My initial reaction to rob's call for content was "This could be difficult." But then I decided to just sit down and come up with my top 10 list off the top of my head, an "off the top 10" if you will. These are ten songs that I love. It seems odd that I don't have a Beatles song because I grew up listening to them, but nostalgia isn't the point here. If it were I'd go with Norwegian Wood for sentimental reasons (Rubber Soul was the first album that made me think about different tempos and meters), although Tomorrow Never Knows is probably my favorite Beatles song (it still sounds modern almost 50 years later). It also seems odd that I don't have a Beastie Boys song on the list, but they honestly don't have one standout song that beats out the others on my list (but if I had to pick one favorite it would be High Plains Drifter, just a badass story with a doooooope video).
I also sought to avoid a "sly declaration of new classic-status slipped into a list of old classics":
Upon assembling my list I realized that almost all of the best music ever was made during the 10-11 year span between my freshman year of high school and my 26th birthday. Funny how that happened.
With all that hedging complete, here's my top 10 in alphabetical order:
Build and Destroy, Boogie Down Productions
Woooo! Those three different base lines with that spooky organ? It's like a stripped down RZA production. And those lyrics? No one has anything on their mind like this anymore. Classic boom bap. This is why KRS-ONE is an all-time great. If you like this then also check out Gimme Dat and Slap Them Up (which contains one of my all-time favorite lines: "Yo I'm the best g, don't try to test me, you'll get jacked son even if your name's not Jesse").
Can I Kick It, A Tribe Called Quest
The first song I wrote down when I drafted my list. Probably my favorite song ever. The video isn't that exciting but the guy in the Swarthmore hoodie kills me--just a regular bunch of middle class kids hanging out and making music.
Feelin' Alright, Jungle Brothers
Everybody likes this song. Seriously, listen to it and tell me you don't enjoy it. This gets the party started every time. The greatest achievement of my four year college career was getting a bunch of white Virginian sorority girls wearing pearl earring/necklace sets and cardigans buttoned only at the top button to throw their hands up and shake their asses to this song at a frat party, despite the fact that they never heard the song before and it involves a black man rapping (i.e., general anathema to white Virginian sorority girls wearing pearl earring/necklace sets and cardigans buttoned only at the top button circa the mid-1990s because they only danced to songs they knew, and they only knew songs performed by white people who didn't rap).
Gin House Blues, Nina Simone
I love Nina Simone's music so much that I named my cat after her (full disclosure, it wasn't premeditated--I picked out the cat at the pound and they demanded that I name it right there on the spot for their paperwork, and I was listening to Nina Simone in the car on the way over and I was about to say "Nina" but then I remembered that my friend just had a daughter and named her Nina, so I went with Simone). The "right" "best" Nina Simone song is probably My Baby Just Cares for Me, but I love this live version of Gin House Blues. It's a swinging rocking drunken bender looking for a fistfight or, more preferably, some gin. And the asides to the audience and the band are fun.
Holland, 1945, Neutral Milk Hotel
The power of music and poetry! Mangum's lyrics are abstract and whimsical, but they also deliver a spine tingling stomach punch that make my eyes water when I think about the inspiration.
Jessica, The Allman Brothers
What's not to like? Sure it's old and over-played, but it really cooks. It makes my head bob AND my toe tap.
Mighty Healthy, Ghostface Killah
I can't say enough good things about this song--I like it so much that my iPod is named "Mighty Healthy." Supreme Clientele was like a slap to the face (Jack Urbont would agree). Just when I thought hiphop had stagnated and wouldn't or couldn't do something completely new, Ghostface dropped this masterwork. The lyrics were unlike anything I had ever heard before. "Pretty soloette velvet nice DNA scroll genetics"?!? Mighty Healthy is my favorite track on this album. Nutmeg has some insane lyrics too. Give it a listen.
Outfit, Drive-By Truckers
This song makes me realize how important it is to be a father. Jason Isbell wrote it when he was something like 21 years old, using real advice that his father gave him before he went on his first tour with the band. It makes me a little weepy, but in a happy way. Sands of Iwo Jima, another DBT gem, also makes me weepy, but in a sad way. Those of you who know me and my meager romantic history well likely expected to see Panties in Your Purse on this list.
Scenario, A Tribe Called Quest
I've written about this song before. I probably shouldn't have two songs from one band in my top ten list, but it's my list and they're both top ten without hesitation.
Welcome to the Terrordome, Public Enemy
The ultimate song to get my adrenaline going. From time to time I need to engage in extended verbal confrontation. For professional reasons only, of course. This is what I listen to in order to set the mood beforehand. Here's where I got the idea:
Let the record reflect that I have never taken a deposition wearing only a towel and satin shorts. Terminator X to the Edge of Panic achieves the same ends.
Wisdom, Brian Jonestown Massacre
I don't do drugs but if I did I would listen to this song on repeat with headphones for hours.
And here are my five least favorite songs of all time. I compiled this list with great relish (unlike Teedge who used ketchup).
Blue Bayou, Linda Ronstadt
The first song I ever hated. My mother played this record incessantly circa 1978, which is surprising given her otherwise decent taste in music (she's the one who exposed me to all those Beatles albums), and I quickly grew tired of Ronstadt's canine warbling of the word "biiii-yooooOOOOOO". It still sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
Movin' Out, Billy Joel
I detest Billy Joel's music because it's so fucking hokey. His overly clear staccato pronunciation, his reliance on the Marls Voice when he needs to dip into his lower register, his cheesy horns, the stilted piano riffs. I considered just saying "anything by Billy Joel" but that would be a cop out. Movin' Out crystallizes all of this and more into one song. It clearly rips off Layla. And it hits close to home. You know who wants a house out in Hackensack? zgreat-grandparents, zgrandparents, zmom, and zman, that's who, you short tubby prick. Four generations of my family grew up in Hackensack, myself included.
Make 'Em Say Uhh!
This song single-handedly destroyed hiphop. This is the track that made corny beats and ignorant meaningless lyrics lucrative.
Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
Some have preposterously suggested that this completely over-wrought self-aggrandizing dreck is NYC's new anthem, replacing Sinatra's New York, New York. Ridiculous. It can't hold a lyrical candle to Sinatra's song. "I made the Yankee hat more famous then a Yankee can". Really? "Who the hell are you?" asks Babe Ruth. "Beyonce is a good looking woman, but I fucked Marilyn Monroe" says Joe DiMaggio. "Is that line even grammatically correct?" asks Mickey Mantle. "Speaking of grammar, 'concrete jungle where dreams are made of' makes no sense" notes Lou Gehrig. "Maybe 'concrete jungle that dreams are made of' but that's not what she says."
All that bullshit you guys forced me to listen to in college
I realize I said I wouldn't do this when I shat on Billy Joel, but the list of music I endured in college is unfair. I never heard of Jimmy Buffet before I went to college. I (involuntarily) listened to Jimmy Buffet for four years in college. I have no idea why people buy his music.
Ants Marching and Tripping Billies are the same song and they both suck, as does most of DMB's music. I said this the first time I heard their music and I haven't changed positions on this matter.
Phish made one good song (Tweezer Reprise), the rest is all lyrical gibberish (e.g., "your hands and feet are mangoes, you'll be a genius anyway") and noodling melodies devoid of rhythm. I hope I never have to hear someone tell me "Dude, you have to hear my bootleg of Gamehenge" again. Seriously, what the hell is this?