Top 100 Favorite Songs, Part 4

Okay, this is the last I'm going to be waxing on (and on and on, I'm sure some of you probably think) about music for a while.  This the last 25 in my Top 100 Favorite Songs.

I'll say it one last time, you musical purists out there might want to skip this one, because I put them all up there for consideration, even the embarrassing ones ("I'm Your Man" by Wham! immediately comes to mind).  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, Quarter Pounder and all.  To my credit, though, there's also a great bread pudding with vanilla-whiskey sauce on the platter, too. 

Todd Snider - Beer Run (Live)
I've always been a fan of people who can be funny in a song.  Putting the funny into a "good" song, though, is harder than it looks.  Todd Snider's always been good at putting handfuls of humor into his songs, but with "Beer Run," he decided to go whole hog and make the entire song damn funny.  The cool pneumonic of B double E double R U N got me laughing from the start, and when he lets loose "the guys both took it pretty hard," I was on the floor.  When I need a laugh, this is usually the first song I play, with Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" not far behind.

Stone Temple Pilots - Vaseline
I have no idea what this song is about and I don't much care, because it's just a great song.  With that so-simple-you-can't-believe-someone-didn't-use-it-before opening guitar riff, STP catch you from the start.  Scott Weiland has one of those great rock voices that works so well in a balls to the wall song like "Vasoline."  As a band, STP was more of a rock band than your standard grunge band, so their songs hold up a little better than some of their compatriots.  I've listened to it a few more times in the last hour, and I still don't know what it's about.  And I still don't care.

Styx - Too Much Time on My Hands
Critics railed on Styx for being "corporate rock."  One critic compared one of their albums to "a parking lot full of whale vomit."  Brilliant analogy aside, I think they were too hard on the band.  As I made my case in my Boston post, I think bands like Styx made the records we all wanted to hear.  Fun is okay.  Everybody doesn't need to be Dylan.  And fun is all over "Too Much Time on My Hands."  With my propensity for procrastination, I always loved the line "I've got nothing to do and all day to do it."  Sure, the hand claps in the chorus sound cheesy, but there's an inherent cheesiness to the song that works for me.  So, music purists, go listen to Dylan and Tom Waits.  I'll have another cup of Styx, please.

Sugar Ray - RPM
I never knew Sugar Ray could rock until I unearthed the gem that is "RPM."  The way guitarist Rodney Sheppard does a dueling banjos thing with an actual motorcycle engine is brilliant.  At first, I thought singer Mark McGrath's voice wouldn't stand up in a full blown rocker, I was glad to see I was wrong.  He's more restrained in songs like "Fly" and "Every Morning," but he shows he can belt it out when the song calls for it.  I've always like the slightly quirky drum beat, so "RPM" became a favorite of mine on all levels.  If you are in the mood for another Sugar Ray rocker, check out "Glory."  That song kicks ass, too.

Talking Heads - And She Was
David Byrne is one of those quirky geniuses that can always catch you off guard.  While earlier albums had a much more alternative feel to them, "And She Was," the lead track off of their Little Creatures album, was their version of a pop standard.  With me being a pop music groupie, it was right up my alley.  While Byrne's voice is anything but pop, the way he delivers his vocals has that quirky cheekiness that really works.  Jerry Harrison's simple guitar gives off a kids song vibe, but it works so well with the song as a whole.  The "hey hey hey" vocals also have that I-can't-remember-the-words-so-I'll-just-say-hey thing that kids love to do.  As a grown up kids song, I was hooked from the start, and I still am.

James Taylor - Fire and Rain
Although I love lush musical arrangements with top-notch production values, I also realize that sometimes all you need is a guitar and a great voice to make an amazing song.  Armed with just those, James Taylor talks of life's struggles in such a mature way, acknowledging the difficulties while also trying to see some hope amid the despair.  I love that he can encapsulate an entire life where he's seen "sunny days" and "lonely times" in just two lines.  The heartache of "I always thought I'd see you again," touches me every time I hear it, especially after the death of my mother.  There's a lot of meat to the barebones arrangement, and while fun songs are great, sometimes you need something to make you think.  For me, it's not Bob Dylan, it's James Taylor that I turn to.

Tears for Fears - Broken
This song has a killer bass line as well as a great guitar line.  When played together, it's a sonic dance where the instruments blend perfectly.  You'd think that each line is so distinctive that it'd take away from the other, but the combination is flawless.  For many, "Broken" is merely the intro and outro to their popular hit "Head Over Heels," but for me, it's "Head Over Heels" that's the interruption of a great song.  I even made a mix of the songs, removing "Head Over Heels" in its entirety.  To catch the real ending to the song, check out this clip, and fast forward 4:10 into the song.  I love hit pop songs, but America got it wrong.  "Broken" was the real hit here.

Third Eye Blind - Graduate (Remix)
This is another remix where the album version is beefed up, and the underrated Third Eye Blind bring some great guitar to the party, and I especially love the neck slide after the initial chorus.  "Semi Charmed Life" is a great song, but it pales in comparison to "Graduate," a more complex rocker that really shows what guitarist Tony Fredianelli can do.  The stuttering drum and bass part at the end of Tony's guitar solo is another favorite part of mine.  Stephan Jenkins has one of the more versatile rock voices that can let loose, like on "Graduate," but also handle the more mellow stuff, like "How's It Going to Be."  Songs like "Graduate" appeal to me because they're great straightforward rockers with a great sonic subtext of complexity.

Traveling Wilburys - End of the Line
Okay, you've finally got me giving Bob Dylan the thumbs up.  I've always been hard on him for his voice, but with fellow Wilburys Tom Petty, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, his voice works for me (in small doses).  Of course it helps that Harrison, Petty and Orbison sing the lead parts in "End of the Line," while Dylan's only vocals are of the background variety.  Sorry, Bob.  Anyway, with the simple, yet instantly classic, guitar opening, "End of the Line" is a great singalong song that catches your attention right away.  In the video, they're all just sitting around singing, and with a song like this, it makes me wish I could be there singing along, too.

I don't know if I mentioned this in any of my regular posts, but I'm a pretty big U2 fan.  Okay, they're the best group in the history of rock & roll.  So when it comes to favorites, you know you're getting more U2.  Here are three more great ones that easily could've made my Top 100 best songs list.

