There were a few different ways to approach this draft. You could either go in as making a 14-song mixtape of the best songs ever, or you could take a real fantasy draft strategy to make a team of songs with different strengths, or you could just go ahead and get drunk and choose terrible songs on a consistent basis. 1 I actually went another way because the reality is, there are so many songs in the running that most likely if the next pick on your board gets chosen, there’s another fantastic song right behind it.
During this draft, there was a lot of chatter between the drafters that mostly consisted of “I had that song on my board” or “Terrible choice! Why would you pick a Jay-Z/Linkin Park mashup?” The only time I can remember someone specifically taking a song one pick before someone else wanted it was a Billy Joel song in the round you’re about to read. So instead I had songs on my board, and tried to pick and choose where to put them on the spectrum of the “Best Song Ever.” Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” wasn’t getting chosen by anyone else, but it felt to me like a Top 75 song. For the most part, I tried to alternate between my favorite two categories on my two wraparound picks: Acoustic songs featuring passionate yelling, and rap songs with funny lyrics.
Is this a comprehensive list of the Best 196 Songs Of All Time? Of course not, how could it be? But it is a spectacular look across all genres of music put together by 13 people with fantastic taste in music and Fantastico. I ran out of room on my team before I could fit in my next picks: “Hit ‘Em High (The Monstars Anthem)” and Howie Day’s “Ghost“, and those two would have summed up the draft perfectly. A fantastic rap song featuring five stars spitting lyrics about basketball and a soft acoustic song by a one-hit wonder that made me change my entire outlook on playing guitar. Two polar opposites that would never have made it on anyone else’s list.
Enjoy the round, this is the point in the draft where the participants’ tastes really start to come into play and Andy O’Connor’s auto-draft picks get increasingly hilarious. 2 Plus two Kanye songs, Mary J. Blige goes off the board, and I reveal the three things that Josh Klein looks for in a great song.
Your general managers
# 57 : Fantastico – “Let’s Get it On” – Marvin Gaye
The point of music is to put you in a mood. This song puts you in THE mood. Lots of songs are great between the 20 yard line, this one is a close to a guaranteed score as you’ll get.
# 58 : F. Douche – “Real Love” – Mary J. Blige
If you’re having a get together where alcohol will be served, I highly recommend constructing a playlist out of the early ’90s R&B hits. The songs are upbeat enough to play in a social gathering, but there’s also an element of kitsch to them. The instrumentals sound primitive when compared to current R&B music, but that doesn’t make the songs any less enjoyable. In fact I think it’s a testament to the idea that good songs can sound good regardless of the technology available. I like to mix in a little Tony! Tone! Toni! (I didn’t even bother to look up whether I got the Tonies in the right order), some SWV, a little Bell Biv Devoe, Bobby Brown while we’re at it, and of course Mary J.
You’re going to try to and save “I Wanna Sex You Up” for the encore of the playlist, but I assure you that after three or four songs you won’t be able to control yourself and there’s a 90 percent chance you’ll end up skipping to it.
From a taxonomic standpoint it’s necessary to draw a line between early ’90s R&B and mid-to-late ’90s R&B. As a white man with no emotional bias in this matter I feel uniquely qualified to issue a ruling (and to be clear, I’m pulling this out of my ass). R. Kelly’s 1994 hit “Bump ‘n’ Grind” is the last of the early ’90s R&B hits, while TLC’s “Creep” is solidly in the mid-’90s group. I’ve used this playlist on no fewer than 135 get togethers and I can attest to its ability to make social gatherers happy and surprised in a way that they didn’t expect they could be by 20-year-old pop. “Real Love” easily leads the pack in the pleasant surprise category.
# 59 : E. Strait – “Can’t Tell Me Nothin” – Kanye West
If I land an Eminem song soon, I’ll have my favorite trio of rappers represented. Of the five picks I’ve made so far, this was the hardest choice to make. When I think of the people I’ve chosen so far, one song came to mind immediately. When I thought of Ye a dozen popped up.
