Monday, August 17, 2015

Top 200 Favorite Songs, Part 11

(If you're just tuning in, I'm doing a rundown of my Top 200 Favorite Songs-see the bottom of the page for previous entries and welcome!)

And now we start in on the Top 100!  Perhaps no artist has been with me longer on these types of lists (I started making favorites lists at a very young age) than Sir Elton John.  I probably have also never had a more complicated relationship with a singer than John.  Growing up, before there was Ellen or Will and Grace there was Elton John in my world.  John was perhaps the first person I'd ever realized was gay, and perhaps my first window into a world I was desperately trying to understand (I also took it as a good sign that both of my parents loved his music, even if I wasn't quite ready to tell anyone in the world that I had something slightly different in common with him).  And boy, what music it was-John could sing, he could clang on that piano, and just pure soul would come out-at this time John was still making radio-approved hits (this was back in the day when radios would actually still give people like John, Cher, and Bruce Springsteen playtime and not just hate on them for being over forty).  His outfits seemed outlandish to me, but his music I could listen to over-and-over.  As the years went on I admittedly fell out of love with him as a celebrity quite a bit; I have oft-thought that his criticisms of Madonna reeked of ageism though admittedly I don't know either personally of course and the two of them probably know each other quite well so it's hard to say which side of that beef to be on.  Still, though, I will always have an immense respect for the world that he first gave me a peek into, and that iconic, one-of-a-kind style of music that he has fashioned through the decades.

100. "Runaway Train," Soul Asylum (1992)

A deeply powerful song about children lost in the world, Soul Asylum's original message is of course powerful and the fact that they showed real-life cases in their video instead of something fake is extraordinarily moving.  Still, though, I didn't know for years that this was the original intention of the movie (my parents had blocked MTV at that time) and I just loved the strumming guitar and the way the song reflects closing unfortunate chapters in our lives.

99. "At Last," Etta James (1960)

Etta James sultry voice may have led to dozens of songs and decades of music, but ask almost anyone about her and they'll get moony-eyed and picture her opining for that love that's come along.  We all secretly sit back in the dark and wonder when our "lonely days will be over and life will be like a song."  This tune has been covered by pretty much everyone, but James, whose life was frequently bitter and tough, sells it better because perhaps she needed it the most.

98. "All at Sea," Jamie Cullum (2003)

I was, in fact, a twentysomething (had become one just a few weeks earlier) when I discovered Jamie Cullum's same-named album after listening to one of his songs for the first time on the same jury room hotel night that I discovered Adam Levine (if you don't know the story, click the links below and catch-up).  While I took much joy in singing his ballad to youth, it was his sliding ditty about being lost in the world that has stuck with me much longer.

97. "Mrs. Robinson," Simon & Garfunkel (1967)

Forget for a second that it's associated with one of the truly great movies.  Forget for a second that it's associated with one of the most iconic characters in film history.  Even if you subtract The Graduate from "Mrs. Robinson," this jumping ditty about the loss of America as even the most notable of the Greatest Generation starts to fade is still astoundingly felt and cuttingly true.

96. "One," U2 (1992)

Off the Achtung Baby album, "One" is an achingly-good power ballad.  "Is it getting better, or do you feel the same?"  Written in the wake of the AIDS crisis, the song in many ways is about finding common ground even when you don't want to, realizing that we all have to count on each other for survival.  It's a weirdly beautiful ballad-breaking up but realizing that we still need to get along-how often is that a message of pop music's love-me-or-leave-me agenda?

95. "Falling Slowly," Mareta Irglova & Glen Hansard (2007)

I remember the moment I left Once-I was in a theater that I had been to a hundred times, and yet I felt new with the world again, as if I'd seen something spiritual.  This radiant, marvelous film had so much music about finding dreams and soulmates in ways storybooks never allow, and in particular this song, which won an Oscar, about hope in the unknown and future strangers.  After all, "we've still got time."

94. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," Elton John (1973)

Richly stylized and featuring wonderfully-felt lyrics by Bernie Taupin, the song has always felt a little different to me than others, I think.  For me, "Goodbye" has always felt like an ode to getting beyond your starry-eyed visions and realizing that there is still a place for you to find happiness even if they don't look like what you expected.

93. "Try a Little Tenderness," Otis Redding (1966)

Otis Redding's legend has become so deeply established it's hard to imagine him as so much a human as a force of will (tis the blessing and curse of dying too young).  This has never been truer than during "Try a Little Tenderness," where Redding's powerhouse vocals plead and plead until you think no one could could deny his requests.

92. "My Girl," The Temptations (1964)

Another song that's been recorded by absolutely everyone, "My Girl," is my favorite Temptations song even if that means I fall into a bit of a cliche.  I first heard it in association with the Macauley Culkin movie (a necessity of my youth), and it was appropriately the very first song I ever sang when I got the chance to do karaoke.

91. "Wicked Game," Chris Isaak (1990)

Appropriately I always thought of this song as being a Roy Orbison-style Halloween ditty, and years after hearing it I realized that it, like Orbison's "In Dreams," was also the centerpiece of a David Lynch movie (Wild at Heart).  The haunting, sparse vocals of Chris Isaak never quite made anything as good, but when you hit a home run like this, you don't need to.

And there you have it folks-the first stop in the Top 100.  Did I hit any of your favorites?  Do you have a favorite Elton John song?  Share in the comments!

If you've missed any of the past installments, go ahead and click: Part 12345678, 9, 10

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