong influence. “Trouble” was the second single to be released (after the uneven “Mess Around”) and it’s absolutely brilliant. The song features beautiful piano, xylophone and guitar instrumentation, accompanied by Matt Shultz’s incredibly beguiling vocals. The song’s video was shot at Joshua Tree National Park, which is near my home and one of the most popular places to make music videos.
11. THE SOUND OF SILENCE – Disturbed
When I first heard Disturbed’s “The Sound of Silence” I thought meh. I gave it another listen and thought “well this is actually good.” By my third listen, I was totally blown away by the song’s magnificence. It’s hard to believe anyone could do a respectable cover of this iconic Simon & Garfunkel song, but David Draiman and his band accomplished the feat and then some. Wow, just wow!
12. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart
“All We Ever Knew” is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt songs on my list, which seems quite appropriate given the band’s name. The beautiful melody, instrumentals and vocals belie the bittersweet lyrics about a broken relationship that cannot be fixed.
13. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon came roaring back with their gorgeous anthem “Waste A Moment.” The song features Caleb Followill’s signature soaring vocals and the band’s lusty guitars.
14. SAY MY NAME – (IAM)WARFACE
I was literally blown over the first moment I heard this incredibly powerful hard rock song by the appropriately-named UK band (IAM)WARFACE. It was like being hit by an atomic blast, and I never tired of hearing this gem!
15. ONE DANCE – Drake, Kyla, WizKid
Drake hit the mark with this simple but oh so awesome hip hop dance song. He had assistance by the sultry vocalist Kyla and rapper WizKid. The song spent many weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
16. TRIP SWITCH – Nothing But Thieves
“Trip Switch” by UK band Nothing But Thieves is an incredibly catchy song with outstanding instrumentation. Lead singer Conor Mason’s distinctly seductive vocals are mesmerizing.
17. STARBOY – The Weeknd
“Starboy” is a beautiful, rather mysterious song from the amazingly talented The Weeknd. His slightly falsetto vocals are really captivating in this song.
18. SPIRITS – The Strumbellas
I seem to love gorgeous anthems, because “Spirits” by Canadian band The Strumbellas is certainly that. Everything about this song is perfect – orchestration and arrangement, instrumentals, lyrics and the band’s beautiful harmonizing vocals, led by lead singer Simon Ward.
19. PRETTY PIMPIN – Kurt Vile
I really love this quirky song. Great lyrics and guitar, plus Kurt Vile’s wonderful vocals.
20. ALONE – Sun Arcana
This song from UK band Sun Arcana is so achingly beautiful that I was rendered speechless the first time I listened to it. I featured the band on my blog earlier in the year, and they are destined for greatness.
21. WAY DOWN WE GO – Kaleo
22. OPHELIA – The Lumineers
23. BORED TO DEATH – Blink-182
24. 7 YEARS – Lukas Graham
25. WHEN WE WERE YOUNG – Adele
26. GENGHIS KHAN – Miike Snow
27. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet
28. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars
29. OFF THE GROUND – The Record Company
30. HELLO – Adele *
31. CHEAP THRILLS – Sia featuring Sean Paul
32. GOOD GRIEF – Bastille
33. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay featuring Beyoncé
34. SEND MY LOVE (To Your New Lover) – Adele
35. WALKING ON A DREAM – Empire of the Sun
36. YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE – Phantogram
37. SORRY – Justin Bieber
38. CHANGES – MUTEMATH
39. COLOR – Finish Ticket
40. HAPPY SONG – Bring Me The Horizon
41. SOUNDCHECK – Catfish and the Bottlemen
42. CAKE BY THE OCEAN – DNCE
43. HARDWIRED – Metallica
44. PRAYERS/TRIANGLES – Deftones
45. SOMEBODY ELSE – The 1975
46. BAD DECISIONS – Two Door Cinema Club
47. KISS THIS – The Struts
48. 10,000 EMERALD POOLS – BØRNS
49. UNDER THE INFLUENCE – Elle King
50. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove
51. NIGHTLIGHT – Silversun Pickups
52. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers
53. SURE AND CERTAIN – Jimmy Eat World
54. JUGGERNAUT – Partisan
55. THANK GOD FOR GIRLS – Weezer
56. MESS AROUND – Cage the Elephant
57. SMOOTH SAILIN’ – Leon Bridges
58. I TOOK A PILL IN IBIZA – Mike Posner
59. TONIGHT – Matto Rules
60. FIRE – Barns Courtney
61. DESTRUCTION – Joywave
62. RIVER – Bishop Briggs
63. WOMAN, WOMAN – AWOLNATION
64. LET IT GO – James Bay
65. WAKE UP CALL – Nothing But Thieves
66. LOVE YOURSELF – Justin Bieber
67. SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN – Young the Giant
68. REAPERS – Muse
69. BAD REPUTATION – Adelitas Way
70. MAGNETS – Disclosure featuring Lorde
71. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists
72. LOVE ME – The 1975
73. DARK OLD HOUSES – Chris Watkins & Drunk Poets
74. CLOSE – Nick Jonas & Tove Lo
75. JUST LIKE FIRE – P!nk
76. CAN’T STOP THE FEELING! – Justin Timberlake
77. VICTORIOUS – Panic! At the Disco
78. DEVIL’S BLEEDING CROWN – Volbeat
79. STARS – Wons Phreely + the Horses
80. THE POP KIDS – The Pet Shop Boys
81. THE SHAKES THAT YOU MAKE – Dyslexic Postcards
82. AWAKE – Acrylic
83. WOW – Beck
84. THE SOUND – The 1975
85. YOUR SATURDAY NIGHT – Bryan Howell & the Standalones
86. BELONG – Shelita Burke
87. OBSOLETE – Agony in the Garden
88. RED SUN – Whale House
89. EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT – Neil and Adam
90. ASKING FOR IT – Shinedown
91. UNSTEADY – X Ambassadors
92. CLOSER – The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
93. DREAM STEALING – Paul Iwan
94. DRUG DEALERS AND DJS – Twintwo
95. HAND CLAP – Fitz & the Tantrums
96. RETURN TO THE MOON – El Vy
97. FIRE AND THE FLOOD – Vance Joy
98. AIN’T NO MAN – The Avett Brothers
99. BRAZIL – Declan McKenna
100. DON’T THREATEN ME WITH A GOOD TIME – Panic! At the Disco
While driving to an appointment this morning, I heard the Cars song “Magic” on the radio, and started thinking of all the hit songs either titled Magic or having the word in their title. So, without further ado, here are the memorable hit songs from 1960 to the present with ‘magic’ in their title.
1. MAGIC – Pilot (1975)
The first hit song simply titled “Magic,” this fun, upbeat pop-rock tune by one-hit wonder Scottish band Pilot was produced by Alan Parsons of the Alan Parsons Project (who themselves had a string of hits from 1976-84). It was a big hit, reaching #5 and spending 12 weeks on the Billboard Top 40.
2. MAGIC – Olivia Newton-John (1980)
The biggest “magic” hit of them all, Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic” spent 4 weeks at #1 and 16 weeks on the Billboard Top 40. This really terrific song was featured in the really terrible musical Xanadu which, in addition to Newton-John, also starred Gene Kelly. The song was written by John Farrar who, along with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, also wrote the lyrics and music for the film soundtrack. Though the film was a flop, the soundtrack album was hugely successful, spawning several other hits for Newton-John and ELO (whose career was nearly wrecked by their involvement with the film).
3. MAGIC – The Cars (1984)
The second single from their phenomenal album Heartbeat City, The Cars’ “Magic” is an awesome pop-rock song – but then I’m biased, as I pretty much love all their songs. It was a modest hit, spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Top 40 and peaking at #12.
4. MAGIC – Robin Thicke (2008)
This “Magic” by American R&B singer Robin Thicke is from his third studio album Something Else. The song was written by him along with his then wife Paula Patton and James Gass. It reached #2 on both the Billboard Adult R&B and Dance Club Charts, and #6 on the R&B/Hip Hop Chart, but only #59 on the Hot 100.
5. MAGIC – Coldplay (2014)
Another great “magic” song, this one by Coldplay was the first single from their rather experimental album Ghost Stories. It was a departure from their usual music style, and received critical acclaim, though some complained that it sounded too much like the Muse song “Madness,” with its similar chord progression and climactic flourish. The song peaked at #14 on the Billboard Top 40 and #1 on the Adult Alternative Chart. There’s no denying that the song’s video is absolutely brilliant. Chris Martin plays both the good and bad guys, and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi plays the beautiful magician.
6. THIS MAGIC MOMENT – Drifters (1960); Jay & the Americans (1969)
This song was composed by lyricist Doc Pomus and pianist Mort Shuman, and was a modest hit first for Ben E. King and the Drifters, who took it to #16 in 1960. Jay & the Americans recorded another version of the song in 1968, and it reached #6 in March 1969, and spent 10 weeks in the Top 40.
