Top 100 Favorite Songs - Part 1

I guess I just can't let the music go just yet.  

As I was working on my list, my best friend Todd and I were talking about my list.  He was asking me about some songs he knew I loved and wondered if they were on my list.  When I said no to a few, he was confused.  I tried to clarify:  my list was for the best songs of my lifetime, not my Top 100 favorite songs.  Still noting the confusion on his face,  I explained further.  "Clocks" by Coldplay is a great song - perfectly written, crafted and performed.  Critics around the world would agree with my placing it on a Top 100 list.  It's a great song and it's one of my favorites.  "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot is another favorite of mine, but even I couldn't make a case that it's a great song.  I just happen to love it.  So that's my distinction between great and favorite.

After I explained it to him, he then had a simple request.  "Your list is great and all, but I want to know your Top 100 favorite songs."  I gave it some thought (probably more than I should have) and decided that was a great idea.  You musical purists out there might want to skip this one, because I put them all up there for consideration, even the embarrassing ones (yep - Celine Dion).  Because I'm a big pop music fan, there are lots of empty calories on this list (which I have to admit embarrasses me a little bit).  But I wanted to be honest, so you've got my musical tastes on a platter, deep fried Twinkies and all.  To my credit, though, there's also a great juevos rancheros on the platter, too. 

So Todd, in your honor, here are my Top 100 Favorite Songs of my lifetime (not already on the other list, since that would be a bit redundant and boring). 

I'll do them in batches of 25, so I can get them out quicker.  So here are the first twenty-five, purely in alphabetical order.

Anthrax - I'm the Man
Opening with Sam Kinison's iconic scream, Anthrax decided to mix metal and rap in an inventive way.  Instead of hardcore lyrics, they poke fun at everything, especially themselves.  The fact that Charlie can't seem to get his rhyming scheme right cracks me up every time.  Throw in a metal "Hava Nagila" and you can't go wrong.

Asia - Heat of the Moment
My first real favorite band, Asia got me with their power chords, lush keyboards and rich harmonies.  Add on top of it John Wetton's powerful voice, and Asia had it all for kid with budding musical tastes.  "Heat of the Moment" ties it all together and sounds just as good almost thirty years later.  And you know if the guys on South Park do a tribute to one of your songs, you've hit one out of the park (pun intended...).

Barenaked Ladies - It's All Been Done
Speaking of power chords, BNL unleashes a few of their own.  This is a seriously great pop song, and then you add the playful "wooo hooo hooo" in the chorus to give it that BNL slice of whimsy.  This has been a staple of their live shows ever since, because it's just so damn fun.

Beastie Boys - Hey Ladies
Although "Sabotage" is the Beastie Boys' best song, "Hey Ladies" is my favorite.  The killer guitar line, mixed with their trademark vocal style where each guy delivers part of a line, makes you want to get up and rap along with them.  And I do - every single time..  The Beastie Boys had done fun, fast-paced lyrics before, but with the production genius of The Dust Brothers on the entire Paul's Boutique album, it took that fun to a, dare I say, artistic level, even with goofy lines like "I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh."

Blink 182 - All the Small Things
I'm a sucker for killer guitar riffs, and Tom DeLonge's one in "All the Small Things" had me at hello.  For those who decry the entire pop-punk genre, this may be prosecution exhibit #1, but I'd argue that it's a killer pop song played perfectly well.  And although that flies in the face of punk, their "Na na na na na na na na" is straight out of The Ramones playbook.  Add on top of it all the video they did that lampooned all the boy bands, which is absolutely hilarious, the music world's a better place because "All the Small Things" is in it.
(Funny aside:  At first I thought it was a joke, but apparently it's not.  The identical twin duo, Jedwad, did a cover of this song for their first album.  Apparently, their parents decided against passing on the irony gene.  The hand claps are a nice touch, though.)

Bon Jovi - Wanted Dead or Alive
It was a coin flip on whether this song or "Livin' on a Prayer" would be on my list, and "Wanted" lost out.  I could've easily made a case for this song as well.  Taking a leisurely stroll down the neck of his acoustic guitar, Richie Sambora invented an intro that is essential for anyone wanting to learn guitar.  If cowboys in the 1880's had amps and big ass drum sets, they would've written songs like this one.  Luckily for us, Jon & Richie did, paying tribute to America's rich heritage while making a great rock song.  Yeah, Jon, my face has been rocked.

Cast of Rent - La Vie Boheme
If I lived in the "musical world," where my friends and I could all sing and dance, and the idea of breaking out into song in the middle of dinner wasn't borderline insane, this is the kind of song that I'd like us all to sing.  Pure fun and comraderie, "La Vie Boheme" takes the original La Boheme opera as a blueprint, throws it in a blender, and brings it to late 80's New York.  The result is a catchy, provocative song that shows you that can be young, poor - even sick with the AIDS virus, and have a great dinner with friends.  Youth and hope are a great combination.

