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100 Greatest Songs of All Time: 100-51

on September 20, 2012, 11:58pm
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80. Yo La Tengo – “Autumn Sweater”

I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, 1997

Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley’s marriage together is such an intrinsic facet to Yo La Tengo. It’s their symbiotic camaraderie that founded the New Jersey collective, and it’s their unique relationship that’s resulted in 12 critically-acclaimed albums in almost 30 years. This partnership, for lack of a better word, is fully realized on Kaplan’s electronic ode to Hubley, “Autumn Sweater”. Off the band’s seminal 1997 LP, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, the track embodies the album’s courageous yet sordid experimentation with folk, noise, and electronics. Though dissimilar to rougher cuts like, say, “Sugarcube” or “Deeper Into Movies”, “Autumn Sweater” glides swiftly with droning organ, synthetic percussion, and Kaplan’s nervous iterations about dealing with anyone but himself. When he repeatedly pleads that “we could slip away,” he’s basking in the idea of being alone with the only person who doesn’t mind sharing his silence. Really, it doesn’t get more awkwardly (or tragically?) universal than that. -Michael Roffman


79. Fleetwood Mac – “The Chain”

Rumors, 1977

Maybe it’s the way the kick drum seems to quite literally find a way into your heart, setting the pace for how your body will work for the next four minutes and 31 seconds. Or the slight rattle of Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar string before the vocals kick in. Perhaps it’s the way his voice sounds knocked next to Stevie Nick’s howl, especially when you remember they were staring into one another’s souls as their relationship broke when this was written in 1976. It could be John McVie’s classic, chest-pumping bassline that creeps in halfway, created first before Buckingham musically adopted it, and Nicks wove lyrics around it. It’s hard to pick the best thing about “The Chain” because it’s the inseparable nature of these elements that makes it Rumour’s classic centerpiece, and the only song from the era credited to Fleetwood Mac’s five members. -Amanda Koellner


78. Run-D.M.C. – “Rock Box”

Run-D.M.C., 1984

It bears repeating: Run-DMC are The Beatles of rap music. It’s apparent in the way “Rock Box” was flung onto an unsuspecting MTV audience in 1984, the first time the channel ever played a rap video — the first of what would become many rap videos the nascent channel would later air. “Rock Box” feels rebellious still today in its swagger, knowing that context. It stormed in purposefully without reluctance or apology, met by outrage and epiphany. “Rock Box” transcends time and space to today. You can still feel the shock of discovery of listeners and MTV viewers 28 years ago. “So listen to this because it can’t be missed/and you can’t leave ’til you’re dismissed,” Reverend Run raps, as if shaking a 2012 listener by the shoulders. “You can do anything that you want to/but you can’t leave until we’re through.” Hip-hop wasn’t going anywhere. -Paul de Revere


77. Sly and the Family Stone – “Hot Fun in the Summertime”

“Hot Fun in the Summertime”, 1969

Written as a nod to the relaxing, carefree days of summer, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun In the Summertime” captures the group in a mellow frame of mind, riding an easy groove perfect for those lazy days the song tributes. Counter the energy of the band’s two previous singles, “Stand!” and “I Want To Take You Higher”, “Hot Fun In the Summertime” is a low-mid tempo number built around a one-chord piano line played by Rosie Stone in a manner that recalls doo-wop and early R&B ballads. Layered with tempered horns and an elegant string arrangement, coupled with Stone’s somewhat romanticized lyrics, the track evokes a sense of nostalgia for whoever listens to it. -Len Comaratta


76. Missy Elliott – “Get Ur Freak On”

…So Addictive, 2001

You don’t really think of anyone with the nickname “Misdemeanor” as subtle, but look: over half the song doesn’t even have a beat. Every other measure is just a little melody plucked on a traditional Indian tumbi. For a song with so much not going on in it, there is so much elastic propulsion by Timbaland and Missy. And Missy puts it down (yes), lasting 20 rounds (yes), literally spitting confidence wrapped up in hyping Timbaland’s unimpeachable beat (holla!). Both are the spotlight, with Missy’s bracketed taglines still burning in the ears because don’t tell me you don’t know the exact pitch of, “Is that. Your. Chick?!”. Missy and Timbo been hot since 30 years ago, and both are reserved and patient enough to just keep letting the song regather itself bar after bar like a big-booty inchworm sent from the future. If you’re not bouncing at least your shoulders when this track comes on — in the club or in the kitchen — you’re doing it wrong. -Jeremy D. Larson


