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revenant5
revenant5
Twenty-Four
[edit: I promised to post the list, and, so no one has to read all the way to the bottom of this again, here's a link to a .rar of "The 24."]

I spend my time doing many useless things in a fairly rigorous manner- when I decided I had to write a stupid story about imaginary, preternaturally intelligent wabbits, I took it to the extreme of writing three stories about them. When I decided I had to tell stories about songs and what they meant to me, I decided I needed to write about 500 of them. That quest has stalled because I can't remember some of the stories, and others of them are too recent to have stopped hurting completely, and so I can't bring myself to write them. I post list after list of songs I like, to discover and share, and now, after years and years of saying what everyone says - "that song is one of my favorites!" - I'm going to do something else that's useless in a rigorous, completely excessive way.

I'm going to share my 24 favorite songs. Why 24? Fuck you, that's why. It's my list, and my own private numerology that told me it had to be 24. You'll find out soon enough why my insistence on 24 will end up having almost screwing me over in the end. Now, on to my methodology:

Because I could literally name hundreds - probably thousands - songs that I love to listen to, I had to start with a list of candidates. So I went through my music collection and selected 275 songs that I considered as candidates, on a by-artist basis. In other words, I went through my Metallica albums, and chose my favorite Metallica songs. Then Tom Petty, and Aerosmith and so on. Once I had my choices (it was originally was going to be 150, but I blew by that before I got to the K's in my list), I had to decide on criteria upon which to rate the songs. Then, I had to choose a scale. I chose 5 dimensions of preference, based on the things I value about a song- Artistic Merit, Replay Value, Power, Emotional Resonance, and Singalongability.

Artistic Merit (AM)- Every song that has ever been written has some person behind it who thiought they were creating art; on the high end of the scale, we have Iron & Wine, on the low end, Nickelback. But we're talking, for the most part, about pop music here. Pop music is a unique craft because it spans so many different artistic styles that it isn't fair to compare things that have meticulously crafted instrumentation by design with those that are sparse and rough for the same reason. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is a gritty, rough piece of music that undoubtedly has more artistic merit than anything ever written by Poison, but if we get hung up on "craftsmanship" instead of "artistry," we fall into a trap. Hence, Artistic Merit, in this case, means how well the song hangs together, not how technically challenging it is.

Replay Value (RV)- is self-explanatory, but subjective. I don't care how often you or your brother or your pet chimp likes to hear the song. I mean how often I like to hear the song, or how often I have in my history.

Power (P)- Yet another subjective measure. Power is different than Emotional Resonance because, while I find the driving ferocity of "Bulls on Parade" to be arresting, I'm hardly thinking back of to my days on the protest circuit with Abby Hoffman when I listen to it. Neither does Power mean volume- plenty of songs have volume without real, palpable intensity. And to me, some of the most powerful, exciting music is the kind that has vocals that barely break a whisper. Power, to me, means, to what degree does this song remove me and my attention from the here and now? Good art is supposed to alter your state of mind. This rating is meant to measure that.

Emotional Resonance (ER)- It can be very difficult to separate Power from Emotional Resonance. One often lifts the other and vice-versa. Emotional Resonance doesn't just mean, do I have a story about this song? (though it often does). It also means, whether or not I have a similar experience, does the song cause me to empathize with its singer? " Keep Me In Your Heart," for instance. I've never died of cancer, but I can feel what Warren Zevon is talking about, and it sometimes chokes me up.

Singalongablility (S)- I had to make up a word for this category. And again, it's subjective. I like to sing along to some songs that others don't. But if I've ever belted out the song drunkenly in a bar, it's going to get a high rating.

Each of these dimensions was rated from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest. I then aggregated the 5-score total and ranked them. But the problem was, with 275 songs, there were a lot of ties. Also, I personally value each of these dimensions differently. So when I created the formula, it worked out like this: preference=AM+(1.05xRV)+(1.07xP)+(1.2xER)+(1.15xS). In other words, I value these dimensions in this order: Emotional Relevance, Singalongability, Power, Replay Value, and Artistic Merit. Despite being a big indie music fag, I value many of the shallower elements of a song's appeal over its quality. So sue me.

As a final aside, a while back I posited that rock music always addresses one of five main ideas: "Let's Fuck," "You (or Life) Fucked Me Over," "I'm So Fucking In Love With You" (also stated as, "Let's Fuck Forever"), "What the Fuck is Going On Here?" and "Fuck Yeah!" This "rock message" is appended to the end of each of these entries.

