My 100 Favorite Songs - #s 91-100
100. "O’ Sailor" - Fiona Apple
I love how Apple uses the piano on her songs - it almost takes the place of the bass, with low left hand piano notes supplying the groove and bottom. This is one of those songs where the verse is fine but the song only really gels into something more with the chorus. That refrain of "O Sailor, why'd you do it" has a wonderfully longing melody.
99. "The Weight" - The Band
I have some vague memory of this song getting heavy airplay for some reason in the early 90s. Another song where the piano adds a lot, filling in the color and melody the straight-ahead arrangement needs. I love how the music gives off the feel of being on the road, how it sounds dusty and worn-in. And the almost-lazy, comfortable vocal delivery fits just right.
98. "On Every Street" - Dire Straits
This song should not be a favorite. The structure is as basic as it comes -a very basic C-chord piano progression (I know this because I can play it on the piano, and I don't really play piano). And it's got a cheesy 80-s sounding sax. But something about Knopfler's tired, weary delivery, and the short chord sequence that bridges each of the three verses is just completely haunting to me. The song also features some of Knopfler's best lyric writing. "A three-chord symphony crashes into space." Nice.
97. "Devil’s Arcade" - Bruce Springsteen
Easily my favorite song off of the new album. One of those great, affecting, hopeful melodies, and by using strings so heavily he really lets it shine. It's got a little of that epic, triumphant quality, especially at the end, that i have such a weakness for.
96. "Ordinary People" - Neil Young
This is another song that logically shouldn't be on this list. It's anchored by as simple and classic a chord progression as you could imagine. And it's over 18 minutes long. With many, many verses - no complicated structure here leading to that 18 minutes; just verse after verse after verse. But damn it if Young doesn't make it all work, and build through each verse, as instruments are added and the feel gets looser and more energetic. This is an example of a song that benefits from other instruments--here a great horn section that comes in on each of the choruses.
95. "Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens
Very theatrical, with the xylophone, and the strings, and the horns, but with the beat and drive of a rock song. I Still stand by my belief that this song would be better with someone who wasn't afraid to actually sing the thing, and not kind of whisper-wimp it out.
94. "Deathly" - Aimee Mann
One of the all-time great opening lines: "Now that I've met you, would you object to, never seeing, each other again?" I love Mann's voice, and how she pretends to be laid back and not-too-invested, but how you can hear the deep emotion as she invests the odd notes with a purer, deeper tone. It's a great style.
93. "Sweet Child O’ Mine" - Guns ‘N Roses
When I was maybe sixteen, I went through this same exercise - writing down my favorite 100 songs. There are only a handful of repeats from that list to this one, 17 years later, and this is one. If that's not one of the all-time most beautiful guitar riffs, so effortless and clean, I don't know what is.
92. "Shadowboxer" - Fiona Apple
That piano again. What a great, slinky, sexy, insidious piano groove to open the song with. And then the chorus hits, and the song hits another level. Apple's voice is a great instrument, confident, full, and sweet.
91. "Pride (in the Name of Love)" - U2
The first in a series of what any regular reader knows will be many. I used to love this song a lot more than I do now, but I think it will always be the quintessential U2 song for me. That riff is indelible and as much an encoded piece of U2's DNA as anything. And this is old-school Bono, hitting silly high notes with a complete lack of fear. I adore the live version on Rattle & Hum (see below), which finds Bono in superb voice, full, and rich, and strong. This is what rock singing should be.