Ray Charles & the Blues Brothers - Shake a Tail Feather
Another song from a very different musical, this one has Ray Charles as the owner of a music store, showing a doubtful Jake and Elwood blues just how good a certain electric piano is.  The result is a classic version of The Five Du-Tones original song, and in my mind the definitive version.  Taking us through all of the famous dance crazes from the 50's and 60's, Ray brings an infectious soul groove to the movie, having me thisclose to jumping into the aisles and joining the fun.

Kelly Clarkson - Behind These Hazel Eyes
I've never been into American Idol, but this song from pop star (and season 1 winner) Kelly Clarkson has it all for me.  There's the great guitar hook, nice tempo changes that don't feel awkward, and her stellar voice.  She captures the true spirit of a lover scorned - wistful remembrance, anger, insecurity and depression, all within a four minute song.  Add to that a lethally catchy tune, and you've got all the ingredients for success.

Marc Cohn - True Companion
For all of us guys who wish we could write a song worthy of the women we love, guys like Marc Cohn take one for the team and write one for us.  With a simple piano refrain, he tells the story of any of us guys, all of us guys. It's the story we all wish we could live, even when we're old and gray.  The lyrics are poetry, to be sure, but real poetry, not the fairy tale poetry of Shakespeare and others."And when I look in your eyes / I'll still see that spark / Until the shadows fall /Until the room grows dark."  "True Companion" is a song I hope I can live out with the rest of my life.

Okay, one quick aside - Why can't musicians who write amazing love songs about their true loves, you know, stay together?!

Jude Cole - Madison
When you pick a song that you want to dedicate to your girlfriend/wife, you want to pick something that's personal and not too popular.  You want it to be your song, not yours and four million other people's.  "Madison" is a special song for me & Jennifer, not because of the cheatin' lyrics, but because it's a wistful remembrance of her hometown, Madison, Wisconsin.  Top it off with the fact that Jude Cole can write great songs in his sleep, and we've got ourselves a keeper.

Harry Connick Jr. - She
Not many people know the funkier side of Harry.  For most, he's the crooner of old standards and new ones that sound like old ones.  But he's so much more than that, and "She" is the living proof.  The full bass, disco guitar, tricked out drums sound like anything but a Harry Connick Jr. song.  Then at the end, when they let loose the reigns and tear into a dizzying instrumental break, it's a great reminder that you don't always need words.  I wish he did more stuff like this.

Elvis Costello - Pump It Up
I've already talked about the bass line, but if you only focus on that great bass, you miss out on the relentless pace of a seriously great song.  There's some great keyboard, and Elvis' voice couldn't be more different than his namesake, but I mean that in a good way.  At the end, I know I'm pumped up, and ready for another spin.

Counting Crows - Angels of the Silences
Another band not really known for their heavy side, Counting Crows shows that all they care about is making great music.  Right out of the box, original guitarist, David Bryson, and brand new lead guitarist for the Recovering the Satellites album, Dan Vickrey, let loose and show you what you can really do with two talented guitarists.  "Angels" is a rocker from start to stop, with a killer guitar solo thrown in that is the last thing you'd expect from Counting Crows.  Even when the song slows for a bit, it's only to build up to the frantic bridge and chorus.  Throw in Adam Duritz's powerful voice and lyrics, and "Angels" is a winner for any rock fan.

Dan Reed Network - Baby Now I
The who Network?  That's the question I usually get from people when I mention this band.  But trust me, this Network is worth tuning in for.  Filled with tremendous musicians and a lead singer (that'd be the Dan Reed) whose gravelly voice can rip out a rocker as well as tenderly deliver a ballad, Dan Reed Network may be one of the best bands you've never heard of.  I stumbled upon a 99 cent promo tape of theirs in early '88 and have been hooked since.  Some bands you're glad when they make three albums and then fade away.  Too bad for me, for us, this is not one of those bands.  "Baby Now I" kicks down the door from the start with some thunderous drums and then never stops kicking - but in that good way.

Def Leppard - Photograph
From the opening memorable guitar riff, Def Leppard proved that you could play metal (or pseudo-metal as some would call it) and have it sound like, well, actual music.  Producer Mutt Lange brought production values to a genre of music that had never cared much for them, while Def Leppard wrote songs that were poppy enough to be catchy, but serious enough to rock. The chorus just keeps building until you think Joe Elliot's voice may explode his own larynx - but in that good way.  The harmonies were straight out of The Beatles, but dropped into a great rock song.  It's like chocolate and peanut butter - a match made in heaven.

