Hopefully I haven’t lost you by now.
If I haven’t, thanks for sticking around. This has been pretty fun.
A ton of thought went into picking which songs to include on this list, which meant that some really great songs just missed the cut.
I thought it would be fun to do some “honorable mentions” and reveal what the next 5 songs are:
(105). “Send Me A Postcard”– Shocking Blue
(104). “Naked Eye”– The Who
(103). “Dancing in the Moonlight”– King Harvest
(102). “Hurdy Gurdy Man”– Donovan
(101). “Black Hole Sun”– Soundgarden
Okie doke, back to the main event:
60. “Welcome to the Jungle”– Guns N’ Roses
Proper context is needed for someone to truly appreciate how great this song is.
Picture the scenario: It’s 1987, you’re about middle school age, and your friends at school are all buzzing about this band named Guns n’ Roses. So out of curiosity, you go to your local music store and buy the CD. After walking all the way home with your new purchase, you finally get home and pop the disk in your player.
And this song is the very first thing you hear.
I don’t think I need to say much else–one of the absolute best opening songs in history.
59. “Bad and Boujee”– Migos
The more that time passes from this song’s 2016 release, the more I’ve appreciated its impact on modern Pop culture.
Migos was popular before Band and Boujee, but this song turned them into a household name. But I think it has less to do with those stupid ass “rain drop/drop top” memes and more to do with how accurately it reflected the ascension of Black culture in the US.
While 2000s media was full of harmful Black stereotypes and the early 2010’s went too far in the opposite direction with artists flaunting their extravagant wealth, Bad and Boujee let Migos hit the sweet spot of being relatable but also allowing themselves to have refined taste.
Their act coincided well with what was happening in the country, with more of the Black youth striving towards advancing The Culture while also progressing economically.
It’s literally stated in the song’s opening lines:
“You know so we ain’t really never had no old money…We got a whole lotta new money though”
That’s exactly how my close friends and I describe ourselves.
That’s how a lot of people my age describe themselves.
And that’s why people like this song so much.
It’s a swaggering anthem for The Culture–> one that mainstream audiences couldn’t help but listen to over and over again.
58. “Bad Romance”– Lady Gaga
This song is so damn underrated.
While I’m aware that it remains a very popular song and is now a relic of Gaga’s fantastic career, I still think it could use more praise for standing head and shoulders above any other Pop song at the time.
My favorite aspects are the bridge and final chorus–in reality they’re pretty mellow in terms of tempo and tone, but the sound production’s confidence and Gaga’s powerful vocals transform them into a sound that you will never forget.
Oh–and the music video would have been one of the best ever if it weren’t for the rampant product placement.
57. “Kiss From A Rose”– Seal
The 90s were an interesting time.
Adam Sandler was on top of the world, Crystal Pepsi had yet to become a case study on bad marketing, and Seal sang the official song for a Batman movie featuring an orange-headed Jim Carrey.
I’m of belief that Kiss From A Rose would probably work with any movie because it’s that damn good of a song.
Seriously–every melody Seal presents in this song is a home run, and they’re all masterfully orchestrated to make you forget that he’s harmonizing with himself.
It’s saying something that the best thing Batman Forever gave the world was this song.
56. “D.A.N.C.E.”– Justice
There isn’t really a deeper meaning that I associate with this song.
It’s just fucking awesome.
This track is so intricately layered with drums, synth chords, strings, vocal samples, chimes, and everything in between. The way sounds are introduced and muted before they’ve overstayed their welcome is nothing sort of genius.
This track also features one of my favorite bridge sections in music (2:40), specifically the way it hop-skip-jumps right back into the main beat with an almost arrogant ease.
It’s just…so damn cool. If you haven’t listened to it in a while, please do.
55. “POWER”– Kanye West
Everyone knows why this song is great, and I’m not sure there’s much more I can add to the discussion, so I’ll just say that this song has one of my favorite few bars in Rap history:
At the end of day, goddammit I’m killin’ this shit/
I know damn well y’all feelin’ this shit/
I don’t need your pussy, b*tch I’m on my own dick/
I ain’t gotta power trip, who you goin’ home with?
54. “The Real Folk Blues”– The Seatbelts
I feel pressured to justify why I like songs from Anime, but I ultimately don’t need to.
The music is fuckin’ good, and I don’t care where it comes from or what anyone thinks of it.
But there’s any Anime song that immediately justifies its placement on this list, it’s The Real Folk Blues from the greatest (both my opinion and fact) Anime of all time, Cowboy Bebop.
