Children Will Listen: 100 Favorite Songs

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Photo of Amy WINEHOUSEAmongst my worst qualities as a human being are my aggressive need to be right about the James Bond movies, my habit of impulsively buying food, and my disinclination to listen to complete albums. It’s not to say I haven’t done it (LEMONADE y’all!), it’s just that my taste in music, unlike my taste in people with whom I sleep and subsequently kick out of my room, is very high and finnicky. So, most of the music I listen to I’ve heard in commercials, trailers, movies, commercials and trailers for movies, the radio, and once in a while, recommendations from friends, enemies, and former lovers’ sister’s best friends. In honor and celebration of nothing in particular, here’s a list of 100 favorite songs that I originally intended on posting last year, but due to laziness and a bout of post-Mad Men depression, I never got to. 100. Just Leave Everything to Me – Barbara Streisand in Hello, Dolly!

Your requisite Babs song. That’s all you’re getting from me.

99. I Want You Back – Jackson 5

I don’t mind sounding like a hipster snob (so, basically, like myself) when I say that I liked this song before it was in that Marvel movie.

98. Pass This On – The Knife

I’m quite fond of this song’s presence in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, but it is simply the greatest “Hey, Your Brother is Really Hot, I Kind of Want to Fuck Him, Is That Okay with You?” song ever.

97. Sinnerman – Nina Simone

96. I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and the Shondells

Not merely a good ironic neele drop fo 10 Cloverfield Lane, but an ode to teens getting a little dirty. Ah, youth. There’s the thrum of the guitar and carelessness when one forgets to bring lube.

95. Kiss – Prince

The first time I heard this was on Glee, and I haven’t forgiven Ryan Murphy since.

94. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and the Papas/Sia

93. Dream a Little Dream – Mama Cass

92. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me – Mel Carter

91. Valerie – The Zutons

I have felt bad for The Zutons for years. They’re perfectly great pop rock track was plucked up by Mark Ronson, rearranged to sound more like Motown, they brought in a lioness for the vocals, and it’s like they never did it. But, no worries, this one crashes in like a heartbroken partier, and, while it’s somewhat less “fun”, it’s still an enjoyable ride, like your drunk friend post-break up trying to make out with a plant.

90.  Teeth – Lady Gaga

89. Unsquare Dance – Dave Brubeck

88. Mamma Mia – A*Teens

What does Kyle have?

87. Don’t Stop Movin’ – S Club 7

No shame?

86. Rolling in the Deep – Adele

That is correct.

85. Wake Up – AWOLNATION

Thank you, Joe Brady.

84. Everytime – Britney Spears

Thank you, Harmony Korine.

83. My Baby Just Cares for Me – Nina Simone

This is the first song I’ve had as my alarm clock that I haven’t started to hate after a week. I, like Miss Simone in the song, am also bewildered by this.

82. I Wanna Boi – PWR BTTM

A friend of mine once commented, after seeing me post this to my wall, that this was so “on brand” for me. Was it the name of the band? The hopeless romanticism draped in punkish angst? The queerness of it all? Yes, probably. (I saw PWR BTTM perform this live in New York and, just before hitting the strings, Benjamin Hopkins mae a joke about the whiteness of the HRC. They’re golden in my eyes.)

81. Burning Down the House – Talking Heads/WALK THE MOON

80. Lust for Life – Iggy Pop

79. Johanna – Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I think narratively, my cynicism gets in the way and makes me think that the romance here is really dumb. But, then, the song starts and I forget. It’s a song filled with hope in a world where there isn’t anything else.

78. I Want to Hold Your Hand – The Beatles/TV Carpio in Across the Universe

There’s a lot of Beatles on this list. I grew up listening to the Beatles and it’s probably the only musical artist where I’ve been a completist, in every sense of the word. Deep cuts, rarities, live performances, studio recordings, outtakes, demos. I have it all in my music library. But, as this list will tell you, I’m also basic af. I’ll go back to the well known ones because, regardless of whatever Brooklynite will tell you, the deep cuts aren’t always the treasure. Sometimes it’s right there. However, in this case, the original single is balanced by TV Carpio’s cover for Julie Taymore’s film Across the Universe, queering the original track by retaining “man”, but juxtaposing that word against the female vocalist and, in essence, speaking to a kind of impossibility of queer love in a heternormative world. They make good companions: the raucous fun of the original and the tender vulnerability of the cover.

77. On My Own – Lea Solanga in Les Misérables

76. As Time Goes By – Sam Dooley in Casablanca

75. Red Right Hand – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds/Arctic Monkeys

Thanks, Wes Craven.