So now, having bored you to tears, here's the list:

22t. All-American Rejects - Move Along (7/10/9/8/10). Right off the bat, I dodged a bullet. I insisted on 24 songs, and on my final list, three songs tie at 22, 23 and 24. I stared and stared and stared, and couldn't find a way to separate them- I stood by their ratings relative to the other songs around them, and so I was stuck. Originally, because I can't count, apparently, I thought I was stuck with three tied at 23, 24 and 25. That would have torpedoed the whole thing. I can't imagine what I would have done then. Anyway, "Move Along" is the last among equals because it ranked lowest in Emotional Resonance. Either way, this song is an expertly crafted pop song, with a fun, unusual drumbeat and an inspiring message. It plays loud and strong, people sing along, and fuck you if you thought I was going to continue rhyming. Rock Message: "Life Fucked Me Over"

22t. Everclear- Learning How to Smile (8/9/9/9/9). Another well built pop song that tells a nice, romantic story about the ups and downs of relationships. It's escapist, which adds to its Power rating, and it ranks high in Emotional Resonance because I always remember my first date with Beth, and how we both discovered that this was our favorite Everclear song. While that relationship did not end up being successful, it was still a memorably good first date. Rock Message: "I'm So Fucking In Love With You"

22t. Patrick Park- Your Smile's a Drug (9/8/9/10/8). This is the first of two Patrick Park songs I have in the top 24- I was surprised, but I was simply unable to downgrade either one. My brother likes to say that Patrick Park writes the best choruses in pop music. This song is living proof of that fact, as it is incredibly catchy and singalongable. It replays well, it's arresting, and well, it scores at 10 in ER because it ties back to my breakup with Brooke, which you'll find leads to a high ER in many cases because it's probably the most painful thing I've had to deal with in my life. That may sound lame, and most of you are probably saying, "lucky you," but it ripped the floor out from underneath everything going on in my life for over a year. Nothing else really even comes close. Rock Message: "You Fucked Me Over"

21. Michael Jackson- Give in to Me (8/8/10/9/9). Amazingly, there were no more ties in the top 24. "Give in to Me" is my favorite Michael Jackson song, owing to Slash's inhuman guitar work. The song is spartan, with a simple drum machine and synth track laid under Michael's vocals, which are all about unrequited love, which is one of my favorite musical subjects. It's OK, but not great. But when you add the superhuman, electrified howl of Slash's guitar, it elevates the song to a whole new level. Slash makes this song work with a ferocious, desperate series of guitar solos and bridges that make my skin tingle and my hands tumble into air-guitar mode. Rock Message: "You Fucked Me Over/I'm So Fucking In Love With You"

20. John Parr- St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) (6/10/10/8/10). The first embarrassing truth to be revealed by this list, "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" is a relatively new addition to the top 24, even though the song is 24 years old (spooky). I found a collection called Like, Oh My God! (the '80s Collection) because I was looking for Toni Basil's "Mickey" for a kickball list. I'd always liked this song, sort of, but didn't know who it was by. It's an antique, really, a relic of a different kind of songwriting, but I love it. For one thing, it contains the single greatest moment in rock history - perhaps even the reason that rock was created in the first place - the "Ooo Oooo Ooo Ooooooooooo" that follows the second verse. For another, it contains another which is maybe in the top 50: a pre-chorus bridge where Mr. Parr sings, "you broke the boy in me / but you won't break the man[!]" Now that's just awesome. Add to that it's a song about a guy who overcomes and perseveres despite his paralysis, which is eminently respectable. Rock Message: "Fuck Yeah!"

19. Less Than Jake- The Ghosts of Me and You (7/9/10/10/8). I love me some Less Than Jake. If I were to make another list of my favorite artists, Less Than Jake would be very near the top. This song scores high in AM for the same reason many LTJ songs do- it doesn't exactly sound like anything you've ever heard before, but it sounds somehow familiar. And before anyone goes to the that's because all LTJ songs sound alike place, fuck you. No they don't. What I mean by familiar is that they really are a perfect pop synthesis- they take parts of other things, lyrically, instrumentally and melodically and turn them into something unique and different. There's no new ground broken here, but it's a good song anyway. It always reminds of Gainesville, and how every time I drive through there, I can see my life in that town. I don't miss it, exactly, but I value what it meant to my life. Rock Message: "I Was So Fucking In Love With You."

18. Queen- Fat Bottomed Girls (7/9/9/9/10). This song is just plain fun. And I have great affection for it because I reminds me of middle school and the early years of high school, when I was beginning to discover music. Rock Message: "Fuck Yeah!"

