My Favorite Songs - #s 11-20
20. "The Show Must Go On" - Queen
My favorite Queen song, and my favorite Freddie Mercury performance. As I have said many times, the power of the song lies in its intersection of subject matter and circumstance - the song, about defiance in the face of death, is sung by a Freddie Mercury who knows he will soon be dying from AIDS. And he is pissed. It's that reality which makes this song an impossible one to cover in any way that approximates the power of the original.
19. "City of Blinding Lights" - U2
U2 digs deep and manages to come up with as inspiring bit of anthemic arena rock as "Where the Streets Have No Name." It's just remarkable to me how much genuine heart-pumping feeling these guys can get into a song without being overly cheesy. That moment in the intro when the piano and drums and bass build and build and finally give in to that exultant Edge guitar riff gives me goosebumps every damn time.
18. "Fast Car" - Tracy Chapman
I like Tracy Chapman's career and output just fine, but it must be said: Her best song was her first song. She's never gotten a hold of a riff as simple yet indelible as the one that anchors this song - it's just one of those simple riffs that sounds like it has always been there.
17. "What’s So Funny (About Peace, Love, and Understanding)? " - Elvis Costello
Just a great energy song, full of anger and despair and rage. As I have said before, it kind of makes me sad that my favorite Costello song is one he didn't write, but you can't argue with what moves you.
16. "Brilliant Disguise" - Bruce Springsteen
Elvis Costello does a cover of this on one of the Rhino B-Side discs (for Kojak Variety I think), and when I first cued it up I expected to be blown away, so much do I like Costello, and so good a fit he and this song seemed to be. I wasn't. There's something about Springsteen's original version, and delivery, that make the song, and it's easily my favorite of his. I love the line "We stood at the alter/The gypsy swore our future was right/But come the wee wee hours/Well maybe baby/The gypsy lied" a lot, but "God have mercy on the man/Who doubts what he's sure of" may be my favorite closing couplet ever.
15. "No Cars Go" - Arcade Fire
This is the kind of theatrical, epic, joyous, exuberant, and uplifting rock that is my favorite kind of rock. That big crescendo at the end, with the singers and instruments just getting bigger and bigger tears me up every time I hear it.
14. "Philadelphia" - Neil Young
As I've said too many times before, the wrong "Philadelphia" song won the Oscar. Young's closing piano ballad is one of the most poignant, heartbreaking songs I've ever heard.
13. "Won’t Get Fooled Again" - The Who
Can any other rock song plausibly claim to contain within it three legitimate "bests?
Best use of synth in a rock song - "Won't Get Fooled Again"
Best rock scream in a rock song - "Won't Get Fooled Again"
Best fake-out ending in a rock song - "Won't Get Fooled Again"
12. "Like a Rolling Stone" - Bob Dylan
There was a time when I didn't quite get all of the hype around this song. I do now.
11. "Tangled Up in Blue" - Bob Dylan
The ambiguous narrator, the aggressive acoustic guitar strumming, the snarled upward leaps in the singing - this is quintessential Dylan.