My Top 5 Favorite Songs
It seems like it should be harder to come up with this selection than it is because categorically choosing favorites in music is so hard, but I have little hesitation about my choices here. Sure, there is no way to include so many songs that deserve to be here, and they can be on your list, but here is mine.
1. George Harrison – My Sweet Lord
This is basically the perfect song, unless you want to be a douche and say the outro goes on too long or you’re a militant heretic. It starts softly with a simple guitar chord strumming and a beautiful guitar melody with an applied chord change under it that builds into the vocals. Except for one change to a new key early in the song, it follows that same basic structure from the beginning. While the verse-chorus is somewhat nebulous, the repeating structure of the song builds to a climax appropriately epic for a former Beatle singing about the most exalted of topics. I sincerely hope everyone can enjoy the bliss of this song regardless of spiritual preference.
2. Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
Sure, it’s kind of trite, but how can this song not put a smile on your face? First of all it’s the Satchmo, and you would have to be a complete cynic to argue the lyrics of the song. Tasteful string arrangements, that old timey “everything is going to be alright” feel, and the warm, raspy yet gentle voice of Louis acting as a womb of sound waves coming from my speakers. It is truly wonderful.
3. The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize
This one is an obvious one on my list despite the fact I rarely listen to the rest of the band’s albums. I have listened to them, and they are pretty good, but they caught lightning in a bottle on this song. Musically the song follows a pretty simple structure like the other songs on this list so far, though it is a little more modern and has some nice ear candy over light string arrangements that really adds to the song. But it is the lyrics of the song that I think I find so moving. I truly can’t think of a better and more concise, poetic description of life and death. It is a magnificent song with even better lyrics and I’m jealous I didn’t think to write it first.
4. Radiohead – Airbag
This is the only song on this list currently that barely made the cut, not that it’s not great, but that I mostly just felt the need to put a Radiohead song on here, and at this point in time that one feels right to me. It is the first track on my favorite album of theirs, OK Computer, which I have listened to a pretty insane amount of times and still hear new things every time. The opening track embodies the album to me, with powerful guitar-driven rock, beautiful vocals, and almost more sounds than the ear knows what to do with yet it finds the perfect balance of filling the space without being too cluttered. I love the way the bass line comes in and out at just the right times to maintain the momentum of the song, and helping to build to the energy all the way to the wonderful blending of sounds that culminates at the end.
5. The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back
I dare anyone to hate on this choice, because if you can listen to this song and not feel good, you don’t have blood pumping through your veins. Right from the beginning it just makes you want to get up and dance like you’re in the preview for a light-hearted coming of age comedy about losing your virginity at the prom or something after blowing your first chance and then having to jump through the hoops to seal the deal. The bass line is perfect and the song has of course been sampled countless times in rap and other genres, with Jay-Z – H to the Izzo being the first example to come to mind. The song is just great and makes you feel good, but I think part of it’s true beauty lies in the fact that you have a pre-pubescent Michael Jackson singing about wanting a relationship back, when there is absolutely no way he had ever been in a relationship at that point in his life. There is something about that fundamental contradiction I find hilarious, and I think adds to an amazing song.
So that is my list. I am sure I will read over this some time from now, maybe even tomorrow, and wish I had done something different. But of course a list like this is dynamic, and it is a great feeling if selecting these is some of the toughest decision-making of your day.