17. New Found Glory- All Downhill From Here (6/10/8/10/10). Say what you want, I love New Found Glory. I love this song, and since I got this album, this song has been way up at the top of my replayability scale. Then, relationship stuff happened and suddenly it was emotionally relevant. I don't listen to it to wallow in that, I listen because it's cathartic. But, above all, in this song I find something that I like to play really loud and sing along when no one else is around to be annoyed. Rock Message: "You Fucked Me Over"

16. Jimi Hendrix- All Along the Watchtower (10/10/9/7/9). If you've ever heard the original version of this song, you'll understand why I rated this one a 10 for AM. It took a song that was... well, just OK, and turned it into a masterpiece. Everything about it is just right, and for almost 40 years, people have been trying (and failing) to improve upon this cover. This is the first of three covers on this list, and I was surprised to find this ranked this low, but the key ended up being the low ER score- a fantastic, powerful and engaging song, but I don't have any one strong memory to associate with it, other than the first Vietnam scene in Forrest Gump. Rock Message: "What the Fuck is Going On Here?"

15. Led Zeppelin- Stairway to Heaven (9/10/10/8/8). This song would score lower on AM and P if it weren't for the last two minutes of the song. The solo, and the final verse just make "Stairway" a masterpiece. It rocks me out of my socks every time I hear it. It's magnificent. And it scores high on ER because when I was younger, I used to write a lot, and when I would write, I listen to certain songs to get flowing- "Stairway" was one of the big ones, and so I remember certain things I've written in the past when I hear it. Rock Message: "What the Fuck is Going On Here?"

14. Tenacious D- Tribute (9/9/10/7/10). This one surprised me a little. I love this song in an almost indecent way, but I didn't expect it to rank this high when I rated it. But the facts are these: for a comedy rock song, it's superbly crafted, insanely catchy, and contains a power moment that rivals the greatest that rock has ever produced. When the demon asks, "Be you angels?" and the guys reply, "Nay, we are but men. ROCK!" what follows is simply sublime. And it scores somewhat higher than you might expect in ER, because I always am reminded of the times Damien, Brad and I would rock out to this song in the car. Rock Message: "Fuck Yeah!"

13. Patrick Park- Something Pretty (10/8/10/9/8). This is the Patrick Park song I expected to make it onto this list, though I sort of expected it to be higher. It's beautiful and sad, with a chorus that reinforces what my brother says about Patrick Park's songwriting abilities. And, for something so... moribund, for lack of a better word, it's surprisingly catchy and singalongable. Rock Message: "Life Fucked Me Over."

12. Gemma Hayes- Time After Time (8/10/9/8/10). This song has been stuck in my head since about the time I could comprehend music more complicated than "Jesus Loves Me." Of all the versions of it that exist (and I have many, many of them), this is my favorite, edging out Eva Cassidy's, because while Eva's voice is beautiful, the smoky, sexy edge that Gemma's voice gives it, along with the simple acoustic delivery just nail it for me. It's a beautiful song with a message that appeals to the romantic in me, even if it doesn't have a particular focus. Rock Message: "I'm So Fucking In Love With You."

11. Poe- Hey Pretty (feat. Mark Danielewski) (8/10/10/10/7). I l-o-v-e-LOVE Poe's voice. Like Gemma Hayes, it's got that slightly throaty, rough sound to it that just grabs me. But this song is not on the list because of Poe's voice, it's here because of the poem that Mark Danielewski recites over it:

We never even kissed, or looked into each other's eyes, our lips just
Trespassed on those inner labyrinths hidden deep within our ears,
Filled them with the private music of wicked words
Hers in many languages, mine in the off-color of my only tongue,
Until as our tones shifted and our consonants spun and squealed, rattled faster, hesitated, raced harder
Syllables soon melting into groans or moans, finding purchase in new words, or old words, or made-up words
Until we gathered up our heat and refused to release it,
Enjoying too much the dark language which we had suddenly stumbled upon
Prayed to, carved to, not a communication really, but a channeling of our rumored desires,
Hers for all I know gone to black forests and wolves, mine banging back to the familiar form,
That great revenant mystery I still could only hear the shape of
Which in spite of our separate lusts and individual pride, still continued to drive us deeper into stranger tones,
Our mutual desire to keep gripping the burn
Fueled by sound, hers screeching, mine...
I didn't hear mine, only hers, probably counter-pointing mine
A high pitched cry, then a whisper dropping unexpectedly into practically a bark, a grunt,
Whatever, no sense anymore, and suddenly no more curves either, just the straightaway
Too bad dark languages rarely survive...


