#980 — Dream On, Aerosmith (1973)
There was a time that I listened to FAR too much derivative Aerosmith, and for that I apologize, but this is one of those prototype classic rock songs that holds up so long as you don’t listen to it every multiple times a month, with just the right amount of atmosphere brooding and Stephen Tyler screeching without descending into parody.
#979 — Somebody That I Used To Know, Elliott Smith (2000)
Acoustic fingerpicking noodling, just four lines, repeated five times (once as the instrumental bridge in a slightly twangy variation), but a breakup song that has both bitterness and melancholy in spades, wonderfully undercutting the jaunty chord structure and pace.
#978 — Anarchy in the UK, Sex Pistols (1976)
It’s fun to realize how much it utterly scandalized the British political culture 40 years ago, and how tame it feels lyrically today. But aside from being a wonderful musical document of English history, it’s a great little descending-chord ditty, delivered with as few fucks as possible, and enough winking humour from Mr. John Joseph Lyndon for people half the age of the song to understand its power then.
#977 — High and Dry, Radiohead (1995)
Like, it’s perfectly cool that Radiohead decided after The Bends to chase their own muse and put out daring innovative albums that will be loved for decades, instead of staying an evolved version of Coldplay before Coldplay became big. That Was A Smart Move, if I can put my Cpt. Obvious hat on.
But it meant we only got one or two songs like High and Dry, nice distillations of pop pleasantry, with Greenwood’s unrelenting melodic inventiveness and Yorke’s gorgeous crooning making something 10% better than everything else in a very crowded genre field, and that’s too bad.
#976 — Get In Line, Barenaked Ladies (1999)
Almost every teenaged boy in Canada goes through that phase where they love Barenaked Ladies, because their sky-high hooks and sophomoric turns of phrases are the perfect entry into pop rock, and then you get older or turn moody or listen to Gordon for a 400th time and it all gets so boring.
But come back to them after an extended vacation, appreciate the perfect structure to their songs, appreciate they put effort into making their bridges interesting, appreciate the fact Stephen Page can sing a line like “I gotta go see my doctor about this itchy pentagram shaped rash” without taking you completely out of the moment, and remember why you enjoyed them in the first place.
#975 — swan dive, Waxahatchee (2013)
Hey! A song from this decade! All of Cerulean Salt is very listenable, but I love how this one chugs straight ahead, with an upbeat melody about the awfulness of doomed feelings that are unshakeable even when you know they’re doomed: And we will find a way to be lonely any chance we get/And I’ll keep having dreams about loveless marriage and regret, indeed.
#974 — Everything I Do, I Do It For You, Bryan Adams (1991)
Fun fact: this was the #1 hit of 1991, spending seven weeks at the top of the U.S. charts and SIX. TEEN. weeks at the top of the UK charts.
Another fun fact: during its reign on top, Smells Like Teen Spirit debuted, and in its path ripped to shreds everything shlocky and smaltzy and overly long that was popular music in 1991, which this song exemplified very muchly.
But it’s also a song with a killer piano riff, a song that understands how to take its time in building to multiple high points, and features Peak Crooning Adams before the greatest of Canadian exports reached rapidly diminishing returns. So enjoy the song in all its multitudes.
#973 — Go And Say Goodbye, Buffalo Springfield (1966)
The first song in Buffalo Springfield’s first album, and it storms out of the gate, a bluegrass-tinged folk rock stomper that almost runs away from itself, creating an infectious pace wrapped in Stephen Stills and Neil Young’s guitar interplay, finishing up in a tidy 2:20.
#972 — Back in Black, AC/DC (1980)
Question for a friend: how good can a song be if the only thing of value is an iconic riff, with the rest replacement-grade arena rock?
The answer is one’s 972nd favourite song, the number improving if little attention is paid to the song, instead allowing the timelessness of said repeated riff to wash over you while driving a car or getting ready for the day, or anything but actually thinking deeply about one’s appreciation for AC/DC.
#971 — July, July!, The Decembrists (2002)
This is prime dense-lyric Decembrists, with Colin Meloy’s first real anthem winding through wordplay into an exploding, organ-backed chorus that is pure joy — even when couplets like And I’ll say your camisole was a sprightly light magenta/When in fact it was a nappy bluish grey heralded a commitment to say nothing while sounding clever that would eventually limit them.
