Let’s start off the first installment of my top 25 favorite songs of all time by spotlighting a few that didn’t quite make the cut:
Dreaming of You” by The Coral
I don’t really know what it is about this song, but I find it undeniably catchy. Maybe it’s the pronounced bass riff at the beginning, the subtle, yet effective organ background, or the fact that the music video involves a shimmying army official and a bear playing the trumpet …
It’s bubbly, infectious and good for laughs, but just not quite good enough to make the countdown.
“The Science of Selling Yourself Short” by Less Than Jake
I’m a huge ska fan, and this song is one of my favorites. Though I don’t have quite as much experience with Less Than Jake as I do with, say, Streetlight Manifesto, this song is one of the finest ska offerings I’ve heard. While some ska songs fall into a trap of repetition (play horns, play horns fast, end after four minutes) this one slows down the tempo. Plus you can actually understand what the singer is saying, imagine that!
This song could easily place in my top 40, maybe even my top 30, but it wasn’t quite suited for the top 25. Speaking of which…
25. “Surrender” by Dropkick Murphys
I may be a fan of ska, but I absolutely love Irish pop music, and the Dropkick Murphys are one of my all time favorites in the genre. (Genre? Subgenre? Not Important.) I love how the song opens, building gradually to the full instrumental accompaniment before dying down right as the vocals come in. The Murphys have always had a knack of making their music match their harsh, Bostonian candor, and, to be frank, they can sure write the hell out of a song. This song would be on the list for its lyrics alone.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this work is that, out of the the veritable ton of songs that are titled “Surrender,” this is the one that truly stands out.
A great band, a great song, and a well-earned spot in the top 25.
24. “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits
This is Mark Knopfler.
See, the interesting thing about Mark Knopfler is that, in addition to being the frontman for Dire Straits, he is also a guitar god.
Knopfler has long been one of my favorite guitarists, so much so that I seriously considered by tickets to see him play in Phoenix … for $200. Yeah. You can bet if I’d picked a career with a sound fiscal future I would have been all over that.
While Dire Straits has several other good songs, “Walk of Life” and “Money for Nothing” both spring to mind, this is the one that has always hit home for me. It’s more laid back and reserved than many of their other songs, and I’ve almost always preferred songs that are more mellow. But what really makes this song shine is the guitar. Knopfler has always been a tactician of the instrument, eschewing power chords and raw, guttural thrashing in favor of a cleaner sound, and nowhere is that more clear than here. The song’s main riff is constantly changing with every lyric, giving the song a dynamic feel that is so often lost in guitar rock.
And then there’s the solo.
This solo exemplifies the song. It’s impressive without being overwrought, overbearing or overwhelming. It is, without hyperbole, one of the best guitar solos ever. That would be enough to make it memorable, but it’s everything else that makes it a favorite.
23. “Sad But True” by Metallica
One of the hardest things about this list was narrowing down my favorite songs by my favorite artists, and this was one of the most difficult decisions. While none of Metallica’s work has made a large enough impact to justify a higher position on the list, there were several songs that could have represented the band’s sole entry. “Master of Puppets,” “Fade to Black,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls” … the list goes on. But in the end, “Sad But True” rises above the rest because … well, I can’t really explain why. I know that sounds like a cop out, but this is one of those songs that I love, just because of what it is. There’s really nothing else to say. It’s Metallica. It rocks. I like it.
22. “Family Affair” by Mary J. Blige
If you’re looking for a pattern in my list so far, this one probably leaves you scratching your head. Let me spare you the effort, I just have incredibly bipolar taste in music. But let’s be honest, how can you not like this song?
To me, this song represents everything that was great about R&B. The hook is amazing, the vocals sultry and complementary. Granted, from a lyrical standpoint it is … unimpressive to say the least, and Mary J. Blige changes hairstyles more often than Kim Kardashian changes husbands, but this is one of the few songs where I am not only willing to buy the “I only like it for the beat” argument, but wholeheartedly embrace it. Believe me, the beat is that good. You should all just feel lucky that I spare you from having to watch me dance to it. Speaking of dancing…
21. “Obsession” by Animotion
How could I not include the song that inspired the White Guy Shuffle, my greatest, and heretofore only patented dance move. White Man’s Overbite notwithstanding.
This song is just so ’80s. The outfits, the hair, the…Aladdin shoe that the drummer is purportedly wearing. It’s all awesome. Another thing I love about this song is it’s so easy to miss what it’s actually about. The entire song is about asking someone what they have to do in order to sleep with someone. That’s about as subtle as Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” but the whole song is just so goofy that it’s hard to imagine anything that insidious lurking within the lyrics.
Bottom line, listen to this song. But fair warning, listen to it within earshot and I might just subject you to my aforementioned horrible dancing.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment of my top 25 favorite songs of all time.