The analysis of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list continues with highlighting the worst inclusions. To clarify, these 50 songs are not all terrible and I can enjoy most of these on their own, but if we’re talking 500 ALL TIME, they just shouldn’t be included. They range from recent popular tracks that don’t feel all that essential to dull ’70s soft rock to outright strange inclusions that I still can’t really explain why they made it. I ranked them from 50 to 1 in terms of how much I hated seeing it on the list with 1 being the worst; it’s mostly arbitrary.
50. Fugees – “Killing Me Softly With His Song”
They included Roberta Flack’s version higher, so this pick just felt unnecessary. The Fugees have some more interesting songs to choose from as well.
49. T. Rex – “Cosmic Dancer”
I love T. Rex and the album this comes off of, but this song isn’t really the reason why. T. Rex has many better songs.
48. Steel Pulse – “Ku Klux Klan”
File this under “??” I like it, but if we’re talking reggae, there are many better options.
47. Martha Reeves & the Vandellas – “Dancing in the Street”
Of all the beloved Motown hits, this one has never clicked for me.
46. Rush – “Limelight”
I’m not incredibly knowledgable of Rush’s other work, but this rock radio staple has never excited me.
45. Radiohead – “Creep”
Just because it’s Radiohead doesn’t mean it’s great. They lyrics are dogshit, and the CHUH-CHUH guitar note is the only saving grace.
44. Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive”
Such a tacky song — Gaynor does a great job bringing any sort of life to this bland disco beat.
43. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – “Bad Reputation”
This is a one-note song that gets tiresome before it even ends and it doesn’t reach the 3-minute mark.
42. Oasis – “Wonderwall”
I’ve never understood what made this Oasis song click more than the others released at the time; it’s too mellow for my taste.
41. New York Dolls – “Personality Crisis”
For all the punk rock bands they’re compared to, the New York Dolls just don’t measure up. This just sounds like standard blues rock that’s spiced up a little.
40. Simon & Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
The piano, the chorus, Garfunkel’s voice — it’s all a bit much.
39. George Jones – “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
This is where the classic Nashville sound goes astray into sappy storytelling.
38. Led Zeppelin – “Stairway to Heaven”
I like my Led Zeppelin to immediately hit hard & heavy, and “Stairway to Heaven” takes its sweet time getting there.
37. Billy Joel – “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”
I almost enjoy this strange non-single pick to represent Billy Joel, but it never feels like it belongs on a list like this.
36. Croby, Stills & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”
Like a lot of American soft rock that followed in the Byrds’ footsteps, this song’s instrumentation and vocals feel too drowsy to lift off.
35. The Byrds – “Mr. Tambourine Man”
Never understood the fascination with this cover; they took a great song and made it a boring folk staple.
34. Lizzo – “Truth Hurts”
Is this song fun? Yes. Do I know every word? Yes. Does it feel like a classic? Not really.
33. The Doors – “Light My Fire”
I think this song is the main reason I downplay how good the Doors really are; the keyboard solo is excessive.
32. Metallica – “Enter Sandman”
The intro gets people fired up, but the song just goes through the motions of standard boring metal afterwards.
31. John Lee Hooker – “Boom Boom”
I respect whatever influence Hooker has had on music, but this type of blues music does nothing for me.
30. James Taylor – “Fire and Rain”
Are we really still into James Taylor in 2021?
29. Cat Stevens – “Father and Son”
[See above and insert Cat Stevens]
28. Carly Simon – “You’re So Vain”
I just don’t think people enjoy this song beyond wondering who it’s about.
27. Lil Nas X – “Old Town Road”
This is practically an enjoyable novelty song. It gets tiresome after a while.
26. Selena – “Amor Prohibido”
I find Selena’s music dated and mostly lackluster.
25. Little Richard – “Tutti Frutti”
I admire Little Richard’s entire style, but I’m not going to pretend like I really listen to him or get excited by it.
24. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – “I Put a Spell on You”
The vocals are outstanding but entirely ridiculous.
