Last week, Rolling Stone released a reshuffled list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
While the Spectrum staff had some disagreements with that list, we came together to name a few of our favorite tunes. Here’s our list:
Hey There Delilah by The Plain White T’s
The ultimate love song, “Hey There Delilah” is the tune all your friends like to listen to — whether they acknowledge it or not. There’s something about Tom Higgenson professing his love for Delilah DiCrescenzo that continues to melt hearts, 15 years later. The song resonates deeply with those in long-distance relationships and those yearning for love. It is a masterpiece, and a terrific beat to blast whether you’re feeling wistful or jovial, carefree or overtaxed.
- Justin Weiss
Tiny Dancer by Elton John
“Tiny Dancer” is a stellar performance by Sir Elton Hercules John, who builds his vocals directly into his music. The song begins quiet and reserved, then climbs to the middle section, before exploding into the chorus. “Tiny Dancer” didn’t follow the rules of its time, which is part of what makes it so special. At over six minutes long, the song didn’t follow the pop formula at the time, making it one of John’s finest moments.
- Dan Eastman
Kozmic Blues by Janice Joplin
An out-of-tune piano erupts to life with the opening riff of Janice Joplin’s “Kozmic Blues.” This 1969 classic rock staple features traditional rock guitar chords backed by a brass section and is topped off with the raspy vocals of the first queen of rock. Joplin belts about growing up and losing friends and the loud brass section and deep bass blend seamlessly into an uplifting tune. Joplin, who was 26 when the song was released, embodied the carefree, strong-willed nature of early adulthood making this the perfect song to turn on during your next existential crisis.
- Reilly Mullen
Holy Ground by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s Red is arguably the greatest breakup album ever, featuring a plethora of deserving songs like “Holy Ground,” which is about looking back at a failed relationship but still seeing all the good and love that came from it. “Holy Ground’s” fast beat, which pauses only for the chorus — “And darling it was good/Never looking down/And right there where we stood/Was holy ground” — is Swift’s reflection on the relationship — hurried while she was in it, but sweet and melancholy in retrospect. In “Holy Ground” and all of Red, Swift manages to capture the poignant intimate moments we all experience and encases all of those feelings into a song spanning 3:20. Swift’s track five from Red “All Too Well” holds spot 69 on the Rolling Stones’ list of greatest songs.
- Julie Frey
Voodoo Child (Slight Return) by Jimi Hendrix
Since my formative years, when I listened to my mom’s compilation CD of The Beatles’ “1” in her MDX, I’ve always had a large love for music. But it wasn’t until middle school, when my cousin introduced me to the wonders of rock and roll, that I felt truly immersed in the medium. There are few artists I owe more gratitude to than Jimi Hendrix. Starting with some muffled chords for about five seconds, the scratchy opening of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” feels like a warm up for the storm that’s about to come. The moment Hendrix begins to masterfully play the opening chords of the song, I can feel my brain drenched in euphoria as it processes every detail of the masterful track. Hendrix’s relaxed vocals bring a spaced-out anthem perfectly blended with the flawless instrumentals, resulting in my favorite song of all time.
- Alex Falter
Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
I remember driving with the windows down in my dad’s car one summer as he showed me his burned CD collection, and this was the first song that played on his favorite CD, “The Jams.” Fleetwood Mac simply doesn’t miss and Stevie Nicks’ voice is one of the most soothing out there. This song is a feel-good jingle despite Nicks talking about her relationship issues. It rightfully found its way back to the charts at the end of 2020 thanks to the “skateboarding guy” who made viral TikTok’s as he rode down the street jamming to it, and it deserved to be heard by the new generation for its excellence. It will go down as one of the greatest songs ever, and — believe it or not — I used it to get into the zone before basketball games.
- Hunter Skoczylas
Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
Listening to “Back to Black” for the first time was one of my favorite memories as a kid. The song was — and still is — different from anything I had ever heard before. This signature Winehouse/Ronson song sounded sincere and heartbreaking compared to the usual upbeat, lighthearted music I had listened to during the earlier years of my childhood. Although this song was one of the biggest hits of its day, it doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its authenticity or its uniqueness.
- Jenna Quinn
Loser by The Grateful Dead
Every time I hear the opening riff of “Loser,” I can’t help but nod my head to Jerry Garcia’s infectious rhythm. While the song is mostly a slow jam, this versatile tune exhibits pleasurable moments of intensity, stillness and majestic resolve—especially during Garcia’s solo. If there is one dead song I think is underrated, it is this one. As for “Little Dark Age” by MGMT, the deep oscillating synthesizers, punching drum beat and mysterious bassline have kept me coming back to this track for years.
- Jack Porcari
Beyond by Leon Bridges
“Beyond” is one of music’s greatest hidden gems. The soft guitar, tambourine and Bridges’ enigmatic voice, of course, lul the listener into a whimsical and comforting world where love is possible for everyone. The lyrics are quite simple, but that’s what makes them so effective and universal. Lines like “I know that Grandma would have loved her” are not complex poetry, but resonate with the listener because we all want our loved ones to appreciate our partners as much as we do. But the bridge of the song is what gets me: “Oh me, oh my, I can’t explain / She might just be my everything.” Again, very simple, but the words paired with his voice and the gentle guitar could make me believe in love even after the worst break up.
- Natalie Doller
Writer in the Dark by Lorde
Though lesser known than hits like “Royals” and “Green Light,” “Writer in the Dark” stands out as one of Lorde’s most entrancing and thematic songs to date. The ballad, which features chill-inducing high notes and compelling songwriting, tells the story of heartache and healing. Lyrics such as “I’ll love you ‘til you call the cops on me,” exemplify the titular “Melodrama,” of the song’s album. It’s a theatrical and exaggerated listen that doesn’t lose its emotional grounding, recognizing and embracing itself for all the turmoil that comes with endings and beginnings.
- Kara Anderson
Q.U.E.E.N./Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe has so many phenomenal songs that I just had to pick two. Both are weird in all the right ways without straying from what makes R&B so much fun to listen to. Monáe’s unflinching voice is well-suited for Q.U.E.E.N., a song about loving yourself “even if it makes others uncomfortable.” Q.U.E.E.N. ends with a rapped call to action against racial injustice before seamlessly sliding into “Electric Lady’s” catchy electric guitar riff. The more upbeat “Electric Lady” hits it home with another five-minute vocal tour de force from Monáe. Each song stands on its own, but they go best as a pair.
- Grant Ashley
Mind Playing Tricks on Me by Geto Boys
One of the first hip hop songs to seriously address mental health within the Black community, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” describes the mental anguish of street life through the eyes of Houston hip hop trio Geto Boys. With intense tales of battles with post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts and paranoia, the groups highest-charting single captures rappers Scarface, Willie D and Bushwick Bill at their most vulnerable. Released during a period when masculinity and a gangster image were heavily-emphasized in hip hop, the Geto Boys went against the grain and created one of the greatest rap songs of all time.
- Anthony DeCicco