Depeche Mode - Strangelove
Another coin flip song from my other list, I love the musical intricacy of "Strangelove."  Lots of unexpected musical twists and turns married with Dave Gahan's seemingly out of place rich baritone.  But it works - in hundreds of songs, and especially in "Strangelove."  Depeche Mode shows that they know how to build a song, musically, but just like the guys at Pixar (where story always comes first), it's the music that's important.  "Strangelove" has a great musical foundation that they built upon to make it a great song and a very interesting song all at the same time.  And just like the guys at Pixar, they make it look easier than it is.

Celine Dion - That's the Way It Is
I tried to fight it, I swear.  I wanted to be an elitist snob and scoff at Celine Dion.  I wanted to hate her for the pop fluff and drippy ballads that she recorded.  But I just couldn't help it.  "That's the Way It Is" is a pure pop-perfect song, and I think I was powerless to resist it from the start.  Even then, I was going to ditch it, out of pure embarrassment mostly.  But my co-workers said,  "You may not want to.  But if it's really one of your favorites, you kinda have to, huh?"  Fine!  Here it is!  I am cloaked in shame!  Curse you Celine Dion!  (But it really is a great song...)

Eagles - Life in the Fast Lane
Another tale from the dark side off of Hotel California, the Eagles tell the tale of a couple living life on the high wire.  Starting with Joe Walsh's terminally pretty guitar riff, is the Eagles best rock song.  With Henley's lyrics, like "He was brutally handsome, and she was terminally pretty," "Life" paints a vivid picture of the difference between desire and destruction is only as thin as a piece of paper, at times.  You'd think that we'd all learn the lessons from those who came before us, but like the saying says, "Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it."  I have a feeling Lindsay Lohan never went to history class much.

Eurythmics - Would I Lie to You?
Never really a group known for its guitar work, Dave Stewart of unleashed a wickedly contagious one at the beginning of this song.  Annie Lennox gets to let loose vocally, showing that although she had that wonderfully ghostly voice on earlier tracks, she can belt it out with the best of them.  She channels Aretha Franklin in this performance, verbally attacking her lover, much like Aretha did in "Respect."  Eurythmics and "they rock" had never been put in the same sentence before, but Dave and Annie proved that, in fact, they do.

Everclear - Rock Star
Opening with the typical rock star dogma, "Look at me!", Art Alexakis pokes fun at himself and the rest of the narcissistic music industry with some pretty biting lyrics.  You can't write a song called "Rock Star" and have it not rock, and fortunately Everclear doesn't need to worry about that.  It starts off rocking and just keeps going.  And while he's poking fun with his lyrics, there are countless "musicians" out there who live with their own dogma, "I don't wanna be a loser / I don't wanna be an almost was."

Fall Out Boy - Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of this Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued
Never ones for brevity in song titles, Fall Out Boy took the style of the moody emo genre and decided to kick it in the ass, making their own guitar driven modulation.   And although bassist Pete Wentz gets most of the press, the musical force behind Fall Out Boy is lead singer and rhythm guitarist Patrick Stump.  He might look a bit, well, normal, for a rock band, but he can put together a killer guitar riff and melody like few others.  Pulsating drums and a solid bass give the song the perfect foundation on which to make a perfect pop song that also happens to rock hard core.

Five for Fighting - 100 Years
As I said in my blog, I like loud more than quiet, but "100 Years" became an instant favorite for me the first time I heard it.  With its simple, yet brilliant, piano line, combined with John Ondrasik's perfect tenor, it takes you through the life that most of us have lived - or want to live.  It's the universal message to savor life as it passes by.  The rest of the music (drums, bass, guitar) are all nice, but it's the piano and vocals that steal the show in "100 Years." 

Peter Gabriel - Kiss of Life
If you've got a great drum beat, I'm listening.  This is a more obscure Peter Gabriel song, but the rhythm of "Kiss of Life" is the star, which is perhaps why it never became too popular.  Drummer Jerry Marotta shows some serious chops as his drum line is the true star of the show.  Peter's melody melds well with the rhythm, while the bass and guitar are the ones that actually establish the musical foundation, taking a back seat to Jerry's drums.  Infectious from the start, his drums keep a blistering pace that makes you want to dance around and maybe learn how to play the drums.

Genesis - Invisible Touch
If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm a sucker for a pop-perfect song.  I know many musical purists see pop songs as disposable fluff, but they forget that The Beatles were a pop band.  "Invisible Touch" is Genesis most pop-perfect moment, and I was hooked from the start.  For three guys in a studio, Genesis sure can create some lush musical arrangements.  When you have the talent of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, there's not much you can't do musically.  And scoff if you want - you know you want to sing along, "She seems to have an invisible touch, yeah!"
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