Earlier in the summer, I had the idea to poll a few of my closest friends from college and have them rank their 20 favorite songs. This led to some interesting conclusions and learning more about my friends. I always believed that music can define a person in ways that other things cannot and I was pleasantly surprise at not only the outcome of the project but of the conversations it sparked.
Naturally, we decided to find a way to follow up on the original list. We settled on the idea of ranking our top-20 favorite artists this time. Also naturally, it took me until Thanksgiving to finally sit down and finish it up. I am someone who is kind of against lists (“BUZZFEED!”) but I always enjoy when I get to talk about my friends. I also despise long introductions, so let’s just cut to the chase; alright? I also believe in leaving these unedited.
Anthony’s Top 20:
- Pink Floyd – This band change music in general and for me. They were innovators of their time and did so many things to change rock ‘n’ roll. They started as a psychedelic rock band and than changed into what we call today, a “progressive” rock band. They are always consider a classic rock band but when hear a song it is always so soft, mellow, and deep. Always interrupted by a David Gilmour (rated 14th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone, the magazine) guitar that is always so loud (there is a rumor that when he did the solos for “Time” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” they were recording so loud that everyone sat outside the studio and left in there alone). His guitar tone is the most sought after in the music business. They were the first band to really use synthesizers and almost alien-like sound effects in songs. Roger Waters is probably top 3 greatest song writer of all-time. There concept albums told such close to heart stories and you always feel like he is speaking directly to you. They also changed how bands performed. Before them it was just the band and their gear and singing. They used light shows, lazers, fireworks, pyrotechnics waterfalls, floating pigs that blew up, movies that played during the whole concerts. The best was they had planes fly over the audience and crash on stage. All of this culminated with them building a 50 foot wall on stage and then tearing it down all during a 2 hour concert. Music was almost secondary. You went to see a show not a concert. There songs are always longer than most bands, ranging from 7-32 minutes. They were also the only band to be introduced as “the most influential band of all time” when inducted into the rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame. Music would not be the same without them.
- The Beatles – The fab four from Liverpool was probably the greatest band ever. What they did for bands in music can never be copied. Some of the most magnificent songs from great song writers were created. Think of how many Beatles songs you know. Too many to fit on a greatest hits album. They went from the first boy band (I Want To Hold Your Hand), to psychedelic (Sgt. Peppers), to hard rock (The White Album) to soft, deep rock (Let It Be). Do you know a band with more personas and variety? I think not. Four amazing musicians just managed to team and change the world of music forever.
- Led Zeppelin – God damn are these guys good. Never did a band play so loud and with a thundering attitude. Zeppelin burst onto the scene in 1967 and created what we call today hard rock and were the precursors to the metal genre. Never did a band literally turn their amps up 11 until these guys came around. Concerts were deafening but the crowds loved it. Jimmy Page is probably the greatest guitarists ever behind Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughen. He was know for his bluesy style solos where he sped up and down the neck (Dazed and Confused would last up to 45 minutes in concert). Robert Plants voice was one of a kind. John Paul Jones was just an overall exceptional musician, and John Bonham, well who else do you has a song of a 17 minute drum solo (Moby Dick). No one. They were the masters of improvisation. So musically talented they would play only 10-12 songs at concerts but would incorporate so many jams and made-up songs that songs were anywhere from 2-50 minutes in concert. No band of today ever does stuff like that. So musically gifted they knew each others next move. No song was ever performed the same way so when you saw this band you were getting something special and something the people the next night would not see nor hear.
The Rolling Stones – Name a band that has lasted 50 years and has as many hits. All just amazing musicians and the ultimate British Invasion band. Mick Jagger is the ultimate front-man. Watch a performance of him running up and down the stage every night. Keith Richards dirty guitar is known world-wide. The Stones left an imprint on music that cannot be matched as I don’t think a band will ever last as long as them again.
The Doors – Life was short but did the fire burn bright. Jim Morrison was such a suave and cool guy that I wish I was him sometimes. He was asked not to sing the line “Girl, We Couldn’t Get Much Higher” by Ed Sullivan and still sang it anyway on his show. His creativity (songwriter, artists, poet) is unmatched. He just could not control his creativity and used for bad. Ray Manzarek is one the greatest keyboard players ever. He never gets the credit though. Drugs were the achilles heal of The Doors and unfortuately Jim Morrison died a mere 5 years after the began.
Green Day – This band is because of memories. Green Day was the band I crew up hearing/listening to. I love the album Dookie. I like every song on it. I think the next 4 albums after that are great and all very catchy. Billie Joe Armstrong’s rebellious ways were awesome to me as a kid. After Warning, I think he sold out and was not into the “punk” thing anymore and have not enjoyed their music since. But early Green Day is really the only modern band that stands up to greats I have listed here.
- AC/DC – This band is actually what got me into classic rock and older music. Without me hearing them I would have listened to modern music with the rest of you. I love upbeat just pure rock ‘n’ roll sound. Angus Young is a great guitarists and both Brian Johnson’s or Bon Scott’s crispy voices just sound so different but cool.
