My 1000 favourite songs: #950-926

#950 — I Can See Clearly Now, Jimmy Cliff (1993)

So for a while I thought I enjoyed this song because it was just another one of those standard classic rock mainstays that was on the radio in my house growing up because my mom loved classic rock, and so I loved classic rock, particularly if it had a simple sort of message and structure.

And then I discovered that no, what I enjoyed wasn’t a classic rock song when I was young, but rather a cover of a 1972 Johnny Nash song that was redone for the cinematic classic Cool Runnings. Which is different.

#949 — Pretty Fly, The Offspring (1998)

The late 90s were not exactly a dandy time for music that pushed artistic boundaries, but they were a fantastic time for Generation Xers to put out mindless rock that was 20% self-aware of its dumbness, and if you were in grade six that was a delightful thing to stumble upon, especially if you were the type of grade six student who was somewhat aware that the students around him were trying to appropriate urban culture, and how this was stupider than normal because they lived in lily-white Victoria, British Columbia.

#948 — Poor Poor Pitiful Me, Warren Zevon (1976)

Heck yeah Warren Zevon. I love the way this song rollicks, as Zevon does one of his great character sketches in a pitch that’s sort of sardonic hard country.

#947 — Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones (1965)

Take away the riff and it’s still a great single. Take away the famed fuzz and it’s still a great single. Take away the cultural context, where a band overtly singing about sexual frustration could be considered controversial, and it’s still great. There are Stones songs with more depth and more creativity and musical flourishes and Jagger chewing the scenery, but this is mighty fine rock, then and now, which is why I enjoy it even without particularly loving any bit of it.

#946 — Black Balloon, Goo Goo Dolls (1998)

Do I defend my guilty pleasure love of Dizzy Up the Girl, the smash album that propelled Goo Goo Dolls into the mainstream god that sentence looks absolutely atrocious as I type it now, or when we come to the two other singles from the album that I like even more?

Eh, let’s do it now. Because aside from being broody yet poppy, despite being atmospheric yet very direct with the lead guitar, despite having very banal lyrics yet the audacity of Johnny Rzenzik to belt them and emote on those high notes as though they’re saying something … actually, that’s pretty much it.

Also, big points for the over the top cinematic orchestra bridge, leading to the faux-dramatic end at 2:54. You are so very cheezy and I love it.

#945 — Who Are You, The Who (1978)

This is overbaked The Who, but it’s in that later style of theirs, with swirling snyths and roaring Daltrey, that I enjoy and enjoyed before it was pasted on every CSI show, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and Townsend’s piercing guitar hits the spot for me, even it’s one of those songs where I’m not sure if I truly enjoy it, or just think I enjoy it because I’ve listened to it so darn much over the last 20 years.

#944 — One, Three Dog Night (1969)

There’s not much to this one lyrically, and it’s become essentially a gimmick song due to the amount the chorus has been played over and over in advertisements and TV shows and the like, but strip that away and Three Dog Night play the heck out of this brooding song, with that ominous piano opening giving way to great guitaring (i am not a professional music writer) in the latter half.

#943 — The Great Beyond, R.E.M. (1999)

A nice, latter-period R.E.M. song, taken from the Man on the Moon soundtrack (the Andy Kaufman biomovie named, of course, for the R.E.M. song years prior), which sort of atmospherically ambles in that R.E.M. way, but Stipe’s vague mumblings work very well within the context of Kaufman. I’m breaking through/I’m bending spoons/I’m keeping flowers in full bloom could be insufferable in many areas, but given the artist and the subject, it works very fine, thank you.

#942 — Chasing Cars, Snow Patrol (2006)

Overwrought modern rock ballads for the win!

But a lot of 21st century alt rock groups go this route, and very few become the success that Snow Patrol got with this, because it does an excellent job building and racketing up the noise and the tension and the guitar layers, so that it creates the moment it’s trying to create, as artificial and carefully crafted as it might be.

#941 — The Downeaster Alexa (1989)

The contrast between the quality of Billy Joel’s music and the quality of his lyrics are well commented on, but still: I’ve got bills to pay and children who need clothes/I know there’s fish out there but where God only knows is not exactly the most artful of phrases.