U2 - City of Blinding Lights
In November of 2004, I was in Los Angeles, taking care of my mother who was very sick and would end up passing away the day before Thanksgiving.  My wife was home in Colorado and I missed her very much.  In this sad and depressing time, I needed something to lift my spirits.  The first time I heard "City of Blinding Lights," the lyrics touched me in a profound way.  U2 combined what I loved about "Where the Streets Have No Name" and made it a love song.  "And I miss you when you're not around."  As simple a lyric as it is, I was living it at that exact moment.  Another simple, yet meaningful lyric was "Oh, you look so beautiful tonight."  I think that so often when I look at my wife, and listening to it when she wasn't there brought back the good and happy memories I needed in that dark time.  She still looks beautiful every night and I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  I'm glad that there's a song now that is a constant reminder of that.

(Quick fun fact:  The musical basis for "Blinding Lights" was a song they worked on during their Pop sessions.  That song was a tribute to singer-songwriter Scott Walker.  That's my older brother's name.  Cool, huh?)

U2 - Elevation (Tomb Raider Mix)
"Elevation" is yet another case where the remix (this one was done for the Tomb Raider movie) kicks the ass of the album version. To rip off the line from Spinal Tap, the remix takes the song to 11.  It was always a rocker, but they brought much more rock to the party with the Tomb Raider mix.  The acoustic guitar is gone from the chorus, and there's just so much more oomph to the rest of the song.  Listen to them both and you'll see.  I love the self-deprecating line, "Can't sing, but I've got soul."  Edge has always been able to bring an arena rock guitar riff to the table, and "Elevation"'s is one of his best.  Bono's "woo hoo"s were just made for audience participation, so it's no surprise that this song will always be a concert staple. 

U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
This song was my last cut when I decided I didn't want to have more than three U2 songs on my Top 100 list.  Edge said that "Still Haven't Found" was their attempt to write a gospel song.  They succeeded in spades, especially with Bono's heartfelt vocals and the lifting harmonies of the chorus.  The quest for finding something to fill our God-shaped hole is something that is something we all relate to.  Even for Atheists, the hole may not be God-shaped, but it's still there.  Musically, the song is relatively simple by U2 standards, and I mean that in a good way.  You don't want to screw up the beautiful simplicity of the melody with a bunch of extraneous stuff.  I'm sure it was hard, especially for The Ede, to keep the music relatively simple, but in the end, U2's gospel song is one that will still speak to people decades later.

I'm one of the few Van Halen fans I know who was just as happy with Sammy on vocals as I was with Dave doing the same thing.  I think that they did great albums with both lead singers.  (I originally thought Gary Chereone was a good choice for VH III, but it just didn't work out).  So I've got two of my Van Halen favorites, one from each guy. 

Van Halen - Judgement Day
Van Halen has always been a great rock group, but I always wished that they would rock just a little bit harder.  Eddie finally gave me what I was looking for with "Judgement Day."  His guitar has a harder edge to it than ever before, and the song just kicks ass.  Sammy has that great voice where he can be screaming lyrics but still hit the notes of the melody.  Not too many vocalists can bring both talents to the same song.  While some may scoff at the poppy harmonies in the pre-chorus, I think it adds a great change of pace to the out-and-out rocker that is "Judgement Day."  There was talk that this song was in contention to be in Terminator 2, rather than "You Could Be Mine," by Guns N Roses.  They both would've been excellent choices, so try muting your TV and put on "Judgement Day" while watching T2.  It's pretty cool.

Van Halen - Panama
Great guitar riffs are like chocolate for me, it's impossible to have too much.  Eddie's guitar riff for "Panama" is one of his catchiest, and when you combine it with Dave's vocal (and literal) acrobatics, the song hits it out of the park.  Alex plays the drums like they've pissed him off and he's punishing them while Michael holds down the bottom end with fierce efficiency.  When Dave squeals alongside Eddie's guitar squeals, I'm as giddy as a little schoolgirl.  Only David Lee Roth can pull off the spoken word bridge where he'll "reach down between my legs, and ease the seat back."  Oh, and what the hell does Panama have to do with anything?  I dunno, but since it's a Van Halen song, it doesn't much matter, does it?

Velvet Revolver - Slither
The song title is so appropriate, because Duff McKagan's bass line that opens the song really does slither along the grimy floor like a snake would.  Slash adds a great pulsing guitar riff that Duff beefs up with his bass.  I always thought Scott Weiland's voice fit better with Velvet Revolver than with STP, and it shows in songs like "Slither" and "Illegal I Song," where Scott channels Perry Farrell.  I know lots of people were happy when STP got back together, but I was a little bummed.  Two albums just wasn't enough for me.

Vertical Horizon - Everything You Want
Another pop rocker that would embarrass some, I happen to be a huge fan of "Everything You Want."  The chorus is instantly imprinted in your brain (luckily for me, happily imprinted) and you can sing along by the end of the song the first time you hear it.  There's that great delay effect guitar intro that's augmented by a strong rhythm section where drummer Ed Toth plays a slightly quirky rhythm that I find fascinating.  Matt Scannell's lyrics about unrequited love are so familiar.  You've got a good friend that you've liked, even loved, for ages, but she doesn't see what's in front of her face.  So as she pines for others, you finally let out, "I"m everything you want!"  It's a tough position to be in, but many of us guys have been there way too much. 

Joe Walsh - Life's Been Good
Brevity may be the essence of wit, but if you're as witty as Joe Walsh, you can take a full eight minutes for a song.  With a reggae feel to the choruses and an almost plodding pace, you'd think it'd be annoying.  But since the subject of the song is the oblivious narcissism of rock stars, he's in on the joke.  Plus you've got that great guitar line that weaves throughout the song.  Even the guitar solo is indulgent, so it plays right into the mood of the song.  Lyrically, the song is pure genius.  From the opening, "I've got a mansion, forget the price.  Ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice," to the end where he says "Everybody's so different.  I haven't changed," it's poking fun at yourself to the nth degree.

Wham! - I'm Your Man
Sure, this song is full of empty pop calories, but it's also tons of fun, too.  I'll overlook the now-known subtext of what "I'm Your Man" means (the fourteen year-old me would've said, "Wait?  George Michael's gay?!!!, while the forty year-old me would point to George's shorts in the "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" video, complete with day-glo gloves and say, "Come on....") and focus primarily on the music. This song is pop perfect to the core.  An elementary drum beat keeps time while the bass line pops up and down, not-so-subtly commanding your body to do the same.  Many dance songs hide the singer's deficiencies, but George has such a strong voice that it's able so take center stage, right where it belongs.  Sure, "I"m Your Man" would never earn (or deserve) a Grammy, but fun songs come in way more handy than Grammy winners, in my life.  So I'll take another dose of "I'm Your Man," please, homoerotic subtext and all.