7. PUFF, THE MAGIC DRAGON – Peter, Paul & Mary (1963)
This sweet, poignant song was written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow of the folk band Peter, Paul & Mary, and was based on an earlier poem by Lipton. The song was a big hit, peaking at #2 and spending 11 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
8. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1965)
The Lovin’ Spoonful were one of the most successful American pop-rock bands of the mid 60s and their catchy, upbeat song “Do You Believe in Magic? was their first chart hit, peaking at #9 and spending eight weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
9. MAGIC CARPET RIDE – Steppenwolf (1968)
From the legendary hard rock band Steppenwolf, this amazing song was so representative of the psychedelic influence in a lot of rock songs during the period from 1966-69. It was a huge hit, reaching #3 and spending 13 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
10. MAGIC BUS – The Who (1968)
This great classic from The Who was written by Pete Townshend in 1965 while they were recording My Generation, but the song was not recorded by the band until 1968. Although they were one of the biggest bands in the world from the late 60s through the early 80s, selling millions of albums and selling out hundreds of concerts, they had relatively few big “hits” on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was also true for many other rock bands). “Magic Bus” peaked at #25 and spent only six weeks in the Top 40.
11. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN – Santana (1970)
Undoubtedly one of the best of the “magic” songs, “Black Magic Woman” is a rock classic from the legendary guitarist Carlos Santana and his band. The guitar riffs in this song are incredible. It was hugely popular, peaking at #4 and spending 12 weeks in the Top 40.
12. MAGIC MAN – Heart (1976)
The second single from Heart’s brilliant debut album Dreamboat Annie, “Magic Man” was their first Top 10 hit, peaking at #9. Ann Wilson said it was about her then boyfriend Michael Fisher, who was the band manager and several years older than her. The song’s unique sound was produced by the use of a Minimoog synthesizer.
13. COULD IT BE MAGIC – Barry Manilow (1975); Donna Summer (1976)
“Could It Be Magic” was written by lyricist Adrienne Anderson and pianist Barry Manilow. The melody was based on Frederic Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor. Initially released in 1971, it was later re-recorded, and released as a single in 1975. It was Manilow’s third charting single, peaking at #6 and spending 13 weeks on the Billboard Top 40. Disco diva Donna Summer recorded another version of the song for her album A Love Trilogy, which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Dance Chart, but only at #52 on the Hot 100.
14. STRANGE MAGIC – Electric Light Orchestra (1976)
British symphonic rock band Electric Light Orchestra was immensely popular and successful, with twenty Top 40 singles during the years 1975-86. From their fifth studio album Face the Music, the beautiful track “Strange Magic” was their third charting single, peaking at #14 and spending nine weeks in the Top 40.
15. YOU MADE ME BELIEVE IN MAGIC – Bay City Rollers (1977)
This song was the fifth charting single from the Scottish pop band Bay City Rollers, and the only song of theirs that I could ever tolerate. It peaked at #10 and spent 12 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.
16. IF IT’S MAGIC – Stevie Wonder (1977)
One of Stevie Wonder’s most beautiful songs, “If It’s Magic” is from his magnificent opus album Songs In The Key Of Life. This song never charted, but I included it on this list because it’s such a wonderful track.
17. EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC – The Police (1981)
One of the best of many awesome songs from The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is from their fantastic fourth album Ghost in the Machine. This song was unique in that it includes the piano as an instrument, uncommon for most Police songs. It was a big hit, peaking at #3 and spending 15 weeks in the Top 40.
18. YOU CAN DO MAGIC – America (1982)
This really lovely pop-rock song by America was released ten years after their massively successful debut single “A Horse With No Name,” an indication of their staying power. “You Can Do Magic” was their seventh Top 10 single, peaking at #8 and spending 15 weeks in the Top 40.
19. MAGIC STICK – Lil’ Kim & 50 Cent (2003)
“Magic Stick,” by hip hop artist Lil’ Kim, is from her third studio album La Bella Mafia. The song features fellow American rapper 50 Cent and was produced by Carlos “Fantom of the Beat” Evans. Despite not having a physical release or music video, the song was a huge hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
20. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars (2016)
The most recent “magic” song on this list – and currently at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of the date of this post – the wonderfully funky and upbeat “24K Magic” looks to be another smash hit for R&B singer Bruno Mars.
Let me know what you think of these songs, or if I left out any other “magic” hit songs.
There have been 24 films about the dashing British secret service agent James Bond, beginning with Dr. No in 1962, up to the most recent film Spectre, released in 2015. It has been a long-established tradition for each film to have a theme song. Over those 53 years, some are impressive tracks that have stood the test of time, while others were quickly forgotten. Here are my picks for the ten best Bond theme songs:
10. LICENSE TO KILL – Gladys Knight (License to Kill – 1989)
Initially, Eric Clapton and Vic Flick (who played the guitar riff in the original “James Bond Theme”) were asked to write and perform the theme song for License To Kill. It was to be an updated version of the original theme, but that project fell apart, and this song, performed by Gladys Knight, was chosen instead. It was composed by Narada Michael Walden, Jeffrey Cohen and Walter Afanasieff, and based on the “horn line” from Goldfinger, which required royalty payments to the original writers. (Wikipedia) I love Gladys Knight’s voice, and think it’s a pretty good song that well complements the film.
9. GOLDENEYE – Tina Turner (GoldenEye – 1995)
“GoldenEye” was written specifically for Tina Turner by Bono and the Edge of U2 after they learned that she had been invited to sing the theme to the Bond film of the same name. Like many of the other women who sang Bond themes, Turner’s strong, sensuous vocals were perfectly suited for the genre.
8. NOBODY DOES IT BETTER – Carly Simon (The Spy Who Loved Me – 1977)
I really love this song, which is why I’ve ranked it higher than it probably should be. It’s a great song, but it just doesn’t evoke the sense of mystery and danger we expect from Bond movie themes, and is better suited for a romantic comedy. Written by Marvin Hamlisch, with lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager, the song is one of the more pop-oriented, radio friendly Bond themes, and it was a huge hit for Carly Simon.
7. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH – Garbage (The World Is Not Enough – 1999)
Written by composer David Arnold and lyricist Don Black, “The World Is Not Enough” was performed by the alternative rock group Garbage, with sensuous sweeping vocals by lead singer Shirley Manson. Regarding the choice of Garbage to record the song, Arnold stated “Part of the reason I thought Garbage would be such a good idea is that I think Shirley Manson is someone who could easily inhabit Bond’s world.” (Wikipedia)
6. SKYFALL – Adele (Skyfall – 2012)
After the massive success of “Rolling in the Deep” in 2011, Adele seemed the perfect choice by Sony Pictures President of Music Lia Vollack to record the theme for Skyfall. She thought Adele’s voice had a “soulful, haunting, evocative quality” that would bring back the “classic Shirley Bassey feel” of several earlier Bond themes, so she suggested to the film’s producers that Adele be asked to write and record the theme song. After reading and falling in love with the script for Skyfall, Adele agreed to write a song, with assistance from Paul Epworth, her producer and co-writer for her smash album 21. The result was a tremendously powerful track that captured the Bond vibe that Vollack had envisioned, even incorporating the 007 theme. It was awarded the Oscar for Best Original Song in 2013.
5. LIVE AND LET DIE – Paul McCartney & Wings (Live and Let Die – 1973)
Film producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli invited Paul McCartney to write the title theme for Live and Let Die, but wanted it to be sung by Shirley Bassey or Thelma Houston. McCartney told them he would only allow it to be used in the film if performed by his band Wings. “Live and Let Die” captures the menacing danger of the film, and was the first Bond theme to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
4. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE – Nancy Sinatra (You Only Live Twice – 1967)
One of the most gorgeous Bond themes, “You Only Live Twice” was composed by John Barry, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. The song features lush, soaring orchestration and lovely vocals by Nancy Sinatra. Barry initially wanted the song to be performed by Aretha Franklin, while Cubby Broccoli wanted Frank Sinatra to sing it. Frank recommended his daughter Nancy instead, and the rest is history.
3. A VIEW TO A KILL – Duran Duran (A View to a Kill – 1985)
John Barry teamed up with Duran Duran in the writing of the excellent “A View to a Kill.” Another dramatic song, it perfectly complements the perilous espionage-filled world of James Bond. According to Wikipedia, Duran Duran were chosen to do the song after bassist John Taylor, a lifelong Bond fan, approached producer Cubby Broccoli at a party and rather pointedly asked “When are you going to get someone decent to do one of your theme songs?” (By the mid-80’s, Bond themes had become pretty stale and boring.) Obviously a good sport, Mr. Broccoli subsequently introduced the band to John Barry, resulting in this awesome collaboration. A huge hit, it’s the only Bond theme to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
2. JAMES BOND 007 THEME – John Barry & Orchestra (Dr. No – 1962)
The original – and classic – Bond theme, and the basis for many subsequent Bond themes, has been the subject of much squabbling over songwriting credit. Monty Norman has been credited with writing it, and received hundred of thousands of dollars in royalties, despite the fact that for Dr. No, the tune was arranged by John Barry, who claims he actually wrote it. (Barry would go on to compose the scores of another 10 Bond films.) Courts have ruled twice that the theme was written by Monty Norman. (Wikipedia)
1. GOLDFINGER – Shirley Bassey (Goldfinger – 1964)
The most iconic Bond theme, “Goldfinger” is the gold-standard of them all (no pun intended). This masterpiece was composed by John Barry, with lyrics written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. The song opens with piercing horns, followed by Shirley Bassey’s powerful, dramatic vocals that propel “Goldfinger” into the sonic stratosphere, guaranteed to raise goosebumps every time. Unbelievably, the song was almost taken out of the film because producer Harry Saltzman hated it, saying, “That’s the worst fucking song I’ve ever heard in my life”. (Wikipedia)
A final note about Bond themes. The alternative rock band Radiohead were asked to write a song for the film Spectre, but it was rejected by the film’s producers in favor of the song “Writing’s On the Wall” by Sam Smith. They considered “Spectre” too “dark.” The band was rather stoic about it, and decided to release the song themselves (it appears on their latest album A Moon Shaped Pool). Many critics and fans agree that “Spectre” is superior to Sam Smith’s song, despite the fact “Writing’s On the Wall” went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. I think it’s gorgeous and a perfect Bond theme that would have placed in my top 10.
