#925 — Another One Bites The Dust, Queen (1980)
Queen is, and always will be, a great gateway rock band, because it’s very easy for a young’un to learn the band’s disparate parts — May’s virtuoso guitar solos, John Deacon’s intriguing bass or piano bits, Freddie Mercury being Freddie god damn Mercury and doing his thing in any number of styles — and find something you can glom onto instantly, which then might influence the type of music you like forever.
Or you can just enjoy their songs, and enjoy their spin on disco and funk rock here, and Mercury just ratcheting from cool and menacing to outraged and threatening as we go from verse after verse, even if it doesn’t really inspire a love of any other particular style.
#924 — Take The Last Train To Clarksville, The Monkees (1966)
Just some nice, light, Beatles n’ Byrds inspired Monkees pop, with great riffs and harmonies and starts and stops that ends up being less than the sum of its parts, because, well, they’re the Monkees (and people etc. etc.), but it’s still a delightful 2:47 that still sounds fresh today.
#923 — You’re Beautiful, James Blunt (2004)
“‘You’re Beautiful’ is not this soft romantic fucking song. It’s about a guy who’s high as a fucking kite on drugs in the subway stalking someone else’s girlfriend when that guy is there in front of him, and he should be locked up or put in prison for being some kind of perv.”
James Blunt is so correct, and he holds the pain of hearing people misinterpret his song for the rest of his life, just like he holds the pain of being associated with an incredibly pop-friendly love ballad he doesn’t really like for the rest of his life, just like he holds the pain of that song making him untold money to support his creative endeavours, and that nothing he ever does will compare to a generic but just-different-enough-from-Coldplay vibe that hits the sweet spot for both low-information romantics and idiots like me who get sucked into an easy listening pop monster like this if it’s on the radio enough.
Poor James Blunt.
#922 — Orange Crush, R.E.M. (1988)
For some reason I tend to associate this one with a lot of U2’s political/war songs, partly because this is a guitar-heavy story overtly about conflict by a 1980s critical darling with just enough of an unsettling undercurrent to blunt the gorgeous hooks and soaring melodies, and partly because … well, that’s it, I guess.
#921 — Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Campbell (1975)
A nice message with plenty of theatrical flourishes to what is a straight-ahead, pop-country, reverse-engineered mid-1970s hit, it never surprises in content, but darned if I don’t enjoy the strings swelling right before the chorus, hokey as they may be.
#920 — I Get Around, Beach Boys (1964)
I love the two seconds at the beginning, when it’s just Mike Love singing the title by himself, before those perfect harmonies come in, and the melody explodes up an octave, and the song, which is very much about nothing, just gets into a groove it never leaves, with enough differences in hand-clapping and vocal ditties and guitar stings to hide its nothingness for the remaining two minutes.
#919 — I’ll Be There For You, The Rembrants (1994)
Like, this is a very throwaway early 90s sort-of jangle rock, infinitely disposable, but it was on at the beginning of Friends, and I was born in 1987, and so Friends was one of the first “adult” TV shows I watched, and the song was just good enough for me to notice it, and, hey, let’s face it, the clapping right after the first line is a genius touch, and its empty-headedness universality meshes perfectly with the show, and so yeah. This is here, and OH MY GOD IT HAS 40 MILLION PLAYS ON SPOTIFY NOSTALGIA IS AN EVIL DEVIL.
#918 — Candy’s Room, Bruce Springsteen (1978)
It’s a number about Bruce reallllly believing he’s the one that truly loves a mysterious prostitute but nobody else does, and if that’s your cup of lyrical tea, than kudos to you, but I prefer to focus on individual lines, and Max Weinberg’s terse, propulsing beat, and the dark vibe that imbues the entire piece. It’s also the rare Springsteen song that feels epic while being under three minutes, which is a nice change of pace.
#917 — The Entertainer, Billy Joel (1974)
Light, zippy, self-referential, only slightly outraged Billy Joel is a good place for Billy Joel to be, particularly in this mocking ode to superstardom, the first (and only) single from his followup album to his obscure second album known as “Piano Person”.