74. Beyond the Sea – Bobby Darin

73. I’m Looking Through You – The Wallflowers

I often gravitate towards covers of Beatles songs, actually. The way that such artists as The Wallflowers are able to update these tracks makes them sound, in comparison, way les dull and milquetoast. (Trust me, did you listen to the original recording? This and “I’ve Just Seena a Face” are much improved by covers.)

72. Barbara Ann – Blind Guardian

71. Shut Up and Let Me Go – The Ting Tings

70. For the Longest Time – Billy Joel

69. The Moon Song – Karen O/Scarlett Johansson in Her

Maybe don’t listen to this song on repeat if you’re in a long distance relationship. o, but the soft tenderness and immediacy of intimacy in Karen O’s song for the film is amongst the very best in film and music. And there’s something about ScarJo’s velvet painted voice that’s so palpably melancholic.

68. GoldenEye – Tina Turner/Tomorrow Never Dies – Sheryl Crow/The World is Not Enough – Garbage

In a perfect world, I would lump the 90’s Bond themes all together. Oh, I just did. The quality of these films notwithstanding (GoldenEye is amazing, TWINE is interesting but flawed, I don’t remember anything about TND), they produced some stranger, mythically powerhouse performances.

67. Who Were We? – Kylie Minogue in Holy Motors

66. A Little Priest – Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

65. Giants in the Sky – Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods

64. Come On, Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runner/Save Ferris

63. Your Song – Elton John

62. Alive and Amplified – The Mooney Suzuki

I heard this song in Fun with Dick and Jane, which is a fun movie. It wasn’t until putting together this very list that I actually learned any of the lyrics.

61. O, Children – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

60. Hopelessly Devoted to You – Olivia Newton-John in Grease

59. Fly Me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra

58. Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson

I am of the opinion that Kelly Clarkson never needed American Idol. She would have done superbly without it based purely on her vocal abilities. But, that’s just me. I still rock out to this like it’s 2003.

57. Love Song – Sara Bareilles

56. I Will – The Beatles

The essential “I Love You and I’m Going to Waste My Time Doing That” song.

55. Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison

54. I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston

53. Fever – Sarah Vaughn

52. Down in Mexico – The Drifters

I was with some friends recently and I did my own version of the lapdance in Death Proof for them to this song.

51. Sweet Pea – Amos Lee

I first heard this in an AT&T commercial, and this song is too good for such terrible customer service.

50. Mein Herr – Liza Minelli in Cabaret

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me” was originally here, but I thought it would be weird to have a fake Nazi Youth song in a list of favorite music.

49. Mrs. Robsinson – Simon and Garfunkel

48. All I Want for Christmas is You – Mariah Carey

Even though I super don’t get the appeal of Mariah Carey, I do understand the appeal of this song.

47. Oxford Comma – Vampire Weekend

For a band as fuckin’ bougie as Vampire Weekend, many of their songs, including this one, is about the reconciliation and challenging of their privilege. It also doesn’t hurt that the music video for this is a mashup of Wes Anderson and Godard’s Week End.

46 . Begin the Beguine – Sheryl Crow in De-Lovely

I haven’t seen De-Lovely in a long time, but, if I recall correctly, it works best as an excuse to watch famous people do Cole Porter songs, which is not a bad thing.

45. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones

44. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne

43. Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé

42. Don’t Hurt Yourself/Six Inch/Freedom – Beyoncé

I should have just put the whole album here, tbh. But there’s fury, loathing, and liberation in these songs, and the last one is especially a banger.

41. Almost Lover – A Fine Frenzy

40. Samson – Regina Spektor

Hot Take: this song is about someone telling their lover the story of how they fell in love during the AIDS crisis. It feels very quasi-Angels in America, really.

39. While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles (Love Version)

There is no bad version of this track, but I’m very fond of the soft waves that gradually become this emotionally devestating crash.

38. Can’t Help Falling in Love with You – Ingrid Michaelson

37. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival

36. Lookin’ Out My Back Door – Creedence Clearwater Revival

35. The Game of Love – Santana feat. Michelle Branch

34. Diamonds – Rihanna

That scene in Girlhood is the best one cinema has to offer.

33. Rite of Spring – Igor Stravinsky

Loving this was a process. I spent, maybe, 18 years hating it. And then I finally got it.

32. Landslide – Fleetwood Mac/Dixie Chicks

31. Bulletproof – La Roux

30. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac

29. Bad Karma – Ida Maria

I like songs that are about yelling at people.

