October 2013

Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers – “Monster Mash” – (1962)

One of my favorite parts of Halloween is that I get to hear this song on the radio – even if it’s only once. As far as novelty songs go, I think this has to be one of the greatest – it was a #1 hit! And I think its chart history is interesting because in 1962, the Beatles hadn’t really broken through yet and this was more doo-wop-ey than rock, but it still had to sound fairly strange on the radio back then. In any case, this is the best Halloween song ever.

Mike Oldfield – “Tubular Bells” – (1973)

Well, Halloween is this week and I thought I’d feature a pair of spooky tunes. First up is Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells.” It’s not really a song so much as an all-inclusive album – two sides not broken up into tracks. But, there was a cut – the opening part of Side One – which was used in the film The Exorcist, which is one of the best horror films of all time. The album reached #1 in two countries and an unauthorized-by-Oldfield single was released by Atlantic records in 1974, peaking at #7. I definitely count this as Halloween music.

Shanice – “I Love Your Smile” – (1991)

You might not remember Shanice and you might not recognize this song by its title – but I can almost guarantee you’ll remember it when you hear it. The lyrics are pure 90s R&B – but it’s the light “do-do-do-do-do” of the chorus that is most memorable. This song was one of those great transitional songs of the early 90s that showed that the 90s would be a lot different from the 80s. It would be more upbeat, colorful, and fun. It’s just a really good, classic tune.

No Authority – “Can I Get Your Number (A Girl Like You)” – (2000)

This song must be obscure if the band doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. No Authority was a boy band from California who had a minor hit in the summer of 2000 with this very boy band-sounding song. This is a song you’ll either remember or you won’t (likely the latter). If you found boy band songs tolerable back in the day, then this song won’t grate on your nerves. But if you still can’t stand the Backstreet Boys or any of their contemporaries (I’ve come around on this front), then you really won’t like this song.

AC/DC – “What Do You Do For Money Honey” – (1980)

There’s something about the opening chords of this song that make it seem like it could be any AC/DC song – but I’m sure there are people who think all their songs sound the same. This song was the third track from Back in Black – which happens to be one of the greatest albums in rock history. It was never a single, but it’s one of the songs I like the most on the album – mostly for Brian Johnson’s quick-lyric’d “whaddya do for money honey how do you get your kicks” semi-rap.

John Mayer – “Vultures” – (2006)

This is my favorite song from my favorite John Mayer album – but it isn’t my favorite John Mayer song. It is the only song on the album that was actually written by the entire John Mayer Trio and the live version is pretty awesome too (not something I can always say about any artist). The guitar hook is super catchy and the lyric delivery just rocks (both are pretty normal for John Mayer). It’s bluesy and pop-esque and very, very good.

Ace of Base – “All That She Wants” – (1993)

I was at bar trivia a few weeks ago and there was a song regarding “this Swedish pop group was the first to have four major singles from one album” or something like that. Everyone guessed ABBA. I didn’t. I know my Ace of Base, apparently. Maybe it’s because this was one of the first CDs I owned. And this is one of the best songs on the album. This was the group’s first single and it was a #1 pretty much everywhere in Europe and it hit #2 on the Hot 100. It was huge – and their bigger hits were still to come. Great song.

Metallica – “Fade to Black” – (1984)

Well you can’t buy Metallica MP3s on Amazon, apparently. “Fade to Black” is a pretty good Metallica song from the 80s. Ride the Lightning was also one of their better albums. While it’s still metal, the song is much softer than many of Metallica’s songs – maybe that’s because it features a strong acoustic guitar before the electric really takes over. It also has an awesome guitar solo. Just something a little heavier for your Monday.

Wilco – “You Never Know” – (2009)

I’m not even a fan of Wilco, but for some reason I have four or five of their songs. Wilco fans tend to be of the die-hard variety and I am definitely not among them. I scanned through this album when it came out and grabbed two songs off of it because I thought they were okay – my picks of the album, so to speak. This song isn’t as “weird” or “indie” or whatever you like to call it as many of their immediately-previous tunes. “Accessible” is a word I’ve seen used to describe this album – and it’s definitely apt for this song: it’s easy to get into.

Michael Bublé – “Feeling Good” – (2005)

Sorry in advance, but I have a lot of Michael Bublé songs to add to this site’s “Ultimate Playlist.” I’ll try to space them out, but they will be coming. This cover of a song originally recorded by Cy Grant (and made famous by Nina Simone) is, possibly, my favorite Bublé song.

R.E.M. – “Drive” – (1992)

Generally, I’ve noticed that the faster the R.E.M. song, the better. Here’s an exception. This was the first single from Automatic for the People and it wasn’t a huge smash like some of their then-recent singles. But it did top the Modern Rock chart and became the band’s second-biggest single they’d had in the U.K. up to that point. For whatever reason, this song has always reminded me of “Rock On” by David Essex. Not too sure what the connection is there, but this is a good song.

#1 – Justin Timberlake – “SexyBack” – (2006)

It was this song (and this album) that told me that Justin Timberlake is going to be the biggest pop star in the world – and one that, so far, I respect. He is extremely talented – much more so than his NSYNC days would lead you to believe, with that curly bleached-blond weirdo hairdo. This song topped about every pop chart in the U.S. and many overseas. A lot of credit has to go to Timbaland – who owned 2006. He produced this album and co-wrote the song (and appears in it as well). I have zero doubt that this is the biggest song of the 2000s. It put J.T. on top of the world and he hasn’t left that position since. Thanks for following along!

#2 – Coldplay – “Yellow” – (2000)

Yes, Coldplay has two songs in the top 10 on this list. Why? Because they’re one of the biggest bands to come out of the 2000s and they’ve scored big hit after massive big hit. I didn’t like this song when it first came out because I thought Chris Martin looked like a goober for walking down that beach in the rain. Most Coldplay songs take a little while to grow on me, but I now realize that the Parachutes songs are some of their best. This was Coldplay’s first big single and it gave us a peek at what everything to come would be like.

#3 – Eminem – “Lose Yourself” – (2002)

Everybody remembers how big this song was and what a big deal was made of the “Eminem movie” (8 Mile). I never saw it (as I have been able to avoid just about every “hip-hop drama” ever made) and have no desire to see it. And I got kind of bored with the song because it was on the air constantly – it was a #1 on the Hot 100. It also won an Oscar and a Grammy. Can you believe that Eminem is halfway to EGOTing? Watch out Barbra Streisand. Honestly though, this might be Eminem’s masterpiece. It’s certainly one of the most powerful hip-hop songs ever written. In some ways, it signaled a change in Eminem’s career path. More or less gone were the goofy early days of Slim Shady and the angry (and arguably just as fun) Eminem had emerged. It’s pretty good.

#4 – Cake – “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” – (2001)

Cake has some of the coolest album art of any band. It’s consistently cool. And so are their album titles. They’ve had their hits over the years but this is far and away the best of them. It later became famous as the (instrumental) theme song for the awesome TV series Chuck. It’s also my ringtone. What’s great about this song? Let’s start with the lyrics: they’re brilliant. I can’t say more without listing them all right here (“She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron” – seriously? I love that). Then there’s that Cake signature sound: flat lyric delivery backed up by bass and brass. Bass and brass: it’s the gateway to the musical part of my heart. One of the best songs ever.