Fuck, man. Your boy is tired.
Too tired to be witty or charismatic in any way.
But you know what I’m NEVER too tired to do? Talk about good (to me) music.
So let’s continue doing that:
20. “Sex and Candy”– Marcy Playground
I could never quite explain why I love this song so much, but seeing how that’s literally the point of this list, I’ll give it a shot:
There’s something about its simplicity, its sensual vibe, its short length, and its singable-yet-meaningless lyrics that blend together perfectly to produce a captivating track that I absolutely cannot get enough of.
Sex and Candy is a sneakily melodic song that today serves as a textbook example of the post-Grunge era and 90’s music as a whole.
It’s quirky, it’s weird, it represents a pre-9/11 music landscape where songs such as this ruled the mainstream.
19. “The Blacker the Berry”– Kendrick Lamar
If you’ve never used genius.com before to look up the meaning behind a song’s lyrics–now might be the time.
Inspired by the murder of Trayvon Martin, Blacker the Berry takes the listener into the anger and frustration that continues to plague Black society.
Not since the days of West Coast legends like N.W.A. and the subsequent solo careers of Dr. Dre and Ice Cube has there been a song this aggressive and unapologetic regarding Black anger.
And in that function, Kendrick is absolutely relentless. Each bar touches on a different, yet equally sensitive and relevant topic that has been present in race relations for hundreds of years.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for me to understand why I love this song so much: I’m Black and have had the exact same thoughts and experiences that this track describes. It’s a cathartic song to listen to but also a frustrating one due to how painfully relatable it is.
One of my favorite parts is the line “I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015” which reflects the hypocrisy of some Black people who rightfully fight oppression but also engage in actions that are destructive to the Black community.
It’s a very nuanced track that I recommend everyone listen to.
Because if you’ve struggled to build empathy to the Black struggle in the US, you won’t after listening to this.
18. “Clocks”– Coldplay
I’ll be the first to admit it: Coldplay is kind of corny.
But their music is inspirational and makes people feel good about themselves, so shut up.
Despite musically being a pretty great song, Clocks being in the top 20 is definitely due to my personal connection to it.
I originally started running to this song in high school, and have continued to do so since. Over the past 10 years, it’s become a song that I run to while reflecting how far I’ve come in life. Whether it was when I lived in Isla Vista, San Jose, Foster City, Austin, San Francisco, and now Hanover, running to Clocks is a 5 minute period for me to look back and appreciate my life and what I’ve been able to do with it.
I don’t care how corny the song is–that shit means a lot to me.
Besides, how can you not love the amazing bass playing and drum crashes during the song’s final stretch?
Not even ESPN could resist, which is why they used Clock for their “Images of the Decade” video back in 2010.
17. “Family Business”– Kanye West
“This song hits different now that I’m older.”
It’s difficult to describe this song without getting a little bit emotional.
The penultimate track of College Dropout is a heartfelt walk down memory lane, and a tear-jerking celebration of the dysfunction, timeless experiences, and idiosyncrasies that come with family.
I’ve said it perhaps a million times, but what turns music from good to “great” is the innate ability to connect to the innermost feelings of the listener.
This isn’t just a song that’s listened to: it’s experienced, digested, felt, and pondered. It’s nearly impossible to listen to this entire track without finding a line that whiplashes you back in time to a specific family gathering.
Whether the memories are joyfully reflected upon or agonizingly longed for, the point is that the song will transport you there.
Okay, I’m going to stop now before I start crying.
16. “93 ‘Til Infinity”– Souls of Mischief
Yeah, I know: big surprise. Everyone knows that I love this song and play it all the time, but what isn’t as apparent is how my appreciation of this track has evolved over time.
At first, what kept me replaying this song was its hypnotic bassline and otherworldly use of melody.
But zooming out a bit and putting Souls of Mischief in proper historical context solidified 93 Til Infinity as an all-time favorite.
The song and accompanying album of the same name was released in 1993 (duh), which is the same year that Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle was released.
In other words, while the West Coast G-Funk Gangsta Rap subgenre was dominating the airwaves, this group of lowkey nerds from Oakland were making music on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Souls of Mischief traded the glitzy music videos and debaucherous lyrical content of their LA counterparts for videos featuring nice landscapes and lyrics about hanging out and trying to survive the rough streets of 90’s Oakland.