A while back, a friend who knows I’m a music junkie asked me for a list of songs for a “Bite Me” mix she was putting together on her iPod. Naturally, I was thrilled by the challenge! After much thought, here are my picks for the Top 10 “You hurt me, you’re a jerk and I hate you” – in other words – “Bite Me” songs.
1. YOU OUGHTA KNOW – Alanis Morissette
2. ROLLING IN THE DEEP – Adele
3. I WILL SURVIVE – Gloria Gaynor
4. YOU’RE NO GOOD – Linda Ronstadt
5. BEFORE HE CHEATS – Carrie Underwood
6. BLOW ME (ONE LAST KISS) – P!nk
7. I HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU – Three Days Grace
8. FUCK YOU – Cee Lo Green
9. IRREPLACEABLE – Beyonce
10. GIVES YOU HELL – All-American Rejects
Some honorable mentions include Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” Nilsson’s “You’re Breaking My Heart,” P!nk’s “So What,” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and “What Doesn’t Kill (Makes You Stronger).” Let me know what you think, or if you have any others to add.
2015 was another amazing year in music, and saw the release of numerous albums of merit, most notably the incredible Blurryface from twenty øne piløts, How Big How Blue How Beautiful from Florence + the Machine, Beauty Behind the Madness from The Weeknd, Currents from Tame Impala, Wilder Mind from Mumford & Sons, What Went Down from Foals, Sound and Color from Alabama Shakes, To Pimp a Butterfly from Kendrick Lamar, Drones from Muse, Every Open Eye from CHVRCHES, Kintsugi from Death Cab For Cutie, My Love is Cool from Wolf Alice, Caracal from Disclosure, Get to Heaven from Everything Everything and, at the end of the year, Adele’s eagerly awaited and record-setting 25. One of my personal favorites was No Devotion’s exceptional debut album Permanence, which I previously reviewed in this blog.
One of the biggest hits of the year was the hugely popular “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. The wildly entertaining and oft-imitated video paid homage to masters of funk James Brown, Funkadelic and Prince. Another break-out artist was Elle King, whose “Ex’s and Oh’s” was one of the biggest and most enjoyable songs of the year, and I especially loved “My Type” from Saint Motel, a fun and stylish tune. My pick for best song of 2015 is “Tear in My Heart,” a rousing anthem to the highs and lows of love from my favorite band of the year, twenty øne piløts.
1. TEAR IN MY HEART – twenty øne piløts
2. UPTOWN FUNK! – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
3. FIRST – Cold War Kids
4. EX’S AND OH’S – Elle King
5. SHUT UP AND DANCE – Walk the Moon
6. RENEGADES – X Ambassadors
7. BELIEVE – Mumford & Sons
8. STRESSED OUT – twenty øne piløts
9. DREAMS – Beck
10. LAMPSHADES ON FIRE – Modest Mouse
11. HELLO – Adele
12. MY TYPE – Saint Motel
13. CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – The Weeknd
14. THINKING OUT LOUD – Ed Sheeran
15. HOLLOW MOON (BAD WOLF) – AWOLNATION
16. LONG WAY DOWN – Robert DeLong
17. SHIP TO WRECK – Florence + the Machine
18. DON’T WANNA FIGHT – Alabama Shakes
19. DEAD INSIDE – Muse
20. BLACK SUN – Death Cab For Cutie
21. CRYSTALS – Of Monsters and Men
22. WHAT KIND OF MAN? – Florence + the Machine
23. THE LESS I KNOW THE BETTER – Tame Impala
24. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING – Foo Fighters
25. S.O.B. – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
26. ROLLERCOASTER – Bleachers
27. ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME – Coldplay
28. BUDAPEST – George Ezra
29. MOANING LISA SMILE – Wolf Alice
30. NEARLY FORGOT MY BROKEN HEART – Chris Cornell
31. ELECTRIC LOVE – BORNS
32. CECILIA AND THE SATELLITE – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
33. BLAME IT ON ME – George Ezra
34. WHAT WENT DOWN – Foals
35. I AM – AWOLNATION
36. EARNED IT (FIFTY SHADES OF GREY) – The Weeknd
37. CIGARETTE DAYDREAMS – Cage the Elephant
38. COULD HAVE BEEN ME – The Struts
39. EVERY OTHER FRECKLE – alt-J
40. THE WOLF – Mumford & Sons
41. MESS IS MINE – Vance Joy
42. SEDONA – Houndmouth
43. THE GHOSTS OF BEVERLY DRIVE – Death Cab for Cutie
44. 2 HEADS – Coleman Hell
45. HOLD BACK THE RIVER – James Bay
46. I BET MY LIFE – Imagine Dragons
47. R.I.P. 2 MY YOUTH – The Neighbourhood
48. FIGURE IT OUT – Royal Blood
49. SOMEBODY NEW – Joywave
50. ADDITION – No Devotion
51. MOUNTAIN AT MY GATES – Foals
52. MERCY – Muse
53. KATHLEEN – Catfish & the Bottlemen
54. FAIRLY LOCAL – twenty øne piløts
55. R U MINE? – Arctic Monkeys
56. SOMEONE NEW – Hozier
57. HOTLINE BLING – Drake
58. COLD COLD MAN – Saint Motel
59. THE GROUND WALKS, WITH TIME IN A BOX – Modest Mouse
60. LEAVE A TRACE – CHVRCHES
61. DIFFERENT COLORS – Walk the Moon
62. MOLECULES – Atlas Genius
63. COMING HOME – Leon Bridges
64. FLASHED JUNK MIND – Milky Chance
65. THE WEIGHT OF LOVE – The Black Keys
66. FROM EDEN – Hozier
67. UMA THURMAN – Fall Out Boy
68. WHAT DO YOU MEAN? – Justin Bieber
69. REGRET – Everything Everything
70. SHOTS – Imagine Dragons
71. EVERY BREAKING WAVE – U2
72. COMING FOR YOU – The Offspring
73. SOUND OF CHANGE – Dirty Heads
74. EVERYTHING IS WRONG – Interpol
75. KARMA – Disciples of Babylon
76. DISTANT PAST – Everything Everything
77. DYING TO SHINE – She Pulled the Trigger
78. REALiTi – Grimes
79. WANT TO WANT ME – Jason Derulo
80. CIGARETTES AND SAINTS – The Wonder Years
81. REALLY LOVE – D’Angelo and the Vanguard
82. I LIVED – OneRepublic
83. CIVIL WAR – Ages Apart
84. BEST OF ME – The Awareness
85. PERMANENT SUNLIGHT – No Devotion
86. STYLE – Taylor Swift
87. I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE – Sam Smith
88. FOOL FOR LOVE – Lord Huron
89. WAVES – Mr. Probst
90. KING KUNTA – Kendrick Lamar
91. LITTLE MONSTER – Royal Blood
92. JEALOUS – Nick Jonas
93. BAD BLOOD – Ryan Adams
94. SEE YOU AGAIN – Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth
95. OUTTA MY MIND – The ARCS
96. CONGREGATION – Foo Fighters
97. ELASTIC HEART – Sia
98. LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO – Ellie Goulding
99. HALLELUJAH – Panic! At the Disco
100. ABSOLUTION CALLING – Incubus
My picks for the best songs of the first decade of the 21st Century include several by some artists who are heavily represented. Coldplay, one of my favorite bands of all-time, has six songs on this list, as does Incubus. Green Day, Weezer and Kelly Clarkson have four each, and Linkin Park, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys have three. I hope readers will find this list interesting, and comments are welcome.
100. CHASING PAVEMENTS – Adele
“Chasing Pavements,” from British singer/songwriter Adele’s debut album 19, was inspired by an incident she had with a former boyfriend of six months, according to an interview she did with Rolling Stone. After learning he had cheated on her, she went to the bar he was at and punched him in the face. After being thrown out, Adele walked down the street alone and thought to herself, “What is it you’re chasing? You’re chasing an empty pavement.” She came up with the lyrics then and there, sang and recorded it on her mobile phone, and arranged the chords when she got home. With her first hit, Adele proved what an incredible voice she had, and it was only a matter of time that she would explode onto the music scene with her monumental album 21, which would become one of the greatest selling albums of all-time.
