Top 100 Songs: 80-61
We’re about to get things rolling with numbers 80-61, but before we do that, here are some fun facts about the list:
- Writing the Top 100 started in March and ended a few weeks ago (in October), taking 7 months to finish
- This included 58 pages
- …and almost 14,000 words
It only cost about half my life to do this, but I’m glad I did, so let’s keep moving:
80. “Get Low”– Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz
Any non-Southerner who uses the word “crunk” has this song to thank.
Sure, Crunk music was decently popular before Lil Jon hit the radio waves, but 2005’s Get Low took the baton from Juvenile’s Back That Azz Up (to be listed later) and helped push Crunk music into the national limelight.
With its bombastic vocal delivery, frenzied beat, and a section that literally tells listeners how to dance to it (certain demographics need this), Get Low is one of the reasons why shaking your ass at a club is such a regular thing these days.
My college self tips his hat to you, Lil Jon.
79. “On The Floor”– Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull
The last person I expected to see on this list was Pitbull. Yet, here we are.
But as far as songs featuring Pitbull go, you could do a lot worse.
There’s something about this song’s balance of well-tempoed verses, an absolutely explosive chorus, and a very tasteful melodic homage to the Kaoma song Lambada that has me seriously considering this as one of the best Pop songs of my lifetime.
Another fun memory: my high school track teammate, Jameson, and I thought that this song was the bees knees when it came out during our senior year. During prom, this song came on and I looked up to see if Jameson was on the dance floor. The first pair of eyes I connected with were Jameson’s, which were already staring right back at mine. We then shared some intense dancing to that damn chorus.
You just don’t forget things like that, man.
Anyway–this song is awesome.
78. “Livin’ On A Prayer”– Bon Jovi
If you took the 80s Rock scene and removed all the pathetic alcoholism, drug abuse, misogyny, uninspired songwriting, and all the other bad shit associated with it (there’s a lot), you would get this song.
There’s a reason this song has aged so well, and it’s because it was leaps and bounds ahead of its peers upon its release.
The lyrical content about a couple trying to make it through dire straits is universally relatable and thankfully family friendly. It also lends itself to perhaps the most singable chorus in music history. The very stylish use of a talk box on this track (looking at you, Frampton) completes a listening experience that’s every bit as inspiring as it is invigorating.
It’s a great jogging song, a great karaoke song, and just a damn fantastic song in general.
77. “Paranoid”– Black Sabbath
Also known as “baby’s first Heavy Metal song”, but I mean that in the best way possible.
While perhaps not as instrumentally impressive as what would come after in Rock music, the fact of the matter is that there wouldn’t be an ‘after’ if it weren’t for Black Sabbath.
And we might not even still be talking about Sabbath today if it weren’t for this track.
It represents everything that the band’s early appeal was about: gloomy lyrical content, a groovy blues-inspired bass line, and pentatonic scales.
Many, many pentatonic scales.
Paranoid was originally supposed to be a brief interlude-type track on the album, but it’s catchiness and infectious guitar riff ended up cementing this song as the grandaddy of them all.
76. “Megitsune”– BABYMETAL
Speaking of Sabbath’s influence, I don’t think anyone would have seen Metal progress to this stage.
But you know what? I’m glad it did.
I’m all for musical fusion, and if J-Pop vocals over Metal blast beats isn’t your thing, then that’s your loss. You might see it as a cheap gimmick, but I see it as one of the most exciting musical acts I’ve encountered in years.
I really like this band, and absolutely love this song. I don’t need to explain myself more than that.
Besides–how could you not love that chorus?
75. “Stacy’s Mom”– Fountains of Wayne
Let’s just cut to the chase: you know why this song is here, I know why this song is here, and according to my own experience, at least 6 other countries know why this song is here too.
It’s catchy as hell, easy to sing along to, and doesn’t overstay its welcome lengthwise.
Actually, this is one of the few songs White people absolutely LOVE that I’ve never gotten tired of–which is saying a lot (RIP my affinity for Mr Brightside).
Oh right–and I once dated a girl named Stacy.
Her mom was pretty cool.
74. “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead”– Gorillaz
The reason why Every Planet is so underrated is because it’s the 8th track in the ridiculously front-loaded Demon Days album.