#970 — Just Like Starting Over, John Lennon (1980)
I think one of the things I love about Lennon’s sudden swan song is how it crams three really distinct parts into the four minutes: the sparse introduction, the doo-wop main bit, and the minor bridge. Four if you count the extended outro! There are around 6,138 awesome things about a John Lennon song, but one of them is that sturdy hooks usually revolved around an unorthodox song structure, where the part you were enjoying ended before you got bored.
#969 — Man Up, Book of Mormon (2011)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone (but really only Trey Parker when it comes to music) have a deep and abiding love of meshing their distinct humour with classic Broadway song styles, and bless them for it, even if that love sometimes means wholesale pastiches instead of original ideas.
Case in point: the end number in Act One, which is your standard “have all the characters sing a bit of their main song, while wondering what the future will hold” concept that became sliiiiiiightly popular after One Day More.
But it works for two key reasons: one is Josh Gad delighting in his non-sensical babbling and vocal gyrations, and the other is at the 2:29 point, when Nikki Michelle James comes in with her mini-reprise of Sal Tlay Ka Siti, and the momentum builds in the delightful way that has justified scores of composers ripping off Les Mis time after time.
#968 — Hollywood Nights, Bob Seger (1978)
There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this one — it’s just Bob Seger, doing his meat and potatoes rock, with lyrics that do not really contain much depth. But it comes at an nonstop pace, with some great darting piano bits, and if you like some solid #DadRock in your repertoire this is a solid example of that.
(Spoiler: Justin loves his #DadRock)
#967 — Stay With Me, The Small Faces (1971)
God, I love the first 55 seconds of this song. The opening guitar, the drums coming in, the second guitar, then the keyboard, the downward riff, the rebuild, young, not-a-parody Rod Stewart coming in like a freight train, demanding “In the morning/Don’t say you love me”, and you’re right there going YEAH ROCK.
And then he immediately says “I know your name is Rita/‘Cause your perfume smelling sweeter,” bastardizing it so that it sort of rhymes, and the rest of the song becomes very just sort of there.
#966 — Rain, The Beatles (1966)
There seems to be an inordinate amount of thinkpiece-esque declarations that this song was a pivotal point for The Beatles (unless you choose Paperback Writer or Eleanor Rigby or like other songs), because they managed to sing obliquely about a weather system (OR DRUGS) instead of a lady they coveted, and thus Paved The Way For Musical Genius, or something.
But strip that away, and it’s a very listenable droning ditty, with three of Ringo’s best minutes of drumming, and a great, simple, evocative chorus dressed up in instrumental genius.
#965 — Somebody, Bryan Adams (1984)
That the world’s very strong love for Bryan Adams was not going to age well was evident 20 years ago, but if you can squint, and get over the “YEAHS!” and “HEYS!”, you can understand why Reckless conquered much of the western world in 1984 in a way few bland 25-year-olds ever have.
To recap: Run To You, Heaven, Somebody, Summer of ’69, and Kids Wanna Rock were on the same album, in that exact order, and most stayed on constant rotation on Canadian radio stations for over 25 years, because they were good and catchy and CanCon laws are what they are.
And then Adams broke up with his co-writer Jim Vallance, and Adams never reached the same heights, and nobody feels pity for him because why would you feel pity for Bryan Adams.
Anyway, Somebody is nice.
#964 —Instant Karma, John Lennon (1970)
I love the first five seconds, containing a count-in, two piano notes, and the drum intro. I love the remaining 198 seconds, containing Lennon just ferociously attacking the song’s muse, crashing beat after crashing beat. I love Phil Spector’s production. I don’t love how the song doesn’t particularly *go* anywhere, but still. It’s fine.
#963 — Smoke On The Water, Deep Purple (1972)
BUM BUM BUM. BUM BUM, BA BUM. BUM BUM BUM, BUM BUMMMMMMMM.
YEAH I LOVE THE INTRO I’VE HEARD 400 TIMES I’M A SIMPLE PERSON SUE ME.
#962 — Pinball Wizard, The Who (1969)
Tommy is not an amazing rock opera, because no rock opera is actually good, because the rockers are too focused on rocking to have, you know, an opera, or plot, or unique characters, or characters that sing songs that advanced their feeling and the plot in any real interesting way.
But The Who, among their many talents, are always good at creating an interesting character sketch in three minutes, and they certainly do so here, with a memorable opening, evocative lyrics, a couple perfect Daltrey roars, and great line after great line, even if the whole doesn’t quite reach the sum of its parts — which is standard for most of their career, frankly.