Bebop’s entire OST, composed by the legendary Yoko Kano and performed by The Seatbelts, remains in a tier all its own and can easily be compared to any film score.
The Real Folk Blues is my personal favorite, as it combines both the noir grit of the show and the sophisticated Jazz sound of The Seatbelts to produce what’s essentially the show’s essence in sound form.
53. “Before I Forget”– Slipknot
I love Slipknot.
Not necessarily for their sound (which is great and we’ll get to in a second), but for how they relate to the anger, frustration, and angst of millions.
Like many, I really got into them when I was a relatively dark place in life.
The sheer, unbridled aggression of their sound was empowering, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience.
And no song better demonstrates the raw power of Slipknot in accessible form than Before I Forget.
The track is, at its core, a declaration of one’s self, consistently communicated to the listener by the powerful repetition of “I”.
And it never lets up–serving as a metaphor for how essential self-confidence is despite your situation in life.
It’s a sheer masterclass in Slipknot’s self-awareness , and also has a pretty cool music video.
52. “Don’t Let Go”– En Vogue
Even without its association to the all-female hidden gem heist film Set It Off, this track by En Vogue is a perfect encapsulation of why people look back so fondly on the 90’s.
I’m of the belief that the late 90’s were the pinnacle of modern Black media representation, and this song helps display why– 4 absolutely stunning Black women, presented not as oversexualized objects but powerful people who warrant respect, relying solely on the power of their singing to create an exceptionally powerful listening experience and winning a fuckin’ Grammy along the way.
Need I say more?
But also–Set It Off is pretty good. You should check it out.
51. “Shine”– Collective Soul
On the other, much more…er, Caucasion end of the 90s music spectrum is this fantastic song from Collective Soul. Being equal parts edgy and uplifting, Shine served as the soundtrack to basically everyone who grew up back then.
And it’s hard not to acknowledge why.
The grungy pre chorus building to the swirling surrealism of the famous “Whoa!” are appealing to just about anyone’s music tastes–even devout Christians.
No seriously–everyone thought Collective Soul was a Christian band once this song came out, given its lyrical references.
But even when setting any religious vibes aside, Shine’s sudden shifts from whispering verses to soaring choruses makes for a truly invigorating listening experience.
A listening experience that my good friend Mark and I had one day while taking an Uber ride into San Francisco on the 101 freeway on a beautiful and sunny Saturday afternoon. Or, in other words, the most epic f*cking scenario to ever listen to this song to.
50. “Bboom Bboom”– MOMOLAND
If you haven’t batted an eye with my listing of Lady Gaga and such but think it’s weird that I like Kpop–>you might want to check the xenophobia, bro.
Doing so will expand your mind to global artists such as Momoland, whose 2018 Bboom Bboom remains what I consider a nearly perfect Pop song.
The tempo, synth layering, vocalist switches, and even that subtle woodblock are all executed and coordinated with such ease that the music video’s 460 MILLION views on YouTube should come as no surprise.
And yes, I’m sure it helps that all the group members are over 18 and very very attractive, but that can only take you so far as an artist.
The Korean Pop (“KPop”) industry has made a science of churning out catchy songs with equally magnetic performers. And even given such a competitive market, I find myself revisiting Bboom Bboom more than any other song…except for one, but we’ll get to that later.
49. “Hurt”– Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s effective swan song, Hurt, has always resonated with me for two main reasons:
On one hand, we have the haunting parallels between the original Nine Inch Nail lyrics and Cash’s literal life. The song seems like it was written for him, but since it wasn’t, I can only imagine how painful it must have been for him to sing lyrics that hit so close to home.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine–you can hear the pain in his voice.
The second reason, and the reason why I think many love this song, is because it can also serve as a cautionary tale.
Hurt serves as a great opportunity to evaluate your life and see if you’re heading towards the same path an elderly Cash has already gone down–one he now deeply regrets.
48. “Back That Azz Up”– Juvenile
Let’s shift gears for a sec, from an elderly Johnny Cash’s lamenting to a young Juvenile’s bravado-laden twerk anthem that would forever change nightclub culture.
And I’ll be the first to admit–this song’s appeal only extends so far as its dance floor reputation. It just so happens that its reputation is now deeply embedded in Hip Hop culture.
The iconic violin intro serves as a universal alert that it’s time to rush to the dance floor.
I was actually surprised to see how widespread the belief is that Back That Azz Up serves as the night’s climax– to the extent that several memes have sprung up about how much missing out on this track ruins the night.
While my 21 year-old self appreciated this song out of pure hormonal release, my older self can now appreciate this track for bringing so many people so much fun.