- Creedence Clearwater Revival – Yes. This is right. Not one song made my top 25 but I love this band. No song stands out but I don’t think I have ever heard a song by CCR where I say, “Ehhh, I don’t really like this.” I am big into folk rock because of this band. John Fogerty is a great musician that has stood to test of time, as he had a long solo career after the band. I don’t really know what to say, this band is just fucking good.
- Jimi Hendrix – Holy Hell! Greatest guitarists ever. Please just watch the video of him before the “Star Spangled Banner” Live at Woodstock ’69. He actually made the guitar sound like “the rockets red glare, the bombs literally bursting in air.” Changed the way guitar sounded for ever. As i stated in my top 20 song list, first to really crank the distortion, bend notes, dive bomb notes, phasing effects, control feedback, and play like 100 freaking notes ever 20 seconds.
- The Who – The Who really changed how rock ‘n’ roll was presented. Elvis’ thrusting hips and The Beatles becoming a “super-group” started it. But how rock ‘n’ roll is smashing your whole set at the end of a concert. Pete Townsends played such thundering notes and Roger Daltry was a hell of a singer. Keith Moon, was in my opinion, the greatest drummer in history or at least top 3. “Tommy” is one of the greatest pieces of music I have ever heard in my life.
The Eagles: I just love this band. Like CCR I never really found a song I didn’t like. All members were such great musicians and had an ability to just play music like no other. Plus 5 out of the 5 members had great voices and could sing very well. I think some bands today do not have one person who can sing well. This band had 5.
- Lynyrd Skynyrd – Southern rock at its finest here. Big fan this genre. Some think it is just a bunch a red necks playing but Lynyrd Skynyrd was actually a group of great musicians. Just listen to the piano during the intro of Free Bird or the guitar solo at the end.
Electric Light Orchestra – Another innovative band. A rock band with a violin and cello player is just weird. They made it work though. This band has a tone of hits and everyone knows them, they just do not realize it’s ELO. I could listen to “Evil Woman” 100 times and not get sick of it.
Yes – This band was pure musicians. They should have been composers instead of rock stars. They wrote an album with 4 songs and each was over 20 minutes. That’s crazy. Music was more important to them than the lyrics. I think that has been truly lost in modern times. Songs are filled with words. This band had very complicated music. I don’t think bands of today could even copy their music and play it. The definition of an artist here.
Queen – Freddie Mercury was one of a kind. His theatrics changed music. He made it fun again to be a rock star and had one of the greatest voices ever. I love just hearing him sing. He performed in an opera in the late 80’s before his death. I can tell that that is the only opera I have ever listened to and enjoyed. Everyone has a Queen song that they really like.
Elton John – This is another guy was one of a kind. I love his songs. Many of you will be shocked to see this on here but I actually listen to Elton John a lot. He is a magnificent piano player and a great song writer.
John Lennon – This man is a legend. After he left The Beatles he continued with a streak of amazing albums. A great multi-instrumentalist. I also love what he stood for. The fact that people thought he was a communist and was watched by the FBI is just crazy. He had such an impact of not only music but on culture and the world.
Black Sabbath – Here are the masters of hard rock themselves. “People pay money to watch horror movies so maybe they will pay money to listen to horror music.” A quote from Tony Iommi (guitarist) on how Black Sabbath started. These guys could fucking rock. Ozzy Osbourne has just the perfect haunting and creepy voice for this band. Tony Iommi lost two fingers and still can shred with fake fingertips. Geezer Butler could be one of the greatest bassist of all time and Bill Ward is a top 5 drummer of all time.
Neil Young – I just absolutely love the high pitch squeal of Mr. Young’s voice. His songs are so deep. I love his early Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young work as well as his solo work. Combined this guy has a massive catalog of hits but is sometimes forgotten about. Who doesn’t almost want to cry while listening to “Heart of Gold” or “Needle and the Damaged Done.” Another folk rocker that I love. The voice is just awesome.
Blink-182 – Another band of my childhood. I just love to pop-punk immature childish songs. They are catchy and I am pretty immature so they make me laugh. Also being young the are all relevant to my life. To be honest, not the best musicians and if this was a list of greatest artists they would not be top 500 but it’s ok because I always find myself singing a blink song and enjoying it.
Honorable Mentions: Bruce Spingsteen – My mom’s favorite rocker and my dad is a big fan so I grew listening to him. Nothing says heartland like a little “Born To Run.” I love listening to a little Boss. (Also, my vacuum in college was called the boss in honor of Bruce.)
Well, ya have to love Anthony’s candor with this list. His list is pretty similar to his top-20 song list with a mixture of classic bands and a who’s who of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. But there is variety. There’s folk rock, there’s progressive, there’s British Invasion, there’s the pop-punk of the 90s and even metal. But you have to like how everything is mostly personal. Since these bands were mostly a while before Anthony’s childhood; you get a little imprint of how he discovered these groups and its revealing. There definitely is a slant to “musicianship” though as Anthony highlights the skill of almost all of the bands here.
