Clarification: I did not consider Broadway/Classical songs for this list. I thought it would have made things too difficult.
90. Broken Hearted Melody-Sarah Vaughan
Spoiler alert: This section is definitely my “big band” section. Many of these artists sang standards back in the day, which I generally find quite enjoyable. You’ll also notice that this list is mostly populated with female artists—another theme of my musical tastes. I love Sarah’s voice and even though the lyrics aren’t very special, I really like how she plays with the melody. Very jazzy.
Favorite Lyric: Nothing stands out, but I still enjoy it all.
89. Both Sides Now-Joni Mitchell
I think Joni Mitchell is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. She has an uncanny ability of writing material that perfectly matches her delicate soprano, and this song is probably one of her greatest achievements. Although it starts as a simple tribute to clouds, it morphs into a thoughtful and poignant meditation on life and love. Somehow, in a little over four minutes, Mitchell manages to capture some of the most common thoughts and feelings about these subjects. Not an easy task, for sure.
Favorite Lyric: “So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.”
88. I Surrender-Celine Dion
YES I CHOSE THIS SONG! Not My Heart Will Go On. Not All By Myself. Not Because You Loved Me. Not I Drove All Night. Etc. I choose I Surrender, because it more effectively taps into what I like best about Celine Dion: The power of her voice. Furthermore, this song deals with unrequited love. Thematically, I would call that a “hot button” for my musical tastes. Did I mention the epic key change? It has one.
Favorite Lyric: “And give up this fear within of what would happen if they ever knew I’m in love with you.”
87. Strange Fruit-Billie Holliday
Big band lady number two. Although when it comes purely to voice, she’s my number one jazz singer. She manages to convey more heartache in a single syllable than Mariah Carey has in her whole career. THAT INCLUDES MJ’S FUNERAL I SAID IT. I love this song because it’s so politically charged and passionate. I was SO CLOSE to picking God Bless the Child, and that song was on my list for a while, but Strange Fruits was my original instinct and I’m sticking with it.
Favorite Lyric: "Scent of magnolias sweet and fresh then the sudden smell of burning flesh.” In this case, favorite should read as most powerful, because the song is uber depressing.Almost Picked: God Bless the Child
86. Crazy on You-Heart
Yes, I didn’t go with Alone. I just like this song better. I think it gets an edge for its use of guitar. The opening acoustic solo is incredible and the riff that kicks of the first verse is immensely catchy. Ann Wilson has a great rock voice.
Favorite Lyric: "I was a willow last night in my dream."
Almost Picked: Alone
Stop drinking the haterade right now. I don’t even feel the need to defend this one. Just deal with it.
Favorite Lyric: Um, have you heard this song?
84. I Don’t Hurt Anymore-Dinah Washington
Although I like Billie’s voice better, I like this song better than anything Billie’s done. Perhaps it’s because the opening line is SO DRAMATIC. Maybe it’s because it sounds like a stripper song and I sort of like that. But it’s most probably because it perfectly captures the feeling you get when you know you’re over someone. It’s joy.
Favorite Lyric: “And at last I am free no I don’t hurt anymore.”
83. What’s Goin’ On-Marvin Gaye
Yes, perhaps one of the most critically beloved songs barely beat out MMMBop on my list. Put down your weapons. Save them for when the Spice Girls appear higher on this list. Anyway, let’s focus on the positive. This song. I can still remember the first time I heard What’s Goin’ On, and I was stunned by how powerful and moving it was. Even today, the song’s message is still pertinent. I think the word I’m looking for is timeless. This song is timeless.
Favorite Lyric: “Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.”
Almost Picked: Got to Give it Up (Part One)
82. I’m the Only One-Melissa Etheridge
I feel really really guilty about this one. As much as I love I Run For Life and I think it’s an amazing song, I like this one better. I think it’s that unrequited love vibe. I just can’t fight it. What’s my deal?
Favorite Lyric: “You’ll wake up tomorrow and wrestle the sorrow that holds you down today.”
Almost Picked: I Run For Life
81. Feeling Good-Nina Simone
Only Nina Simone could properly pull of this song. You see, I don’t think it was ever confirmed, but part of me believes the song was a statement about the initial progress of the Civil Rights Movement, which Simone very famously supported. Perhaps it’s all of the references to freedom in the song. Anyway, I feel like the true emotion and subtext of the song is lost in other versions. Plus Nina’s voice is one of a kind.
Favorite Lyric: Well, the scat at the end isn’t really a specific lyric, but it’s the best part.