99. BEATING MY HEART – Jon McLaughlin
“Beating My Heart” by American pop-rock singer/songwriter Jon McLaughlin, is a really great, underrated song. The song received a glowing review from Billboard Editor Chuck Taylor, who wrote that the song “…is a joyous uptempo romantic romp, featuring hook after hook, from tinkling piano to driving percussion and a start-and-stop bridge, alongside a joyous effortless vocal that soars with falsetto to the high heavens.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
98. WISH YOU WERE HERE – Incubus
The sixth song from Incubus on this list, “Wish You Were Here” is basically about being happy living for the moment and not looking forward to the future as some event, according to band member Mike Einziger. Lead vocalist Brandon Boyd stated that “the song wasn’t specifically about a person. It was about me acknowledging a very brief moment in my life and my experience with all of these guys in making this record. In that moment, I wish that I had somebody to go, ‘I love you, man.’ I was wishing that there was someone there to share that moment with.” Musically, the song features crunchy guitars, moderately heavy percussion and recurrent dj scratching.
97. PORK AND BEANS – Weezer
Rivers Cuomo wrote “Pork and Beans” after meeting with Geffen executives, who told Weezer that they needed to record more commercial material. Cuomo remarked, “I came out of it pretty angry. But ironically, it inspired me to write another song.” The many references to popular culture in the song were described as a “statement of defiance” according to Internet reviewer David Ritter, that explores what it means to be an aging band in the music business. The song is about being yourself and happy with who you are. The lyrics also make reference to Timbaland with the line “Timbaland knows the way to reach the top of the chart.” “Pork and Beans” spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart.
96. BROTHERS ON A HOTEL BED – Death Cab For Cutie
A mellow, bittersweet song by alt-rock band Death Cab For Cutie, “Brothers On a Hotel Bed” is about someone telling a loved one that, over time, as he grows older his looks will fade, and they will grow more distant and even possibly out of love: “You may tire of me as our December sun is setting, ’cause I’m not who I used to be. No longer easy on the eyes, these wrinkles masterfully disguise the youthful boy below.” Their relationship will be like two brothers on a hotel bed, who lay on opposite sides not facing each other nor touching. As on all their songs, Ben Gibbard’s vocals are sublime; he sings the poignant lyrics with a soothing calmness that borders on melancholy, though not depressing.
95. SOMETIME AROUND MIDNIGHT – Airborne Toxic Event
One of the most emotionally wrought songs on this list, “Sometime Around Midnight” was written by lead singer Mikel Jollett after he saw a former girlfriend while out at a bar with the rest of the band. Seeing her made him realize that he still loved her, and a band member remarked that Jollett looked like he’d seen a ghost. The song opens with soaring violin, almost like the beginning of a classical symphony, then shifts to a gentle guitar riff. It gradually builds in intensity as percussion, more forceful guitar and strings are added, eventually reaching a bombastic crescendo, accompanied by Jollett’s heart-wrenching vocals, and ends with him spent, with a repeat of the gentle riff.
94. ALREADY GONE – Kelly Clarkson
Another beautiful but sorrowful song about a failed relationship, “Already Gone” is one of Kelly Clarkson’s best, and really showcases her impressive vocal abilities. The song was written for Clarkson by OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder, and features lush orchestration and Clarkson’s soaring vocals.
93. HERE WITHOUT YOU – 3 Doors Down
The second song from 3 Doors Down on my list, “Here Without You” is a decidedly more ballad-type song than their typical post-grunge rock format. Still, it’s a really moving song about missing a loved one, and became popular during the Iraq War as an anthem for deployed troops and their families and friends back home.
92. THE KILL (BURY ME) – 30 Seconds to Mars
“The Kill (Bury Me) is a powerfully compelling song from alternative rock band 30 Seconds to Mars second album A Beautiful Lie. Lead singer Jared Leto described its meaning as being about a relationship with yourself, about confronting your fear and the truth about who you are. The guitar riffs and music production are first-rate and Leto’s ear-splitting vocals are – no pun intended – killer.
91. ANNA MOLLY – Incubus
“Anna Molly” (pronounced like “anomaly” in the song) is from Incubus’s sixth album, Light Grenades. The song’s title is a play on the word “anomaly”, and obliquely describes a woman who may or may not exist. Musically, the song features the use of a Marxophone, a type of fretless zither, along with rapid-paced guitars and drums, accompanied by Brandon Boyd’s earnest vocals that rise and fall in intensity with the music. It’s a great rock song.
90. YOU FOUND ME – The Fray
The Fray’s lead singer and pianist Isaac Slade wrote the mournful song “You Found Me” during a difficult period in his personal life. He stated that the song is about “the disappointment, the heartache, the let down that comes with life. Sometimes you’re let down, sometimes you’re the one who lets someone else down. It gets hard to know who you can trust, who you can count on.” At another time, he stated “If there is some kind of person in charge of this planet – are they sleeping? Smoking? Where are they? I just imagined running into God standing on a street corner…smoking a cigarette, and I’d have it out with Him.”(Wikipedia)
89. AIN’T NO REST FOR THE WICKED – Cage the Elephant
“Ain’t No Rest For the Wicked” is one of those great songs that tell a story, from the alternative rock band Cage the Elephant. Lead singer Matt Shultz stated the song was inspired by an old co-worker who was a drug dealer. When Shultz asked him why he dealt drugs, the co-worker told him that “There’s no rest for the wicked.” Shultz was a plumber at the time, and said that he wrote the lyrics on a piece of drywall he found while working at his co-worker’s house.(Wikipedia)
88. MOVE ALONG – All-American Rejects
“Move Along” is an energetic rock song by the All-American Rejects, and was written by band members Nick Wheeler and Tyson Ritter. Wheeler explained that the song is an “anti-suicide message about believing in oneself and persevering in the face of problems”. He stated that they wrote the song at a time “we were at our wits end wondering if we were ever going to get to make a second record. Our manager…just kept saying, Keep writing, keep writing.”
87. ROCK YOUR BODY – Justin Timberlake
Rock Your Body” is an uptempo, soulful song by Justin Timberlake from his debut studio album, Justified. It was written by Timberlake along with The Neptunes (consisting of Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams), who also produced it. The song contains influences from Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and the female lyrics are sung by Vanessa Marquez. Originally intended to be featured on Michael Jackson’s album Invincible, Jackson rejected the song along with several other tracks, which were instead given to Timberlake.(Wikipedia)
86. CRAZY – Gnarls Barkley
“Crazy” is the debut single by Gnarls Barkley, a musical collaboration between Danger Mouse and CeeLo Green. The song was immensely popular, becoming a worldwide hit and one of the most downloaded songs in the history of the UK music business. “Crazy” won a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance of 2006.
85. I WRITE SINS, NOT TRAGEDIES – Panic! At the Disco
One of the more eccentric tunes on this list, “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” was the first major hit for the alternative punk/baroque rock band Panic! At the Disco. The song begins with a delicate riff played on a cello that continues through the verses, then xylophone, piano, guitar and drum are added to create a lush orchestral sound. The song addresses the discovery that, just before her wedding, the bride has cheated on her fiance. The lyrics are simple but highly entertaining. Brendan Urie sings “Oh, well imagine, as I’m pacing the pews in a church corridor, And I can’t help but to hear. No, I can’t help but to hear an exchanging of words: ‘What a beautiful wedding! What a beautiful wedding!’ says a bridesmaid to a waiter, ‘And, yes, but what a shame, what a shame the poor groom’s bride is a whore.‘” Such fun, and the video is imaginative and stylish.
84. YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL – James Blunt
“You’re Beautiful” is a lovely but melancholy song by British singer/songwriter James Blunt, who was inspired to write it after seeing his ex-girlfriend on the Underground in London with her new man. As Blunt recalled in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on her show in 2006, “She and I caught eyes and lived a lifetime in that moment, but didn’t do anything about it and haven’t seen each other since.” The song’s rather dark video shows Blunt undressing on an icy surface, then jumping into a large body of water, presumably to commit suicide.
83. SINCE U BEEN GONE – Kelly Clarkson
The third Kelly Clarkson song on this list, “Since U Been Gone” is another declaration of survival in the wake of a bad break-up. This one is perhaps the most edgy and hard-driven of all her hits, with heavier guitar and percussion than her other recordings.
82. STOP AND STARE – OneRepublic
The follow-up song to “Apologize,” “Stop and Stare” is a lovely ballad from OneRepublic’s debut album Dreaming Out Loud. OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder has stated that the song describes the frustration of finding yourself stuck in a proverbial rut in life – where you’re left wondering how you got there, to this place where you’d rather not be, and how it is that you’re watching everything you ever wanted in life pass you by.(MusicBanter)
81. WE BELONG TOGETHER – Mariah Carey
“We Belong Together” was named the #1 song of the decade on the Billboard Hot 100. While I don’t agree with that ranking, it’s still a great, soulful R&B/hip-hop love song and a strong performance from one of the most successful female singers of the past quarter-century.