Next up is Andrew and his list.Third Eye Blind- hey create such a happy go lucky feeling that just makes me like them so much. They are very talented band that creates a great prescence in the music world.Third Eye Blind- hey create such a happy go lucky feeling that just makes me like them so much. They are very talented band that creates a great prescence in the music world.
- Third Eye Blind – They create such a happy-go-lucky feeling that just makes me like them so much. They are a very talented band that creates a great presence in the music world.
- Led Zeppelin – They created such great presence on stage and they are the most talented rock band of all time. Their songs are straightup rock in every way shape and form.
- The Who – With Keith Moon on drums, (the greatest drummer of all time), their songs are just plain awesome.
- The Smashing Pumpkins – I know some people hate lead singer Billy Corgan, but to be honest I don’t find him annoying at all. His antics? Yes. His voice and band presence? No.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – They are a great band with great albums,. They rock real hard and I love to listen them.
- Weezer – Weezer’s greatest song I think was Buddy Holly. I actually think its In the Garage, but in any way you put it they are a very good band.
- The Killers – The Killers, I think, are the best alternative what ever you want to call them band of the 2000’s.
- Green Day – Early Green Day was absolutely amazing, although they tailed off they still are a very talented band.
- The Beatles – A very iconic band in itself, The Beatles where great at what they did. They didn’t care they just played music.
- Pearl Jam – Great 90’s band, great band alone. Very strong lyrics. Very strong music.
- Pink Floyd – I’ve recently got into Pink Floyd, but their music is so prestigious and glorious they are insanely great.
- Boston – They have amazing albums and amazing vocals and music they are a great band.
- Electric Light Orchestra – They are absolutely fun to listen to they simply amaze me with the things they can do.
- Cage The Elephant – A fairly new band, they have a different tone to them but they can kick it with the great bands.
- Everclear – Another 90’s band that I think are great and have great music.
- blink – 182 – Travis Barker on drums is so kick ass he can straight play the drums.
- The Doors – Riders on the Storm and Breaking Through to the Otherside are great songs that the Doors perfected.
- Bruce Springsteen – Bruce is so great he is so talented and the E-Street band just adds to greatness.
- Queen – Queen is a great band with some great songs that you just wanna rock to.
- The Bravery – They used to be so much higher but in recent years no music has been given to us by them and they are in legal battles with name sake.
Andrew’s list is predominantly a who’s who of major 1990s power-pop/pop-punk bands that were played pretty much throughout our childhoods. Its no wonder that he is heavily into them but with an eye to some of the classic bands of rock history. Even though they are pretty different in terms of which era dominates their lists, there is still some interesting overlap between the two rankings thus far. Did not see the Electric Light Orchestra cracking Andrew’s list.
Jack’s Top 20
- Pearl Jam
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- The Clash
- Green Day
- The Offspring
- Foo Fighters
- The Black Keys
- Beastie Boys
- The White Stripes
- Talking Heads
- The Ramones
- The Who
- Barenaked Ladies
- The Rolling Stones
Honorable Mentions: Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World
Jack’s list is short on explanations but its easy to draw some conclusions from it. As you can tell, Jack is big into the early-90s grunge/alternative rock revolution as well as into some of the post-grunge rock bands with some pop-punk. The real band that sticks out here might be either the Beastie Boys or Talking Heads.
Jake’s Top 20
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Big surprise, right? The Chili Peppers have been my all-time favorite band since right around the time I started getting into music. My mom got me my first RHCP cd as an unexpected gift back in middle school. She figured I might like them since I was gravitating towards 90s rock music like Nirvana and Green Day. I couldn’t thank her enough; she helped introduce me to some of the greatest rock musicians to ever walk this earth. Anthony Keides is one of my favorite songwriters of all time. Chad Smith is a beast, and is one of the best drummers (if not THE best drummer) in alternative rock. Flea has enough energy and creative prowess to actually set a building on fire with no kindling, and he is also one hell of a class act. Hillel Slovak, John Frusciante, and Josh Klinghoffer all contributed to the peppers’ guitar section in different ways, but all three should be respected for their unparalleled talent and knack for making impossible funk/metal/alternative riffs seem easy. Talk about some of the best alternative rock songs of all time! “Higher Ground,” “Breaking the Girl,” “Californication,” “Scar Tissue,” “Otherside,” “Give it Away,” “Under the Bridge,” “Can’t Stop,” “By the Way,” “Dani California,” “The Adventures of Raindance Maggie,” the list goes on and on. I have a revolving library of different memories and emotions linked to all 10 of RHCP’s studio albums. I just love this band with all of my heart and I always will. Can’t say much else without committing an injustice.