But by the same token, Joel wrote about big, not-exactly-commercial themes like the plight of east shore fisherman in the late 1980s, and did for a big audience because he was Billy Joel, and people would buy whatever he put out, and so he tried ambitious things well into his late 30s, which is more than you could say for some major artists.

And yes, the lyrics don’t always hit, and the production is a bit dated, but it’s a fun song through and through.

#940 — Baby Love, The Supremes (1964)

Yeahhhhhhh love me some bubblegum Motown pop. Especially early Motown pop with its little orchestral flourishes and lightness, and Baby Love has just enough of a key change 90 seconds through to justify becoming a full song. Yes, it’s just a 20-second hook repeated again and again, but here’s a list of songs that went #1 in the United States and Britain in 1964: I Want to Hold Your Hand, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Feel Fine, House of the Rising Sun, Pretty Woman, and Do Wah Diddy Diddy.

(Okay, so there’s always an exception in these sorts of list)

#939 — I Just Called To Say I Love You, Stevie Wonder (1984)

I love the sincerity that oozes from this one, even if the production forever places this squarely in the 1980s, taking away a bit of its timelessness. But it’s Stevie, still at the height of his skills, choosing to trod on that line between wedding schmaltz and hymn, and for me, it hits.

#938 — Won’t Back Down, Tom Petty (1989)

The phrase “Won’t Back Down” is uttered seven times in the first 63 seconds of this song, because Tom Petty does not particularly care about lyrical complexity if he has a killer riff and an exploding chorus, and boy does he have it here, in a three-minute pop nugget near the end of the era where heartland, bluesy roots rock was an important American musical genre.

#937 — Up There, South Park: The Movie (1999)

When I was 12 years old, after much nagging, my dad took me and my 10-year-old brother to the South Park movie, which was very exciting, because we were 12 and 10, and Kyle and Kenny and Cartman and Stan said swears and made fart and sex jokes, and my mom was very pissed off, because they were divorced and this was done during his custody time, and she did NOT appreciate the swears and fart and sex jokes, and this furthered dad being the cool parent and her being the lame parent, which became a self-fulfilling loop which annoyed her further

Later, I would try and tell her that South Park: The Movie was actually a great Broadway musical in disguise, with outstanding pastiches, including one where morally ambiguous homosexual Satan dreams of a better world in a classic “I Wish” song, and that it might have helped inspire my love for showtunes.

Her response was that dad was still wrong to take me to the naughty movie.

#936 — Squeeze Box, The Who (1975)

Definitely the best, and probably only, banjo-prominent song in The Who’s repertoire, this is essentially a novelty number, about a woman who just can’t stop playing accordion to the detriment of her family and pets, or a couple that engages in loud, breast-prominent intercourse, depending on your read of the lyrics, and yes, at this point you might be thinking that this is not the deepest song in the world, but it’s nice when great musicians take themselves a little less seriously, and this effortless tune is proof positive of that.

#935 — YMCA, Village People (1978)

BUM, BA BUM. BUM BA BA-DA-BA-DA BUM. Is that how the opening infectious trumpet line goes? I don’t care, just like I don’t care if the song has been played nine million times too many, or that my love of it proves how very, very white I am.

You know why? Because it truly is fun to Justin don’t debase yourself further by typing stay at the YMCA enjoy a guilty pleasure from your childhood if the beat is still catchy to your ear.

#934 — Rocks Off, The Rolling Stones (1972)

A straight-ahead rocker with just enough flourishes that made Stones songs better than just anything else in the world from 1968 to 1972, including the honky-tonk piano line, the backing trumpet, and the way Jagger vocally boots down in the bridge before wailing “the sunshine bores the daylights out of me”, which is such a great high note that the final two minutes are just sort of rote, frankly.

#933 — Don’t Worry About The Government (1977)

My building has every convenience/it’s going to make life easier for me/it’s going to be easy to get things done/I will relax, along my loved ones blithely sings David Byrne, with just the amount of joie de vive that you are justly terrified of this picture, with the normally tight, dense music behind him opening up just enough to seal the craftsmanship of it all.

