And of course we all know that music began with the Rock era. There were no songs written or recorded prior to Elvis. (I didn’t notice, was Elvis even on their list?) No standards, no Broadway songs. What hubris, to limit the definition of “songs” to that of the “Rolling Stone” genres.
ROLLING STONE HQ
Head Of Marketing And Digital Experience: Our web traffic has been steadily dropping. Revenue is down. We need to get eyeballs to the website, but our SEM budget has been slashed. Any viral marketing ideas, team?
Team Member: We haven’t done a “500 Best Songs of All Time” list in, like 17 years. How about we do an updated one?
HOMADE: Hmmm…seems kind of lame.
TM: Hear me out. We sprinkle the top 10 with controversial choices that no one will agree on. We take more obscure, less beloved songs by well known great bands and rank them far ahead of that band’s much better songs. We randomly distribute WTF song choices throughout.
If we do it just right we can push everyone’s buttons, and the list will generate so much outrage among online message boards across the internet that people will be arguing about how stupid the list is for weeks, if not months. And all those outraged message board threads will have links to our article. No publicity is bad publicity, right?
HOMADE: I like it! And, how about, I don’t know, maybe we could throw in a song by say, Britney Spears and rank it ahead of songs by bands like the Beatles.
I’m sure it’s an okay song but I can effortlessly think of hundreds of better songs. It literally is not the best song with the word “dancing” in the title. Of course it shouldn’t be in the top 500.
Another thing I cannot help but notice is that there’s too much hip hop here - and I say that as a guy who really likes hip hop and would have been appalled if there wasn’t enough of it. A list without the likes of OutKast, Run-DMC, Beastie Boys or Lauryn Hill would be a stupid list. But 11 out of the top 50, and a similar percentage elsewhere, doesn’t make any sense; hip hop isn’t 20% of the history of popular music. It isn’t even close; 10 percent would be a generous guess. (And while I love OutKast, having them appear three times in the top 150 is overly generous to say the least.) And of course for the most part they failed to pick the RIGHT hip hop. They went overboard trying to make up for the very justifiable criticism of the past lists when they were basically all Beatles and Bob Dylan.
Way too much REM in the top half too, and I’m a huge REM fan.
60s rock, however, does very well.
It’s an interesting list. I think they got a bunch of people with different musical tastes to hash out the list. It’s not a bad list, there are some things I think are too low and some I think that are too high, and somethings baffling (the second Kanye song on the list is Stronger at 500? There are far better songs he’s done than that - Runaway is fine at 25, but I’d have expected Jesus Walks, Heartless, and Power to be on the list somewhere)
I haven’t looked at the whole damn list, but I saw a Miles Davis instrumental from 1959 and a Robert Johnson blues from 1937.
Nothing from before the twentieth century, though. Which would be a lot more defensible if they’d called the list “500 Greatest Recordings of All Time.”
How does MIA’s “Paper Planes” keep making it to the top 10% of these lists? I’ve seen it score #1 for songs from the decade and stuff. It’s a decent enough, fun song but hardly deserving of any special accolades or one I expect people will be regularly listening to in thirty years.
It’s a really great song, lyrically and musically, and blends genres in an interesting way. I don’t think it’s out of place on the list.
Perhaps they should have asked Richard Thompson for input.
I agree. Not one song from the New Jack Swing era, of which I’m a fan, made the top 500. There’s no Color Me Badd, Bell Biv Devoe, New Edition or 80s era solo Bobby Brown, Johnny Kemp, etc.
OK, so one measly song made it which I had overlooked. Neneh Cherry’s Buffalo Stance at 412. It’s a good song, but IMHO should have been higher on the list, and joined by several others. from the genre.
Several of my other favorite artists, from various genres, were also all left off completely. There’s no Warren Zevon, Jimmy Buffett, Roxette, Enya, Belinda Carlisle, Peter Cetera, or Counting Crows. All those artists have many songs which, IMHO, would make a top 500 list.
It helps to remember that Rolling Stone hasn’t known shit about music since at least the mid-90s.
I decided to see if I could guess fhe top 5, and I didn’t do too bad. I got “Fight the Power” (#2), “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (#5), “What’s Going On” (#6), “I Feel Love” (#52) and “Stairway” (#61).
Note that this is not what MY top five would necessarily be, but a sampling of songs that I think are important and diverse enough to merit inclusion. For example, I like plenty of Nirvana songs more than Smells Like Teen Spirit, but it was a generational touchstone; Fight the Power was similarly important within its time, culture, and genre. “Stairway” has never been one of my favorites, and far down on my list of Led Zeppelin tunes I love, but its place in music history cannot be denied.
Personally, I don’t have any complaints about this list. It’s a reasonable list. It’s very different from the list I would make, but I find no fault with any of their choices. It’s as good as any list like “Top 500 best colors” would be: yes, largely arbitrary and you can shuffle them all around, and I’d probably be just as happy.