- Alice In Chains – These guys would EASILY be my favorite band if the Chili Peppers never happened. What can I say about this band? We are talking about some of the most emotionally powerful and beautifully unconventional lyrics of all time, backed up with a mud ball of grinding grunge/metal guitars and a dual-harmonized vocal layout that could send chills down the back of a dead sloth. Alice can do no wrong, and always stood out- in my mind- as the greatest band to come out of the grunge scene. The beauty of this band is, while they made a name for themselves with heavier songs like “Them Bones” and Man in the Box,” they also have songs like “Nutshell” and “Black Gives Way to Blue” that bring out inner beauty and consideration for melodic detail. Layne Staley was a monster of a vocalist and will always be sorely missed. William Duvall, his successor, is the absolute best thing they could have replaced him with. I can attest to this: I own both new AiC albums and recently witnessed them live. Duvall rocks. Many “fans” end up getting overly nostalgic and write off the band’s current state as a sham. I consider those people to be naïve and blind. But with both the old and the new in mind: Alice in Chains will always have a massive impact on me through their music. Jerry Cantrell is probably my favorite guitarist, and his work will influence me as a writer and practicing musician forever.
- Foo Fighters – In my opinion, if you don’t like the Foo Fighters, you’re an idiot. Not only are you missing out on- quite possibly- the greatest modern live act in music, but you are also missing some of the greatest rock songs of all time. “Everlong,” “Learn to Fly,” “All My Life,” “The Pretender,” “Walk…” come on. I always knew of the Foo Fighters, but I was unaware that a member of Nirvana was their singer. That is, until a friend informed me of this in 9th grade. That same friend eventually burnt me a copy of the very first Foo Fighters album, and the rest, as they say, is history. Since growing attached to their late-90s material, I have had my expectations exceeded by every new album they have pumped out. If you took the Tasmanian devil from Looney Tunes, had him do six lines of cocaine, and then lit him on fire, he might have half of the sheer fury and energy the Foo Fighters bring to their music. The great thing is that Dave Grohl is also one of the coolest and most modest musicians to walk this earth; his musical roots lie in drumming (and boy can he drum), but the guy proves his versatility with every new Foo Fighters release. He’s a really good singer and guitar player too. Actually, Grohl recorded every single vocal and instrumental track on the Foo’s debut album. ALL of them. Then he recruited a band. Talk about talent. The stuff the guy does with such little musical training or education is astounding. What started as a secret side-project during the Nirvana days as grown into one of the most noteworthy and all-around pleasing additions to the entire music world (not to mention an undisputed collection of hilarious music videos).
- Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam is a big one for me. Not only were they my first big concert experience (a historic, 45-song finale to the Philadelphia Spectrum, by the way), but they were also one of the first bands to make me think “wow, you can really tell when a song is by THIS band.” Eddie Vedder’s vocals are usually hit or miss with people, but I have always loved them. The man has a beautiful voice that he occasionally converts into an angsty weapon for songs like “Why Go” and “Do the Evolution.” Mike McCready is a master craftsman on the fretboard. His solos and riffs will continue to blow my mind until the day I die. Songs like “Yellow Ledbetter,” “Black,” “Light Years,” and “Garden” will always stand as some of my all-time favorites. I’m currently counting the days and hours until “Lightning Bolt” hits stores. (Note: The album has hit stores, this was written in about late August).
- Soundgarden – I knew of Audioslave before Soundgarden, and that shows how limited I was in terms of proper rock education. Boy was I missing out; Audioslave was a definitely a cool band, but Soundgarden will always be the greatest thing Chris Cornell ever contributed to. “Badmotorfinger” is one of the greatest albums of all time, and quickly brought fresh intensity to the rock genre; there is a part near the end of “Jesus Christ Pose” where Cornell hits a note so high that you’d swear it could make Robert Plant blush and squirm at the same time. I’ve always been astounded by the band’s combination of huge talents. Kim Thayil is one hell of a guitarist, and plays with more complexity than nearly every one of his contemporaries. Matt Cameron could probably go head-to-head with a human/octopus hybrid drummer and give it one hell of a percussion dual- the man is a machine. “Blow up the outside World” is, and always will be one of my favorite songs. I could list so many more songs that have had an impact on me, but I’d probably end up naming 90% of their discography. They recently put out “King Animal,” which completely astounded me in its fullness. They are continuing to lead the rock world by example.
- Stone Temple Pilots – When I think of this band, I think of beautiful, warm weather, because it was during the spring and summer of my sophomore year in high school that I really discovered their music. STP was considered by some to be artificial grunge music- and they sort of were- but the cool thing is, they were still good enough to go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest artists from that era. Most of their power lied in the music of “Core” and “Purple,” but even their most recent, self-titled return effort was a great collection of songs that really rocked. You may have noticed that I’ve been referring to the band in the past tense, that’s because STP is dead (much to my dismay). Nope. STP with Chester Bennington on vocals is not STP, and it never will be. So I’m just counting my blessings for the material they were able to produce with Scott Weiland, because it’s some really great stuff.
