Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs: 280-261

As we approach the half-way point through Rolling Stone‘s list, things are starting to get really good. There are multiple songs below that I had never heard before that will almost certainly appear on my final list to be revealed in the coming weeks. But as usual, there are also some duds, so it’s up to me to separate the gems from the soil. Let’s get to it.

280. “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen
Though it is one of his most repetitive songs (a trend that continues throughout the album), “Born in the U.S.A., and its contradictory lyricism and seemingly patriotic chorus, is one of Sprigsteen’s best.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

279. “Somebody to Love” – Jefferson Airplane
This song reaffirms what I’ve known for years now: I’m really not a fan of Jefferson Airplane.
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

278. “Something” – The Beatles
It’s refreshing for Rolling Stone to finally get with the program and highlight a Beatles song that isn’t made up of Pop nonsense or hippie free love optimism. This heavily grounded (despite the soaring production) love song written by George Harrison is one of the best on Abbey Road, which is also among The Beatles’ greatest albums.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Long Shot

277. “Sweet Little Sixteen” – Chuck Berry
Often when I listen to Chuck Berry, I find that while I enjoy his lyricism and storytelling, I couldn’t be any more bored by his musicality (literally every one of his songs sounds exactly the same). This is one of his best songs overall, but it still shouldn’t be anywhere near a list dedicated to chronicling the greatest music of all time.
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

276. “Sloop John B” – The Beach Boys
Though this is definitely a great cover laden with beautiful harmonies and epic Phil Spector-influenced production, it isn’t quite Top 500 material. But that doesn’t mean it should be written off completely; it and the classic album is comes from are keepers through and through.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: No

275. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – George Jones
Growing up in a country town, I had often heard about this song, but I had never actually listened to it until today. Instantly I understood the hype. One of the most heartwrenching and sobering songs I’ve ever heard, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is a painful reminder of what can happen when we give our hearts to the wrong people. And just about all of us have been there.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

274. “Roadrunner” – The Modern Lover
Based on the title, I thought this might be the classic Blues song covered by Aerosmith on Honkin’ on Bobo. Instead, it’s an upbeat anthem focused on love and Rock n’ Roll. It’s good, but not that good.
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

273. “Jesus Walks” – Kanye West
One of the classics from Kanye’s early work, “Jesus Walks” has been outperformed by much of his later classics. But when it was released, it sounded like the heralding of a new Hip-Hop God. It was.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

272. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – U2
I love U2, but while this song is great, it isn’t quite Top 500 material.
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

271. “Personality Crisis” – New York Dolls
This rollicking Glam R&B jam is very good, but it’s also nothing special. It begs for a better group to cover it and make it a classic, much like Guns N’ Roses did with the Dolls’ own “Human Being.”
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

270. “Tighten Up” – Archie Bells and The Dells
Typically I’m not a fan of “dance” songs (as in, songs where the singer sings about doing a dance), but this is definitely the best of that category I’ve ever heard. I’ve said it before; I’m a sucker for calypso, and this song is literally nothing more than a groovy dance on one of the sickest calypso beats I’ve ever heard. It probably won’t be on my list, but make no mistake about it, I love this song.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Long Shot

269. “Walking in the Rain” – The Ronettes
In addition to calypso, I also can’t resist a girl group backed up by that incomparable Phil Spector production. And of those girl groups, The Ronettes are the crown jewel.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: No

268. “Sail Away” – Randy Newman
Randy Newman isn’t exactly my favorite vocalist, but when he’s backed up by a gorgeous combination of orchestra and lead by some of the most beautiful piano I’ve heard, he doesn’t have to be.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Long Shot

267. “He’s a Rebel” – The Crystals
More of Phil Spector’s magestry at work (though Darlene Love as the lead vocalist certainly doesn’t hurt). This one’s notable because it occurred early in Spector’s career; he was just 21.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

266. “Ooo Baby Baby” – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
It’s hard to expect much out of a song with such a ridiculous title, but Smokey Robinson’s soaring vocal range and delivery added to this song’s perfect pace and consistency make this one an easy winner. Smokey himself has called this song his “national anthem.” It’s worthy of such prominence.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

265. “Higher Ground” – Stevie Wonder
One of Stevie’s greatest musical triumphs, “Higher Ground” features a sonic assault from several directions. Amazingly, Wonder himself played every note on every instrument, improving upon the formula laid down by Booker T. and The MGs by upping the funk and adding prophetic lyricism. From Rolling Stone: “[Wonder] was involved in a near-fatal car accident in August ’73 that left him in a coma. Early in Wonder’s recovery, his road manager tried to revive him by singing the melody of “Ground” into the singer’s ear; Wonder responded by moving his fingers with the music.”
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

hallelujiah

264. “Hallelujiah” – Jeff Buckley
I’ll be honest; I’ve never even heard this song outside of Shrek and before hearing it today, definitely wouldn’t have considered it to be one of the greatest songs of all time. But really listening to it with no distractions, it’s clear that this is absolutely one of the greatest emotionally lonely ballads of all time. And the fact that it was written by the recently departed Leonard Cohen only serves to heighten its sentimentality. Truly fantastic.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

oh-what-a-night

263. “Oh, What a Night” – The Dells
Over-the-top unbelievable. If you ever wanted to know just how good a Doo-wop Soul song can get, this is the pinnacle. Chuck Barksdale’s bass groove, on top of the killer backup vocals and scintillating strings, takes this one all the way to the climax.
Burnes’ Turns: Yes
Top 500 Consideration: Yes

262. “I Can See for Miles” – The Who
Back in its day, this song’s multi-layered guitar and vocal harmonies probably sounded pretty damn revolutionary. But today, it doesn’t really do much for me. Considering those two things are really the only items of interest this song offers, I don’t find it to be anything special.
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

261. “Wild Thing” – The Troggs
I remember first hearing this years and years ago. It wasn’t by The Troggs, though, it was sung by a Halloween wall ornament much like the singing bass popularized. I remember it was some sort of green demon-looking thing. I absolutely loved it. Outside of the ornament, though, this isn’t much of a song.
Burnes’ Turns: No
Top 500 Consideration: No

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