It's sexy and powerful and I love it in a way that's perhaps unnatural. I'm not a poetry guy, but this particular poem does something to me- it just makes sense. It encompasses all the things that I think are interesting about sex and sensuality and desire: that constant battle between will and instinct, the imperfect symmetry of two people entwined (emotionally, physically or both), and the ultimate choice that we make, to surrender to a moment or to bottle up our passions and savor the feeling. I've never been and never will be that eloquent on the subject, but I hear it and I wish that I could be. Rock Message: "Let's Fuck! (or maybe not)"

10. William Shatner- Common People (8/10/8/9/10). Again, I was torn on the placement of a cover in this list, but this song makes the original by Pulp sound like crap. Shatner weaves his way around the various British-isms that are part of the charm of the song without sounding alien or self-conscious, and he has a certain zeal about the whole affair. It's a novelty, but one that's hard to get tired of. And it may well be Will's favorite song. Rock Message: "What the Fuck is Going On Here?" (or, "That's Fucked Up!")

9. The Postal Service- Such Great Heights (8/10/8/10/9). I know a lot of people believe that Iron & Wine's cover of this song is the superior version, but I totally disagree. Nevermind that this song has been co-opted by UPS; the surging, upbeat nature of the song underscores the restorative nature of love that Ben is singing about. The slow, breathy cover by Iron & Wine pulls out the "shrillest highs and lowest lows" that make the song interesting to me. When I was in a long-distance relationship, the lyrics of this song seemed tailor-made for my situation. And I felt like "God himself did make us into corresponding shapes, like puzzle pieces from the clay." Of course, now we all know I was wrong. Somehow, though, this song has not been ruined for me, the way, say, "Chasing Cars" has been. I will literally run from a room to avoid hearing that song. Maybe it's just because this is just too great a song not to want to reclaim it. Rock Message: "I'm So Fucking In Love With You! "

8. Better Than Ezra- Daylight (9/8/8/10/10). Finally, BTE makes its appearance. This song is off of their latest album, 2005's Before the Robots, or, as my brother calls it, "B-T-Robs." It's an excellent album, filled with catchy songs and very little chaff. "Daylight" is track #2, and it really sweeps you into the album. It's desperate and hopeful, dynamic and fun to sing along to. And it contains some of the best lines I've ever heard to describe the way another person can consume all of your attention:

You're a long walk in a rainstorm
You're a cut that refuses to heal
Or a broke watch, keeping time still
Till you pull me in, pull me in, and
I can't fight...


Anyone who's ever had a crush can understand. Rock Message: "I'm So Fucking In Love With You!"

7. Better Than Ezra- Porcelain (7/8/10/10/10). This song is off of BTE's first studio album, Deluxe. The songwriting is much less mature, and some of it is very clunky now ("Teenager," for example), but it's a solid effort that has four real stand-out tunes: "Good," "The Killer Inside," "This Time of Year," and "Porcelain." "Porcelain" gets the nod for the fact that it has one of my two favorite lines in any song ever:

I wish I could kill you, savor the sight
Get into my car, drive into the night
And lie as I scream to the heavens above
That I was the last one you ever loved


It's dark and a little scary, and damn if it doesn't encapsulate the hurt of being dumped (or cheated on) perfectly. What I think is especially poigniant about it is the stream-of-consciousness feel of the song; the way the main character rails throughout the verses about how this person has screwed him over and broken him, but the chorus always comes back: But your skin is like.. porcelain. I mentioned it during my entry for "Hey Pretty;" there's always that battle between reason and passion. How can we love something that hurts us so much? And yet, that's all some of us ever do. Rock Message: "You Fucked Me Over" (and now you have to die!)

6. Iron & Wine- The Trapeze Swinger (10/10/10/10/6). I don't know exactly what to say about this song. It's so perfect that it makes me want to cry. I don't know why, but I can feel my throat tighten and my heart thump a little whenever he sings, Please, remember me... It's not because it reminds me of anything in particular. In fact, I'm not at all sure what it's really about- it talks about the pearly gates and old lovers and circuses and none of it really seems to hang together exactly. But despite that, it just moves me in a way that not many songs can. The only reason it doesn't rank even higher is because I sound terrible when I sing it. Rock Message: "I Was So Fucking In Love With You." (I think.)