- Rush – Where to even begin here… We’re talking about-arguably- THE most talented and revered trio of musicians to ever record an album. I almost feel sick when I look back on my earliest experiences with Rush; I used to think Geddy Lee’s voice was annoying. I was so naïve- not only does he have one of the most unique and vastly-ranged voices in music, but he’s also one hell of a bassist. Eventually, I began to take a liking for songs like “Limelight” and “YYZ.” As I gravitated towards writing as a potential major choice for college, I really started to notice the exceptional substance of Neil Pert’s lyrics. Oh, and I should probably just say this to get it out of the way- PERT IS THE ABSOLUTE BEST DRUMMER TO EVER PICK UP DRUM STICKS, BAR-NONE. Ahem, anyway, Alex Lifeson is a riff-generating virtuoso, and is one of my biggest guitar idols. Rush was my most recent concert experience, and even in their 60s, the band can still rip a stadium to pieces in effortless fashion. They’re legends.
- Incubus – I did not like Incubus at first. The first song I remember hearing was “Stellar,” and I didn’t like it because I had a generic 8th grade fetish for Godsmack-style hard rock. For that same reason, however, I instantly perked my ears the first time I heard “Anna Molly” on Fuse. I loved the heavy, quick strumming of that song, and it served as the perfect segue into the rest of the band’s catalogue. I quickly began to realize how incredible all of their songs were- both soft and heavy (mainly “Dig,“ my favorite.) I love the dichotomy of soft alternative rock and crazed nu-metal they maintain in their creative approach. The turn-table mixing has always struck a chord with me too, for some reason; nothing can beat that echoing wok-wok-wok sound at the beginning of “Pardon Me.” Brandon Boyd has slowly become one of my favorite songwriters.
- Black Sabbath – There was this kid on my high school track team that we used to call Ozzy because he was obsessed with Black Sabbath. One day, we were doing a workout and I told him, “yeah, I like Black Sabbath, but I barely know anything other than ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid.’” He said, “tell you what, tomorrow, I will bring you some Sabbath.” The next day, he comes in with an eight-album Black Sabbath BOXSET and lets me borrow it. Some of the songs on those albums changed the way I looked at heavy metal. As a major fan of newer metal bands like Korn at the time, it astounded me to see how Toni Iommi and Geezer Butler could rock just as hard, but with a laid-back, groovy approach. Ozzy Osbourne is one hell of a front man, but the stuff they did with Ronnie James Dio is also great in its own regard. Sabbath are the kings of metal and I think they are amazing.
- Audioslave – Rage Against the Machine with Chris Cornell on vocals. Enough said. Well, okay it wasn’t quite as cut and dry as how I just put it; Audioslave really created their own sound that was separate from the material of Rage and/or Soundgarden, and that was what made them so cool. I always thought Cornell and the band went together like bread and butter; I remember how quickly they got my attention when I first heard them on TV (it was the music video for “Original Fire,” I believe.) Those veteran grunge vocals and that hammering rap-rock instrumentation really packed a wallop when blended. Their self-titled debut will always stand as one of my favorite albums. I never fail to get chills when I hear the guitar solo in “Like a Stone.” Audioslave had a lot of moments like that where Tom Morello really showed off a hidden knack for beautiful melody. Truly captivating.
- Nine Inch Nails – Trent Reznor is absolutely brilliant; brilliant in a mad scientist kind of way, but brilliant nonetheless. The things that man conjures up in his head are beyond anything few could ever even dream of pulling off. Honestly, how many musicians can take a harsh, emergency broadcast system-esque fuzz storm and somehow morph it into a catchy industrial beat (just take a listen to “Meet Your Master,” it’s intoxicating)? The music of Nine Inch Nails is an acquired taste, and it took me a while to appreciate the craftsmanship behind songs like “Down In It,” “Survivalism,” and the oh-so-intense “Closer” (the latter eventually became one of my favorite music videos of all time). Reznor is unconventional in his ways, but he definitely knows how to tap into every sensitive crevice of his listener’s minds. “The Perfect Drug” includes one of the most brutal, inventive drum breakdowns I have ever heard, and “Hurt” always makes me stop whatever I’m doing and listen the entire way through (I’m sorry, but his version will always trump that mundane Johnny Cash cover). I will always be pleasantly perplexed by Nine Inch Nails, and I hope Reznor keeps the project going for as long as possible.
- The Wallflowers – The Wallflowers will always have a very special place in my heart, for they were my very first live music experience. They happened to be playing a small free concert in Virginia Beach during the week we were in the area on vacation, so we went and checked them out. I barely knew anything about them, so I downloaded “One Headlight,” “6th Avenue Heartache,” and “The Difference,” (their three most popular songs) in order to get a decent understanding of what I was getting into. They not only played those three songs, but they personally introduced me to a slew of other songs that I still love to this day. Every time I hear the intro to “Sleepwalker,” I get a shiver down my back because that was the very first song they played. Jakob Dylan is a phenomenal songwriter and has always found ways to appeal to my deepest emotions through his lyrics. His dad may be a huge music legend, but at times, he really gives him a run for his money.
- Nirvana – Nirvana has a lot of fake fans that really piss me off, but that’s simply because of how much I actually adore them. I love the fury, the raspy vocals, the hammering drums, the abstract lyrics. Nirvana is just the whole package in terms of a quality rock band. I always found it interesting how their songs almost came off as self-mockery, despite their obvious depth. Kurt Cobain wanted to write the ultimate pop song (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”)- just for kicks- and proceeded to knock Michael Jackson, the KING of pop off the top of the Billboard charts. If that isn’t a reflection of pure musical genius, I don’t know what is.
