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The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

To introduce the following list in Q's own words:

"The premise is a fiendishly simple one: poll 50 songwriters of no little repute to determine history's finest examples of the art form. From the classic protest song to the ultimate junkie anthem, these are the results".

And then the list itself:

1. Jeff Buckley - "Hallelujah"
2. The Beatles - "Strawberry Fields Forever"
3. David Bowie - "Life On Mars?"
4. The Rolling Stones - "Sympathy For The Devil"
5. Billie Holiday - "Strange Fruit"
6. The Verve - "Bitter Sweet Symphony"
7. Bruce Springsteen - "Born To Run"
8. The Beach Boys - "God Only Knows"
9. Bob Dylan - "Blowin' In The Wind"
10. Lou Reed - "Perfect Day"

This list appeared in the latest issue (Q 255), and I, for one, think it's pretty sweet. So, can this be used for the site at all?

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Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Of course it can be included. But did Q really poll 50 songwriters to make a list of only 10 songs?

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Not to get overly pedantic or anything (a trait I hate in other people), but if they polled songwriters then I would have assumed their intent was to compile a list of the most perfectly written songs, not greatest performances. That makes it seem a little odd that they would choose Buckley's version of hallelujah, and not give credit to Leonard Cohen.

It's a reasonable list, certainly, though Life on Mars and the verve get a raised eyebrow from me, and Hallelujah is a left-field choice, I'd say...I've always had a problem with Buckley's version, though. He's a touch too hysterical vocally for my tastes.

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Yeah, that's really strange that a poll of songwriters made a live cover the #1 ranking. Granted it is probably the best version of the song in terms of telling the story but it just is goofy that in a songwriters poll they wouldn't give the credit to the songwriter.

Also, does good songwriting always have to come in the form of a slow ballad or is it just that more people were able to understand what was being said? There aren't any rap songs? Come on now.

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Sympathy For The Devil????????

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Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Of course it can be included. But did Q really poll 50 songwriters to make a list of only 10 songs?

Yes, they did.

The voters were:

Simon Aldred
Richard Archer
Devandra Banhart
Matt Bellamy
James Blunt
Tim Booth
James Dean Bradfield
Tim Burgees
John Cale
Tom Clarke
Chris Cornell
Pete Doherty
Phil Etheridge
Brian Eno
David Gillepsia-Sells
Damon Gough
Calvin Harris
Fran Healy
Peter Hook
Kelly Jones
Beverly Knight
John Legend
Adam Levine
Gary Lightbody
John Lydon
Chris Martin
Katie Melua
Mika
James Morrison
Kate Nash
Grant Nicholas
Paulo Nutini
Conor Oberst
Jack Penate
Lee "Scratch" Perry
Joel Pott
Serge Pizzorno
Tim Rice-Oxley
James Skelly
Slash
Tom Smith
Michael Stipe
Romeo Stodart
Joss Stone
Patrick Stump
KT Tunstall
Rufus Wainwright
Will.I.Am
Nicky Wire
Ronnie Wood

And yes, they chose Buckley's version of "Hallelujah" over the Leonard Cohen original. As would any rational human being. Am I really the only one here who reads Q? I've never seen anyone's contributions here regarded so cynically before.

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Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

I read it all the time in college when I had student loans to pay the 9 dollar cover price it costs to buy it in America. Now that I am trying to pay those student loans I can not afford that cover price...

But, I did kind of grow sick of the magazine as well. They've hyped the same tired music for the last 10 years. Anybody who was in a famous British band will get good reviews from them and any band that sounds like The Verve will be in high regard. They seem to be all about American mainstream hip-hop as well. It's definitely the British Rolling Stone.

I don't think anyone was criticizing because it was Q's list though. As good as Jeff Buckley's version might be, it was a poll of songwriters and they chose the cover. We were merely commenting on how odd that was. For me, the exclusion of any rap and the inclusion of any Rolling Stones song makes me question if these voters really did their homework.