Andrew WK - She Is Beautiful
While I think Andrew's vocal performance (the choice of going kinda death metal with the melody) is a bit absurd, it's the riveting guitar riff that gets me every time.  I like the melody, and would like it even more if he delivered it in a more conventional way, but even with that, this song is still a favorite.  The addition of the piano in a song like this is just the kind of whimsy I love.  But for me, it all comes down to that guitar.  It's a simple distorted guitar in the intro that morphs into an overdubbed embarrassment of riches in the verses with some extra thump from the matching bass line.  I just can't get enough of it.  More, please...

White Zombie - More Human Than Human
Rob Zombie was one of the pioneers of mixing techno rhythms with heavy metal guitar riffs, combined with that "I just gargled gasoline" vocal style that would make Linda Blair in The Exorcist proud.  "More Human Than Human" has that aggressive vibe that I love in heavy songs, and the great one-two punch of guitar and bass that punctuates the verses makes me pump my fists.  If I'm working out and need some extra motivation to keep up the pace, this is the perfect song.

Steve Winwood - Back in the High Life Again
When "Back in the High Life Again" came out, I had no idea that the voice behind this song was the same voice that rocked out "Gimme Some Lovin'."  The versatility of Steve Winwood, both musically and vocally is astounding.  While many thought that this period was the low point of Winwood's career, I disagree.  Just because he wanted to go in a singer-songwriter direction, it's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you do it this well.  From the great mandolin to that great accordion "solo," there's so much more than you'd normally expect from a pop song.  When you add on the great backing vocals from James Taylor, "Back in the High Life" gives you so much to listen to that you find yourself putting the song on again just to soak it all in.

Yes - Owner of a Lonely Heart
For many Yes fans, "Lonely Heart" was where they jumped the shark.  Obviously, considering that it's one of my favorite songs ever, I disagree.  Sure, it's a much more poppy sound for them.  Some would call it elementary in its structure, and when you compare it to prog-rock opuses like "Roundabout," I'd have to agree.  But I'd continue to argue that simple isn't always bad, and a great melody will always win out over over-complicated puffery.  Don't get me wrong, I love "Roundabout," but also have room in my musical tastes to embrace both.  Guitarist Trevor Rabin's influence is all over "Lonely Heart," which was actually going to be for his side project with other Yes members Chris Squire and Alan White.  During the recording, however, former lead singer Jon Anderson and keyboardist Tony Kaye decided to join the production and Yes was reformed.  Anderson does a great job with the vocals and Rabin's iconic guitar intro became instantly famous.  So from the ashes arose the phoenix of Yes' biggest ever hit.  Pop?  Sure.  Great?  Absolutely.

Paul Young - I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down
Paul Young has one of those voices that seems to be so much richer than you'd expect from a pasty British guy.  Belting out songs like "Playhouse" as well as delivering tender performances like "Wherever I Lay My Hat," he shows a talent and versatility that I always found criminally underrated.  Pino Palladino's great bass line becomes the main musical focus (and if you had a bass line that memorable, it'd be the focus, too) while Steve Bolton's wailing guitar is a great addition.  This remake of Ann Peebles' original stays true only to the melody, taking the music and really amping it up.  No offense, Ann, but listening to your original after hearing Paul's version is like watching bowling on TV.  It just doesn't work for me.

Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerard - Elysium/Honor Him/Now We Are Free
This one isn't a cheat.  It's not really three songs, it's one song in three parts.  This music is the score from the climax of the movie Gladiator.  Zimmer's always been one of my favorite movie composers (it's a crime he's only won a single Academy Award, for The Lion King) and this is him at his best.  Working with Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerard, he uses her voice as another instrument, giving the quieter parts an angelic introspection while also bringing inspiring power and drama to the climax.  It's a wonderful duet of sorts that I was skeptical of at first, but once I heard it, it immediately became a favorite of mine.  (Quick side note:  I've always wondered what the translation was of what Lisa was singing.  Turns out that there is none.  She sings in a made-up language from her childhood.  Here's a cool article about it.)
If you like what you hear, check out some other of Hans' brilliant scores, like Backdraft, Crimson Tide Batman Begins & Inception.  Any of those could've been on this list, too.

ZZ Top - La Grange
This is one of those ZZ Top songs that I knew as a kid, but never knew it was the ZZ Top I knew as a teenager.  You know, the "Sharped Dressed Man" and "Legs" ZZ Top.  I'd heard it on the radio a bunch, but L.A. rock DJ's were pretty bad at telling you who did the songs (or I was too young to care very much).  "La Grange" has that great guitar line that becomes the heartbeat of the song.  It's a bluesy guitar that's rocked up with an early version of that great ZZ Top guitar sound.  Billy Gibbons sings the song as if he's on the back side of a three day bender, but the vocal style goes perfectly with the song.  One of the great driving songs of all time, "La Grange" always gets me to push a little harder on the accelerator as I head down the highway.

Top 100 Favorite Songs, Part 3

Here's the third group of 25 for the Top 100 Favorite songs.

I'll say it yet again, 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 - Sir Mix-a-Lot!).  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, Awesome Blossom and all.  To my credit, though, there's also some great braised short ribs with rosemary polenta on the platter, too. 

John Mayer - Bigger Than My Body
First time I heard this, I had the same thought you did.  Is that a guitar?  Turns out it was.  Using a great guitar effects unit, the AdrenaLinn, Mayer opens the song with that fantastic sound, unlike anything we'd ever heard before.  But it's not just a flashy intro, there's a great rest of the song as well.  Inspired after seeing Coldplay in concert, John felt the compulsion to create something better, bigger - hence the title.  I think he succeeded.  It's musically complex, but accessible and easy on the ears.  For my money, that's a winning combination.

Sarach McLachlan - Sweet Surrender
Leaving her comfort zone of slow, singer-songwriter type songs behind (at least for a song), Sarah McLachlan quickens the pace a bit in "Sweet Surrender."  Her vocals, strong, but still with a ghostlike quality, give the song a dreamy feel.  Especially with the rich harmonies of the chorus, she shows how much a talented singer can bring to an already great song.  I have a feeling she could sing the phone book, and I'd still sit and stare, entranced.