- The Offspring – This is a band that always knew of, but never took the time to look up. That is, until my cousin finally introduced me to “Smash” and “Self-Esteem” one summer during our annual family vacation. I was blown away. Here was a band that had the same appeal as an early Green Day or Bad Religion, but also included a sound that was exceptionally distinguishable and an undeniable sense of humor (not to mention a blistering tempo). Needless to say, I went home and downloaded half their discography in a heartbeat. I was set. I feel like each Offspring album has been a step towards a more mature sound that still holds true to the days of “Gotta Get Away” and “Come out and Play.” I bought their newest release, “Days Go By” on a whim last year expecting to get maybe 3-4 decent songs, and the whole album ended up becoming a staple of my summer vacation. Dexter Holland’s voice can always bring a smile to my face (especially on “Hit That,” that song is so fucking fun).
- Korn – It felt awesome when I first started listening to Korn, because I deviously felt like I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing. They were like nothing else I had ever heard: pissed off, unfiltered, and defiant. This has held up to this day. A lot of bands nowadays try to emulate anger and angst and pass it off as genuine, and none of them have been able to do it to the level set by Korn in 1994. Their self-titled album is, hands down, the angriest, most cathartic album I have ever listened to. Any band that can condense an emotion into a musical composition and really make their listeners FEEL it- regardless of whether that emotion is good or bad- is a band that knows what they are doing. I will always love Korn for the unique experience they bring to the rock scene.
- Live – I started to get into Live just before I left for college. So naturally, their music has generated a lot of sentimental value in terms of my memories and emotions. I hate that the band parted ways with Ed Kowalczyk, because he has such a talent for addressing cliché subjects in a completely unique tone. “Run to the Water,” “The Dolphin’s Cry,” and “Selling the Drama” are major examples of this. What a great band.
- Dinosaur, Jr. – I LOVE the work of J. Mascis. He is just a stellar musician. I have always been drawn to his modest, Neil Young-esque vocals and the contradictory roar of his heavily distorted riffs and metal-inspired solos. It’s quite a blend of memorable and distinguishable traits. “Watch the Corners” was probably my favorite rock single of last year. Dinosaur Jr. is so underrated and overlooked half the time, and it’s a shame because they are one hell of a good band.
- Deftones – Deftones are one of the most unique bands I have ever listened to. I can’t think of any other artist that can maintain a logical balance between beautiful, Radiohead-like euphoria and crushing, throbbing heavy metal chaos. Listening to a Deftones album is like a cycle of being sprayed with a cool, relaxing mist fan, only to be promptly punched in the stomach. The band is definitely an acquired taste, as I learned firsthand when I discovered them in 9th grade. I didn’t begin to appreciate their music for what it was until I unexpectedly came home early from school after being struck with a field hockey ball; the video for “Bored” was on Fuse and its machine gun guitar riff really drew me in. I’ve been hooked since.
- Tool – The passionate lyrics, the inventive guitar riffs, the ridiculously-complex time signatures. Everything about Tool mesmerizes me. The cool thing about Tool is that, unlike a lot of other progressive/experimental metal bands, they have a rare talent for flaunting their intelligence without coming off as pretentious. Any band that writes a song with a beat based on the Fibonacci number sequence is worthy of praise in my book. I adore Maynard James Keenan, he is truly an exceptional talent.
- Rage Against The Machine – As a self-confessed political illiterate, I can’t sit here and pretend that I know what every single RATM song is completely about, but I can say this- the band is a creative monolith of musical talent. The things Tom Morello does with a guitar seem like they should be artificially generated in some way, but they aren’t. It came to the point where the band became famous for putting “all sounds created with guitars, bass, drums, and vocals” on their albums, and that is just awesome.
Honorable Mentions: AC/DC, A Perfect Circle, Seether, Green Day, Three Days Grace, Black Keys, Avenged Sevenfold, Dio, Volbeat, Social Distortion
Jake has a distinct style of music that he likes, or well so I thought. Even though there is some with early-90s grunge/alt; there is a lot more sprinkled in. It would be lazy to classify Rage and Nirvana as the same. It would be lazy to throw Tool in with Black Sabbath. So I won’t, though I will say that Jake has kind of introduced me the most to some songs that I do like a lot now. I was never on board with the heavier parts of rock but I’ve gotten more and more into the Chili Peppers, Black Keys and Foo Fighters solely because of him.
Now its onto my list.