# 60 : B. Hurtik – ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” – James Brown
In college I made use of my tuition money by checking out hundreds of CDs from the library and ripping them to my computer. I feel no guilt about this. During one haul I brought back a James Brown box set. It was more James Brown than an 18-year-old knows what to do with. Truthfully, most of the songs run together, so I always come back to this classic. Sometimes you don’t need the deep cuts–the hits are hits for a reason. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business deserves a song in the top 60.
# 61 : R. Moskal – “Only the Good Die Young” – Billy Joel
When he’s on, Joel puts the rock in the piano rock. It’s also a great song to play whenever a visiting playoff team loses early (expect the Spurs to blast this after their Game 5 series-clinching victory).
# 62 : K. Gotsick – “Have a Little Faith in Me” – John Hiatt
I tell my guy friends that all women are crazy, but the good ones are self aware about it. I myself am capable of vast amounts of craziness in times of stress, drunkenness, and stupidity. I can’t help it. If I could, I wouldn’t do it because believe me, I always regret it later (not always). Regardless, I’m here to tell you, when we’re like that? If you guys could figure out how to say something that makes us feel like what this song makes us feel like? We would never be crazy again a day in our lives. This is a perfect, simple little diamond solitaire of a song. Just a piano and a raspy-voiced man telling his woman he loves her even when she’s a little crazy. And when the going is especially rough, he’ll be her footprint story Jesus.
# 63 : R. Johnny – “Paul Revere” – Beastie Boys
The steal of the draft in this man’s opinion. How are the Beasties still here in Round 5, and with a gem like this? Billy Joel two picks prior? A damn disgrace. #RIPMCA
# 64: R. Ramirez – “I Was Made to Love Her” – Stevie Wonder
Motown is almost a genre of its own. Muscle Shoals cranked out soul like a sneaker factory full of Asian children, but Detroit killed you with kindness, choreographed pastels, and layered studio perfection. Motown is Brill Building pop sensibility, caged bird soul, and a generation of three-minute songs with everlasting hooks. The upper echelon artists are undoubtedly Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and Stevie Wonder. “Baby Love” was a close call, but I think the most walloping giant from the back catalog is “I Was Made to Love Her.” It’s before album era, studio genius Stevie, back when he was a kid from Saginaw with a voice that howled and pleaded with anyone. “I wore hightop shoes and shirt tails, Susie was in pig tails,” went the quietly slick words. It’s a song that could work with a harmonica and vocalist, but Motown’s wizards poured on strings and an electric sitar. Flawless pop from a restless heart.
# 65: R. Rich – “Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
I’ll be the first to tell you I think Radiohead is insanely overrated. They did not change music forever, they’re not as brilliant as some say, and Thom Yorke’s incoherent babbling more often warrants a punch to the face than prostrate worshipping. However, they have great songs. “Paranoid Android” is one of those. It’s quintessential Radiohead, and like my number one pick, Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” epic, it coolly maneuvers throughout a number of different genres and tones. Many of the best songs do, and if we’re taking the greatest songs of the post-Chuck Berry era, why not take the tunes that incorporate multiple styles that were conceived after Chuck’s hey day? “Paranoid Android” is a lesson in musical tension, a slow-building fuzzy guitar slams and there are lyrics like “Gucci little piggy.”
# 66: A. O’Connor – “Thong Song” – Sisqo [AUTO-DRAFT]
Bring back the silver hair.
# 67 : C. Marler – “Circle Of Life” – The Lion King (Non-Elton John)
Requisite analysis: I just picked “Man In The Mirror” and “God Bless The USA” in the third and fourth, so in the words of “NBA Jam,” I was heating up. Obviously. I wanted to make a statement with the next pick so that I could be on fire. Look no further than “Cirlce of Life” (theatrical release opening scene version non-Elton John version). It has one of the best, and most distinguishable, intros to any song ever, and it kicks off what is without a doubt the greatest Disney film. It is impossible to be in a bad mood when hearing this song. Now if I could just understand the fucking words Rafiki and his animal choir were saying…
# 68 : D. Kallison – “All of The Lights” – Kanye West
Yeezy is a workhorse. He’s reliable, having assembled one of the best discography of any artist in the biz. So I knew I needed Ye on my team, I just didn’t know which song to grab. But as I listen to “All of the Lights,” and those drums crash down when he says, “ghetto university,” I knew I had found my flashy running back. If Barack Obama was king, he would totally enter the castle to this song. Hell, if I were king, I would enter every room to this song. I heard that this song was about West’s music career, using a girl he abuses and comes back to as a metaphor, but it could be about cats and I would still get just as amped every time it comes on.