23. KISS – “Rock and Roll All Nite”
There’s absolutely nothing special about KISS except for their makeup and attire.
22. Alice Cooper – “School’s Out”
[See above but insert Alice Cooper]
21. Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer”
’80s rock at its most unbearably sentimental and over-produced.
20. Eric Church – “Springsteen”
It’s good for modern country, but how did this get in before “Folsom Prison Blues,” “The Long Black Veil” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky”?
19. Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Under the Bridge”
There would be no place for RHCP on my list, but “Under the Bridge” is an especially egregious pick with Kiedis’ nauseating vocals and lyrics.
18. Fountains of Wayne – “Radiation Vibe”
This is a perfectly fine song, but looking at what didn’t make this list, I just get confused.
17. Bonnie Raitt – “I Can’t Make You Love Me”
Pop music got really melodramatic in the early ’90s and this is one of the most offensive examples.
16. Paul Simon – “American Tune”
This might be the most perplexing inclusion of the entire list. It’s a good Paul Simon song, but out of all to choose from just on Graceland, this pick just baffles me.
15. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Proud Mary”
If this is CCR’s best song, I’ve been living under a fucking rock apparently. Fogerty’s vocals are weird here.
14. AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long”
I’ve never felt like the Back in Black era of AC/DC was their best, and this sleazy song is the main reason why.
13. DMX – “Party Up”
DMX’s comically rough voice has always been goofy to me, and “Party Up” really accentuates that grating quality to me.
12. Them – “Gloria”
The moment Patti Smith covered this song and started with “Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine,” the original version was rendered useless.
11. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
I love Donald Glover but can’t stand Childish Gambino. “Redbone” never lifts off and the drowned-out vocals don’t help at all.
10. Chuck Berry – “Promised Land”
Who the hell voted for ’60s Chuck Berry to be on this list? More confused than anything about this inclusion.
9. Cher – “Believe”
What this list has made me realize are that some songs I’ve always looked at as jokes are actually beloved and people will vote for them as the greatest of all time. They might as well put “What Is Love” here if they want cheesy club music.
8. Jerry Lee Lewis – “Great Balls of Fire”
I don’t get Jerry Lee Lewis at all. I don’t care that the Beatles loved him.
7. Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”
I didn’t call Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” the most offensive example of melodramatic ’90s pop ballads because of this one. Yeah, she sings the hell out of it, but am I made to care or empathize with how she feels, lyrically or musically? In my opinion, no.
6. Journey – “Don’t Stop Believen'”
If I’m in a crowd of people that starts singing this, I’m getting the fuck out of there.
5. Rick James – “Super Freak”
On “Give It to Me Baby”, Rick James’ excessively cartoonish persona is emboldened by a clever multi-layered funky beat that you’ll never be tired of. None of that happens on “Super Freak” and James just sounds like a joke throughout.
4. Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars) – “Uptown Funk”
How many listens did it take for you to tire of this whole affair? I was good by the second listen. It’s music that I recognize as fun rather than inspiring me to have fun.
3. John Lennon – “Imagine”
Lennon’s solo work is so much more exciting than this song. He sings it beautifully, but this is a middle school poem with lazy instrumentation.
2. BTS – “Dynamite”
I have no problem with Rolling Stone including a song as recent as last year and calling it a classic, but you have to be really selective. Nothing about BTS screams like they need to be honored exactly one spot in front of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”. “Dynamite”‘s a fine song, but it’s infuriating to watch entire swaths of music being left behind on this list for a catchy 3-minute pop song from an artist that hasn’t come close to making anything great.
1. TOTO – “Africa”
Don’t get me fucking started. It’s one of the worst vocal performances ever shared with the world. The keyboard and drums are chintzy as fuck and never in an endearing way. The lyrics make no fucking sense. The song’s on a whole White Savior trip trying to express help and love for a whole damn continent. CBS fucking played the song when covering Nelson Mandela’s funeral. It has a billion streams on Spotify. It’s an atrocious song that has no place to be praised by any respectable music critic. Burn the whole list down.