I’m honored to participate in IPWatchdog’s annual Fourth of July tradition in which we publish readers’ and staff picks for the “Top 25 songs of all time.” Previous top 25 lists have been written by Gene Quinn, Bruce Kisliuk, Russell Slifer, Kent Richardson, and Eileen McDermott. Initially, I thought this would be a fun and easy task, but I quickly realized that, while fun, it would not be easy. A person’s choice in music is incredibly revealing and gives a unique glimpse into their personality. During my selection process I observed some distinct patterns in my choices of music based on my place in life and current mindset. For example, my childhood music choices were represented by upbeat and songs that depicted a skewed picture of what it would be like to be an adult. My teen choices were largely about independence, followed by a brief stint of rebellion-themed songs. During my 20s, while I finished college and law school, I chose songs that were motivating and focused on hard work. Beyond that, I spent several years parenting young kids and listening to Disney songs, which are not represented in my top 25 but are truly worthy of a list all their own. More recently, my music choices have included songs about acceptance and learning to slow down. As will become clear from my explanations, I also love how songs are used in movies and many of my favorite songs coincide with my favorite movie scenes.
In compiling my top 25 all-time favorite songs, I brainstormed through each significant phase of my life, selecting the songs that “stuck” the most. Based on my tendency to turn to specific songs based on how I’m feeling or what I’m doing, I narrowed my list and broke it down into five categories: songs for motivation/work, songs for when I need to accept something, songs for fun or parties, songs for commiserating a bad mood, and songs for relaxing. Here goes:
Songs for Motivation
1. Under Pressure, Queen and David Bowie- This song was a favorite during law school when I felt like I was buried by work. This song reminded me that I’m not the only one who feels like I’m buried by responsibilities sometimes. This song also gave me my first glimpse into Copyright law in 1990 during the “Ice Ice Baby” vs. “Under Pressure” dispute.
2. I Will Buy You A New Life, Everclear- I wore out my Everclear CD’s in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although I love some of Everclear’s lesser known songs, such as the “Honeymoon Song”, I find “I Will Buy You A New Life” particularly motivating because it reminds me of when I was just graduating law school and starting out.
3. Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Tears for Fears- My favorite line from this song is “welcome to your life there’s no turning back.” As an 80s child I find this song to motivational because it reminds me of the hopefulness I felt as a child. Also, the music video is like a time machine to the 80’s complete with mullets and children playing outside.
4. Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked, Cage the Elephant
5.Short Skirt/Long Jacket, Cake
6. Let It Be, The Beatles- The Beatles is one of my favorite bands and I could easily fill my entire top 25 with their songs. They have a way of perfectly capturing every mood and occasion in a song. “Let it Be” is a perfect song for easing a transition or change.
7. Turn, Turn, Turn, The Byrds- This song, which is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, has an amazing way of saying that there is a time for everything and nothing is permanent.
8. Hand In My Pocket; and 9. Ironic, Alanis Morrissette- A couple of theme song from my late teens. Both of these songs are great reminders that things don’t always go as expected and life is full of contradictions.
10. Comfortably Numb, Pink Floyd. No explanation needed.
Songs for Fun/Party Songs
11. Baba O’riley, The Who. Another great song from another great band. The is probably one of the few songs where I pay more attention to the instrumentals than the lyrics.
12. Blitzkrieg Bop, The Ramones. This is one of those songs that keeps coming back. My brother got me listening to The Ramones in the 80’s and 90’s (mostly by playing “Beat on the Brat”) and now their songs are making comeback, recently being featured in one of my kids’ favorite movies- Spider-Man: Homecoming.
13. Uptown Girl, Billy Joel. This is the first “favorite” song that I can remember. I used to sit on the front steps of my house in northwestern Pennsylvania waiting all day for this song to play on the radio. The music video is pretty great too…something about motorcycle shops that was so likeable in the 80’s.
14. Jack & Diane, John Mellencamp
15. Read My Mind, The Killers
Songs for Commiserating a Bad Mood
16. Only Happy When It Rains, Garbage- Yet another song from my teens that has stuck with me. The title says it all. This one was also recently featured in a hit movie, Captain Marvel, in a scene where Carol realizes she is no longer in 1995.
17. Bitter Sweet Symphony, The Verve. – This song has great lyrics and is perfect when all seems to be going wrong…”it’s a bittersweet symphony this life”.
18. Demons, Imagine Dragons. “When your dreams all fail, And the ones we hail, Are the worst of all, And the blood’s run stale.” Misery loves company…enough said.
19. Lightning Crashes, Live
20. Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley
Songs for Relaxing
21. Til Kingdom Come, Coldplay- This song is representative of most of Coldplay’s songs…mellow and relaxing. It is from my favorite scene from The Amazing Spider Man, where Peter Parker learns to use his newly discovered skills while riding a skateboard in an abandoned factory. What can get better than that?
22. Wildflowers, Tom Petty. As with all Tom Petty songs, the lyrics speak for themselves…”You belong among the wildflowers, You belong in a boat out at sea, Sail away, kill off the hours, You belong somewhere you feel free.” If that doesn’t make one feel relaxed, nothing will.
23. Free Fallin’, Tom Petty. While not one of my favorite movies overall, the scene in Jerry McGuire where Tom Cruise is driving down the highway belting out Free Fallin’ is so relatable. Belting out a favorite song at the top of your lungs while alone in a car is the definition of contentment.
24. Cleopatra, The Lumineers.
25. All my days, Alexi Murdoch.
And here are some beloved honorable mentions:
- I Will Wait, Mumford & Sons
- Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
- Another Brick In The Wall, Pink Floyd
- American Pie, Don McLean
- Sweet Child O’ Mine, Guns N’ Roses
- Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode
- Glycerine, Bush
- Even Flow, Pearl Jam
- Heart-Shaped Box, Nirvana