George Michael - I Want Your Sex (Parts 1 & 2)
After messing around with a drum machine and sequencer in the studio, George Michael accidentally created the trippy beat that opens "I Want Your Sex."  Mixing soul vocal performances with pop sensibilities, George created a song that crossed all sorts of musical genre barriers.  Controversial at the time, the song was actually about the sexual advantages of monogamy, so the criticism was a bit off base.  Part 2 is just an extension of the original song, punctuated with some great horn and slow jam breakdown that's a tribute to his soul influences.  It's one of the best dance songs of all time. 

Mike + the Mechanics - All I Need Is a Miracle
Another pop perfect song, most music critics saw this song as a heaping mound of cotton candy - sweet with no substance.  But I love cotton candy!  I still don't see the problem in making a great pop song without a deep emotional undertone.  Look at "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," by The Beatles.  You won't confuse that with Kafka, but it's still a great song.  And that's what "All I Need Is a Miracle" is.  Using keyboards that are so powerful they're almost a percussion instrument, the band puts together a British pop version of an old standard like "It's the Same Old Song" with Paul Young's powerful voice.  Combine that with the fact that they had another lead singer with a great voice, Paul Carrack, and you can't really go wrong with any song you listen to by Mike + the Mechanics.

Alanis Morissette - Ironic
Starting off like your standard "Lillith Fair" type song, with sorrowful lyrics and a halting vocal delivery, Alanis takes things to another level with her soaring chorus.  And when she sings the line, "It's like meeting the man of your dreams - and meeting his beautiful wife," with a little "hmmmph" of resigned sadness at the end, the emotion really pours through.  The best songs succeed when you feel like you've stepped into the artist's soul.  Alanis Morissette is one of the best artists at opening up herself to us, and that's what makes a song like "Ironic" especially great.
(Okay, now that I've got that out of the way, the writer in me has to take some issues with Alanis and her lyrics.  The irony is that most of her lyrics lack the very thing she claims the whole song is about.  Isn't that ironic, don't ya think?  Coincidence and crappy timing do not equal irony.  Check out this great article by Matt Sturges about her attempts (and successes) at irony.)

Mr. Mister - Kyrie
This song was me at my best in regards to lyrical ignorance.  I was a faithful Christian in 1985 (and hopefully still am), when "Kryie" came out and had no idea that the song was about God.  All I knew was that it was a great pop song with killer keyboards and Richard Page's soaring vocals.  The drums pop and the guitar adds power chords when needed, but it's Page's stellar vocal performance that keeps me coming back again and again.  And looking back, twenty-five years later, Richard can hold his head high, knowing he was the one member of the band who didn't grow a mullet.

New Order - Blue Monday '88
One of the greatest dance songs ever released from a new wave band,"Blue Monday" starts with that great drum machine beat, slowly augmented with that repeating keyboard line.  The bass line, while simple, practically commands your body to move.  I'm at work right now with my tie on, trying to restrain myself (and failing).  Like any great dance song, it takes over two minutes before Bernard Sumner gets to sing anything, but when he does, it's worth the wait.  When it comes to keyboards, New Order is right up there with the boys from Depeche Mode on intricate layering.  I especially like the keyboard that sounds like an accordion on crack.  Seven and a half minutes later, you're exhausted from either dancing or fighting the urge to dance. And you want to do it all again.

Offspring - Pretty Fly For a White Guy
Tongue placed firmly in cheek, Dexter Holland, main songwriter, guitarist & lead vocalist of The Offspring pokes fun at his white friends who lived their lives as urban "black" youths, a la Steve Martin in The Jerk ("I was born a poor, black child...).  All of us know guys like this.  "He may not have a clue, and he may not have style.  But everything he lacks, well he makes up in denial," Dexter sings.  Musically, it's just as much fun as the lyrical content suggests.  In the same way that Anthrax thrashed out "Hava Nagila," the guitar riff in "Pretty Fly" reminds me of a Jewish standard tipped on its head.  Blasphemy?  Sure.  Fun?  Absolutely.  (Quick side note:  If you love killer guitar riffs, check out the intro to "The Kids Are Not Alright." )

Oingo Boingo - Dead Man's Party
Oingo Boingo are at their best when they're playing live, and they played their best live at their annual Halloween shows.  I was lucky enough to see a few of them and the highlight was always Dead Man's Party.  Taking a page from rock, new wave, punk, ska and even pop, Oingo Boingo developed their own kind of music.  Backed by a full horn section and with bassist John Avilla rocking the bass line out on a keytar, Danny Elfman's "all dressed up and nowhere to go."  He always performs with that half-smile, half-sneer, and it's clear no one's having a better time than him.  Musically, Oingo Boingo was one of most talented group of musicians of their era, born to play live.  If they ever decide to get back together and do another Halloween show, I'll be first in line.

OK Go - Here I Go Again
This song might've made my list based solely on the video, but it's a great song on top of that. It opens with that killer straightforward guitar riff, rounded out with the complimentary bass line, and then just keeps pounding away.  The guys do a great job with the vocal harmonies in the choruses, while lead singer Damien Kulash's voice reminds me of a young Elvis Costello on just a little bit of helium.  I love that the guitar solo is actually chord based, rather than the cacophony of notes that you normally get from a guitarist.  It's a fun, tightly put together song that reminds me a bit of early Beatles stuff.  And then there's the video!  How come nobody ever thought of that before?!  Genius!

Pearl Jam - Corduroy
At first, I thought the song was about a woman.  It's not.  It's a scathing attack on the people who became "fans" of Pearl Jam because they were popular.  The song was inspired when Eddie Vedder saw a "designer" copy of the corduroy jacket he paid $2 for at a thrift store on sale for fifty times that.  For those fans, he says "I don't want to take what you can give."  He can unleash scathing poetry full of vitriol like no other.  And then he spits them out an anger, railing against the "fans" who are so oblivious, they don't know this song is about them.  The music is fast and frenetic, serving the lyrics and Eddie's vocal performance well.  And if you want to know, I started out as a Pearl Jam one of these same "fans," but now I'm just a regular fan.

Robert Plant - Tall Cool One
Containing samples from Led Zeppelin songs, "Whole Lotta Love," "Dazed and Confused," "Custard Pie," "Black Dog," and "The Ocean," Robert Plant poked fun at the artists sampling Zeppelin songs for their own use and created this addictive mash up of his own.  Singing over samples of his own voice (and having Jimmy Page play guitar as well), he winks at all of us while having a total blast.  This song oozes fun from start to end as he consoles his lover, "Lighten up baby, I'm in love with you."  From the great keyboard opening to the spoken word, "You stroll, you jump, you're hot and you tease," Plant takes what could have been a parody and turns it into a dance/rock standard that everybody I've ever met loves.

