I already covered the metal albums in a previous post, so I thought I’d cover what I deem are the best songs. Unlike the best metal albums ever, this list will cover many genres. Like the best metal albums list, this will not be in any particular order and many bands from that list will not appear here. If you want to skip all the writing and just listen, then I made a playlist on Youtube. Feel free to shuffle it. I’ll also keep working on this over time, so check back once in a while.
[Update] The playlist got so long that I separated metal and non-metal. This article will be non-metal, but the playlist is available here.
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Any list that doesn’t have this song is wrong. Sorry, I know this is purely an opinion-based article, but this specific circumstance it’s fact. Let’s ignore the fact that Freddie Mercury is one of the greatest singers of all time and Brian May (guitarist) has a PhD in Astrophysics. Queen has many famous songs, and all of them were written by at least one of the members of the band. This one in particular by Freddie. It contains operatic vocals, and transitions from a calm ballad to hard rock in an unexpected and chaotic song of beauty. I doubt whoever reads this has never heard this song, but just in case:
Kansas – Carry On My Wayward Son
This song is gorgeous and the vocals, like Queen, stand out. The song has a groove rhythm throughout with a little bit of funk and metal thrown in. It’s an incredible song that I’ve never gotten sick of.
Opeth – Eternal Rains Will Come
I mentioned Opeth in my best metal album list, but almost 20 years later they released a monster of an album with Pale Communion, abandoning all screaming vocals and delivering clean singing and rock music with a jazz influence. The drumming is absolutely phenomenal as well.
Toto – Africa
This is just a fun song written by Toto with a great chorus and it’s almost impossible not to sing along when the line “I bless the rains down in Africa” hits.
Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
A couple of obvious things to point out here:
- This is a Hawaiin cover of the same song from the musical Wizard of Oz
- It includes lyrics from “What a Wonderful World”
Interestingly, this song was performed and recorded in one shot live on radio. The radio host loved it so much he kept airing it and the rest is history. It’s unfortunate that Israel suffered from obesity or we might’ve heard other many great songs, but at least we got this incredible song.
A-Ha – Lifelines
While A-Ha is known for their song “Take Me On”, they continue writing music. The popular pop song written by the band in 1984 had strong synths and was their third version of it. In 2002, they released this song, which is relaxing and powerful.
Pentatonix – The Sound of Silence
“They didn’t write that song, you know?” True, and it’s not even a remake of the version by Simon & Garfunkel. Simon & Garfunkel wrote a beautiful album in 1965 and within it was this song. A beautiful piece of art that was then reimagined by the metal band Disturbed. It starts off almost silent and crescendos throughout until silence returns, and Pentatonix came up with their own cover version of the Disturbed version that I enjoy more.
Yifei Liu – Reflection
Yes, this is the song “Reflection” from the Disney film Mulan. The live-action remake didn’t include any musical songs throughout the entire film, although you do hear the musical score throughout the movie from the original cartoon. Ironically, the lead actress, Yifei Liu, sings a cover version of Reflection that plays during the credits of the film. There’s an English version and a Mandarin version, the latter of which I think is better. What a seriously stupid decision to not have her sing in the film because her voice is simply soft and amazing. This might be the most emotionally moving song written in any Disney film ever. For the record, I think the Christina Aguilera version is awful.
Little Shop of Horrors – Suddenly Seymour
Following a Disney movie and speaking of musicals, why not throw in another legendary musical named Little Shop of Horrors. Within it is this equally beautiful and hilarious song. Rick Moranis, normally seen as the nerdy guy in kids’ movies delivers a beautiful voice while Ellen Greene has near god-level vocal cords.
Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love
While they may be known for their disco era with songs like Stayin’ Alive, I think a lot of people missed out on their entire discography which covers quite a few genres. This is my favorite song of theirs.
Fleetwood Mac – Landslide
On one of the best albums ever written, Rumours, produced many great songs like Dreams and Landslide after tumultuous relationships within the band. My guess is all of the pain and hate generated an incredible album. Amongst them was Landslide, written by Stevie Nicks.
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
This wouldn’t be a best songs ever list without Michael Jackson. He is a pop legend and the king of pop. It’s impossible to deny. This song has a fun groove to it and the bass guitar has one of the most fun riffs ever.
Lunatic Soul – Gutters
Speaking of bass guitar, Lunatic Soul is a solo side project from the bassist of Riverside, Mariusz Duda. I equally love the band Riverside and Lunatic Soul, and all 8 minutes of this song are equally enjoyable. It’s hypnotic.
Riverside – We Got Used To Us
Speaking of Riverside, I might as well throw in this song that is quite emotional for me.
Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere but not Here
Such a great progressive rock band. It’s a little sad that Steven Wilson put the band on hiatus and did a solo project that started off pretty good but went towards more pop as of lately. Thankfully, the band delivered some great rock music when it felt on the verge of disappearing and probably singlehandedly revived it and sparked progressive rock. I also enjoy how multiple members sing in most songs.
Nier Replicant – The Ballad of the Twins
Can I throw video game music in here? I guess so since it’s my list. I talked about how the game Nier completely changed my perspective on life. This song is absolutely beautiful and I – my wife might kill me for this – hummed this song to my boys when they were babies. Well, I still do when I comfort them as toddlers, but please don’t tell her.