80. DROPS OF JUPITER – Train
From the band Train’s second album of the same name, “Drops of Jupiter” is a beautiful, melodically complex rock song with gorgeous strings orchestration arranged by Paul Buckmaster, who won the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. In an interview for Vh1’s Behind the Music, lead singer Pat Monahan stated that the song was inspired by his late mother, who died of cancer, and that the opening lines came to him after waking up from a dream about a year after she passed away “with the words ‘back in the atmosphere’… It was just her way of saying what it was like – she was swimming through the planets and came to me with drops of Jupiter in her hair.” (Wikipedia) The song also won a Grammy for Best Rock Song.
79. FEEL GOOD DRAG – Anberlin
“Feel Good Drag” is a hard-driving rock song from the American alternative rock band Anberlin. The song’s lyrics address themes of infidelity and the loneliness and lack of fulfillment from casual sex: “Everyone in this town is seeing somebody else/ Everybody’s tired of someone, Our eyes wander for help/ Prayers that need no answer now ’cause I’m tired of who I am/ You were my greatest mistake/ I fell in love with your sin/ Your littlest sin.” The blistering guitar riffs are monumental.
78. NUMB – Linkin Park
The third single from their second studio album Meteora, “Numb” is one of Linkin Park’s most well known and critically acclaimed songs. The song’s powerful lyrics address the feeling of not being accepted or measuring up to the expectations of others – whether it be parents, friends, lovers, etc. Musically, the song features Linkin Park’s signature dynamic guitar, piano and drums, along with Chester Bennington’s commanding vocals.
77. I’M YOURS – Jason Mraz
“I’m Yours” by singer/songwriter Jason Mraz is a mellow, incredibly upbeat pop song with a Hawaiian vibe. It was immensely successful in the U.S., reaching #1 on several different Billboard charts, and spent 76 weeks on the Hot 100. It was also a big hit worldwide, selling over 6 million digital downloads in the U.S. and over 12 million worldwide.(Billboard)
76. LOVERS IN JAPAN – Coldplay
“Lovers in Japan” is a stunning anthem by Coldplay, from their album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. The song is built around an introductory tack piano sound, then followed by chiming guitars and soaring choruses. When asked about the development of the song by James Montgomery of MTV News, drummer Will Champion said: “We were in a studio in New York…and it had this thing called a tack piano, which sounds like an old honky-tonk piano, where you put little tacks in the hammers, so it sounds like more of a harpsichord almost. And so we wanted to use that kind of sound, but we didn’t have a tack piano, so rather than sample it, we went and bought an old piano from the shop up the road from our studio, and we bought a load of tacks, and me and Guy and Jon spent a couple of hours pushing tacks into the piano hammers.”
75. BEHIND THESE HAZEL EYES – Kelly Clarkson
The second single from Clarkson’s album “Breakaway,” “Behind These Hazel Eyes” is an uptempo pop rock song that incorporates guitars with driving beats and anthemic choruses. The semi-autobiographical song lyrics tell of Clarkson’s broken relationship with her ex-boyfriend.
74. THANK YOU – Dido
“Thank You” is a lovely ballad by British singer-songwriter Dido, who wrote the song as a tribute to her then boyfriend. The lyrics describe a day in which everything goes wrong, but his love and support render all those things meaningless. Musically, the song begins with a simple guitar and piano riff, then soft percussion is added along with Dido’s airy vocals. The song’s video shows her being forcibly removed from her little Victorian house which is subsequently demolished.
73. SPEED OF SOUND – Coldplay
“Speed of Sound” was written by all members of Coldplay for their third studio album, X&Y. Built around a piano riff, the song builds into a huge, synthesizer-heavy chorus that’s a signature Coldplay sound. Chris Martin stated that the song was influenced by English art rock singer Kate Bush, as the song’s drum beat is similar to Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill.”
72. LITTLE WONDERS – Rob Thomas
A really beautiful and highly underrated song, “Little Wonders” was recorded by Rob Thomas for Disney’s animated feature Meet the Robinsons. The song was not a big commercial hit, but with its poetic lyrics, beautiful melody and Thomas’s heartfelt vocals, it’s one of the best songs of 2007.
71. PARDON ME – Incubus
“Pardon Me,” from 2000, was the first song from Incubus to receive considerable airplay. Lead singer Brandon Boyd says he was inspired to write the song after making a connection between images of spontaneous combustion in a magazine and “some turmoil in his life, both good and bad”, namely coming back from a tour to find out that his girlfriend of 7 years had been cheating on him, and that both his grandmother and a close friend had died. He came up with the lyric “Pardon me while I burst into flames,” and based the song around that theme.(Wikipedia) Musically, the song combines fast-paced verses with prominent DJ scratching and a hard-rocking mid-tempo chorus.
70. JUST DANCE – Lady Gaga featuring Colby O’Donis
The first single released by Lady Gaga, “Just Dance” was a hugely successful song that made her an instant star. The single is among the best-selling of all time, with over 10 million copies sold. About the song, Lady Gaga has stated “I was very hung-over. I wrote the song in about 10 minutes with [producer] RedOne.” Later, she reflected on the song by saying, “That record saved my life. I was in such a dark space in New York. I was so depressed, always in a bar. I got on a plane to LA to do my music and was given one shot to write the song that would change my life and I did. I never went back. I left behind my boyfriend, my apartment. I still haven’t been back. My mother went in and cleared it for me.”(Wikipedia) The rest, as they say, is history.
69. NO ONE – Alicia Keys
Another sublime, emotionally charged love song, “No One” is Alicia Keys’ biggest hit to date, selling more than 6 million copies worldwide. The song was #1 on multiple Billboard charts and was ranked #6 on the Billboard Top 100 Songs of the 2000s.
68. PERFECT SITUATION – Weezer
The third song from Weezer on this list, “Perfect Situation” is from their fifth album Make Believe. Accompanied by awesome guitar riffs, the song lyrics address the singer’s difficulty with romantic relationships, wondering if he’ll ever find a real and lasting love. I especially love the lines “What’s the deal with my brain? Why am I so obviously insane? In a perfect situation I let love down the drain. There’s the pitch, slow and straight. All I have to do is swing and I’m the hero, but I’m the zero.” It’s a feeling a lot of young guys can certainly identify with.
67. DANI CALIFORNIA – Red Hot Chili Peppers
“Dani California,” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ninth album Stadium Arcadium, tells the story of Dani, a poor, young Southern girl who moved to California, became a mother and lived a hard, fast, unsettled life before being killed in the Badlands while en route to Minnesota. Lead singer/songwriter Anthony Kiedis has commented that the character of Dani is a composite of all the women with whom he’s had relationships. The brilliant and hilarious video for the song has the band on-stage performing a chronology of the evolution of rock music, with each of them wearing a variety of outfits representing important characters in the evolution of rock such as Elvis Presley, Prince, John Lennon, Elton John, Kiss and Curt Cobain, among others.
66. FLOAT ON – Modest Mouse
“Float On” by long-time indie rock band Modest Mouse, is a delightfully upbeat song with a terrific bass line and some really outstanding guitar riffs. When asked about the song in an interview with entertainment website The A.V. Club, lead singer Issac Brock said that he consciously intended to write something that felt more positive than some of his previous work: “I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president George W. Bush is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you’ve got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked. I just want to feel good for a day.”
65. SEVEN NATION ARMY – The White Stripes
“Seven Nation Army,” by the alternative rock duo The White Stripes, is best known for its signature underlying guitar riff. Although it sounds like a bass guitar (an instrument the group had never previously used), the sound is actually created by running Jack White’s semi-acoustic, 1950s-style Kay Hollowbody guitar through a DigiTech Whammy pedal set down an octave. The song title is what White called the Salvation Army as a child.(Wikipedia) “Seven Nation Army” has become an anthem used widely at sporting events all over the world, as well as political protests.
64. KIDS – MGMT
The amazing “Kids,” from electronic/synthpop band MGMT, certainly has one of the most unique sounds of any song on this list. The lyrics tell of life lessons to a child, set to a driving drumbeat and rich synth orchestration. The audio video is linked here, rather than the extremely dark video made for the song.
63. FEEL GOOD INC. – Gorillaz
“Feel Good Inc.” is a hugely popular and celebratory alternative hip hop song by the English virtual band Gorillaz, with rapping by the rap/hip-hop group De La Soul. Gorillaz was created by former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, and consists of four fictional animated members: 2D (lead vocals, keyboard), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar), Noodle (guitar, keyboard, and backing vocals) and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion).
62. BRAND NEW DAY – Sting
“Brand New Day” by Sting is an uplifting, optimistic pop-rock anthem about not giving up on love. The most striking aspect of the song’s music is the beautiful harmonica performance by Stevie Wonder. Sting commented that “‘Brand New Day’ captured the spirit of optimism that is so important to me, and if you can think of a more hopeful manifestation of joy than Stevie Wonder’s harmonica, then be my guest.”