POD - Boom
While they got lumped in with the alt-metal crowd when this song came out, I always respected POD for being true to their faith, even while being denigrated as poseurs by the hardcore fans of the genre.  They weren't, though.  They were just loved this kind of music and happened to also be Christians.  The band took that backlash and channeled it into a forceful retort to those detractors.  "Is that all you got?  I'll take your best shot," raps Sonny Sandoval, while Marcos Curiel's guitar propels the song forward with a menacing growl.  The guitar line even bobs and weaves like a prizefighter, taunting you to bring it.  With, "Boom," POD definitely brings it, leaving the real poseurs on the mat.  And a ping pong video!  Classic!

The Police - Don't Stand So Close to Me -
Starting off slow with an almost hesitant guitar and atmospheric keyboards, you think this might be a much more moody song.  Sting sings the verses with an almost verbal pout, echoing the coy student in the lyrics.  But the wheels come off in the choruses, where the mood is positively jubilant, playing against the uncomfortable lyrics, "Please don't stand so close to me."  It's the schoolteacher being ecstatic and uncomfortable at the same time.  Sting, a former schoolteacher himself, delivers his vocals to match the various moods of the lyrics.  Combined with Stewart Copeland's vastly underrated drums and Andy Summer's almost jazzy guitar, it's clear they passed the test.
86 Version
It's not cheating if it's the same group doing the same song, so here goes...
After breaking up in 1984 to pursue their own solo careers, The Police reunited for the Amnesty International concerts in June of '86 and went in the studio shortly thereafter to see if they could rekindle things.  After a tense couple of weeks, they realized that they couldn't and the reunion was short-lived.  What survived, though, was this moody, quirky, awesome rerecording of "Don't Stand So Close to Me."  While the original juggled excitement with caution, this version is all about the foreboding consequences of teacher/student love/lust.  A perfect yang to the original's yin, it shows how much a band's attitude can influence their music.

Iggy Pop - Lust for Life
For me, the love of this song didn't begin with those lame Royal Caribbean commercials, or even its prominent use in the movie Trainspotting.  Nope, for me it was the Jim Rome sports radio show that introduced me to Iggy Pop.  The opening riff of "Lust for Life" opens each hour of Rome's show and immediately after I heard it for the first time back in '94, I had to find out what it was.  Thankfully, a friend recognized it, and I bought the album.  The great drum track, paired with an almost rockabilly guitar makes the instrumental part of the song hold up on its own.  Then you add in Iggy's snarling lyrics, you realize his lust for life is actually a lust for heroin, which he was trying to kick back in '77.  It's about trying to quit something that you know will kill you, but the lust for it is so compelling.   Even decades later, I bet it's still a daily struggle for Iggy.

Powerman 5000 - When Worlds Collide
Mixing techno with thrash metal is a ballsy move, since both camps are fiercely territorial, but Powerman 5000 mixes the two so well, I don't think either side can complain.  It's like dipping your french fries into your chocolate shake.  Sure it sounds weird, but if you've tried it, you know what I'm talking about.  Starting out with a pulsing dance beat, you think you know what you've got yourself into, but then the chorus throws it all out the window.  Before you know it, amped up guitars and vocals are smacking you in the head.  And you don't mind because in the end, just like chocolate shake french fries, it all works.

Elvis Presley - A Little Less Conversation
Yes, it was the movie Ocean's Eleven that introduced me to this song.  But just like Steven Soderberg, who directed the movie, I couldn't believe that there was this cool of an Elvis song that I'd never heard of.  A great dance drum beat with some nice guitar work, Elvis does his best, well, Elvis, in singing, "A little less conversation, a little more action, please."  (Pssst....  He's talking about sex!  Don't tell anyone!)  It made me want to find other gems from artists I thought I knew.  Have found a few great ones ("Time" by INXS and "New Star" by Tears for Fears spring to mind) and I'm still looking.

Prince and the Revolution - I Would Die 4 U
For those of you who think drum machines and sequencers are the devil, I would offer up this song as Exhibit A as I mounted my defense.  The great shimmying "high hat" that is the rhythmic basis for the song is infectious.  And I love the percussive hand clap that permeates the song.  The great harmonies with the ladies in The Revolution (mixed with Prince's own backing vocals) augment his strong vocal performance.  As if Purple Rain didn't already have one of the greatest dance songs ever in "Let's Go Crazy," Prince decided to put another all-time great - on the same album!  Genius, indeed.

Queen & David Bowie - Under Pressure
I don't care if they stole the bass line from Vanilla Ice, I still love this song.  But seriously, folks...  Roger Deacon's simple bass line laid a great foundation for the immense vocal talents of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie.  Throughout the song, they both get to sing in all sorts of vocal styles, with Freddie hitting that great high note at the crescendo of the song.  Brian May, whose guitars usually stood front and center in the mix, knew that for this song, he needed to hold back a bit because this song was all about the vocal performances.  And in that regard, "Under Pressure" is a vocal extravaganza that I've never tired of.

Queensryche - Eyes of a Stranger (Live) w/ Anarchy Xtra (Start 1:30 in on the video)
Being a sucker for an anthemic guitar line, I chose the live version of these songs because they're melded into a cohesive opus of metal.  Geoff Tate may be the most talented of all his contemporaries, because he can pull off the quiet stuff (like "Silent Lucidity") as well as the screaming metal stuff as well.  Playing harmoniously together, Chris Degarmo and Michael Wilton show how having two great guitarists in a metal band ends up with the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.  Starting about 7:20 into the video, Wilton & Degarmo begin their buildup to what may be my favorite guitar part of all time.  Paired with Scott Rockenfield's martial drums, it always gets me going.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Get Up and Jump
I talked in my blog about wanting to play guitar like Richie Sambora.  For drums, it'd be Neal Peart of Rush.  For bass?  A no brainer.  Flea is the god of bass for me and I'd love to play with his passion and technical brilliance.  The bass line in "Get Up and Jump" is so forceful, you either recoil from it or jump in with both ears.  Travis Barker of Blink 182 plays the drums the same way.  Both guys take seriously their responsibility in the rhythm section, but also know how to add a lot of fun to it as well.  This is the Chilis at their infancy, but Anthony Keidis' rap-sing vocal style comes across as inventive and entertaining at the same time.  When he blurts out, "Jam bob, jim bob, slim bob boogie. To the tune of slima billy, lookin’ like you’re mighty silly," its as if he's using his voice as another instrument.  Fast paced and nothing but fun, "Get Up and Jump" makes me want to.  Check out this great remix, too.

