I feel like I need to take a break from my normal kind of reviews (Anime, Video Games, Disney Movies) and talk about something different. So I have gone through every song on my MP3, which currently includes all of my favorite songs of all time, and found which are my favorite songs starting with every letter. It'll be a three-part list, and for each letter, I'll also talk about up to five songs that I ended up cutting. They won't all be songs that I thought may win, but more an excuse to bring up songs or artists I think should at least be mentioned for one reason or another.
I won't be ordering the letters from A-Z but by my favorite songs. I will also be including a category for numbers. Finally, the letters X, V, and Q just won't be on the list. Turns out I don't listen to any songs starting with those letters. So, on to my list!
Z - Zoot Suit Riot – Cherry Poppin Daddies
I know I said I'd talk about other songs of each letter, but quite frankly Z just doesn't have that many interesting songs to talk about. It was either this or Zero to Hero off Disney's Hercules soundtrack. Zoot Suit Riot kind of wins this round by default, and was the reason I decided to not just do this list in alphabetical order. A huge, three-part series of posts capping off with Zoot Suit Riot could have been a funny and anticlimactic way to do this list, but I decided against it.
That said, I do really like this song if only for how strange it is. The Zoot Suit Riots were an actual thing that happened and were horrible. To make this brief, there were Fabric restrictions in place during World War 2 and a push to ration the currently available Fabric. There were Minority groups, mostly Hispanic, who had a fashion of Zoot Suits which used a lot more fabric than were allowed by the restrictions, and a black market existed for Zoot Suits. Due to ignoring these regulations (Cloth was needed for the Military to operate effectively after all), many US soldiers got pissed and violence broke out. More to it than that I'm sure, but this is the basis of the Zoot Suit Riots.
In come the Cherry Poppin Daddies (Who I argue have one of the greatest band names of all time) with an upbeat song that references these riots pretty directly (Pipes and Chains and Swinging hands), but also say things like 'Now the Sailors know, where your women come for love' which was saying the servicemen were going to steal everyone's women. So, intentionally or not, it's kind of a song about US Navy men coming into town, beating up the Mexicans, and stealing their women.
A lot of these early letters don't have a lot of songs to talk about. I do want to give a mention to Yesterday by The Beatles. While I'm not as big a fan of them as some, they do have some fantastic tracks. And Yesterday is one of their best, and a fantastic song about post-breakup depression.
Your Type by Carley Ray isn't a song I feel had a chance of winning, but it's probably her best song. I feel like as soon as she started making good music the mainstream just stopped caring about her. I wonder if her lack of mainstream success has more to do with bad timing than anything. For me, a lot of her songs are just what Pop Music should be. That said, the clear winner of Y...
You Got Another Thing Coming – Judas Priest
I feel I should love Judas Priest more than I do. Metal with Clean Vocals has always been my jam, but for some reason, only a handful of their tracks do it for me. That said when they hit they hit hard. It's not a deep song by any stretch, but what it does have is how it makes Rob Halford sound like an absolute badass. Doesn't matter what anyone tells him, doesn't matter what sorrow life has brought before. The future is yours, and to hell with anyone who would stand in your way. I don't know what else to say about this, like all the best Judas Priest songs (Leather Rebel being my personal favorite) the song just pumps you up.
The other songs up for consideration here were Uptown Girl from Billy Joel, Uptight from Stevie Wonder, and Ulysses from Franz Ferdinand. I don't have a lot of U songs to chose from, and most of them just act as good examples of the overall sound and quality of the bands. All great tracks. Any of these songs make great entry points to the artists. Though the best song goes too....
Up Through the Ashes – Kamelot
Kamelot is a band that proves a hypothesis I have had for a while now. I say this as an Athiest, songs about Atheism would have to be the most boring pieces of music one could right. Conversely, while I am very much opposed to many religious views, there are a lot of great songs that come from it because these people have something they believe in. Up Through the Ashes specifically is about the story of Jesus getting sentenced to crucifixion.