#961 — 12:51, The Strokes (2003)
The first single from the album after the album that made a band huge is always a tricky proposition, and it’s perhaps because they never quite reached the impossible expectations put on them after Is This It that 12:51 doesn’t really get talked about, even though it’s circular guitar loop and chugging bass give it a real pep in its sparse two minutes and eleven seconds.
#960 — The Things We Do For Love, 10cc (1977)
Harmonies, harmonies galore! I’m fully aware that this bouncy number has all the lyrical breadth and depth of cotton candy, but it’s merges the best of 1950s style Tin Pan melodies with lush 1970s production, so there.
#959 — Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett (1977)
Sigh. Yes. Yes I know. Yes this is a dumb song. Yes this is beyond parody. Yes, this song is best enjoyed by boomers, who can look upon this song nostalgically from the time they first listened to it, as they enjoy shitty yacht-based boomer things, and it would be another 10 years after this song came out before I came into this world.
But I like the transition to the chorus. I like the way the song ambles. I like how the song is fully about nothing, and delivers that sentiment without any irony.
#958 — Life During Wartime, Talking Heads (1979)
YES TIME TO RESTORE MY MUSIC CRED WITH TALKING HEADS. There are some songs where David Byrne’s paranoiac, urgent singing seems somewhat misplaced, but this is not one of them, with a stalking beat and whirling synths, the song dancing and rocking, as he brings his disciples over the edge with some groceries and peanut butter to last a couple of days.
#957 — Free Bird, Lynard Skynard (1973)
It’s obviously too long — you cut a few lines out of the second chorus, and you could definitely cut out the final minute of self-flagellation at the end — but it’s nice when a song feels free to take its time to get to the end point, and joyously over indulges in hooks and musicianship and solos and organs and jams.
#956 — White Houses, Vanessa Carlton (2004)
This was the followup single to A Thousand Miles, which is still remembered today for that downward piano intro if nothing else, and it was good, especially if you like pop piano with backing strings, but not nearly as good as A Thousand Miles, and it was 2004 and not 1974, so it and Carlton’s mainstream viability died a quick death. But this is a pleasant pop number nonetheless.
#955 — Hold On Loosely, .38 Special (1980)
This is another dumb arena rock song with dumb arena rock lyrics that isn’t particularly memorable, but the transition to the transition to the chorus, which first appears at about the 30-second mark, is great, as are the backing guitar parts generally throughout the entire song.
#954 — New Orleans Is Sinking, Tragically Hip (1989)
I love the unnatural crispness of Downie’s diction at the beginning, cooly laying out the situation, before becoming more pitched and emotional as the song continues. I love the blues vibe, the ever-present slinking riff, the way the lyrics give an immediacy and specificity to the story.
Is it the 16th greatest Canadian song ever, as 50 Tracks claimed? I mean, probably not (says the guy ranking his favourite songs because he’s an idiot), but it’s damned accessible without being overly poppy, and thus one of the reasons why it’s probably the Hip song that has the highest ratio of awareness to detractors.
#953 — Kid Gloves, Voxtrot (2007)
Foxtrot! They were a band from Austin that were an indie darling for, oh, 15 months or so last decade for a string of dense, propulsing singles, and then they put out a full-length album that didn’t do anything commercially, and then they broke up a few years later, and you’d be a millionaire if you had a nickel for every story like that, so they’re most forgotten today, even if the single from their album was good, but not good enough to excite people who previously liked their old stuff, which wasn’t a large enough group in the first place, and so it goes.
So yeah. Even still. This is pretty nifty.
#952 — La Grange, ZZ Top (1973)
MOAR DAD ROCK. One thing I often think about with rock music is how progressively more annoying it must have been for bands after, say, 1975, to be fooling around with some very basic but very catchy bits, and not being able to do anything about it, because there was ZZ, basing an entire song off of an intro that is the same note played eight times in a row, then the minor third of that scale, the dominant fourth, back to the minor third, and then to the first note, ruining that particular beat for everyone going forward, because they had perfect loops, and that was that.
#951 — The Rising, Bruce Springsteen (2002)
This was Bruce’s first giant E Street single in 15 years, and it was from the first E Street album since the 1980s, and it came out as sort of a post-9/11 rallying cry, and you can bet THAT hit an emotional sweet spot with music reviewers then.
No, it doesn’t really compare to when he was young and world conquering, but there’s nuance and interesting biblical allusions in the lyrics, a great singalong part in the middle, and that great thumping Max Weinberg drumming all throughout.
Categories: Top 1000 Songs