- the Strokes – No big surprise here, right? I know there is some polarization with the Strokes thanks to the whole “every magazine cover” treatment they got with the release of just an EP but I don’t really care. I know they aren’t for everyone but the fact remains that pop culture temporarily changed because of NYC’s finest. People wore Converse and skinny jeans again, “hipster” was cool, as was the lo-fi sound of garage rock. Look at all of the bands that became prominent after the Strokes meteoric rise to the top. Plenty of bands owe them a lot. Personally, I was always a fan of their singles but was too lazy to look into their discography. That changed a few years ago and I’m so glad that I did it. Julian Casablancas gets little credit for singlehandedly writing all of the music and lyrics for their first album, all but one song off their second and all but three off their third one. Once he took a backseat a bit, so has the music. Plus the dude simply radiated cool in their first three albums when he wasn’t slurring his words in interviews. They’ve left their garage roots for more Cars/80s nu-wave inspired music but ya know, I’m still a big fan. Comedown Machine has grown into one of my favorite CDs though the fact that they all seem to rather not work with each other sucks as I know I probably will never see them play live in my life. But maybe, I’ll catch Julian Casablancas on tour or maybe Albert Hammond, Jr.
- The Killers – For awhile, the Killers were my favorite band but I’m more into their synth-rock music though their Springsteen-inspired work has been good for me as well. Brandon Flowers has turned into a very talented frontman and while they might not get as heavy radioplay as they did when they first came out; they are probably one of the best bands to emerge from the 2000s. I feel a wide array of emotions from Killers songs, from joy (Read My Mind) to nostalgia (Mr. Brightside) to sadness (Smile Like You Mean It). The only thing keeping me from having them as my #1 is also the fact that I’m not totally on board with all of their songs (the non-singles of Sam’s Town, a few tracks from Battle Born) which is natural though. Brandon Flowers also seems to genuinely enjoy being on stage and putting on a great show. I’m curious how they regroup after Flowers releases his second solo album in about a year but I’m sure I’ll be eagerly awaiting album #5.
- blink-182 – A band that might be finally starting to evolve a lot as a band, but I am not totally on board with the evolution. Still, the first five blink-182 albums are mostly pop-punk perfection and bands since then have all struggled to succeed to even get close to what blink-182 stood for. I love the simplicity of their songs, the catchiness of their melodies and the humor in their early days. No band could balance something so well, and when I was REALLY young; there was nothing I enjoyed more than listening to Enema of the State while going down to Disney World. First band I ever heard curse when I was younger. The songs might be dated, but they are still ridiculously catchy.
- David Bowie – Bowie is everything that was right with music. Flamboyant, androgynous, mainstream yet out of the stream while blending rock and pop together in a way that was completely unusual; Bowie is the man. Ziggy was cool, the Thin White Duke was suave and Rebel Rebel is so damn catchy. Bowie really didn’t give a damn and considering the time where he was famous in, you can say that he began glam. When music began to shift to the nu-wave 80s sound, Bowie was able to keep pace with Blue Jean and China Girl. Then he got into hard rock with Tin Machine, made friends with Trent Rezner and resurfaces every now and then to drop some new music. I credit my Mom for getting me into Bowie.
- Kanye West – I believe Kanye West is the closest thing to a transcendent musical artist to emerge in the past decade. I believe he will be talked about a lot in the next fifty years and take away his public image. Actually, don’t take it away think about it. Is there another artist that has as much polarization as ‘Ye? If you hate him, that’s fine. If you love him, that’s great. But there’s NO WAY you are neutral on him. All great artists were considered douchebags in their time and Mr. West is no different. Also, College Dropout, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus are all classic albums. Yeezus is a modern-day version of Metal Machine Music in which an artist at the peak of their fame, just says “screw it” and throws caution to the wind. Artists grow and there was a time when ‘Ye was considered an artist that was “funny and goofy”. Now he seems horny and impatient. Gotta love that he actually grew, even if you like him or hate him.
- Michael Jackson – Alright, now this time you have to take away the personal life and look at the artistry of the King of Pop. Jackson has the greatest pop hits ever and any R&B/Top-40 artist continues to strive to be like him but only seem like cheap counterparts. Justin Timberlake might wish he is “close” but he’s not even in the same dimension as Jackson was. Jackson made music videos a necessity and made any dancer look mundane by comparison. Also, who hates Billie Jean? No one that’s who. Also, Motown 25 might be THE most iconic televised musical performance, or second behind The Beatles and Ed Sullivan. Yeah total weirdo creep in real life though.
- Jay-Z – Jay-Z is the master of anything and when it comes down to it, I always get excited when he’s about to release an album even if he hasn’t progressed all too much in recent years. Jay-Z has adopted mogul status who creates an album to do something in his spare time but Jay-Z makes braggadocio cool and odds are, you at least admit he’s pretty damn badass or Illuminati if you talk to yourself. The fact that he has Illuminati connections by the fringes of people is a testament to how powerful of an artist he is. Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint 1, The Black Album, American Gangster are all masterpieces with Watch the Throne being a great addition to his discography.
- Green Day – I’m not really a fan of any Green Day album after Warning, but I have liked plenty of songs by them since. Still, every 90s kid (ugh, did I use that phrase) was influenced at one point or another by either Longview, Good Riddance or maybe even American Idiot. Green Day was not the only band that rebelled against the Bush Administration but they sure as hell were the biggest one. They might’ve gotten kinda tacky after a bit, but that’s what bands with men in their 40s tend to do and they shouldn’t be punished for that.