I love Warren Zevon, but, let’s face it, his music is not exactly earth shattering. Most people would have a hard time naming more than one of his songs.
I love Jimmy Buffett, but, again, most of his music is fluff. Again, he has ONE song that pretty much everyone knows (and loves). His discography is also diminished by the fact that many of his songs are about drinking and relaxing and beaching and having fun - not exactly deep subjects. No, not every song has to be Dylan-esqe poetry, but “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus” isn’t going to win you any points with the deep-thinkers.
Tht’s why the choice of “Strawberry Fields Forever” as the #2 song and the highest ranked Beatles song feels like thy’re just trolling for clicks.
See, if there was a Nirvana song I liked more than “Smells Like Teen Spirit” I’d still think SLTS is the correct high choice because to me, “greatest song” is more than “I like it most.” “Greatest” also implies other elements of achievement - popularity, influence, staying power, position in the history of popular music. So… uh, how does Straberry Fields Forever make it? It’s not the Beatles’ best song; this list is quite literally the first time I have ever in my life heard anyone suggest it is. It often makes top ten lists but the usual number ones are “Yesterday,” “A Day In The Life” and either an early breakthrough like “She Loves You” or “Helter Skelter” because it was so innovative. Was it their most popular song? No. Is it a landmark song for any reason? None I can think of.
I’m delighted “Buffalo Stance” is on hte list at all. I don’t know it needs to be higher than 412. If you think about it, saying someone had the 412th greatest song of all time is a hell of a compliment. In any sense that matters the difference between 412 and 212 is absurdly tiny. How many songs have gotten wide release in modern popular music industry? 100,000?
If anything, there are FAR too few one and two hit artists in this list. Way, way too few. I love OutKast but simply do not think they are, by themselves, responsible for two percent of the greatest music ever made, which is literally what this list suggests, at least in the top 200; if you actually think about that it’s just insane. It would be a huge compliment to any artist to be mentioned more than twice on this list. Four times in the top 200, that is a truly staggering claim. Is “Take on Me” on here? Why not? “What Is Love”? “What I Am”? Why not? Those are legitimately great songs even if the aritsts had nothing else near the top 500. I mean, I know (to use a favorite example because I know her) Lisa Loeb never wrote another song remotely as good as “Stay,” and she’d likely be the first to admit it, but it was a gigantic hit, part of the cultural zeitgeist, has lasted, and it’s a genuinely brilliant, perfectly conceived song, and I’d sure as shit rank it above “Tumbling Dice,” which isn’t even one of the Stones’ ten best songs.
Yeah, “Strawberry Fields Forever” as the top Beatles song is a bit of a surprise, but I don’t think it’s that much a dark horse. I personally would have expected “Yesterday” or “Let It Be” (both of which I don’t particularly like, but the rest of the world seems to). I only just realized “God Only Knows” is at #11. I’m pleasantly surprised by that. That would have been in my Top 5; didn’t think Rolling Stone would rate it that highly. Also glad to see “Gimme Shelter” and “Waterloo Sunset” back-to-back at #13 and #14. “Royals” is weirdly high, but I could see it’s place on the list to mix things up and keep it from being too nostalgia heavy. Where’s the Chuck Berry? Oh, #33 for “Johnny B. Goode.” Yeah, okay. I’d put it higher, but I can live with it.
I can’t be really arsed to look at anything beyond the top 50, but, as before, nothing too crazy bad that I see. It’s supposed to generate some talk, so there’s gonna be some oddballs on it, but I’m shocked at how decent the list is, at least as far as I’m concerned. It at leasts validates my thoughts from when “Hey Ya!” came out as being one of the most important songs of the 2000s, even though I personally wouldn’t necessarily put it in the top ten of all time.
Outkast and Missy Elliot have multiple songs in the top 100 but not a single Metallica song made it? Their first entry is all the way at 256 with Master of Puppets? Gimmie a break.
These lists are always a joke. There is no way to “rank” the top 500 of anything subjective period.
There seems to be some debate about what “best” means. I interpret it as what songs are most fun and enjoyable to listen to. Others seem to include influential or important, which for me doesn’t enter into consideration if the debate is about the “best” of something, whether music or anything else.
Hey, let’s make this fun. Here’s my top 5:
- Bob Dylan, Visions of Johanna
- Tom Waits, Broken Bicycles
- Billie Holiday, Don’t Explain
- The Smiths, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.
and the winner…
- Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Ring Dang Doo.
5 Auden “Baby Sister”
4 Nada, feat. Piggy “Hoochie Coochie Man”
3 Reggie Wanker “Hoochie Coochie Man”
2 King Blues “Hoochie Coochie Man”
1 Muddy Waters “Hoochie Coochie Man”
Hey why does Discourse fuck up numbered lists?
Is there a text version of the list out there somewhere?
Or, at least, a painless way to search the list?
The best thing about lists like these is the anger from Boomers/Gen Xers.