61. SUDDENLY I SEE – KT Tunstall
“Suddenly I See,” by Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall, is a bouyant tribute to “female power.” Tunstall explained in an interview that she was inspired by the photograph of Patti Smith on the cover of her groundbreaking album Horses, realizing that she wanted a career in music like Smith. Commenting on the song’s later use in The Devil Wears Prada, Tunstall said: “I didn’t realize the lyrics could perfectly fit a chick flick, and it could sound like I was singing about wanting to be a fucking model!” (Wikipedia)
60. WHO KNEW – P!nk
Perhaps the most poignant of all of P!nk’s hit songs, “Who Knew” is based on her personal experience with friends who died of drug overdoses. She’s been honest about her own past drug abuse, and has stated that the song is basically about the loss of friendship.
59. MAKES ME WONDER – Maroon 5
According to Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, “Makes Me Wonder” was originally written as a love song about a failed relationship that went horribly wrong. But when he revisited it years later while recording their second album It Wont Be Soon Before Long, he decided to use the song to express his frustration at the state of politics in the U.S. and its role in the Iraq war. Not wanting to come off as – in his words “a preachy arse” – Levine chose to simply allude to it, adding the line “Give me something to believe in/Because I don’t believe in you anymore,” which became the refrain to the chorus.(Wikipedia) The song has a catchy, funky R&B vibe that propelled it to #1 on several charts.
58. ISLAND IN THE SUN – Weezer
“Island in the Sun,” by the alternative rock band Weezer, is from the band’s 2001 self-titled album Weezer. The song was not originally planned to be on the album, but producer Ric Ocasek (of The Cars) who produced the album fought for its inclusion. It’s mellower than most of Weezer’s others, with less angst, and just a really nice feel-good track about escaping life’s cares with the one you love. It still has some great guitar riffs, and the sweet video, produced by Spike Jonz, has the band members cavorting with animals at an animal sanctuary.
57. HEY THERE DELILAH – Plain White T’s
“Hey There Delilah” is a gentle ballad written and sung by Tom Higgenson, frontman of the band Plain White T’s. The song was recorded acoustically with minimal guitar and strings that makes it feel more raw and sincere. It was a huge hit in the U.S. and Europe in 2007, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Pop Charts, and was nominated for two Grammys. Higgenson took the real Delilah to the Grammy Award show in 2008 (as his guest, as they were not in a relationship).(Wikipedia)
56. EMPIRE STATE OF MIND – Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys
“Empire State of Mind” is a magnificent ode to New York City by rapper Jay-Z, with soaring vocals from Alicia Keys. The lyrics were originally written by Brooklyn natives Angela Hunte and Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic, who were feeling homesick while on an overseas trip.(Wikipedia) Jay-Z adapted the song for Alicia Keys and himself, sampling the melody from the 1970 song “Love on a Two-Way Street” by the R&B group The Moments.
55. DIG – Incubus
The second song from Incubus’ sixth album Light Grenades, “Dig” is a an outstanding alternative rock song with intricate guitar, percussion and piano, accompanied by Brandon Boyd’s soaring impassioned vocals. The song’s lyrics address the ups and downs of love and friendship, and forgiving the transgressions that result from our weaknesses and remembering the things that drew us together to begin with.
54. EVERYTHING YOU WANT – Vertical Horizon
Vertical Horizon’s “Everything You Want” is a really fine pop-friendly alternative rock song about unrequited love, written by lead vocalist Matt Scannell from personal experience. “I was in love with this girl, but she kept turning to everyone except me for love and acceptance, and I wanted so much to help her. I wanted to be the one to give her everything she wanted, but I couldn’t. She just couldn’t accept it from me, and it was that pain that led me to creating the song.” (Wikipedia) The song reached #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Top 40 Charts.
53. THE GAME OF LOVE – Santana featuring Michelle Branch
A delightfully catchy song with a Latin beat, “The Game of Love” is a wonderful collaboration by rock guitar legend Carlos Santana and singer Michelle Branch. Nothing deep or terribly meaningful here, just a great song about love that makes you feel happy – and want to dance!
52. MR. BRIGHTSIDE – The Killers
“Mr. Brightside” was the first single released by the Killers, though it did not become a hit until its re-release a year later, in 2004. Written by band members Brandon Flowers and Dave Keuning, the upbeat anthem of keeping a stiff upper lip while feeling jealous and insecure over a cheating girlfriend is a rousing piece of ear candy.
51. BEAUTIFUL – Christina Aguilera
“Beautiful” was written and produced by Linda Perry, who initially wanted to record the song herself, then have it recorded by P!nk. After hearing it sung by Christina Aguilera, however, the decision was made to have her record it (which unfortunately caused a feud between P!nk and Perry/Aguilera).(Wikipedia) The song is an uplifting pop ballad about self-esteem and insecurity, set to gentle instrumentation incorporating piano, bass guitar, violin, cello, keyboards and drum. “Beautiful” has been widely embraced as an anthem by the LGBT community for its message of self-empowerment and inner beauty.
50. FALLIN’ – Alicia Keys
A beautiful R&B song with a gospel feel, “Fallin'” was written by the equally beautiful and talented Alicia Keys for her debut album Songs in A Minor. When asked about the song’s lyrics, Keys told Billboard, [The song] is about the ins and outs of a relationship. Sometimes, you’re completely head-over-heels in love with someone, and sometimes you can’t stand that person.” The song samples the James Brown hit, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
49. NO ONE KNOWS – Queens of the Stone Age
According to Queens of the Stone Age lead singer Josh Homme, “No One Knows” was written more than five years prior to it being recorded for their third album Songs for the Deaf. With its outstanding guitar riff and punchy drumbeats played by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, the song is their biggest hit, and one of the most successful of 2003.
48. HEY YA! – Outkast
“Hey Ya!” is an incredibly entertaining and hugely popular funk rock song written and produced by André 3000 for his 2003 album The Love Below, part of the hip hop duo OutKast’s double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The song received enormous praise from music critics, and won a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
47. BLEEDING LOVE – Leona Lewis
A massive worldwide hit, “Bleeding Love” reached #1 in 35 countries and was the biggest-selling song of 2008. The song was originally co-written by singer/songwriter Jesse McCartney and OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder for McCartney’s upcoming album, but his record label didn’t like the song. Tedder believed the song had huge potential and, after hearing Leona Lewis’ powerful vocals in a video, he was convinced the song was perfect for her and rearranged the song and changed the key to suit her voice. He then pitched the song to X Factor co-producer Simon Cowell, and the rest is history.
46. LOVE REMAINS THE SAME – Gavin Rossdale
A beautiful and poignant ballad from Gavin Rossdale, “Love Remains the Same” was a major departure from the heavier alternative rock music he made previously as frontman for the band Bush. The song addresses the oft-covered theme of sadness and regret over a failed relationship.
45. HOW TO SAVE A LIFE – The Fray
Another extremely moving soft rock ballad that also gained popularity after being featured on Grey’s Anatomy is “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. According to lead singer Isaac Slade in an interview with Sauce.com, the song was influenced by his experience while working as a mentor at a camp for troubled teens: “One of the youngsters I was paired up with…was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him.” “How to Save a Life” was a big hit, spending 58 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
44. CHASING CARS – Snow Patrol
“Chasing Cars” is a beautifully moving love ballad by British alternative rock band Snow Patrol. Lead singer Gary Lightbody has said that it was the “purest love song” he’s ever written. He sings a fairly plain melody over sparse guitars, with a dramatic ever-building crescendo. The song was the most widely played song of the decade in the UK, according to UK-based music licensing company Phonographic Performance Limited, and became popular in the US after being featured in the second season finale of the TV series Grey’s Anatomy.(Wikipedia)
43. AMERICAN IDIOT – Green Day
The fourth single from the album American Idiot on this list, “American Idiot” is another hard-driving protest song inspired by the American public’s patriotic support of the Bush Administration’s war against Iraq. Band frontman Billie Joe Armstrong believed that mass media orchestrated paranoia and idiocy among the public. Citing cable news coverage of the Iraq War, Billie Joe Armstrong recalled, “They had all these Geraldo-like journalists in the tanks with the soldiers, getting the play-by-play.” He wrote the song after hearing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “That’s How I Like It” on his car radio. “It was like, ‘I’m proud to be a redneck’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God, why would you be proud of something like that?’ This is exactly what I’m against.“(Wikipedia)
42. LOVE SONG – Sara Bareilles
“Love Song” was the first hit for the very talented Sara Bareilles, who wrote it out of frustration when her label kept turning down her previous songs, wanting safe, “radio-friendly” songs. Well, she exceeded their expectations, as “Long Song” ended up being the #1 Adult Pop and Contemporary Song and the #7 Hot 100 Song for 2008. The song opens with a strong piano melody that continues with added guitar and percussion, accompanied by Bareilles’ commandingly beautiful vocals.
41. WITHOUT ME – Eminem
Eminem’s “Without Me” is a brilliant autobiographical hip hop song from his fourth album The Eminem Show. The lyrics comically refer to his cultural influence on the rap/hip hop music scene, and mocks several of his critics, including then-Vice-President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne, the FCC, Chris Kirkpatrick, the band Limp Bizkit and singer Moby, as well as Prince’s changing his name to a symbol. He also mentions the comparisons of him to Elvis Presley as a white man succeeding commercially in a predominantly black art form, and attacks his mother Debbie Mathers for the lawsuit she filed for the lyrics of his debut single “My Name Is”. I think the hilarious video is among the best ever produced for a song.