- The Beatles – How can I not have the most important rock band of history on my list? I can just tell based on my mother how important of a band they were. I liked them when they were just an innocent pop band, admired them when they were a collection of LSD users and respectful of them when they became introspective and worldly. Bands have tried to evolve but none did it so effortlessly as the boys from Manchester. Iconic.
- Lady Gaga – I think she’s ballsy and while people compare her to Madonna; I almost want to compare her to Bowie and Lou Reed’s daughter. Arthouse music mixed with today’s top-40 is so impressive and all artists tried to act “crazy” like her but couldn’t pull it off as they didn’t have the artistic vision. Take away preconceived notions based off her music and you can see why she owned the pop music world for three years.
- The Velvet Underground – How could I like the Strokes and even to a lesser degree, the Killers, without loving the Velvet Underground? A band managed by Andy Warhol and fronted by Lou Reed is just as great as it sounds. I also think the Strokes can figure to be like them in which in about forty years, they will become a lot more appreciated than what they are now. Still, how were Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll not bigger hits? How did the Velvet Underground become so under appreciated even though they might be one of the most influential rock groups ever? Makes me wish I was born in the 50s so when I was a teenager I could tell all my friends to listen to them.
- Elvis Presley – I think there was a two-year span where I listened to Elvis on a continuous loop and I still enjoy it. I don’t care if he imitated Chuck Berry, which he did, he made all of that mainstream and if Elvis didn’t shake his hips; who knows where some careers of other artists goes. He defined rockabilly which equally changed rock and country music simultaneously.
- Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All – I’m as liberal as you can get and I shouldn’t like a group that casually tosses slurs like its no one’s business but there was a year in my life that I was obsessed with OF and I am still in their corner though I cooled a bit on them. Still finding a group of my guys roughly my age speaking like so many people I knew or horrifically the opposite; was something that really opened my eyes. It was a throwback to early-90s Wu Tang Clan though slightly more suburban. Frank Ocean might be the only huge top-40 star in the group and Tyler, the Creator might be the closest thing to a future mogul and maybe only Earl Sweatshirt will make music that critics love but man they were important to me.
- Adam Lambert – I always get crap for being a fan of his but again, like Bowie; I am in awe of the not giving a damn that he had on his debut album. Remember, Lambert had all of the hype from American Idol and his debut album cover was him looking like a cross-dressing alien. He was a blend of Bowie and the Darkness on that debut album, though I always had the feeling he tried too hard. He has the vocal range of Freddie Mercury and I always appreciate anyone that tries to make 80s synth music cool. He now tours with Queen on occasion which is admirable.
- Ke$ha – I need a break from reality now and then and Ke$ha is loved by me in the same way I love blink-182. Its not great music, but its just fun to listen to and she’s probably really awesome in real life. Her songs are catchy but we could use a break from stress and just listen to songs about partying and sexual relations with ghosts.
- T.Rex – Marc Bolan was almost as cool as Jim Morrison and almost as important as the Velvet Underground while being almost as glam as Ziggy Stardust. T. Rex is a band of “almosts” and I wish more people liked them even though everyone knows their one hit Get It On. Electric Warrior is so grossly underrated and you can hear newer bands such as the Black Keys pay homage to them.
- The Rolling Stones – I believe Morrison is the ultimate frontman but Mick Jagger is THE man. Equally charismatic and theatric, I believe the Stones are not looked at correctly in history. The Beatles changed music but I believe the Stones changed performances and what it was like to be a band. They openly and privately feuded, they seemed like a family that was in total dysfunction instead of playing the PR-game of being a group of friends. I think the Stones relationship is how every friend group truly is. Bickering that sometimes get intense but always end with understanding.
- Arctic Monkeys – I remember when I first saw them on SNL when I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor came out and thought they were a fun band but never really looked too deep into them. I initially pegged them as a slight Strokes ripoff but me being a huge fan of the garage sound, I kept tabs on their career. But with the release of their newest album, AM, I have a feeling they will rise tremendously in my rankings throughout the years. Alex Turner is becoming the rockstar of a generation.
- Lou Reed – The man is a certified bad ass who has made everything from Bowie-esque glampop to an hour of guitar feedback to soundscapes. Every “artistic” artist wishes they were Lou Reed but don’t have it in them to flip off their record label. This was written before his death, but I have to say….very few celebrity deaths hit me as hard as Lou Reed dying. Do yourself a favor and listen to Transformer.
- Alkaline Trio – A bit darker than most music I like, the Alkaline Trio always reminded me of a more jaded with the world blink-182. Really catchy songs with darker messages of alcoholism and suicide; I just always liked the Alkaline Trio a lot. I remember when I first “We’ve Had Enough” on radio and being an awkward moody kid in the middle of puberty made me love them. I never got exactly “dressed in black, wearing eye shadow” moody but damn; they were a nice distraction band.
Honorable Mentions: The Doors, The Who, Busted, Katy Perry, Kendrick Lamar, The Libertines
As with my favorite songs, my list slightly deviates from my friends with a bit more love spread to hip-hop and bands that have debuted in the 2000s.