# 69 : K. Griggs – “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” – Warren Zevon
If this were a draft of albums, I would’ve taken Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy with my first pick, spiked my computer in the street, and called it a day. With that said, choosing just one song from the album was tough for me. “Roland the Thompson Gunner” tells a wonderful tale and there’s something playful and hilarious about “Werewolves of London,” but “LG&M” has a special desperation about it that I love. Zevon, appearing for his last time on David Letterman, sang “Roland” and afterward Letterman shook his hand and said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” It’s Zevon’s line and it’s beautiful.
# 70 : J. Klein – “Atlantic City” – Bruce Springsteen
As many of my friends can attest, there are three things that are going to make me like a song: counting, spelling, or passionate yelling. 3 This song, which was famously recorded on a cheap four-track in The Boss’ living room in 1981, is packed to the absolute brim with passion; Springsteen is the king of telling the lyrical story of a poor man’s sadness and regret and if the howling of “Atlantic City’s” outro doesn’t give you goosebumps, you’re a fucking robot. Class A.
The Teams Through Five of 14 Rounds
“Paradise City,” Guns N’ Roses
“Microphone Fiend,” Eric B. and Rakim
“Try a Little Tenderness,” Otis Redding
“Spacy Oddity,” David Bowie
“Let’s Get It On,” Marvin Gaye
“Suspicious Minds,” Elvis Presley
“Layla,” Derek and the Dominos
“When Doves Cry,” Prince
“To Live and Die in LA,” Tupac Shakur
“Real Love,” Mary J. Blige
“Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson
“Public Service Announcement,” Jay-Z
“Gimme Shelter,” Rolling Stones
“You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette
“Can’t Tell Me Nuthin’,” Kanye West
“Like a Rolling Stone,” Bob Dylan
“Dazed and Confused,” Led Zeppelin
“The Weight,” The Band
“Life During Wartime,” Talking Heads
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” James Brown
“Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses
“In the Air Tonight,” Phil Collins
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
“Only The Good Die Young,” Billy Joel
“It’s Tricky,” Run DMC
“Hotel California,” Eagles
“Comfortably Numb,” Pink Floyd
“Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Bonnie Taylor
“Have a Little Faith in Me,” John Hiatt
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Rolling Stones
“Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac
“Scenario,” A Tribe Called Quest
“The Waiting,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
“Paul Revere,” Beastie Boys
“Happiness is a Warm Gun,” The Beatles
“Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull,” Refused
“Cowboy Song,” Thin Lizzy
“Ms. Jackson,” OutKast
“I Was Made to Love Her,” Stevie Wonder
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” Pink Floyd
“Helter Skelter,” The Beatles
“99 Problems/Points of Authority/One Step Closer,” Jay-Z/Linkin Park
“Paranoid Android,” Radiohead
“Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” The Stooges
“Desperado,” The Eagles (auto-draft)
“Love Shack,” The B-52s (auto-draft)
“Thong Song,” Sisqo (auto-draft)
“Baba O’Riley,” The Who
“Sympathy for the Devil,” Rolling Stones
“Man in the Mirror,” Michael Jackson
“God Bless the USA,” Lee Greenwood
“Circle of Life,” The non-Elton John version for some reason
“Just Like Heaven,” The Cure
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Nirvana
“Fast Car,” Tracy Chapman
“Tiny Dancer,” Elton John
“All of the Lights,” David Kallison
“Hoochie Coochie Man,” Muddy Waters
“Heart of Gold,” Neil Young
“Dead Flowers,” Townes Van Zandt
“Exhibit C,” Jay Electronica
“Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” Warren Zevon
“I Want You Back,” Jackson Five
“Cry Me A River,” Justin Timberlake
“Humpty Dance,” Digital Underground
“Hallelujah,” Jeff Buckley
“Atlantic City,” Bruce Springsteen