Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Top 200 Favorite Songs, Part 8

(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!)

I first heard Adam Levine sing while I was on jury duty. As a young man who had just finished his first year of college, but largely was still living a very sheltered existence, I was kind of staggered by being holed up in downtown Minneapolis all alone in a hotel suite for the first time, getting to explore the city and watch TV as much as I wanted.  While flipping channels one night, wearing a bathrobe for the first time, I heard Levine and Maroon 5 pop up on VH1 singing an ode to Kelly Preston about how she would be loved.  It felt so intense, so very young and cool and full.  For perhaps the first time in my life I found something special in the city instead of just a nostalgic closeness to the country.  To this day I walk around downtown Minneapolis and will frequently think of that night, how I just sat there watching slow-jamming music (Levine's song is different in this list, but Number 98 I did hear for the first time that day as well) have a powerful and unexplainable effect on me.  Over the next year I would have the most petrifying adventure of my life, coming out of the closet and discovering love for the first time.  I frequently think that journey started, though, in a hotel room listening to a ridiculously handsome man singing falsetto about how love was going to get to me, whether I wanted it or not.

130. "Take Me Home, Country Roads," John Denver (1971)

Only John Denver could convince you that West Virginia was almost heaven.  A song that admittedly finds a way to be both nostalgic and sentimental and yet you can't help but love it.  Earnestness is hard to find in music, but Denver's breezy voice and lyrics of passion and pride make this a song that you'll be singing along to in spite of yourself.

129. "You Are So Beautiful," Joe Cocker (1974)

Ravaged by drugs, Joe Cocker is the sort of man who seems completely crass, boarish-the kind of guy you suspect has been thrown out of bars.  Even in that video up-top he insulted his Swiss hosts, and yet when he sings, it's like an angel has come out of nowhere.  A weird combination of Bobcat Goldthwaite and Ray Charles, Joe Cocker is one of a kind, and will always own this song wholeheartedly.

128. "Home," Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros (2009)

My brother introduced me to this song, announcing his nominees for the best song of the year in 2009.  I had never heard it before, and yet four days of listening to it on constant repeat caused me, just 96 hours later, to proclaim it my favorite song of the year as well.  Also, it's a testament to David Letterman's incredible place in pop culture that he saw the talent of the band, introducing them to the mainstream.  Watch the video and if you don't love them, you have bad taste and that's all there is to it.

127. "Yesterday," The Beatles (1965)

Essentially just Paul and a trio of guitars, "Yesterday" may be less The Beatles and just a solo performance, but the song has that melancholy blues that defined the Fab Four's best songs.  Yes, they were a boy band but what set them apart was that they were willing to take great risks with their artistry and reflect the changing, tumultuous times.  There's so much profundity in this nostalgic ode that ironically never ages.

126. "The Man Who Got Away," Judy Garland (1954)

Situated in the middle of one of the truly great performances of the 1950's is Judy Garland, then already ravaged by personal demons, proving that she still had a voice that could bring down the rafters.  I love the way that the song reflects reality, as Garland would have a whole lot of guys get away in her troubled life, so by the end you can't tell if it's Esther or Judy belting "the dreams you've dreamed have all gone astray."

125. "Hey Jude," The Beatles (1968)

What, it's The Beatles, you expect only one entry?  This song, of encouragement for a man to follow his dreams, is made better by the incredibly minimalist instrumentals during Paul's crooning, lazily drumming and striking chords until the eventual crescendo-it's a perfectly timed song, showing encouragement and the way that just one voice can help your struggle.

124. "In the Ghetto," Elvis Presley (1969)

Admittedly, so many people know this song more from its South Park mockery (which, it goes to say, is pretty damn perfect and Eric Cartman is an oddly distinctive singer), but while I will frequently sing Elvis's chorus of "in the ghetto" to my brother to the point where he may try to commit me, there's no denying the power of this song, particularly today as we focus on the continued link between poverty and tragic gun violence.

123. "Bitter Sweet Symphony," The Verve (1997)

Okay, I'm going to be honest here and say what might be one of my first surprises while doing this write-ups-I was sure this song was early 90's at the latest, and am a little surprised that this song was around when I was jamming Savage Garden on my walkman.  Just goes to show that you can make even a dated sound iconic if you have a great enough tune, and this rhapsodic anthem is surely that.

122. "Lost Stars," Adam Levine (2015)

I get that in the film we're supposed to hate what Levine does with this song as he is clearly supposed to be a tool, but I actually loved it.  There was something commanding about his slow build toward the falsetto cries at the end.  A beautifully-written melody in an era that seems to care so little about such things in favor of a new, constant hook, I hadn't felt so moved by an original song in a movie in nearly a decade when Levine took it on in Begin Again.

121. "Rehab," Amy Winehouse (2006)

Like so many singers on this list, Amy Winehouse was incredibly troubled, and her untimely death left a bit of a pall over this song (she indeed needed to go to rehab), but that doesn't mean that this Shirley Bassey-meets-Count Basie catchiness wasn't just as good as we all thought in 2006 when you couldn't stop hearing it on the radio.  Power vocals, haunting rhythm, rough lyrics-absolute dynamite.

And there we are, continuing on our list?  Do you have a seemingly arbitrary moment with a song or singer that you can still remember years later with crystal clarity?  Perhaps even with one of these songs?  If so, please share in the comments!

If you've missed any of the past installments, go ahead and click: Part 123456, 7

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