40. HANGING BY A MOMENT – Lifehouse
“Hanging by a Moment” is a terrific post-grunge/alternative rock song from the hugely successful band Lifehouse. Lead singer and guitarist Jason Wade reportedly composed the song in about five minutes, not thinking it would become a big hit. A huge crossover hit, it reached #1 on the Billboard Alternative and Adult Pop Charts, and was the #1 song of 2001 on the Hot 100 Chart.
39. WAKE ME UP WHEN SEPTEMBER ENDS – Green Day
Another outstanding single from American Idiot, this powerfully moving song was written by Billie Joe Armstrong to convey feelings of loss for his father, who died of cancer when Armstrong was young. For the video, the song was used to symbolize the loss of soldiers deployed in the Iraq War, and in yet another independently made video, the song was used by a blogger to symbolize the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.(Wikipedia)
38. PARALYZER – Finger Eleven
A rather satirical and hard-driven alternative rock song, “Paralyzer” is about a guy, in a singles bar that he despises, eyeing a girl he finds attractive but who will never be interested in him. The lyrics describe a scenario that many of us have faced: “I hold on so nervously to me and my drink. I wish it was cooling me. But so far has not been good, it’s been shitty, and I feel awkward as I should. This club has got to be the most pretentious thing since I thought you and me. Well, I am imagining a dark lit place, or your place or my place.” I love it!
37. BEVERLY HILLS – Weezer
Weezer is one of most unique and quirky bands in the history of rock music, with a legion of passionate fans who have either loved or hated their various music offerings over the 20-plus years of the band’s existence. Band frontman Rivers Cuomo has penned numerous songs that are often based on a recurring theme of nerdy guys wanting to be cool or trying to get the girl. “Beverly Hills,” about wanting to be rich and famous but knowing it’ll never happen, is Weezer’s most popular song, though not with many die-hard fans who thought it was too commercial – meaning Weezer had “sold out.” Be that as it may, it’s still a pretty great song, with hilarious lyrics and a wildly entertaining video.
36. SHATTERED (TURN THE CAR AROUND) – O.A.R.
“Shattered (Turn the Car Around)” by O.A.R. (short for Of A Revolution) is an emotionally charged rock song about being unable to get out of a dysfunctional relationship that continues to draw you back in. The song features a simple opening piano riff that is repeated throughout the song, with stronger piano, guitar and drum at intervals that coincide with impassioned vocals by lead singer Marc Roberge.
35. THIS LOVE – Maroon 5
The second single from Maroon 5’s critically acclaimed debut album Songs About Jane, “This Love” was inspired by lead singer Adam Levine’s difficult break-up with his girlfriend. Levine has also stated that the lyrics are very erotic. The song opens with a piano-led strut which is followed by synth percussion and repeating guitar.
34. CRAZY IN LOVE – Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
“Crazy in Love” is an exuberant R&B/pop love song which incorporates elements of 1970s-style funk and soul, and 90s hip-hop. The song’s horn-driven hook samples The Chi-Lites’ 1970 song “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So).” The lyrics describe a romantic obsession that causes one to act out of character. “Crazy in Love” has sold more than 2,000,000 copies in the United States and 8,500,000 worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time worldwide.(Wikipedia)
33. SEXYBACK – Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland
The first single from FutureSex/LoveSounds, “SexyBack” was a major departure for Justin Timberlake from his previous music. He wanted to make a totally unique record, and did he ever! In the song, his voice is distorted to the point where it’s unrecognizable, with muffled vocals set to a pounding beat box sound. Timbaland acts as narrator with his backup vocals propelling the song forward. As explained by song mixer Jimmy Douglass, “the first thing you hear is ‘I’m bringing sexy back’, and after that you don’t care or don’t notice that there is no hook.”
32. WHAT ABOUT NOW – Daughtry
A beautiful and moving ballad of love and hope, “What About Now” is passionately sung by American Idol season five finalist Chris Daughtry and his band of the same name. The seventh single off the band’s debut album Daughtry, the song was written by Ben Moody, David Hodges (both former members of Evanescence), and Josh Hartzler, who is married to Amy Lee, the lead singer of Evanescence. It is one of only two tracks on the album not at least co-written by Chris Daughtry.
31. I GOTTA FEELING – Black-Eyed Peas
I’m not a big fan of the Black-Eyed Peas, but I can’t help but love “I Gotta Feeling,” as it’s just so much fun and impossible to dislike. It was a massive worldwide hit, reaching #1 in numerous countries, and spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2009. It has sold nearly 9 million downloads in the U.S., making it the highest selling digital single ever.(Billboard)
30. THE MIDDLE – Jimmy Eat World
The band Jimmy Eat World wrote “The Middle” after being dropped by Capitol Records when their first few albums failed to sell. Feeling they were going nowhere, they found inspiration to pen the lyrics “Don’t write yourself off yet, it’s only in your head you feel left out, and looked down on. Just try your best, try everything you can, and don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.” Being thought of as a dorky, unpopular kid in middle and high school, the song really hit home with me. It also happens to have an catchy melody and some really fine guitar riffs.
29. WHEREVER YOU WILL GO – The Calling
A gorgeous rock ballad, The Calling’s “Wherever You Will Go” is about the difficulty of continuing on with one’s life after losing a loved one. Written by band member Aaron Kamin, who was inspired by the death of his cousin, the song is beautifully sung by band front man Alex Band. The song was #1 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 Chart for an amazing 23 weeks, and was named the #1 song of the entire decade on the same chart.
28. HYSTERIA – Muse
According to Muse lead singer Matt Bellamy, “Hysteria” is about wanting something or someone so out of reach that it becomes an obsession that takes over. The song features a dramatic and intricate bass line, which was voted the sixth best bass line of all time by MusicRadar. I love this electrifying live performance at their triumphant 2013 concert at Rome Olympic Stadium. It really showcases the amazing guitar playing skills of Bellamy and bassist Chris Wolstenholme.
27. SINGLE LADIES (PUT A RING ON IT) – Beyonce
Beyonce’s massive hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” is an upbeat dance-pop/R&B song from her third album I Am…Sasha Fierce. She stated that although “Single Ladies” is a “playful uptempo song, it addresses an issue that women experience every day” – i.e. the unwillingness of men to propose marriage. In the song, Beyonce channels her more aggressive and sensual alter-ego Sasha Fierce. The hugely popular and often imitated video produced for the song was filmed in black and white against a blank backdrop. Beyonce was inspired by an old video of a Bob Fosse dance number with his then-wife Gwen Verdon and two other dancers. She wanted the video for “Single Ladies” to be minimal, with fairly simple choreography, in order to shine the spotlight on the song itself.(Wikipedia)
26. BLURRY – Puddle of Mudd
“Blurry,” by the post-grunge/alternative rock band Puddle of Mudd, is the band’s best known song and biggest hit, spending nine weeks at #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Chart and reaching #5 on the Hot 100. The poignant song is about a break-up and the resulting pain and loss, and was primarily written about how lead singer Wes Scantlin missed his real-life son after the break-up, and his heartfelt vocals powerfully convey those feelings. Guitar One magazine named band member Doug Ardito’s guitar harmonic riff as one of its “Top Ten Riffs of the Decade,” and the way Scantlin’s vocals build in emotional intensity makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up straight.
25. USE SOMEBODY – Kings of Leon
“Use Somebody” is a gorgeous rock song, with lusty vocals by lead singer Caleb Followill, set to blustery guitars and soaring choruses. One cannot listen to this song without having a strong emotional reaction. A big crossover hit for the Kings of Leon, the song reached #1 on several different formats, including the Alternative and Adult Top 40 Charts, and was Awarded a Grammy for 2009 Record of the Year.
24. FAMILY AFFAIR – Mary J. Blige
“Family Affair” is a sexy and funky R&B/hip hop song about setting aside the drama and troubles of everyday life and just letting loose and having a good time. Flawlessly produced by Dr. Dre, it’s Mary J. Blige’s biggest hit.
23. SO WHAT – P!nk
P!nk’s defiant, over the top “bite me” anthem of independence, “So What” is my favorite of her many hits. It’s a totally fun and thrilling ride from start to finish, and the video’s a blast.
22. DRIVE – Incubus
The second of six songs from Incubus on this list, “Drive” is generally considered their biggest commercial hit. Lead singer Brandon Boyd said the song is about allowing fear to rule your life and decision-making, and imagining what it would be like to instead take control and “drive” your life in the direction you want to go.(Wikipedia) The song’s superb arrangement is more relaxed and acoustic than their usual alternative metal/funk style.
21. NEW DIVIDE – Linkin Park
Linkin Park unleash their sonic weaponry for their anthemic rock song “New Divide.” Written for the film Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it’s one of their most critically acclaimed and successful hits. It spent 12 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, and was a huge hit worldwide. The song storms out of the gate and instantly grabs hold and won’t let go. With its thunderous guitar, strong synth arrangement, Rob Bourdon’s speaker-blowing drums and and Chester Bennington’s imploring vocals, “New Divide” is one of the most exhilarating rock songs ever.