5. Guns'N'Roses- November Rain (10/8/10/9/9). I once wrote about how this song contains the greatest two minutes in rock'n'roll. I stand by that. Rock Message: "You Fucked Me Over" (but it'll be OK)

4. Otis Redding- That's How Strong My Love Is (9/9/10/9/9). I've always said that if I could have any voice in the world, it would be Steven Tyler or Chris Cornell. But there are times when I feel that no one anywhere, at any time, has sung any more perfectly than Otis. As I've written before, when other people are referred to as "soul" singers, it's because they stretch and yank every note into something barely recognizable as melody. But Otis is never that; it always sounds like Otis is broken somehow, and the only way he can put himself back together is to belt out a wall of sound. He just sounds so emotionally naked and exposed; there's a beauty to that that transcends the basic rules of melody, harmony and tempo. Rock Message: "I Am So Fucking In Love With You"

3. Ben Folds- The Luckiest (9/9/10/10/8). I swear I'm not a sap. I just think, like I think most of us do, that love is the central, unifying human experience, the thing we all strive for and wish for. That being said, I love this song for two reasons. The first is that I believe real love is transcendant and should make you feel like it does Ben in this song. The second is that it's really a beautiful portrait; not only could you see yourself in it, but like Ben does so often, in this song he uses imagery in such a powerful way that I can almost see the story when I listen. If it wouldn't have messed with my system, I would have given this song an 11 for Power. Rock Message: "I Am So Fucking In Love With You"

2. The Beach Boys- God Only Knows (10/9/10/10/9). There's a reason that this song is on of the most covered in all of pop music. It's perfect. It's perfect. I'm not sure what else to say, other than that, despite it's perfection as a pop song, and my abiding love for it, it's still number two on my list. Nothing against it or Brian Wilson. But there's something bigger. Rock Message: "I'm So Fucking In Love With You"

1. The Allman Brothers Band- Blue Sky (9/9/10/10/10). I was extremely glad when this song made it up to the top. You see, for as much of a sap I am, and as much as I've harped on romantic love, the reason this song, beautiful and romantic as it is, is important to me is not because of romance at all, it's because of my family. My Mom and Dad, brother and sister. I am so proud of and grateful for the relationships I have with all of them- I love them more than I have the ability to attach meaning to the word, the way we all, including and especially I, abuse it. It reminds me of a day when the five of us, riding in a car together after a night out at a Mongolian barbecue that is equally infamous for another reason, all found ourselves singing along to this song together. We sang loudly and clumsily, singing even the guitar parts, which really are what makes the song. We couldn't stop laughing, even as we kept looking around at each other, unable to grasp what spirit had come over us and why we were all so giddy. I guess the answer is we're family, and each day we love each other more than we did the day before. My dad, who is given to the occasional romantic pronouncement, has always said, "No matter who else comes and goes from your life, what makes you who you are, and what will be there for you, is your family." What I think happened, and why we all remember it all so fondly, is because we were heading towards a different plateau in our lives together. We didn't quite reach it that day, but today, all the significant parenting is done- the three of us are adults, college graduates, successful professionals firmly in our twenties. Or, in one tragic case, careening wildly out of his twenties. [sigh.] While my parents are still the people that made me, and are at least as responsible for what I am as I am myself, they are also my friends. I am able to enjoy being around them without needing to be guided, though their guidance is often sought and greatly appreciated. I've gotten to see other sides of them than the authority figures they had to be when I was young and difficult. And my brother and sister and I, for all the crap that we occasionally give each other, are as close as, or closer than (in a totally non-creepy way), any three siblings I've ever met. I'm not a perfect person, none of us are, but in my family I have something that gives me enormous, profound pride; something that, though it may not be, feels... perfect. And while I wait for the "one" that will make all of the other "romantic" songs on this list mean what they're supposed to, I know that I'm far from alone, and I have a firewall against all of the terrible things the world can offer a modern man. And though it seems almost inappropriate to write the following after all that... Rock Message: "I Am So Fucking In Love With [All Of] You!"

hey little fella, how are you doing today?: accomplished
soundtrack: The 24

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abunchofcrap From: abunchofcrap Date: December 16th, 2008 04:10 am (UTC) (link)
Pssst, isn't it "The Ghosts Of You And Me"? ;)

I love most of those songs. Except, sadly, there are some I haven't heard. I feel uncool.
revenant5 From: revenant5 Date: December 16th, 2008 05:56 am (UTC) (link)
No, it's actually "Me and You." I checked. I'm going to post all the songs, so you'll get your chance. :)

Edited at 2008-12-16 05:56 am (UTC)
abunchofcrap From: abunchofcrap Date: December 16th, 2008 05:58 am (UTC) (link)
Aw man! I lose. I totally thought it was the other way!
revenant5 From: revenant5 Date: December 16th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC) (link)
In the song, it's "you and me." That's why I had to check.
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