An Ear for the Perfect Song
I enjoy few things in life more than music.
It’s almost always around me. Whether it’s in my car, while I’m working, when I’m playing, and occasionally during my slumber, I’ve got music playing.
But much of it disappoints me.
I’m not saying that I could do better than your average musician. But almost universally, songs fail in at least one way that my ears have the curse of picking up.
At times it’s a vocal line that goes on too long … or cuts off too early. Or it’s a mix that isn’t quite right—too little bass or too much keyboard, for example. Often it’s unnecessary filler vocals or a missed chance for a great drum fill. Whatever the reason, at least 99 times out of 100 I can identify one or more parts of a song that the artist could have done better.
Even very, very good songs usually leave my wanting just a bit more.
I’m thinking here of The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” which goes on a few bars too long. Iron Maiden overlooked an opportunity for a killer intro into “Powerslave,” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” faded out instead of coming to a more fitting, crashing end.
Bono’s overly whiny tone ruins it for me in a few parts of, among others, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” Peter Gabriel utters something incomprehensible after the first verse of “Solsbury Hill” that continues to distract me. And the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” is marred by Klaus Meine’s screeching “Are you ready, baby?” and “Come on, come on, baby” during the choruses.
I know, I know … I’m being picky. Trust me, this hurts me more it hurts you.
Despite my keen ability to detect minor disturbances in the audio Force, I have heard some songs—across diverse rock and pop subgenres—that I consider candidates for the “Perfect Song.” These are not my favorite songs of all time; they often aren’t even my favorite songs by the artist that recorded them. I simply cannot think of a single thing I would do to improve them.
Without further ado, here is my partial list of perfect songs:
- “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead
- “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
- “Anthem” by Rush (other candidate: “Freewill”)
- “Back in Black” by AC/DC (other candidate: “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”)
- “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty
- “Behind Blue Eyes” by the Who
- “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath (other candidate: “Paranoid”)
- “Burnin’ For You” by Blue Öyster Cult
- “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles (other candidate: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”)
- “Entangled” by Genesis (other candidate: “Firth of Fifth”)
- “Everloving” by Moby
- “Family Snapshot” by Peter Gabriel
- “Fortress Around Your Heart” by Sting
- “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys
- “Kickstart My heart” by Mötley Crüe
- “Kiss” by Prince (“Gett Off” only misses because of its anticlimactic fade)
- “One” by Metallica
- “Paradise City” by Guns N' Roses
- “Machinehead” by Bush
- “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden (other candidate: “The Number of the Beast”)
- “Run to You” by Bryan Adams
- “Spectral Mornings” by Steve Hackett
- “Synchronicity II” by the Police (other candidate: “Wrapped Around Your Finger”)
- “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd