Sunday, October 10, 2010

Partial list of songs for the pop canon

  • "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins (1981)
  • "Centerfold" by J. Geils Band (1982)
  • "Jack & Diane" by John Cougar (1982)
  • "I Know There's Something Going On" by Frida (1982)
  • "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell (1982)
  • "Cruel Summer" by Bananarama (1983)
  • "Africa" by Toto (1983)
  • "When Doves Cry" by Prince (1984)
  • "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper (1984)
  • "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins (1984)
  • "Careless Whisper" by Wham! (1985)
  • "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" by Tears for Fears (1985)
  • "(I Just) Died In Your Arms" by Cutting Crew (1986)
  • "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco (1986)
  • "Alone" by Heart (1987)
  • "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" by The Beastie Boys (1987)
  • "Parents Just Don't Understand" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince (1988)
  • "The Promise" by When In Rome (1988)
  • "What I Am" by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians (1988)
  • "Stand" by REM (1989)
  • "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor (1990)
  • "Tom's Diner (DNA Remix)" by Suzanna Vega (1990)
  • "I Touch Myself" by Divinyls (1991)
  • "Unbelievable" by EMF (1991)
  • "My Lovin (You're Never Gonna Get It)" by En Vogue (1992)
  • "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors (1993)
  • "I Got a Man" by Positive K (1993)
  • "Loser" by Beck (1994)
  • "Wonderwall" by Oasis (1995)
  • "Waterfalls" by TLC (1995)
  • "Who Will Save Your Soul" by Jewel (1996)
  • "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind (1997)


  1. did you know that tom's diner is a/k/a the seinfeld diner (even though it's just the exterior)?

    i think "where it's at" should be on the list if "loser" is. i think "where it's at" was technically a bigger hit?

    "last dance with mary jane" by tom petty (which indiana people have a special fondness for). i would also add "runnin' down a dream".

    "low" by cracker

    "backwater" by the meat puppets

    are we just doing 80s/90s? if so, i can cheat and add "pictures of matchstick men" covered by camper van beethoven.

    am i doing this right? is my list too rock-y?

  2. I don't recognize most of these, or anyway I don't recognize the titles of most of these. That happens with me a lot, I'll hear songs on the radio or T.V. over and over, and don't ever find out the name of them (or it's years later before I do). In a few cases that's been true even for songs I've really liked.

    I do recognize "Centerfold" by J. Geils, and Prince's "When Doves Cry." "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" has to be one of the worst songs in history. Phbbftt! ;p

    Although I don't recognize the "Tom's Diner" title right offhand, in general I like Suzanne Vega's songs quite a bit. She would go in my Hip canon rather than my Pop canon.

    Likewise Sinead O'Connor. I particularly like "Nothing Compares 2 U," enough that I forgive the txtmsg-y spelling.

    WV is "excro." Just saying.

  3. Re: your earlier post on pop, I too have a strange fondness for that strangely-titled Adam Lambert song. *shame* Also, for that Avril Lavigne song. *shame* Also, WHAT is up with Katy Perry? *frustration*

    Anyhow, I'm glad to see Bananarama on the list, although "I Heard a Rumour" is my personal favourite in terms of all-round catchiness. And I do think no pop list is complete without A-ha's "Take On Me”. And Fine Young Cannibals' "She Drives Me Crazy". Or Pet Shop Boys' "What Have I Done to Deserve This". As well as “The Time of My Life” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. Or Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know".

    I'll stop here.

    -- Subashini

  4. @Matt: No, I didn't know Tom's was the Seinfeld diner.

    I need to do 1998-2010 but even now I'm missing a lot.

    Your list is very rock-leaning but there's always some cross-over. For example I should have included a Bon Jovi song. Tom Petty surely qualifies, though his songs aren't quite in the *spirit* of pop. Maybe that Traveling Wilburys song, ha!

    This list also needs something by Sublime.

    @Lyle: I never liked Tears for Fears at the time (and I still think it's one of the worst band names ever), but that song has somehow gained new meaning 10+ years later. It's great for driving w/ the windows down on a sunny day. I also remember it was used to good effect in Donnie Darko.

    @Subashini: "Take on Me"! Yes, definitely. I also need a Pat Benetar song. Like the title indicates, this list makes NO claims toward completeness.

  5. i don't know anything about the last decade, but i was thinking of pre-1980. how far back should the canon go? i'm thinking at least the 40s.

    i think donnie darko changed the way a lot of people felt about tears for fears, for the better.

  6. I was just considering my lifetime, but yeah, pop music goes back a ways. I found myself wanting to include a Beach Boys song.

  7. the funny thing is, in high school i listened to a lot more oldies than the current music. so a lot of my memories are associated with the beatles, led zeppelin, the who, pink's like i went to high school in the 70s.

  8. The stuff I listened to in HS wasn't really pop but it was fairly current. Still, I couldn't escape the stuff on the radio/MTV.

  9. some of mine: safety dance, 99 luftballoons, electric avenue, that dream academy song (what was it, about 1963, hey-na-na-na something)--O I have it: life in a northern town, you got the music in you, we built this city... I cd do this for hours.

  10. Kirsten, me too. I hit "publish," but my brain kept going.

  11. Love these pop posts. I hadn't read the Ander Monson book notes, which is great.