Run DMC - It's Tricky
This is kind of a two-for-one deal for me, because I get the great guitar line from "My Sharona" (another song that I love), with the incomparable back-and-forth of Run & DMC.  No rap group before or since has been able to match the seemingly odd (but in the end perfect) combination of their two voices.  Run's voice, up at the top of the register, plays perfectly off DMC's rich baritone.  When they both deliver lines (or in this case, words), it's that sweet and salty vocal perfection that works so very well.  They say that it's not that easy.  They're absolutely right.  But with a song like, "It's Tricky," they show that putting a great song together can be done.

Rush - Bravado
Complexity is the hallmark of most Rush songs.  All three members can make great rock songs while also adding intricate instrumentation.  "Bravado," however, isn't one of those songs.  All of the parts are very straightforward, especially for Rush, but at its heart, "Bravado" is just a great song.  I love the relatively simple guitar intro, which is interspersed throughout the song, and Geddy Lee's vocals hit the sweet spot of his more mature voice.  The lyrics talk about the people whose lives end up changing the world.  Even in the rubble of failure, they persevere and try again.  These people realize that there's a cost, but the desire for success overwhelms them, propelling them to eventually succeed.  It's a lesson that few really learn.  I don't think I've completely learned it, but I strive every day to get better at it.

Paul Simon - You Can Call Me Al
When Paul Simon recorded Graceland, he was greatly influenced by the African rhythms he'd been exposed to by a friend.  "You Can Call Me Al" is a relatively standard "quirky" Paul Simon song, but when you add the great bass line and African backing vocals, it becomes that great burger with a twist that you have at your favorite restaurant.  The lyrics are great, stream-of-consciousness type stuff that Paul's really good at, and his voice comes across as an everyman's voice (just one with perfect pitch).  In what may be the funniest music video ever, Chevy Chase elbows Paul out of his own song, stealing the show while Paul adds his own moments of resigned humor.  Twenty-five years later, I still know every word to this one.  That's a favorite song if I've ever heard one.

Sir Mix-a-Lot - Baby Got Back
"Oh my God.  Becky, look at her butt."  You know how it starts.  You might want to pretend you don't, but you do.  And you love it.  You know you do.  It's the guilty pleasure that everyone I know will begrudgingly admit to.  They'll sadly shake their head up and down.  "Yeah, I do love 'Baby Got Back.'  I just can't help it."  To use a Friends analogy (no, not that one), it's like the scene where the guys call Rachel on the fact that while she claims that Dangerous Liasons is her favorite movie, in reality it's Weekend at Bernies.  We all have a Weekend at Bernies, and for me, it's "Baby Got Back."  It's absolutely irresistible.  When it's on, even the ladies are rappin' out "My anaconda don't want none unless you've got buns, hon."  Some songs have that DNA that invade your brain like a virus.  Most of them make you want you to try and poke them out with an ice pick.  But with "Baby Got Back," for me, if this is being sick, I don't want to be healthy.  I'm puttin' it on again.  It's okay.  You can do it, too.  I won't tell anyone.

Top 100 Favorite Songs, Part 2

Here's the second group of 25 for the Top 100 Favorite songs.

I'll say it again, 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 - Chesney Hawkes!).  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, pint of Cherry Garcia and all.  To my credit, though, there's also some great spaghetti bolognase on the platter, too. 

Go West - King of Wishful Thinking
I've always been a big fan of Peter Cox's voice.  There's a richness to it that adds so much to what may just be a pop standard.  Lesser vocalists would be overwhelmed by the rich production, but his voice is so strong that it not only holds up to it, but soars over it.  Lyrically, "King of Wishful Thinking" is a hope for the best story of a man left by a lover, but you can tell that his wishful thinking is just that.  So the somber lyrics are a yin to the yang of the upbeat melody and music.  Instantly catchy, "King" still comes across fresh.

Goo Goo Dolls - Slide
Johnny Rzeznik not only has a great voice, but he can belt out some great tunes with his rich, raspy voice.  His vocals really make the lyrics about a guy who's desperately in love truly shine.  So many of us guys have wanted a woman to take that leap of faith and go down the slide with us.  Adding some strong musicianship to a catchy song is never a bad thing, and in the case of "Slide," it's what helped make it one of my all-time favorites.

Grandmaster Melle Mel - White Lines
Most early rap was about having fun, dancing and goofing around.  Grandmaster Melle Mel wanted to tell real stories from the streets where he lived.  And he did not have a Bel Air or Manhattan address.  What he did have was a cautionary tale for the kids in his neighborhood, because he knew they wouldn't get the preferential treatment that the folks in Bel Air would get.  It's the classic mode of subterfuge - wrap your serious message in a fun way, and kids will listen.  And damn, is this one catchy song.  As a twelve year-old, I didn't really know what white lines were, but I knew I loved this song.  Twenty-eight years later, I know what white lines are and I still love this song.  I bet you do, too.

Chesney Hawkes - The One and Only
Sorry.  I knew at some point, I was going to Rickroll you all, but I never had the guts to do it in a serious post.  If you clicked on the link above, you already know what I'm talking about, if not, click on the Rickroll link to read on.  Anyway, I did it on this song, because "The One and Only" is admittedly a pretty vapid, useless pop song.  The problem is - I can't get enough of it!  This one may be even worse than Celine Dion, but I had to be honest.  And like Celine, Chesney didn't even write it (that honor would go to underrated pop artist Nik Kershaw).  But if you like pop music, this will hit the spot nicely. 

Don Henley - Sunset Grill
In many ways, there wouldn't have been a "New York Minute" without a "Sunset Grill."  It was the first time that Don Henley put a really complex instrumentation together.  It's funny that the drummer would embrace the drum machine, but it adds a nice texture to the rest of the song.  Add some great bass work by Pino Paladino.  With the classic line, "What would we do without all these jerks / Besides, all our friends are here," Don sings of that Cheers-like place where everybody knows your name, even if they bug the crap out of you.
Listening to the solo at the end of the song, I always thought it was a keyboard or some funky effect on a horn.  In reality, it's a funky effect on a guitar.  Brilliant!  And that's this song from start to finish.  Brilliant.