Final Fantasy 9 – Song of Memories
While I have video games on my mind, this song hit me hard the first time I heard it. Thankfully, a lot of other games have also felt the same and this is a remake version of that. Originally composed by Nobuo Uematsu, and I talk about him in the best video game composer article.
Final Fantasy X – Return to Zanarkand
I can’t resist this one either. I thought it was a beautiful song for a theme song. Once I played through most of the game and it comes back on later in the game when you arrive at Zanarkand, I cried. Also written by Nobuo Uematsu.
Anathema – Untouchable
While I’m depressed, I might as well throw in this song. The whole is album is one of the most emotional albums I’ve ever listened to, but the first two songs set the stage for excellence. Whenever there is something sad happening in my life, this is the song I play.
Elton John – Your Song
Elton John has a huge library of great songs, but I think this one stands out the most. For love songs, this one is amongst one of the best written.
Eric Clapton – Change the World
I grew up listening to Eric Clapton since my father listened to him. One of the most popular blue grass musicians in the world and had several hits like Wonderful Tonight, Layla, and Tears in Heaven. Of all of those songs, I think Change The World is my favorite.
Seal – Kiss of a Rose
I discovered that this song was written several years before it was released. Perhaps it was a good thing, because it can now be heard just about anywhere 30 years laters. Anyways, for memorable soul songs this is the only one I can think of.
Puff Daddy – Victory
I don’t even believe this myself, but there was a point in time I liked rap. In the early and mid-90s I think it was at its peak, even though rap is still produced to this day. However, even though I am vaguely aware of newer stuff, I haven’t been impressed like I was with Puff Daddy & Family – which I think is now just Diddy. Whatever.
Sting – Desert Rose
Between The Police and his solo project, Sting has a ridiculous amount of hits. In any case, this is song is my favorite because it is.
Garth Brooks – Friends in Low Places
I also went through a – abeit very brief – country phase in my life. For the most part, I can’t stand it, but I do respect a few artists like Garth Brooks, Dixie Chicks, and Dolly Parton. This is probably my favorite country song ever written.
Eminem – Stan
I think this song re-launched Dido’s career since this is a remix of her song, but coincidentally the two combined is pretty stellar. Eminem is one of the best rap artists ever, and solely for his ability to patternize lyrics in a manner that are easily memorizable. There’s studies on this subject, it’s insane. Anyways, good song. Great song.
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
Pop music generally fades right through me. The repetition drives me crazy and most songs don’t deserve more than one minute of my time. Lady Gaga generally has the capability to prevent my insanity if not for her uniqueness. In this song, I love the progression between what seems like gibberish (although it does have meaning) to a chorus.
Tones and I – Dance Monkey
One of the most unique voices to enter the pop scene and I love it. The song has good meaning about our society and always looking for something to make us pay attention or else we move on, and don’t enjoy whatever that thing is. What I like about Tones and I is that she writes her own music, which is very rare for pop musicians who rely on some Swedish guy.
The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like The Beatles. If someone admits they don’t, they’re probably lying. One of my favorite songs of theirs is this one because it’s upbeat and also reminds me of the days when I would g0 rafting in the summers and wait for cloudy and rainy weather to clear up when we had it. My dad and I would sing this song every time.
Frank Sinatra – Flying Me to the Moon
Like The Beatles, there are a lot of great songs by Frank Sinatra, but for some reason this song remains as my favorite. For big band jazz, this is such a fun and soothing song.
Natalie Cole – Unforgettable
Natalie’s father, Nat King Cole, originally wrote this song in 1951. It was a popular song at the time and a great classic song. He is a jazz legend. 40 years later, Natalie sang along in the song her father wrote with his original vocals acting as a Duet. It’s unfortunate that I never found a recording of the two of them physically together, but this song is, well, unforgettable.
Glenn Miller – In the Mood
While I’m already on a jazz kick, how about some swing music? I don’t think any swing song tops this one which just makes you want to pivot your feet in a dance.
David Bowie – Space Oddity
I believe it was Buzz Aldrin who said that of anyone who hadn’t been on the moon, David Bowie understood it more than probably any other person who wasn’t an astronaut. David Bowie may have crossed many genres of music, but this song stands out.
Billy Joel – Piano Man
I don’t even know what kind of Billy Joel writes. Is it rock? Kind of? I’ve always enjoyed this song and his perspective of what he sees as a “piano man,” especially when people are expecting him to tell a story. What made me love this song was when I was on a cruise and at a piano bar this was guy who made his own version of this while talking about all of us watching him.
Nine Inch Nails – Closer
I don’t think I have industrial music on here. Nope. Okay, well here’s an industrial song I enjoy by Trent Reznor. He has a very large library of songs, most of which I don’t particularly enjoy. However, this whole album is fantastic.
Johnny Cash – Hurt
Speaking of Trent Reznor, Johnny Cash covered Trent’s version of “Hurt” and turned it into an even more magical song. It was already incredible, much like The Sound of Silence, but Johnny Cash made it his own. In an interview, Trent Reznor even admitted that the song no longer belonged to him because he loved Johnny Cash’s version so much.