The nice thing about this one is the simple but unpredictable melody, played again and again with enough variation to remain interesting. The downside is that’s all there is, which makes you focus on Billy Joel lyrics, which are Billy Joel lyrics.
Still, I really like how the last verse is just a repeat of the first verse, only with dramatic drum breaks and Billy shouting the hell out of it.
#916 — Barracuda, Heart (1977)
That riff! That beat! Those Ann Wilson go for broke vocals! The fact Barracuda just exudes cool, so much cool that the chorus can end with the name of the song after a dramatic pause, and not seem cheesy!
There isn’t too much to this after those four things, but man, those are four great things.
#915 — Belle, Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I could spent 800 words talking about the historical importance of this movie to Disney and the concept of the modern American musical, and how Belle anchors it all in such a perfect way, but that would be 700 words too long.
So let’s just say this: it demands a lot out of an audience — especially an audience that will always contain lots of children — to begin a story with a lyrically dense five-minute piece that contains no chorus, while introducing three key characters and two important motifs…but it does it. Does it real nice. Flows naturally. Combines drama and humour excellently. Even if the theme of the song amounts to “Belle is weird and different, because she’s a girl who READS”.
#914 — There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, The Smiths (1986)
Another well-crafted Smiths number that I don’t really love, but certainly enjoy! I wonder whether my gap in loving their catalogue comes more from Marr’s lack of riffs, and the sort of sameness in tempo and volume, or Morrissey’s emotional detachment in his singing, but it’s better to focus on the stuff you like, you know?
#913 — The Bells of Notre Dame, Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
Why yes, keen observer, it’s another opening scene-setting number from a Disney Renaissance movie!
I guess if you wanted to compare
as I did in this very ill-advised project why I like this one more than Belle, it’s because the central motif here has a bit more of a pleasing melodic circular loop than the other one, and it gets bonus points for opening a movie ostensively for children (but not really!) in frickin’ Latin chants. Oh, and Tony Jay and his awesome voice introducing the character of Frollo. And the sophisticated balancing of themes and scenes in a six minute, 27 second package that never really lags.
Wait, that’s a lot of reasons why it’s better. So I guess it’s important to note that it’s less of a song and more of a collection of moments. IT’S STILL GOOD THOUGH.
#912 — She’s Not There, The Zombies (1964)
YEAH THE ZOMBIES. Discovering the Zombies and their ill-fated career when you’re in university is one of those great moments where you believe you’ve discovered some hidden treasure of pop culture that only enlightened people find, without realizing you’ve gone down the same path of music realization that millions of 20-year-olds did after they got bored of listening to the entire Beatles catalogue for the 421st time.
But beyond that, it’s ridiculous to think this song came out in 1964, with a band that had barely formed, with such an interesting mix of jazz and harmonies and British Invasion rock, so enjoy that, rather than the fact they only lasted as a barely appreciated group for three more years.
#911 — Lemon Tree, Fool’s Garden (1995)
This was a #1 hit in Germany, Austria, Norway, Sweden and Ireland, some 20 years ago, a one-hit wonder for a band whose second biggest hit on Spotify has literally less than 1% of the plays as this one, but it has an interesting introduction, an understanding of the pointlessness of the lyrics, and a nice timeless sound to the chorus, and is enjoyably lightweight in a pleasing 1990s way.
#910 — Mystery Dance, Elvis Costello (1977)
Elvis Costello had many, many awesome things happening in the early part of his career, but one was his willingness to have songs less than 120 seconds, without an ounce of fat, just non-stop thrashing and passion based around two chords, and then getting the heck out of there before it got too repetitive, part 1950s and part 1970s and fully great to sneak into a playlist in whatever decade you’re in.