20. TALK – Coldplay
According to Contactmusic.com, Chris Martin wrote to the German electronic music band Kraftwerk for permission to use the main riff from their 1981 song “Computer Love” as the basis for “Talk.” It was also one of the most difficult songs that Coldplay ever recorded, taking them many months to get it to the point where they were happy with it. The end result is a gorgeous pop/rock song with soaring melodies and compelling lyrics, not to mention the thunderous guitar riff in the bridge.
19. SAY IT RIGHT – Nelly Furtado
A sultry track with an otherworldly feel, “Say it Right” was written by Nelly Furtado, Timbaland and Nate “Danja” Hills. Furtado said it was inspired by the “spooky, keyboard driven pop sound” of the Eurythmics, who she admired. The brilliant song was produced by Timbaland and is essentially an R&B song with a techno vibe. It was a massive hit in the U.S., Canada and Europe, and deservedly so.
18. KRYPTONITE – 3 Doors Down
Everything about “Kryptonite” is just about perfect – lyrics, melody, music production, and Brad Arnold’s vocals. Arnold stated that he wrote the song in math class when he was only 15, and that the lyrics are basically about being there for someone through the good times and bad. I think they’re pretty powerful when combined with the phenomenal music arrangement.
17. NO SUCH THING – John Mayer
John Mayer’s first hit “No Such Thing” was popular in the summer of 2002 when I had a milestone high school reunion and, as a result, this song had special meaning for me. I so identified with the lyrics “I never lived the dreams of the prom kings and the drama queens. I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.”
16. HOLIDAY – Green Day
The third song from the brilliant American Idiot, “Holiday” is a true protest anthem, inspired by the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. To a powerful driving beat, Billie Joe Armstrong emphatically rails against the neo-conservatives who pushed for war and their strategy of pitting one group against another. According to Armstrong, the chorus’s refrain – “This is our lives on holiday”— was intended to reflect the average American’s ambivalence on the issues of the day. Musically and lyrically, it’s undeniably one of the best songs of the decade.
15. BREAKAWAY – Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson’s best song in my opinion, “Breakaway” is about longing to go out in the world and make it on your own, yet feeling bittersweet over the loved ones left behind. Not necessarily deep or original lyrics here, but a well-crafted song, nevertheless, by the most successful and one of the most talented American Idol winners, as proven by her commanding vocals. I fell in love with this song when I heard it featured at the end of an episode of the phenomenal HBO series Six Feet Under.
14. THE REASON – Hoobastank
“The Reason,” by the oddly-named band Hoobastank, is an emotional plea for forgiveness. The song opens with a simple piano movement and drumbeat followed by wobbly, dramatic guitar riffs and percussion that slowly builds in intensity as lead singer Douglas Robb plaintively sings of his shortcomings and failures, promising to be a better person. It’s a theme that’s been covered a hundred times in song, but still feels honest and genuine here.
13. WHAT GOES AROUND…COMES AROUND – Justin Timberlake
The third single from Justin Timberlake’s massive hit album FutureSex/LoveSounds, ‘What Goes Around…Comes Around” is a real tour-de-force. Produced by Timbaland, the song begins with a brief harmony line of two bağlamas, an Anatolian folk instrument. The beat then changes to a more uptempo version of the same melody with added percussion, and Timbaland providing backing vocals. Rolling Stone called the song “a soaring ballad featuring Timberlake’s falsetto, with verses and choruses that pile on top of one another with dizzying effect.” About.com reviewer Bill Lamb said it was “one of the most gorgeous pop melodies of the year,” also complimenting the string-based arrangement of the song. Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly called it “superior.” I think so too.
12. SOMEBODY TOLD ME – The Killers
I LOVE this song! From the first guitar licks, “Somebody Told Me’ blasts through the speakers with furious guitar, hammering drums, and Brandon Flowers’ soaring, urgent vocals. The song has one of the best lyric phrases ever – “Somebody told me, you had a boyfriend, who looked like a girlfriend, that I had in February of last year.” With its exuberant driving beat, great lyrics, Flowers’ vocals and an incredible arrangement, you’ve got all the ingredients for a superb tune.
11. THE SCIENTIST – Coldplay
The third of six Coldplay songs on this list, “The Scientist” is also from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head and one of their most beautiful and popular songs. It opens with a simple piano movement, then layers of drum, guitar and violin are gradually added to build emotional depth. Chris Martin sings of the pain and difficulty of maintaining a relationship, and the wish to be able to start all over to make things right.
10. IN THE END – Linkin Park
From their debut album Hybrid Theory, “In the End” is often considered Linkin Park’s signature song. Dealing with betrayal and loss, the song features incredible contrasting music and vocals that reach epic heights. Musically, the song contains scratching throughout, and begins with a rather mournful piano movement, then abruptly shifts to strong percussion, guitar and vocals, finishing with a repeat of the piano riff. The juxtaposition of lead singer Chester Bennington’s impassioned vocals and Mike Shinoda’s formidable rapping also creates dramatic tension that make your heart race.
9. UPRISING – Muse
From the Brit-Rock band Muse’s epic album The Resistance, “Uprising” spent an astonishing 17 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, from September 2009 through January 2010. A defiant clarion call to rise up against government and corporate mind-control and conspiracy, set to Muse’s signature grandiose orchestration, the song is absolutely brilliant.
8. APOLOGIZE – OneRepublic
I like this original recording of “Apologize” better than the later remix by music producer Timbaland. With his beautiful voice and piano performance, OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder sings of betrayal and disappointment from a relationship gone bad. The gorgeous song is emotionally powerful without being mawkish.
7. THE PRETENDER – Foo Fighters
A friend called “The Pretender” one of the best rock songs ever, and I have to agree. Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters achieve perfection in this anthemic song of feeling “fucked over” by the system (according to comments made by Grohl). The song starts with a simple guitar introduction, then shifts to a dramatic hard rock sound, interrupted by breakdowns and escalations in the bridge, including a repeat of the intro, finally ending with Grohl’s signature impassioned screams that leave you emotionally drained.
6. LOVE HURTS – Incubus
My favorite song from Incubus, arguably one of the greatest bands of the 2000’s, “Love Hurts” is also one of the most powerfully beautiful rock songs ever. Brandon Boyd’s strong, heartfelt vocals express the struggle of “finding love and having it be pure and not tainted by our misperceptions, misconceptions and expectations” (in his words). I especially love the lyrics: “I only want the truth, so tonight we drink to youth/ Don’t wanna lose what I had as a boy./ Love sings when it transcends the bad things. Have a heart and try me, ‘cause without love I won’t survive.”
5. BENT – matchbox twenty
In “Bent,” Rob Thomas fervently sings of the difficulties of being in a relationship to a complex musical arrangement that makes for an exciting and compelling rock song. Beginning with a discordant guitar solo with percussion, the music abruptly transitions to a ballad-like interlude with really lovely guitar and violin, then segues to a dramatic guitar flourish, finishing with a reprise of the opening drumbeat.
4. BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS – Green Day
From Green Day’s brilliant opus album American Idiot, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” was described by band frontman Billy Joe Armstrong as a kind of morning after hangover to “Holiday.” He wrote it to describe the feelings of loneliness he sometimes felt during his time living in New York. The amazing musical arrangement with scratchy guitars set to a constant beat, combined with Armstrong’s distinctive vocals, create a strong sense of isolation and disillusionment. It was awarded a Grammy for 2005 Record of the Year.
3. VIVA LA VIDA – Coldplay
From the first violin strokes, “Viva La Vida” (Spanish for “long live life,” taken from a Frida Kahlo painting) gradually builds in intensity with magnificent, sweeping orchestration and vocals. The song is from Coldplay’s fourth album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends. Using monarchy, military and religious metaphors, Chris Martin sings of disillusionment with the institutions of government and religion, and the loss of youth, power and fame. This is Coldplay’s biggest hit to date, and was awarded a Grammy for 2008 Song of the Year.
2. LOSE YOURSELF – Eminem
“Lose Yourself,” Eminem’s epic song about giving everything you’ve got and overcoming life’s obstacles in order to escape a dreary existence and make it in the rap music business, is his finest work and quite possibly the greatest rap song of all time. The lyrics are among the best ever written, and Eminem’s vocals are aggressive yet heartfelt. The song won an Oscar for Best Song from the film “8 Mile.”
1. CLOCKS – Coldplay
My favorite song of the decade, “Clocks” dazed my ears the first time I heard it. The magnificent song, from Coldplay’s second album A Rush of Blood to the Head, features a simple but incredibly beautiful repeating piano melody with percussion and bass guitar. Add Chris Martin’s emphatic vocals and the song gives me chills every time. Jon Wiederhorn of MTV News wrote that in the song’s lyrics, Martin addresses the helplessness of being in a dysfunctional relationship he doesn’t necessarily want to escape. “Clocks” was awarded a Grammy for 2003 Record of the Year.