Hoobastank - Same Direction
Always a sucker for a killer guitar riff, Hoobastank opens with the toned down version of a great guitar line and then takes the training wheels off to really kick the song into high gear.  Many would consider a song like this to be cookie-cutter rock, a la Nickelback and Creed, and they may be right.  But for me, this song rocks and I'm falling for it.  Singer Doug Robb has that great rock voice that works best when he really unleashes it.  Good thing for us all that his voice does indeed go to 11.

Billy Idol - To Be a Lover (Mother of Mercy Mix)
Once again, it's a killer guitar riff that pulls me in.  The album version of "To Be a Lover" is great, but in this remix, guitarist Steve Stevens unleashes a guitar riff that makes me want to go down to Guitar Center and pick up a guitar and follow his lead.  The first time I heard this mix (it was on a cassette tape), I had to look again to make sure it was the right song, since the guitar couldn't be for this song.  But after listening to the whole thing, I found that although it's vastly different than the rest of the song, it still totally works, because Billy Idols growl of a voice holds up to it.  If I'd give up a pinky finger to play like Richie Sambora, I'd give up the other one to play like Steve Stevens. 

INXS - What You Need (Extended Remix)
It's interesting what happens when you put things in alphabetical order.  Two remixes in a row.  Again, the album version of "What You Need" is great, but this remix is perhaps the greatest remix ever.  That's not hyperbole.  Listen to it and find me one that's better.  Sure Men at Work were the first Australian band to use saxophone in pop music, but it was INXS who perfected it, with Kirk Pengilly bringing some serious rock sax to the party.  Tim Ferris' great guitar work and Garry Garry Beers bass propel the song forward so Michael Hutchence's vocals take center stage - right where they belong. 

Iron Maiden - The Trooper
For all the flack that they got for "Number of the Beast," Iron Maiden was always the thinking man's metal band.  Covering subjects from the Native American battle against the invading United States, and a retelling of Rime of the Ancient Mariner, lyricist and bassist Steve Harris brought Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade to a new audience with "The Trooper."  Harris plays the bass so hard, it sounds like he's literally shaking the strings loose.  The two-headed guitar beast that is Dave Murray and Adrian Smith brings a great depth to any song, and they often play you-go I-go solos that are among the tops in heavy metal.  Singer Bruce Dickinson has such a strong voice, that you believe that he's a soldier on the field of battle, railing at the horrors of war.  "The Trooper" is not a rallying cry for war - it's an indictment of the senselessness of it all.

Janet Jackson - If
Heavy guitar riffs don't often work well in dance songs, but in "If," it's a well choreographed combination.  Laying down a heavy sonic layer that the hip-hop beats bounce off of, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis craft a hard-hitting instrumentation that goes extremely well with Janet's sexually aggressive lyrics.  The sample from The Supremes' "Someday We'll Be Together" caught me by surprise at first, but in the highest compliment I can pay, I listen to The Supremes' version and think it's the derivative version.  That's how well it fits in the musical landscape of "If." 

Michael Jackson - Jam
For both Jackson siblings, it's the harder, funkier songs that are my favorites.  In "Jam," an exquisitely produced track off of his Dangerous album, Michael takes what he started with "Beat It" and "Smooth Criminal" and takes it to a harder, funkier level.  He even makes sleigh bells funky.  I love it when Michael uses his voice as a percussive instrument, and he's at his best in "Jam."  Hidden behind the weirdness, the musical genius that was Michael Jackson was only visible to those who looked hard enough.  Being a huge music fan, I looked.  And with every interview I saw or read, I saw the relentless perfectionist who was always looking to craft that perfect song.  With "Jam," and with dozens of others, he succeeded.

Jackson 5 - I Want You Back
Most of the time, a bass player mimics the guitar line to give it some extra heft.  Not often do you have a bass player working with a piano to give some more thump.  That's the great combination in "I Want You Back."  Add in that great soul/disco guitar, and there's a great musical foundation that the Jacksons added their strong vocals to.  Of course Michael was the driving force with his tremendous vocals - and all this from a kid who hadn't even hit puberty yet!  I can't really imagine what kind of girlfriend he may have had at the time that he needed back, but we'll just let that slide because this is one of the best soul/R&B songs of all time.

Howard Jones - Things Can Only Get Better
One of the most innovative and talented musicians from the British "New Wave," Howard Jones took serious musicianship and married it with catchy pop songs.  That great slap bass line, combined with those percussive horns add that pop to the lush musical background.  Howard's talent on the keyboards knew no equal in his day, but his underrated vocal talent and production skill really shine in "Things Can Only Get Better."  I always loved the lyric, "And do you feel scared?  I do, but I won't stop and falter."  To admit fear is something that the self-help gurus want to avoid, but in real life, you need to confront it, deal with it, and then overcome it.  For a skinny British kid with crazy hair, Howard lived these lyrics and found himself a pretty successful music career thanks to all that hard work.

Journey - Separate Ways
In stark contrast to "Don't Stop Believin'," which started slowly and built up to a faster pace, "Separate Ways" starts fast out of the gate and never slows down.  Michael Cain's punchy keyboard intro is quickly built upon with Neal Schon's beefy guitar line.  Steve Perry holds nothing back vocally and just kills it with every single word.  When you add the layered harmonies of the rest of the band, it's almost an embarrassment of riches.  The perfect marriage of pop sensibilities and melody with a solid rock foundation, Journey makes "Separate Ways" look easy.  It's not.

Journey - Higher Place
"I didn't know Steve Perry was back in Journey," was what I thought to myself the first time I heard this song.  He wasn't.  In 2000, it was Steve Augeri handling the vocals, but if you didn't know it, you'd have been fooled, too.  With a pulsating opening, Neal Schon starts out with some guitar picking, before unleashing some serious power chords.  As always, Ross Vallory uses his bass to augment Schon's guitar, and the result is a sound that makes this song even fuller.  From an album that didn't even go gold, if you're a big classic Journey fan and haven't listened to 2000's Arrival yet, do yourself a favor and give it a spin.  It stands up with some of their best work.  (Quick aside:  After Augeri's departure, Journey hit the Steve Perry sound-alike lottery again with the discovery of Philipino singer, Arnel Pineda on YouTube.  Check out his version of "Don't Stop Believin'."  This is starting to get scary.  I can't wait to hear 84 year-old Gladys Washington fronting Journey in 2018, sounding frighteningly close to that Steve Perry guy.)

