Music Lists #15: The Top 40 Perfect Pop Songs
When making these music lists, it's important to set the ground rules. Too many times I've seen magazines just launch rabidly into their stupid lists with not so much as a sentence of explanation. So, let me clarify what I'm looking for in a pop song that would qualify it as "perfectt".
This is not a list of the greatest songs of all time; this is pop music, which means they are easily digestible to your average listeners. We're talkin' McNuggets here, not foie gras For instance, Procol Harum's "Salty Dog" is a masterpiece, but not even close to the strict definition of a POP song.
I can hear it now "Why isn't 'Strawberry Fields' on the list? Are you some kind of retard?" Keep in mind: I'm looking for music that is simply easy and pleasurable to listen to, which has nothing to do with artistic depth.
2. The Right Ingredients
The perfect pop song is nothing more than a joyful auditory nugget. It doesn't need to be "bubblegum", but it can't meander or get carried away either. "Hey Jude" and "My Sweet Lord" may be pinnacles in the history of popular music, but they're hardly tightly constructed with their long symphonic stretches. And Dylan had some historic lyrics, but these ingredients for a pop gem just aren't there:
A. Pleasant non repetitive verseNow, not all my top ten meet these ingredients to the letter, but this is a good guide to cooking the perfect pop nugget.
B. Melodic Chorus (see criteria #3)
C. Bridge - a tightly constructed pop song has a seamless bridge
D. The Middle Eight - the perfect pop gem breaks things up after the second chorus with a 3rd melodic part
E. Key Change - listener's attention span begins to waiver without this pop necessity
F. Coda - you can't just end it abruptly or fade out; that's for the lightweights.
The perfect pop song has a catchy melody without being just a jingle. This is perhaps the most abstract qualification of all because you can't verbalize what makes certain chords, sounds, harmonies resonate with the human mind, while others do not. There's been tens of thousands of pop songs released over the years, but only a select few that literally "strike a chord" in the auditory center of your brain. It's fresh sounding, a slightly novel melody, but at the same time it's by no means 'prog'.
And lastly, this is only a top 40 because - who gives a damn what my 179th greatest pop gem is? This is the type of list that could quickly turn into a boring reproduction of the top forty charts over the years. No - let's keep it to the best of the best. I relish your input - please let me know of any unconscionable oversights.
So, now that we got that out of the way, on with the list!
- I'm a Believer by The Monkees/ Neil Diamond
- Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tennille/ Neil Sedaka
- Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys
- I Feel Fine by The Beatles
- Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
- We Can Work It Out by The Beatles
- God Only Knows by The Beach Boys
- Dancing Queen by ABBA
- Sugar, Sugar by The Archies/ Neil Diamond
- Don't Go Breakin' My Heart by Elton John & Kiki Dee
- I Love You by The Climax Blues Band
- If I Can't Have You by Yvonne Elliman/ The Bee Gees
- Cuddly Toy by The Monkees/ Harry Nilsson
- Heart of Glass by Blondie
- Lola by The Kinks
- Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go-Gos
- If You Leave Me Now by Chicago
- The Things We Do Love by 10cc
- Call Me by Petula Clarke/Nancy Wilson
- Uptown Girl by Billy Joel
- Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears
- Rich Girl by Hall and Oates
- Never My Love by The Association
- Take a Chance on Me by ABBA
- Day After Day by Badfinger
- Day Tripper by The Beatles
- Reminiscing by The Little River Band
- Sail On by The Commodores
- It Don't Matter to Me by Bread
- (Don't You) Forget About Me by Simple Minds
- Shambala by Three Dog Night
- Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
- Head Over Heels by The Go Gos
- Call Me by Blondie
- Hello Goodbye by The Beatles
- Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson
- Downtown by Petula Clark
- Happy Together by The Turtles
- I Melt With You by Modern English
- To Sir, With Love by Lulu
Retrospace doesn't touch anything from the 1990s and later; but, if I had to throw a few out there I might choose "There She Goes" by The Las, "Crash" by The Primitives or "Son of Sam" by Elliot Smith
I know there's nothing particularly obscure in this list. Quite frankly, the very nature of being the perfect pop song means you are going to instantly resonate with listeners.... a perfect pop song will not be hidden for long.