75. Blondie – “Heart of Glass”

Parallel Lines, 1979

Rock bands glittering up with disco is par for the course in the 21st-century indie rock world. Arguably, that mirror-floored bridge was first forged when Blondie released “Heart of Glass” in 1979, the same year as a massive anti-disco riot at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Rock and disco were clearly delineated along geographic and racial lines, not to mention the unspoken but clearly understood sexual ones too, and Blondie was a stalwart of the downtown punk scene of the mid-‘70s. Yet there they were, starting a song with a Roland CR-78 drum machine, and filming their promo video not amongst the grungy graffiti of CBGB, but within the colored lights of Studio 54. In that video, Debbie Harry embraces the club culture mentality of superficiality: She’s the embodiment of apathetic cool. Seen as a sellout by many loyalists, “Heart of Glass” represented the rise of dance music in pop culture, and the transition from the ‘70s to the ‘80s. And what’s more punk than trolling punk fans by releasing and making millions of dollars on a disco track? -Jake Cohen


74. The Smiths – “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”

The Queen Is Dead, 1985

Johnny Marr’s guitar playing on “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” is a stunner; a white light of jangle that yearns right alongside Morrissey: “How can they see the love in our eyes/ And still they don’t believe us/ And after all this time/ They don’t want to believe us.” The Smiths’ first single from their masterpiece, The Queen is Dead, weaves its web via Moz’s lovelorn heart, frustrations, and the unsung brilliance of the bands’ rhythm section of bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce. After Morrissey’s “la-la-las” subside, and Marr carries the song to its conclusion, you’ll have bought into whomever the poor man loved. -Justin Gerber


73. The Ramones – “Blitzkrieg Bop”

Ramones, 1976

When The Ramones released “Blitzkrieg Bop” in 1976, they made a clean break from what rock music was and forged ahead with what it eventually would be. The song’s short, brainlessly simple three-chord formula not only became the band’s personal calling card and trademark, it also served as the first schematics for punk rock and the seemingly endless number of subgenres that sprung from it. Instantly recognizable, comforting in its simplicity and as fresh and fun today as ever, “Blitzkrieg Bop” is punk’s version of the Big Bang theory. Whatever happened before it was crude and primitive, and everything that’s happened since owes all manners of debt of gratitude to Joey’s fake British accent singing Tommy’s words over Dee Dee’s scuzzy bass and Jonny’s shitty guitar. After “Blitzkrieg Bop”, punk music proliferated around the world like a lightning war. -Ryan Bray


72. James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

“I Got You (I Feel Good)”, 1965

James Brown’s signature yawp still sends chills down the spine decades later, and it takes the lead on his biggest hit in a career chock-full of them: “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. Where did The Godfather of Soul go to get that feeling in his vocal take? As he describes his current condition, you can practically see Brown dancing about the hardwood stages he pounced upon. That kind of pure simplicity would underscore Brown’s latter-day sins, where feeling good meant something entirely less innocent. But here is Brown as a soul captain, pure of heart, seeker of joy who also wrote and produced the track himself, which is basically a sped-up, pepped-up version of a song Brown previously recorded (and was featured in the movie Ski Party!). And let’s not forget Maceo Parker’s sax riff and the James Brown Orchestra that prods him into doing the explaining — James Brown gets you. -Justin Gerber


71. Björk – “Army of Me”

Post, 1995

“Army of Me” is an intense manifesto that Björk wrote to get her lazy brother off the couch. The experimental singer-songwriter’s music is surreal, but this was Björk’s first major global success. It topped US, UK, and Europe charts. The song reinterpreted ’70s heavy metal for the technophile generation, which percolated into “industrial rock.” It begins with an explosion (a la Black Sabbath) that triggers noisy synthesizers, and drums that cop the feel of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”. As much as the song is an instant citation for bands like the Ting Tings and Blonde Redhead, it became the great unifier amongst diverse metal genres, from German metalcore to Australian post-hardcore. Apparently, everyone in the world can relate to the idea of a freeloading relative. “Self-sufficiency, please!” –Sarah Grant

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