Oh yeah–and a very young Lil Wayne says some gibberish towards the end. That’s cool too.
47. “Lose Yourself”– Eminem
So…it’s hard for me to describe this song. Mostly because I know that so many people see it as so much more than just a song.
Even when thinking of just myself, I’ve experienced Lose Yourself in so many different ways:
As an autobiography for Eminem.
As the Oscar-winning theme song of 8 Mile.
As motivation to pick yourself up and try again.
As a solid workout song.
As yet another example of how Eminem’s vulnerability has become a source of inspiration for literally millions of people.
However you decide to experience this song, it will excel.
46. “Little Wing”– Jimi Hendrix
A word that always comes to mind when I hear this song is “organic”.
“Organic” is also a good way to describe the reason Hendrix is still considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time.
Make no mistake–Little Wing is hard as fuck to play on guitar.
However, Hendrix’s mastery of the instrument makes it sounds as if the notes are flowing directly from his soul.
My favorite part of this track is its short runtime. For two and a half minutes, you’re transported to this dreamy wonderland of chimes, chords, and perfectly patient drum fills, before gently coming back to the earth–wanting more.
That’s pretty much how Hendrix left the world after his untimely death at 27—mesmerized and wanting more.
45. “Layla”– Derek & The Dominos
The first time I heard this song’s opening riff, I felt a chill go up my spine.
Up until that point in my life, I had never heard an intro sound so confident, almost as if Derek & The Dominos knew it would become iconic.
First impressions go a long way with music, and I’ll never forget how blown away I was by Layla during my first listen.
The amount of emotional commitment from across the board–the vocals, the insane guitar solo, ferocity from the supporting instruments–almost gave me an unfair expectation of what music should sound like moving forward.
Even today–Layla has become my measuring stick of a song’s impact on me.
…”Leilah” is also my ex girlfriend’s name, so that was pretty cool.
44. “Comfortably Numb”– Pink Floyd
I was very intimidated to write about this song.
Not only because we’re halfway through the list, and my reservoir of words to describe music is starting to thin, but also because Comfortably Numb it’s not as much of a song as it is an encounter with musical Heaven incarnate.
I wish I could say that the previous sentence was a gross exaggeration, but…it isn’t.
The solo (my favorite ever) doesn’t rely on frenzied playing or flashy effects, but rather sheer mastery over the power and emotion recorded sound can convey.
Don’t believe me? Listen to it– you’ll thank me later.
43. “The Number of the Beast”– Iron Maiden
Most people can trace their interest in an entire genre back to one single listening experience.
While I was already starting to dabble in Heavy Metal by the time I hit 8th grade, it was Iron Maiden’s blistering thrillride through the world of the occult that sent me all the way down the rabbit hole.
I remember being flat-out blown the fuck away the first time I heard this song. I’d never heard this combination of speed, musicianship, and energy in musical form before. Bruce Dickinson’s shriek to cap off the song’s intro was the battle cry for the “New wave of British Heavy Metal”, and remains a quintessential moment in the genre’s history.
I must have replayed the guitar solo at least 5 times on my first listen. It was a blood-pumping, exhilarating experience that forever changed the way I viewed instruments.
Seriously– Steve Harris’s bass playing on this track is the reason I started playing.
42. “Stronger”– Kanye West
Using a sample of a popular song is tricky: it can go over as passable, or it’ll blow up in your face…typically the second one.
In a great example of West flexing his confidence muscles, he decided to take on the masters of beat-making themselves: Daft Punk. Was Kanye’s sampling of the classic “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” passable?
Hell no. It was downright better.
There’s a certain heaviness to West’s reworking of the beat, which almost makes it seem as though Kanye’s incarnation is the perfected version of the original.
The real secret ingredient for this track is the amount of subtle layers. The understated, sweeping synthesizers create a fantastic sense of urgency throughout the track, which reaches a crescendo in the last 45 seconds–which almost always gives me goosebumps.
Bow in the presence of greatness.
41. “You Spin Me Round”– Dead Or Alive
Music is seldom this fun.
From beginning to end, Dead or Alive’s magnum opus cranks every 80s cliche all the way up, creating a track that’s every bit as over-the-top as it is authentic to the era’s zeitgeist.
I’m sure this track was still considered a bit odd immediately following its 1984 release, but that’s my favorite part about it: the song doesn’t give a fuck.
It’s bombastic, it’s corny, it’s fabulous, it’s confident, and it’s a song I absolutely love without a shred of irony.
Also: one of the most hypnotic choruses ever.
It’s starting to get spicy up in here (up in here). Time for a quick nap, and then we’re right back at it next time.