Rolling Stone top 500 songs

Above is a May 2021 citation (unverified for accuracy) for the most played songs in radio history, placing Every Breath You Take at #1 with 15,000,000 plays.

For comparisons sake, in 1999, BMI announced You Lost That Loving Feeling as the #1 all-time played song with 8 million plays (10 million in the more recent list above).

So, this goes to number of plays. How many listeners? Hell if I know.

But I found this PDF from Nielson, the ratings company:

Which states:

  1. 244 million Americans listen to radio at least once a month
  2. 20% of them are listening to radio at any one time (specifically, any one quarter-hour period)
  3. And 6.1% of those are listening to classic rock

That comes to 2,976,800 people listening to classic rock radio at any one quarter-hour. With 589 classic rock stations, that’s just 5k people listening… on average… every time More Than a Feeling takes a spin. Or Yesterday.

OK, I’ll try to actually listen to all of these.

500-476 completed.
Best song: “Oye Como Va”, Santana
Best song I hadn’t previously been familiar with: “212”, Azealia Banks
Worst song: “Without You”, Harry Nilsson

It is worth noting that neither “Stairway To Heaven” nor “Hotel California” are on this list of 166 songs.


Long songs like that are less likely to get airplay on some stations. You can play “Every Breath you Take” twice or “Yesterday” three times in the amount of time it takes to play “Stairway”.


Let me just add that “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake is #39 and “Reminiscing” by Little River Band is #100.

ETA: Also no “Sweet Caroline” (3:21)


Through #451.
Best of this batch is “White Rabbit” (Jefferson Airplane), which I will make the inaugural entry on my personal top 20. Of course, I was familiar with the chorus of Beck’s “Loser”, but I’d never really listened to the rap before, it’s good.

Two real crapfests here, “Solsbury Park” (Peter Gabriel) and “Africa” (Toto). Neither are as bad as “Without You”, though. I think I can reasonably hope to make it through the whole list without encountering another song that unlistenable.

Department of Deep Textual Analysis:

Guess which of his songs John Lennon viewed in retrospect as a “subconscious cry for help”? Don’t be afraid to say the first thing that comes into your head. :rofl:

Here’s a list of songs that dropped from the top 100 in the new 2021 list. List here

Some examples:

“My Generation” by The Who (1965)
Down 221 (from 11 to 232)

“Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix (1968)
Down 233 (from 17 to 250)

“Help!” by The Beatles (1966)
Down 418 (from 29 to 447)

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” by The Righteous Brothers (1964)
OUT of Top 500 (from 34. Down at least 467)

Looking at that list, I have Opinions about many of the shifts, but it’s clear that K364’s list is pretty representative and that it’s for the most part the hits of the Boomer era that are falling, presumably due to a more diverse selection committee.

They may not have died before they got old, but the people who have traditionally compiled or voted on these sorts of list are, nevertheless, dying.

All right, I’m 100 songs in and I’m actually enjoying this. Almost all the songs are at least good, and I happen to enjoy playlists with sudden, radical shifts in genre. I think I’ll make it through the list, but I don’t think I feel the need to keep updating this thread unless I notice something I want to talk about.

I haven’t found anything new that’s changed my life, though I have heard some good tunes I missed, mostly in the hip hop genre, since that’s one I don’t keep up with much. I do think there’s too much hip hop in the list; I find it a little hard to credit that, like, 20% of all the greatest songs ever written are in that genre, even more than are in the classic 60s rock most associated with Rolling Stone. There’s also exactly ONE punk song in this group of 100 (for a reasonably specific definition of “punk”), which is by far the most glaring error IMO. It will be interesting to see if the relative prevalence of various genres changes as I approach the top of the list.

They’re all f…f…fadin’ away.

It’s easy for people my age to forget Classic 60’s Rock was produced for barely a decade. Hip Hop has been an industry powerhouse for 30+ years.

Well, classic '60’s rock, sure. That’s pretty much a tautology. But if we remove the decade and just say ‘classic rock’, that genre really spans from the early 1960’s through the 1980’s, and arguably has never really gone away. I’d consider the Black Keys and even the White Stripes to be at least ‘Classic Rock’ adjacent.

In 2013, Black Sabbath had their first #1 album in 43 years - the longest gap between #1’s in music history.

'Classic Rock is a huge genre. I’d almost say it’s whatever rock you get when you aren’t attempting something specific like Hip-Hop or Pop or Disco. Everyone from Joni Mitchell to AC/DC is ‘classic rock’ You can find sub-genres influenced by the Blues (Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes), and sub-genres influenced by country (Lynyrd Skynyrd, lots of other ‘southern rock’), or classical (some of the shredders like Yngvie Malmsteen), or hip-hop and rap.

[Clicks on link.]
[Decides in about two seconds that I don’t have time to slog through that many titles.]
[Briefly skims through a few selections.]
[Sees that at some of them are from within the past 15 years.]
[Finds a couple that I heard on the radio and kinda liked.]

Eh. It’s a list. Whaddya want? As long as it doesn’t try to pass of its opinions as facts, I have no beef.

Didn’t read the whole thread, so not sure this hasn’t already been added:

Text list of RS top 500 songs

Also, this wasn’t a bunch of RS guys just sitting around spitballing. Methodology:

To create the new version of the RS 500 we convened a poll of more than 250 artists, musicians, and producers — from Angelique Kidjo to Zedd, Sam Smith to Megan Thee Stallion, M. Ward to Bill Ward — as well as figures from the music industry and leading critics and journalists. They each sent in a ranked list of their top 50 songs, and we tabulated the results…Nearly 4,000 songs received votes.

Complete list of all the voters: RS Top 500 Complete List of Voters

Thanks so much! This list is much easier to read than the original!

Now that I have had a chance to look through the entire list, I find I don’t have anything very interesting to say. Some songs I like a lot, some I don’t like very much, many I don’t know.

Which just goes to show that musical taste is extremely subjective.