#909 — Let My Love Open The Door, Pete Townsend (1980)
Townsend’s first real album outside of The Who, though you can hear the whirling synths that call for a Daltrey roar and easily imagine it fitting comfortably within the group. Regardless, it’s a great little melodic hook centred around a simple turn of phrase, with the entire thing done at a quick pace that plays well with Townsend’s rapid delivery.
#908 — Sandy, Grease (1978)
UCK Grease is such a bad musical and this song is such schlock and Travolta is his over-emoting himself and this is bad! It really is!
And yet the stupid string and stupid percussion and stupid Travolta why-yi-yi-yi before the release in the chorus make me slightly happy and IM SORRY IM WEAK AND A DUMB FALLIBLE HUMAN I PROMISE THERE ARE 50 OTHER MUSICALS I ENJOY MORE, OKAY, EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE ADDITIONAL GREASE SONGS ON MY LIST
#907 — Little Talks, Of Mothers And Men (2011)
One of those that’s played on the radio so much that even I become aware of its presence, and then I enjoy the way it employs a bunch of neat ways to hook me in, from foot-stomping percussion to brass instrumentals and off-beat “HEY!”s to strategic minimalism at the beginning and before the final climax, all of which makes me go okay, I can like something from this decade, as reversed-engineered as the Icelandic eclectic indie folk band sometimes sounds.
#906 — The Final Countdown, Europe (1986)
A classical-sounding hook so good, it demanded an entire song based around it, which is much less good, though a perfectly adequate piece of over-the-top arena rock niceness
But instead of talking about that, let’s talk about Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals
because I’m sad, where the Orlando Magic with Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway were the NBA’s hot new young team, and the favourites to win their first NBA title, and all they had to do was defeat the less-talented Houston Rockets, and they were up by 3 with just seconds left in the game, and the guy in charge of the song selection in Orlando’s arena left Final Countdown on a little too long, and then the song is stopped abruptly, for some reason.
In any case, Houston wins the game in overtime, sweeps the series, Jordan makes Space Jam and makes that Magic team a footnote in history, and the franchise still hasn’t won an NBA championship.
#905 — Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Electric Light Orchestra (1977)
So many strings! So many overdubbed vocals! It’s an over-produced but highly melodic and theatrical ELO song. If it’s not your cup of tea, can’t blame you.
#904 — Radio Free Europe, R.E.M. (1981)
There was a reason, I think, why R.E.M. first became famous as the darlings of college radio rock, and it’s because their music is just musically different enough, just lyrically opaque enough, from the sort of straight-ahead rock and punk and new wave and pop-friendly stuff you might like as a teenager, and then here’s this mumbler, coming in with vague political warnings and snapping drums and looping guitars and you go “hey that’s new and different I think I’ll like it,” and this is pretty much the prototype of how R.E.M. would mine that vein for years and years on people like me.
#903 — You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand (1978)
I used to like this song much more, because it’s all strings and pianos and over-the-top, well delivered lyrics, and then I grew up and realized it’s the dark side of a Hallmark card, but it’s still a pretty melody, and a nice showcase for the two of them, so \_(ツ)_/¯.
#902 —I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty (2015)
Whoa a song that’s less than 1,000 days old what’s that about.
I love the lushness and self-referential saccharine feeling to this, and I’m always a sucker for “song that has the same name as the album and is the first song and the general scene-setter,” and if you can make the line I’ve brought my mother’s depression/You’ve got your father’s scorn and a wayward aunt’s schizophrenia sound romantic, you have my vote.
#901 — The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself in the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You’re Going to Have to Leave Now, or, ‘I Have Fought the Big Knives and Will Continue to Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!, Sufjan Stevens, Illinois (2005)
I sort of pretend that the first song on Illinois doesn’t really exist, and that this instrumental is the opener, and a de facto introduction to the entire album, like an overture to a musical (especially since “Come On! Feel the Illinois!” is such a great opening number right after), setting the scene as the audience sets in to the cavalcade or orchestral flourishes to come, and then you remember that the song is also a nice and concise little statement on colonialism, and it makes it that much better.
Categories: Top 1000 Songs