Effectively that's all the song is, but what sells it for me is not how interesting and impactful the lyrics and music make the story sound, but the vocals of Roy. This man is possibly my favorite Vocalist of all time, and like any other song he is on there is so much passion and emotion to his voice that the story being told comes to life. You feel the hatred of the crowd, as well as the guilt of the one who feels forced to pass the sentence off on Jesus.
It may not be my favorite Kamelot Track, but even one of the middle-of-the-road tracks of Ghost Opera is just spectacular.
K - Kingdom of Bermucia – FF IX OST
Look, I don't have many tracks to talk about for K. Don't know why, but the only other two songs I would have mentioned are Karma Chameleon by Culture Club and Kids with Guns by Gorillaz. The latter is great, but I'll be talking about Gorillaz enough as the list goes on.
That said, even with a stronger lineup of songs I think this one may still come out on top. I love Nobuo and his compositions for the Final Fantasy series. It's not just music that works in the context of a video game, but it is so good that my normal preference for lyrics in my music just doesn't seem to matter. I don't know how to sit here and describe why, I'm not an expert on music, but even out of the context of the game this song is just so wonderfully sad and beautiful. It's not the only time Nobuo has done this, and there are times I think he has done it better, but with no words, it's really hard to find someone better at evoking such strong emotions with nothing more than music.
It hurt to cut Ace of Spades by Motorhead. They may be the most consistently good bad I have ever listened to, and there are so many great tracks by them, Ace of Spades being my favorite. Also got to give props to Abandoned by Kamelot, proving again my previous theory mentioned in 'Up Through The Ashes', and honestly a better song as well. Alma by Tom Lehrer being my favorite song by him and like Motorhead, I'm really sad I had to cut him and also won't' be winning any of the letters.
Ana NG from They Might Be Giants showcase their bizarre imagery.
'Make a hole with a gun perpendicular
To the name of this town in a desktop globe
Exit wound in a foreign nation
Showing the home of the one this was written for'
And finally a call out to the greatest song to just walk around to because of how energetic and chill it is, Ask DNA from the Cowboy Bebop Movie. On to my pick....
Ain't No Grave – Johnny Cash
I don't like the vast majority of Country, but I like a lot of old country songs. Yet oddly enough my favorite Country song isn't an old one but is from one of its oldest stars in Johnny Cash. I do love Hurt, but I would put this as his best song (I wanted to verify something, and just learned this is also a cover. The more you know.)
It doesn't matter what the song is about, the way Cash sings always makes him seem like that hard old-time cowboy. Love songs, comedy songs about a man who couldn't cry, having the name sue, or even singing about meeting angles as he dies. No matter the situation, regardless of the vulnerabilities, he always feels strong.
I didn't have many options for J that I felt deserved to be considered here, but the ones that I did consider area all great tracks. While I love every song on this list, it's only just now I feel we are getting to some truly fantastic songs. Just Another day got cut from the top spot, despite my love of how disconnected Oingo Boingo's Music feels from reality (This is not a flaw, it's one of the best things about the band). The Cure was also sadly cut, and the part that makes this hard is Just Like Heaven is my favorite song by them. I have a soft spot for songs about being in love and not being able to understand why you have something so wonderful in your life. And a Trend you will see continued on this list is me feeling awful for having to cut Santana, who is my personal favorite guitarist of all time, this time having to cut Just Feel Better featuring Stephen Tyler (For the record, this song is my favorite thing Stephen Tyler has ever done). With such fierce competition though, the winner is.....
Juicy – Notorious B.I.G.
I am not a huge fan of Rap, otherwise, I would rank this a lot higher. Though while I am not a huge fan of the genre as a whole, when it works for me it is usually in a big way. I think an argument could be made for Juicy being the greatest Rap song of all time, and easily in my top three (The other two I will touch on at some point, though sadly not as pick for best of the letter). What most brag raps of the modern-day fail to realize is what's so interesting about the success isn't the result, but the journey to get there.