93 Til Infinity embodied an individualistic and creative spirit when that was literally the least cool thing to do, and I think there’s something really beautiful about that.
Oh–and I was also born in 1993, so that’s pretty cool.
15. “Ride On Shooting Star”– The Pillows
We’re getting to the part of the list where things get personal and each song listed has a very special place in my heart.
Ride On Shooting Star is the ending theme for the anime Fooly Cooly (or “FLCL”),, which aired on Adult Swim in the early 2000s. It’s a 6 episode show that is generally about growing up and maturing in a world that is often chaotic and confusing.
Of course, these themes went right over my head when my 11 year-old self first watched the show, since I was originally drawn to the wacky characters, over-the-top action, and amazing soundtrack.
But as I’ve continued to go on my own maturation journey, I’ve begun to realize and appreciate how influential this show was for me. After all, I was the exact same age as the main protagonist when I first watched it. I didn’t realize that I liked the show so much because I saw myself in a lot of the inner conflicts of the characters.
I’ve been listening to the soundtrack since I first got my hands on it, and songs like Ride on Shooting Star are reminders of how much this show has become a cornerstone of who I am today.
It’s no surprise why Fooly Cooly is my favorite anime ever, and this song will remain a fun, catchy embodiment of how works of fiction can truly shape a person.
14. “Feel Good Inc.– Gorillaz
A few years after the release of Gorillaz, when most thought the band was a gimmicky one-off, Feel Good Inc. dropped out of nowhere to make one thing clear: This band was here to stay.
Rather than continuing to get by on what was already working, Gorillaz used Feel Good Inc. to improve on absolutely every element possible.
The production was cleaner, the music video was sharper, and the track was ridiculously catchy despite centering on a poignant message.
Feel Good Inc. deals with escapism, and the ignorant bliss that people thrust themselves in to convince themselves that they are happy and free.
Layering on the symbolism is De La Soul, who continue to push the social commentary but also provide encouragement to those who aspire to achieve true happiness.
The portion of this song that has captured me since the age of 11 is the second bridge. Because, in a song about such existential dread, the immersive pause acts as a brief glimmer of hope–a ray of sunshine in a gloomy world.
These are the kinds of experiences that you never forget: how something made you feel…good inc.
Sorry, I had to.
Anyway, Feel Good Inc. is likely the quintessential Gorillaz song. It combined everything that has made the band so great and, 15 years later, still sounds ahead of its time.
13. “Gold Lion”– Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Sonically, this is one of the most powerful song on this list.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Gold Lion doesn’t pull this off using crazy effects or creative mixing, but by simply knowing when to stop and when to explode.
Drummer Brian Chase’s snare hits are authoritative to the extent that they’re not keeping the tempo as much as they’re dictating it, causing the guitar track to follow its lead.
The result is a series of small sparks during the verse that eventually combust into explosive choruses, with Karen O’s screeching vocals soaring overtop.
While there are many songs on this list with insane choruses, what’s kept me listening to Gold Lion for the past 14 years is its ending.
The band really kicks it into overdrive here, creating a volcanic eruption of intense performances from each member that leaves you with a sense of satisfying emotional catharsis.
Easily my favorite ending to a song, and judging by the 86 songs I’ve placed it ahead of, that’s saying a lot.
12. “B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)”– OutKast
“Out of this world” is a phrase that’s actually used to describe a lot of OutKast’s music, but Bombs Over Baghdad raises that bar beyond human comprehension.
The track achieves this otherworldliness through an onslaught of rapid-fire bars, a full-on choir, and the craziest motherfucking drum beat that you’ll ever hear in your life.
The album that this song appears on, Stankonia, is actually one of the first albums I ever purchased, and even my dumbass 10 year-old self could tell there was something different about this song.
And by “different”, I mean “one of the best songs ever recorded”.
Power music, electric revival.
11. “Your Song”– Elton John
I literally cannot listen to this song without crying. I’m even tearing up a bit as I’m typing this.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to love it so much, which might be a reflection of my own emotional development.
It’s a beautiful song, in the purest sense.
The lyrics are simple but almost painfully profound, and the melody never fails to fill me with so much joy and genuine appreciation that I can’t help but shed tears.
Come back next time for the grand finale!