#932 — Sister Jack, Spoon (2005)

Spooooooon. I wish their more bands like Spoon in the 21st century, just tight songwriting with just enough deviation from album to album, all centred by great hooks and sharp, crisp diction. There’s not much too this one, but the clanging, propulsing backing, and the great use of sparseness in the chorus delights me each time.

#931 — You Belong With Me, Taylor Swift (2009)

Let us consider what Wikipedia tells us was the favourite song at the 2010 Kids’ Choice Awards, and before completely mocking me, appreciating the supreme pop craftsmanship inherent in this song about people wearing short shorts or whatever the hell the song is about, because I never really care about the lyrics, since it perfectly builds, with the repeated chord structure contrasted by interesting entry points for the melody, with a country-pop backing mixed with Swift’s just-theatrical-enough delivery building intensity that matches the point in the song perfectly. And I like my nicely-structured earworms, and if they’re played incessantly on pop radio long enough, I might just give in, like did I hear, and then write about it, and then be subject to mocking by friends for some time to come.

Until they read the next entry.

#930 — Gotta Catch ‘Em All, Pokémon (1999)

No, I don’t have any shame, or any pretenses to cultural taste, or any desire to hide my base musical enjoyments to impress myself in this silly project, and if an insanely catchy theme song from a TV show I enjoyed when I was 12 still delights me, well then I’ll put it in, and if you roll your eyes at a TV song being here, I HOPE YOU LIKE SONG #919 OR #493.

It’s a good number, with the right amount of universality for a pre-teen to understand in a theme song, and the right amount of drama and synths to hype you up without being 100% over the top, but I do wonder because I am a sad man how much of our nostalgic love for cartoon music comes from the cartoon the music is featured in, and how much comes from the song itself.

Or put the reversed way, how much does our love of Gotta Catch ‘Em All, or the Animaniacs theme song, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja one, or the Ducktales one influence how we remember those shows? Do we overrate Pinky and the Brain because of how memorable the opening was? Do we forget about Tale Spin because its theme song was fairly middling?

In conclusion these are bad thoughts and I’m sorry I shared them and to distract you all here is the original singer of the Pokémon theme song doing a parody version to support Ron Paul.

#929 — You Got It, Roy Orbison (1989)

I like how Orbison really isn’t doing anything new in this, his final bit hit, released posthumously a few months after he died: it’s him crooning around some theatrical percussion and strings and light backing vocals, with just a bit of Jeff Lynne ELOesque 1980s sheen to the production. But it’s a lightly rollicking melody that pleases, and is a nice fusion of two different eras.

#928 — Silly Love Songs, Paul McCartney (1976)

As the conversation goes, McCartney decided he had enough with critics and even John Lennon deriding him as a lyrical lightweight, content with penning single feelings on top of gorgeous melodies, and his response was to double down on the schmaltz and self-effacing lyrics and create what was literally the biggest post-Beatles hit of his career in the U.S., with a chorus that is just him saying “I love you” over and over, a string section responding in an almost mocking fashion.

And it works, because of course it does, and has a neat bass bit and is altogether a perfect rejoinder, but nobody says POWER MOVE or writes huge peans to its delightfulness, because he’s Paul McCartney and we take his genius for granted because that’s what we do with optimists who have silly accents and impish faces and only want to hit us over the head with melodies and not grand lyrical messages.

#927 — What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye (1971)

This is definitely much better than the 927th best song of Recent Popular Music, but my ears don’t appreciate R&B the way it should be appreciated, and so here it sits, but even simple Justin can appreciate the way that message music and jazz and funk and gospel and strings and just so much great stuff into four minutes.

#926 — America, Simon and Garfunkel (1968)

Ahhhh it just works so perfectly, you know? The tiny little scenes played out in a single line, the melody that manages to make A+ use of their harmonies, while still being sort of sing-speakey, the specificity of lyrics doing nothing to undercut the inclusivity of it all. The searching, the empty and aching, the fact the lyrics don’t rhyme and the chord structure isn’t really there, yet it all comes together at the end. Bless Paul Simon, who has written better songs, but rarely made such a hard task in song intent and form come together so well.

Categories: Top 1000 Songs

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