28. Modern Love – David Bowie

27. Dancing with Myself – Billy Idol/Nouvelle Vague

26. So in Love – Shirley Bassey

25. Toxic – Mark Ronson feat. Tiggers and Ol’ Dirty Bastard

I feel like I should write about this song at length someday. But, while Spears’s version is an accomplishment in its own right, Mark Ronson’s is sultry and sexy and dangerous. It’s sticky and sweaty, and the perspiration drips off one’s chin. This is the kind of song I would want to fuck to.

24. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards – Tame Impala

23. Beginners – Slow Club

Good breakup song.

22. You Know My Name – Chris Cornell

Best Bond song.

21. Till There Was You – The Beatles

20. Fred Astaire – San Cisco

The lead singer looks like one of my exes.

19. Sway – Dean Martin/Michael Buble/Halie Loren/Pussycat Dolls

Back in the days when I wanted to get married and have three kids and live in the suburbs of Connecticut, I wanted this to be my first dance at my wedding.

18. There’s Too Much Love – Belle and Sebastian

17. You Could Drive a Person Crazy – Stephen Sondheim’s Company

16. Singin’ in the Rain – Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain

15. Somebody to Love – Queen

14. And All That Jazz – Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago

13. Kiss Me – Sixpence None the Richer

I’m a  sap.

12. Oh! Darling – Dana Fuchs in Across the Universe

What you have here is verve that the Beatles never had and that Fuchs riffs off of from Joplin, which is fine by me.

11. I Get a Kick Out of You – Frank Sinatra/Sutton Foster

When I was in high school, I gave a girl I had a crush on a shot glass with the lyrics of this song (“I get no kick from champagne…”) typed on a piece of paper and folded on the inside of the shot glass. It was, as a friend told me not long ago, kind of gay.

10. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? – The Shirelles/Carole King/Lykke Li

There’s a lot to love in the various iterations of Carole King’s song, but the song’s earnestness never falters from one version to another. King’s is slower than The Shirelles, like a confession, and Lykke Li follows in King’s footsteps, pulling the tempo back anymore and relying on but a few piano notes. Li’s cover in particular, though, unleashes a singular rawness in the song, where it ceases to be a question and more of revelation of deep longing. There is fear and deep melancholy in Li’s cover (it was used for the Carrie remake’s trailer), and what fragility opens the song gives way to an astonishing self-assurance. A confidence in the nee for an answer.

9. Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman

8. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby – Fantasia in After Midnight

7. When I’m Sixty-Four – The Beatles

A pick made out of sentimentality, admittedly. It was a favorite of my parents’, and my father would have been 64 this year.

6. Holiday – Vampire Weekend

There’s a bunch of ironic joviality to Vampire Weekend’s discography, but no more than here. A warning to those that wish to ignore the contemporary, or modern, sociopolitical and economic landscape in favor of a blissful holiday, the sharpest satire comes in the following: “She’d never seen the word BOMBS / She’d never seen the word BOMBS blown up / To 96 point Futura.” Ouch.

5. Yoü and I – Lady Gaga

I don’t think it’s a secret, but I genuinely like Lady Gaga. I think it’s fascinating as an experiment, and I’ve always been interested in her attempts to infuse different styles and aestehtics within what I think its a pretty limited  context. Here, with Queen’s Brian May on guitar, she goes rock, with a song about nostalgia’s manipulation of love.

4. Goodnight Moon – Shivaree

It isn’t Halloween unless I’ve listened to this on repeat 100 times.

3. I Turn My Camera On – Spoon

If I played baseball, this would be my at bat song. It has a swagger to its sound and a seductive appea.

2. Rhapsody in Blue – George Gershwin

I’m running away to New York. I keep hearing of people that leave academia for other things, or that have degrees and aren’t happy in their current job situation. So I’m running away to New York. Gershwin’s sweeping illustration of the city that never sleeps is the fuel to my admittedly romanticized idea of New York, but so be it. But it encompasses fear, loneliness, anxiety, and uncertainty. But there’s an ebullience and a joy that is foundational to the work. It it the sound of someone saying that anything is possible. All you have to do is try.

1. ValerieMark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse (332)

Should iTunes be believed, I’ve played “Valerie” 332 times since I had to reinstall the program last year. I haven’t synced my iPhone up since December, so who knows what the count is now. Amy Winehouse purrs through the words, backed by guitar, strings, brass. Mark Ronson takes a solid track and turns it into something great, at once retro and completely new, with a passion


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