80. Happy – Pharrell Williams
When a song elicits emotions from its listeners, it is typically a dour breakup song people turn to for some empathy, to feel like they are not alone. “Happy” is the antidote to such misery. Do not discount it just because it was written for a kid’s movie; bask in its sunlight and appreciate it for the joy it can bring.
79. Summer Babe (Winter Version) – Pavement
Lo-fi slacker indie rock may sound more like a collection of random words than an actual sub-genre of music but it certainly existed within the depths of the indie rock scene. With as little effort as one might expect from slackers, Pavement shone light on it, exposing it to a larger audience. “Summer Babe (Winter Version)”, the opening track to Slanted and Enchanted, was on the frontlines of the movement and that momentum continued steadily throughout the entirety of Pavement’s first album. It may not be the hallmark of the sub-genre, but it was certainly its keystone.
78. Be My Baby – The Ronettes
If you listen closely enough to “Be My Baby”, you will hear the Beach Boys. Listen even closer and you will hear modern American — and even some British — artists echoing its drums, vocal melodies, and orchestral backing throughout generations of music that had not yet come to pass.
77. Rolling in the Deep – Adele
As Adele builds “Rolling in the Deep” up, adding on layer after layer, it may make you shiver when it finally explodes in its refined, beautiful chorus. Its fragility is balanced by its power, its deeply personal tale balanced by its utter accessibility. It ranks near the top of one of the all-time post-breakup songs.
76. Ignition (Remix) – R. Kelly
Maybe it is taboo to put R. Kelly on the list; perhaps it is too soon. However, the world still listens to alleged pedophile Elvis Pressley, countless artists like Ike Turner who abused their significant others, and general garbage human beings who had a penchant for writing terrific songs. It is only a matter of time before people forget R. Kelly’s issues and begin listening to his music again. I certainly am not condoning his behavior, just pointing out what history has shown us.
If you are able to decouple the man from his music, some of his songs rocket to the top of the charts, with none more frenetically powerful than “Ignition (Remix).”
75. Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
Beyoncé is a tour de force. Paired with Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams, she’s unstoppable. Every twist and turn, nook and cranny, breakdown and build up of “Say My Name” is an absolute masterclass on pop music writing. It is a siren song with so many which draws takes and gives countless influences. Put it on and I hear as much R&B and soul as I do the writing style of Dr. Dre and syncopation of Eminem.
74. Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliot
The components of this song should not fit together as it does. It should sound more more like an old Beck song than a hypnotic rap track. Somehow, Missy Elliott and Timbaland pulled off the improbable by making this work. Unable to properly describe the style of music, I took to the internet and discovered bhangra, a traditional style of Punjabi music. “Get Ur Freak On” leans heavily into this musical styling to create a song that can only be described as uniquely Missy Elliott’s.
73. Juicy – The Notorious B.I.G.
Is there an artist who made more of an impact in such a short time than Biggie? He changed the course of hip hop with only two studio albums, with “Juicy” was the radio-friendly crown jewel of his career. To put that in perspective, two of America’s most revered songwriters, Johnny Cash (67) and Bob Dylan (39) released a combined total of 106 albums. Gunned down at the age of 24, he did not have the luxury of choosing quality over quantity but the quality was certainly staggering.
72. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
I think it’s a good sign that you have done right by the blues when your song also becomes the powerhouse hit of Ike and Tina Turner, and (less so) the father of soul, Solomon Burke. “Proud Mary” is a tale everyone knows and that is because the CCR boys caught everyone’s attention with this hit.
71. All Shook Up – Otis Blackwell
You know how many songs Elvis Presley wrote? None. He is credited with co-writing less than a handful of songs but it was people like Otis Blackwell pulling the strings behind the scene. He is the R&B legend whose name you may never have heard but whose songs you definitely have. If you are unfamiliar with him, do yourself a favor and head to your streaming music platform of choice and look him up. You will not regret it.