You get a lot of details about Biggie's life before he made it big. Details about how he was treated by his landlords, his struggles to raise his daughter, and a lot more. It's when you contrast all this with how much better his life has become that you feel the joy he is trying to express in this song.
I could go on about the with and charm biggie has, but that has been discussed to death. What I want to highlight is the reason he is my favorite rapper of all time, and that is I don't know if there is any other rapper out there that sounds like he loves what he does as much as Biggie. I can't listen to him and not feel the love for what he does. Juicy is just an absolute gem of a song.
Two artists cut were ones that I never really liked overall, but had one or two songs I just loved. Tina Turners What's Love Got to do With It paints a wonderful picture of fearing being hurt again, and Sublime's Wrong Way showing two kids in shitty situations handling it all in the worst way possible, despite their intentions.
I also have to mention Tom Lehrer's 'We Will All Go Together When We Go' because of how wonderfully pessimistic and sarcastic it is singing such an upbeat and happy tune about how we will all die together in the inevitable nuclear holocaust. Don't get me wrong, I still really like Weird Al, but he just can't compete with Tom Lehrer as the best comedy musician of all time.
Also want to give a nod to Cake's cover of Warpig for being so much better than Cake covering Warpigs had any right to be (Though I still prefer the Sabbath original), and Walk Away by Kelly Clarkson for being just good and fun Pop Music (Even I have a fair few mainstream tastes). That said, as great as these songs all are, there is one song that was a clear winner.
When Doves Cry – Prince
There are only a small handful of songs Prince does that I like, despite him being a phenomenal musician and entertainer. Something about his music just never did it for me (It's just this and Raspberry Beret). That said When Doves Cry is just wonderful on just about every level. While I hate that weird vocal effect at the beginning of the song (I don't know how I'd even begin to describe it), this is Prince at his absolute best. He so wonderfully captures the heights of his relationships passions in the verses, the imagery in the lyrics and power in his voice is just amazing.
Then it's contrasted immediately with the chorus highlighting the lows with all the same passion and fantastic imagery. As cheesy as it seems at first, he sells that image of something as wonderful and pure as a dove crying as a metaphor for how much the bad parts of the relationship hurt him. Mix in all the internal struggle of seeing all the worst parts of his parents' relationship in himself and you have a truly great song. I may not like most of his work, but When Doves Cry wins me over in a huge way.
For my selection of songs that didn't make the cut, a couple of these didn't have a shot at taking the tops spot here. Big Iron gets a mention because it's just a great little story song about a shootout between a ranger and an outlaw and a showcase of some great old country. Baby Grand is a really good Billy Joel Song and one I don't think gets brought up often enough.
Breaking the Habit is another one that wasn't really up for consideration, but I loved Linkin Parks Meteora album, and this was my favorite track off it. Similarly, my favorite Foo Fighters song is Best of You, but that couldn't make the cut here either.
The hardest cut was Black Magic Woman, once again Santana ends up losing out of a top spot for me, and it was by a very small margin here. As much as I adore Santana and his Guitar work, it just couldn't quite measure up too....
Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
Billie Jean is about the closest thing you are ever going to get to a perfect pop song. I don't even really know if anything else needs to be said about this one. It's the best Michael Jackson song by a long way (I do really like a lot of other tracks of his, but this is still a clear best for me) with how well it conveys his fear that this woman he doesn't even remember could be the mother of his child. The lyrics show a great mix of fear and denial.
And that music is just about perfect. This is definitely on the polished side of pop music and is immediately recognizable after hearing the first couple of notes. I don't know what else to say about this since it's already been talked about to death.
Hoping to have part two up in a couple of days, and then a couple of days after that part three. I know most of you who follow me expect a more nerdy kind of output, but I needed to change it up a bit. Thanks for indulging, and I'll see you soon.