Judas Priest - You've Got Another Thing Comin'
With arguably the greatest heavy metal voice ever (but definitely the best metal scream ever), Rob Halford proved through countless performances that he had earned his monicker "The Metal God."  With "Another Thing Comin'," Judas Priest took what may have been a catchy rock song and added pure metal to the mix.  Rarely does a three-chord combination become synonymous with a song, but if you hear these three together, you know what song you're listening to.  Another two-headed guitar beast, KK Downing and Glen Tipton, sometimes play the same quick strum, giving the song its pulsating heartbeat.  With the greatest scream in the history of metal, Rob makes his voice its own instrument, and in the end, we're almost as spent as he is.

Nik Kershaw - Somebody Loves You
A great pop artist that most people don't know about, Nik Kershaw has always been able to put a catchy tune together.  A talented musician who can play every instrument you'd need in a pop song, he did some great songs in the 80's.  But it wasn't until the late 90's that he put his best work together.  "Somebody Loves You," from his 1999 album 15 Minutes, is a deeper, more powerful song than he'd ever done before.  There's still a catchy chorus, but the subject matter - finding empty solace with your "friends" on TV speaks in a more profound way than he ever had before.

Kid Rock - Bawitdaba
Lifting the chorus from the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," Kid Rock took that phrase and not only turned it on its head, but then blew it the hell up.  Anthrax mixed rap and metal with humor, but Kid Rock kept both hardcore, with fantastic results.  The first time I heard it, my first thought was, what the- wait- is that "Rapper's Delight?"  What the hell is this?  Then Kid unleashes his monicker in the scream of the decade and the song kicks into gear with some serious bass and a completely badass guitar line.  Rapping about the people he grew up with and knew best - the freaks, topless dancers, meth heads, even cops, he tells the story of the streets more eloquently that you'd expect from a Detroit kid.  But as he's shown with his career since then, he doesn't usually do what you expect.

Alison Krauss - When You Say Nothing at All
Three different artists have made this a hit song (including Chris Whitley and Ronan Keating), but Alison Krauss' angelic voice really captures the heart of the song best.  Everything about the song is tender, from the opening quiet guitar, even the drums are muted, so as not to distract.  But it's Alison's delivery of the melody and lyrics that make you feel special.  Even though I know she's not singing to me, my heart disagrees.  And although the arrangement is mostly country, it crosses musical genres and becomes a song that can speak to anyone in love.  I'm not sappy very often, but when it's a song like this, I'll make an exception.  Boy do I love my wife....

Julian Lennon - Now You're in Heaven
Comparisons with his father are inevitable, but I always thought that Julian Lennon got the short end of the stick.  Although his first album was pretty poppy, his later albums were much more sophisticated in their music and lyrics.  "Now You're in Heaven," from his third album Mr. Jordan, has his usually catchy melody, with a great sing-along chorus.  He channels a little bit of Elvis while there's a great one-two guitar punch in the verses.  Musically, it's a very interesting song to listen to, with many sonic layers that I'm sure make his Dad proud.  (Quick side note:  If you take your finger and cover Julian's eyes on the cover of his Valotte album, he's a dead ringer for my brother, Scott.)

Kenny Loggins - Conviction of the Heart
In 1991, after going through a divorce, Kenny Loggins realized that he needed to make a difference in the world that he was leaving his children.  Seeing the damage that his own generation was doing to the planet, "Conviction of the Heart" was his call to action.  Starting with a great guitar strum, and then giving his vocals a personal, powerful voice, Kenny challenges us all to do what we can to help.  Lyrically, he's direct without being too judgmental:  "You say you're aware, believe and you care, but do you care enough?"  The chorus builds up to his pleading refrain, "If we only try..."  He made me want to try, and I have. 

Madonna - Open Your Heart
(Shhh.... don't telly anybody, but I think I regret putting Madonna's "Holiday" on my Greatest list instead of this song.  Oh well...) Coming out fast right out of the gate, Madonna has a voice that can keep up with the full production of "Open Your Heart."  A Britney Spears or Avril Lavigne would sound like the kids they are trying to keep up.  Even though Madonna wasn't as involved with the music on this particular song, her fingerprints are all over the True Blue album (and all of her other ones, too).  I've always liked punchy brass in dance songs, and in "Open Your Heart" they add that extra richness that elevates what would've already been a great dance song.

Marilyn Manson - The Beautiful People
Following the lead of guys like Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson became a master of mixing subdued, creepy music and vocals with the unleashed terror of screams and heavy guitar.  It's a nice dichotomy that he weaves perfectly in "The Beautiful People."  Starting at a slow simmer, he quickly rails against all sectors of conventional society - religion, capitalists, pretty people, judgmental people.  This is not a "Happy, happy, joy, joy" song, it's a "Fuck you, fuck you, hate, hate" song.  Many disaffected youth relate to the subject matter, being teased and ostracized for being different, and for them, "The Beautiful People" has become an anthem of sorts.  Now I'm neither disaffected nor ostracized, and so I realize he's most likely singing about me.  But I don't care, because it's a kick-ass song.

Marillion - Incommunicado
With me being a sucker for songs that start slow and build to a climax, "Incommunicado" was made for guys like me.  Starting quietly with Mark Kelly's keyboard intro, which builds to a trademark Steve Hogarth guitar crescendo. Mark then gets to really unleash his 'board with a blazing fast, intricate "solo."  Lyricist and lead singer Fish paints a scathing indictment of today's celebrity lifestyle (and this was back in '87, three weeks before Lindsay Lohan's first birthday).  With lyrics like, "I've got an allergy to Perrier, daylight and responsibility," he's not only mocking other rock stars and celebrities, but himself as well. 

Marry Me Jane - You Didn't Kiss Me
Although Gwen Stefani got the notoriety for her break-up anthem, "Don't Speak," another great one is "You Didn't Kiss Me," which came out at almost the same time by a band you probably never heard of, Marry Me Jane. Being a happily married male, you'd think that I'd avoid songs like this, but the way that singer Amanda Kravat delivers her deeply personal lyrics almost moves me to tears, and that's saying something.  "I know you don't care, you made that clear enough when I was leaving," she sings, heartbreak in every syllable.  Yet she still misses him.  A tremendous song about the dichotomy of being in/thrown out of love.  You should read the lyrics - they're pure poetry.