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Rap song is an oxymoron. That's not a dig - I've got a healthy rap collection, and love my fair share of it - but I think a "song" is generally considered to be something a bit more melodic. Something that is sung, I would have thought. And the poll was perfect songs - not tracks, or cuts, or joints - or whatever terminology you favour.

And The Rolling Stones have won four of the five rounds of bracketology they've been involved in round here, so I don't know if it's a case of Michael Stipe et al needing to do their 'homework'.

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Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

I'm sure many Benny Goodman fans said the same thing. That's an absurd statement.

The Stones aren't winning on their songwriting talents.

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

They're not?

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Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

At least lyrically. "Genius writing" doesn't come to mind when I hear any Stones song. They were definitely cream of the crop when it came to other aspects of rock and roll, but lyrically they were middle of the road.

I guess what I should have said was nobody is voting for the Stones because of their lyrics. I shouldn't speak for anybody else so I probably shouldn't have said it all. But, do you guys really think the Stones can be lauded as great lyricists?

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Are the Stones great lyricists? Well, of course they're not Dylan or Lennon or Cohen or Strummer or whichever poet wrote "Strange Fruit," but then who is?

But, we're talking about SONGS here, not the Norton Anthology of Modern Verse. A great song does not have to have great lyrics, or, if I wanted to push the point, any lyrics at all (although that gets into a semantic debate I don't much feel like having).

As for the absence of any rap songs (not an oxymoron, imo), the problem is that the list is too small to mean very much, as Henrik obliquely noted. Here's a handy comparison: ever noticed that the AM top 10 has no rap, no Beatles, no Elvis, and no songs from the last 16 years? Doesn't make it a bad list, it just shows that ten songs isn't a large enough scope. I think the Q list is fairly sound, actually, but, crikey, would I like to know what #11-20 were.

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

But usually when songwriting is being judged lyrics are #1 right? Although, looking at some of those voters I can see the list being a little off. Slash? Really? I love G+R but I don't think Slash has any business judging songwriting.

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

Bittersweet Symphony - Ashcroft only did half the job - the Stones got songwriting credits...

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Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

I don't think lyrics are the most important thing, no.

A couple of months ago, nicolas started a long, involved thread on the subject of what the criteria are for a good song. It was fascinating, and it helped me to crystallize my thinking about what makes for a good song--my belief is that you have to judge a song on its own merits. SOMETIMES, the lyrics are extremely important ("All Along the Watchtower," "I Am the Walrus," "Loser"). Sometimes, they're not ("Be My Baby," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Take the 'A' Train"). Whatever makes a song moving and effective, whether it's the lyrics, the tune, the instrumentation, the performance, or whatever, is what you've gotta judge it by.

In my book, by any reasonable measure, Jagger & Richards were outstanding songwriters (they're in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, fwiw).

Re: The 10 Most Perfect Song Ever. (As Told By Q)

I guess this poll is "The perfect song" so I can buy that. I initially went in thinking, since they were polling songwriters, that it was judging songs on the songwriting itself. But, looking at most of the choices it seems like most of the voters were going on lyrical content and Sympathy For the Devil and Hallelujah (because it is a cover) seem really misplaced considering the rest of the list.

Songwriting is totally different than performing a good song. There a lot of songs that are brilliant but were performed by artists that couldn't live up to the songs themselves. Daniel Johnston comes to mind and there are plenty of great songs that we have never heard because they just couldn't perform their song well. The Stones are at the other end. They had songs that if performed by any other band the same songs probably wouldn't be considered essential. But, the fact that Stones were brilliant performers and great musicians makes the songs great. They just shouldn't be considered master songwriters. Just like Be My Baby shouldn't be considered a landmark in songwriting. The performance and arrangement is what makes it the awesome song it is. Songwriting has nothing to do with it because another band and producer might have made it an afterthought in music history.