That being said, make no mistake: this song is a freaking masterpiece.
A true space-age Blues song, Every Planet presents a masterful sound arrangement behind an agonizing tale of longing.
Buried under the layers of synths, strings, and keyboards lies the classic stomp-clap foundation of Blues music.
Speaking of keyboards, this track features one of the very last piano pieces ever recorded by the legendary Ike Turner–who absolutely brings the house down.
This is about as good as it gets, friends.
73. “Mr. Blue Sky”– Electric Light Orchestra
I’ll never get over the fact that this song was originally released in 1977–over 40 years ago.
It’s absolutely astounding that a track so unique, light on its feet, and sonically complex was recorded before CD’s, disposable cameras, and personal computers existed.
There’s just so much going on: incredible backing vocals, ambient strings, and a pretty clever use of a fire extinguisher.
Each listen takes you on a whimsical journey of musical twists, turns, accelerations, drops, veers, loops, and everything in between while pacing lyrics that may or may not be about recurring depression.
This song is a fucking masterpiece, and I’m sure it’ll remain so for another 40 years.
72. “Blue Bird”– Ikimono Gakari
Naruto fans rejoice.
While originally the insanely popular song of Naruto Shippuden’s 3rd opening, Blue Bird has since transcended the show and become an anthem that represents a zeitgeist of Anime fandom.
I’m, of course, referring to the post-Dragon Ball pre Crunchyroll generation of anime fans, where we would watch poorly subbed episodes on Youtube in private since anime was still taboo at the time.
We frequented forums using screen names to mask our identities, and debated over whether Naruto could beat Dragon Ball’s Krillin in a fight. We shopped at Hot Topic and bought Naruto headbands that we’d only wear in our rooms. We’d spend hours in Borders reading the weekly Shonen Jump without actually buying them–mostly because we were 11 and didn’t have any money.
This is a mostly hidden generation of fans, who have since become adults and gone our own ways. But whenever we hear this song, it transports us back to that awkward, wonderful time of our lives.
It’s hard for people to understand today, since Anime is so mainstream now, but back then, this was our song.
And it remains…our song.
71. “Let There Be Rock”– AC/DC
Whereas I praised “Hells Bells” for its polish, the appeal of AC/DC’s magnum opus is its unrefined, raw, gut-punch of a listening experience.
“Let There Be Rock” strips away all the superfluous elements of its contemporaries, leaving only power chords, a hypnotically simple drum beat, and Bon Scott’s shrill mastery of storytelling as he guides us through the genesis of Rock.
This is Rock music purified down to its most fundamental blistering, heart-racing essence. If you ever want to take a crash course on Rock history, this track should be your first lesson.
70. “Kyouran Hey Kids!!”– The Oral Cigarettes
Japanese Rock is one of the most unfortunately underrated subgenres of music today, but if there were a song I’d want to carry the flag onto the world stage–it would easily be this masterpiece by The Oral Cigarettes.
This track is just astoundingly layered, with each instrument bringing its own creativity to the song’s frantic tempo.
The song’s main features are a finger-cramping guitar lick, an impossibly fast bass guitar walk, and a drum beat that makes you sweat just listening to it.
All of this leads up to an absolutely gratifying chorus, with creative voice intonation and some great backing vocals in tow.
This song is just a fucking blast to listen to, and never fails to put a smile on my face.
It’s also a great running song–if you can keep up.
69. “Hello Goodbye”– The Beatles
So, I was never really much of a Beatles fan growing up (except for one song that we’ll get to later).
While this might be because I was raised in a household without a hippie-turned-middle-aged White father who showed me them, I think it has more to do with me just not having the ability to uncover song meaning back then.
All this changed around the time I was 23 and preparing to move back to California from Austin. This song came on a Spotify radio playlist, and its eerie timeliness made it seem like it was sent from God herself to me.
This song, in few words, encapsulates an important lesson: that this life is seldom a zero-sum game. Every end is a new beginning, every failure is a success waiting to happen, and every goodbye to one thing is simply a hello to another.
I’ll always have a special place in my heart for this song and what it helped me learn, and I’ve been on a magical mystery tour through The Beatles discography ever since.
