Growing up, I was extremely reluctant to embrace anything related to modern country. Part of me was just a massive snob-I was frequently dealing with kids my own age who didn't really like the things that I liked. I would read British mysteries and memorize presidential facts and listen to singers like Aretha Franklin and the idea that I would compromise that uniquely shaped unicorn I was trying to cultivate with something like modern country was, well, obscene. When people asked if I liked country, it inevitably meant that I would bring up someone like George Jones or Patsy Cline, but a modern country song wasn't my beloved until I first heard Garth Brooks "The Dance." The song played at every major high school event when I was growing up. Every dance, every prom, every party. It was omnipresent, and I had to come to terms with the fact that I loved a modern country song by my then mortal enemy Garth Brooks. In the years since, I've realized that my taste can allow for pretty much any kind of love, and genres aren't universally bad, none of them are, there's just bad aspects to all of them. I still don't particularly love Garth Brooks (and in particular his aversion to iTunes-get over yourself!), but I will always love his "Dance" for teaching me to grow up a little bit in my tastes-universally being ignorant of anything is always ignorant in itself.
90. "Make Your Own Kind of Music," Cass Elliot (1969)
Like so many things in my life, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear this song is Lost. Seriously-of all of the songs on Lost that I have fallen for through the years (and there are a lot of them-that show featured a host of great music), this one has the most fascination, not only because it's wonderfully chipper, but there's also just a little bit of enigma behind it, perhaps because Cass Elliot's untimely demise adds to her immortal mystique.
89. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," The Platters (1958)
I love the way this song has a slow and steady crescendo. I find that almost all of my favorite songs build to something, going from the softness that starts out a number to the grand finish toward the end where we realize where the song has been heading. This is true, in fact, of almost every piece of art that I love, and why I still close my eyes and take a deep breath when the Platters share that final "smoke gets in your...eyes!"
88. "Rolling in the Deep," Adele (2011)
Yes, it played incessantly on the radio to the point where we wondered who exactly it was that hadn't yet bought Adele's album. However, I never got bored with it. Not once-I cannot remember a song that I ever had that happen with, and perhaps that's because Adele's song feels personal with that nonsensical hook that she just sells so well that you actually feel you understand exactly what it means to be "rolling in the deep."
87. "Strange Fruit," Billie Holiday (1939)
The most moving and chilling song ever written? It's got to be close. I remember the first time I heard Billie Holiday sing this song in college, I initially didn't realize what she was singing, and then wondered how it could be possible. Sometimes older people talk about how music used to be "music," but I more often lament a day when music used to mean something more than just a catchy melody-"Strange Fruit" became iconic when America was still coming to terms with its racist history, and what was still occurring.
86. "Let's Stay Together," Al Green (1972)
The sexiest song ever written. Point blank. I have a lot of shall we just say personal memories with this song, and...moving on...
85. "Blowin' in the Wind," Bob Dylan (1962)
Speaking of songs that actually tried to accomplish something, here we have one of Bob Dylan's finest, and perhaps one of the oddest protest songs of all-time. How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? The song's meaning is impossible to discover, and perhaps that's the point-we throw out these impossible questions to counter an injustice that we feel is impossible to stand in the face of such comparative grey.
84. "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," James Brown (1966)
I actually heard this song for the first time when Christina Aguilera, and not the Godfather of Soul sang it at the Grammys. I was wonderfully intrigued, and then I saw the force of nature that is Mr. Brown take the microphone and I was hooked. This song, weirdly empowering and yet oddly sexist has always fascinated the hell out of me, but what I can never deny is the presence of Brown's cool burn, slowly finding every note available to him to make the number soar.
83. "Just in Time," Nina Simone (1962)
Played at the tail end of one of my all-time favorite movies (Before Sunset), I could feel both Simone's pain in the song (Nina Simone had a hard life, and you could tell that in her music, but man could she find those notes), and yet I always remember the finding of love after a decade of being desperate for it between Jesse & Celine. Arguably the finest sequel ever made, Nina's desperation for finding love "just in time" carries me whenever I hear it-there's never anything more impressive than safe at the last second.
82. "The Dance," Garth Brooks (1990)
Is it a love song, one that shows a memory of a relationship long gone, or is it perhaps a metaphor for the dreams that take over ourselves, even if they ultimately destroy us? Whatever it is, Garth Brooks moves me terribly with this song, considered by most to be his signature, and sharply leaves ambiguity for the listener.
81. "Alone," Heart (1987)
Like "Let's Stay Together," this song may be too personal to write about but since it isn't personal in "that way," I'll try. I remember the first time I had the unrequited love thing going on, where I would spend time with a guy in a group and desperately gravitate toward him, convinced that if we spent time together alone, if he really knew me, it would be magical and he'd see that. Ann Wilson's vocals are so pitch perfect in desperation and hope, this is the perfect song to pin your dreams upon.
And we continue on the countdown with ten more ditties-did I hit your favorite, or are you still on the hunt? When did you have your first "I like something that I don't want to like" pop culture moment? And why doesn't Garth Brooks suck it up and put his music on iTunes? Share your thoughts down below!