68. “Electric Feel”– MGMT
It’s rather evident by now that I’m big on song composition and its subsequent impact on me, but sometimes a song comes along that you just…vibe with.
Such is the case with MGMT’s stylishly crafted experience of musical fusion.
I’m not the only one who thinks this, too–everyone loves this damn Acid trip of a song, and it suits nearly every occasion.
Pregame? Electric Feel.
Working out? Electric Feel.
Funeral? Okay–maybe not this one, but I personally wouldn’t mind if anyone played this at my funeral.
I’m not above songs that everyone loves, especially if they’re as groovy and timeless as this one.
67. “Plastic Love”– Mariya Takeuchi
The song that somehow broke the YouTube algorithm and firmly planted itself in internet history.
And I am so, so glad that it did. Otherwise, the 24 million+ people who have played this song would have never stumbled upon this wonderfully crafted time capsule on Japanese City Pop.
Many will point to the song’s ability to create an oddly nostalgic ambiance of a time and place that you’ve never actually lived.
A YouTube comment that has been liked 36 thousand times states: “this takes me back to when i wasn’t alive in the 80s in japan”
The fact that nearly everyone agrees on this gives you a sense of connection through nostalgia, and in a way, inspires you to create your own experiences that you’ll one day reflect on as fondly.
66. “Welcome To The Black Parade”–My Chemical Romance
This is a deeply personal song for me.
The appeal with the Emo bands that dominated the airwaves in the mid 2000s was their ability to explore raw emotion, free from the filtration and nuance that older listeners tend to prefer.
We loved Emo music because it seemed to get us, and didn’t make us feel embarrassed for our angst.
While I was in college, I lost two people in my life within the span of a year and fell into an emotional tailspin.
But amidst all that turmoil, this song was there, and it got me.
And I think that’s all a song needs to do sometimes.
That’s all I have to say.
65. “Down Under”– Men At Work
The unofficial (or maybe official–who knows) national anthem of Australia.
Deservedly so, as this masterclass in tempo used its groovy percussion and earworm flute melody to help push Men at Work to the top of the US charts–a huge win at the time for any international song.
Even today, 40 years after its initial release, it’s almost impossible to find anything wrong with this track.
…besides the scores of people who undoubtedly tried Vegemite because of this song. They’re pretty justified in being upset.
64. “Blue Monday“– New Order
This song’s appeal isn’t really something that I can explain.
You’ll just have to experience the 80’s yuppie hypnotism for yourself.
63. “Money Trees”– Kendrick Lamar
This song has always given me the mental imagery of of sun-soaked trees, stunning skylines, and urban neighborhoods.
So, in other words, Los Angeles. The beat for “Money Trees” masterfully transports us to the backdrop of the song’s lyrical content–continuing Kendrick’s romantic story about volatile life in the hood, all in the pursuit of material possessions (hence “Money Trees”).
And this is coming from me, of all people, who has never lived in LA before. But this beautiful beat, with angel-like backing vocals, almost makes me wish I could be there, even if only for the track’s 6-minute run time.
62. “Canal St.”– A$AP Rocky
Everyone loves an underdog story, and A$AP Rocky’s version of it takes you through his entire journey–from an upstart facing the odds to the swaggering success story he’s become.
His wordplay, control, and balance of vulnerability and arrogance paint the portrait of a man who has come a long way but refuses to forget where he’s started.
It’s a song I’ve constantly revisited as both my own career and economic prosperity have progressed, since I too was once just a kettle from the ghetto.
61. “Lovely Day”– Bill Withers
Not that he would have read this article anyway, but I wish I could have posted this article before Withers’ recent passing.
Withers’ soulful delivery, backed by an equally soothing instrumental section, creates a listening experience that makes your mind wander–>not to a place of distraction, but one of sheer enjoyment. For these 4 minutes, you can just zone out a bit and enjoy life for all its beauty.
I’m so glad this song exists, and that Withers’ legacy will be forever preserved in a track that never fails to inspire a smile.
Bill Withers’ dreamy voice is a good one to end on.
See you next time!
Top Songs: 100-81
Top Songs: 60-41
Top Songs: 40-21
Top Songs: 20-11
Top Songs: 10-1