NME’s 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time

By Michael Nelson / February 7, 2014 - 4:45 pm

Last October, NME published its list of “The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time” — of ALL TIME — which, they promised, would be their last word on that particular subject (verbatim: “final, definitive, definitely last of its kind, never to be repeated”). It’s been a little under four months, but this week, the mag has published a companion to that list: The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. (Note: While this is the “definitive countdown,” there is none of that “definitely last of its kind” language here). What kind of methodology do you employ to make such judgments? How do you evaluate the history of recorded music (and, I guess, music that predates recording technology)? Are you going for cultural influence? Melody? Lyrics? Composition? So many factors to consider. Probably no way to really make a statement like this and achieve any sort of consensus. One thing we can all agree on, though: Any list that has the Arctic Monkeys’ “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” ranked as the seventh best song ever produced by humankind probably needs to reconsider its usage of the word “definitive.”

Look, these things are obviously always arbitrary but even allowing for huge voting anomalies and straight-up trolling, there are some seriously questionable decisions to be found on this list. Is the Strokes’ “Last Nite” really better than the entire Beatles’ catalog? Would Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” have been ranked the third best song of all time by NME in 2014 if Daft Punk had not released a song called “Giorgio By Moroder” in 2013? If you’re going to rank the Libertines’ “Time For Heroes” at 28 and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” at 46, why bother listing “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” at all? Doesn’t it just seem patronizing? Why is Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” the 89th best song of all time? Shouldn’t it be Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”? Is Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games” really better than any version of “Hallelujah”?

So many questions. Check out the NME list from 100 – 1 below, and let me know in the comments if you have any answers.

100. The Stone Roses – “I Am The Resurrection”
99. Queens Of The Stone Age – “No One Knows”
98. Rage Against The Machine – “Killing In The Name”
97. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message”
96. The Libertines – “What A Waster”
95. Public Enemy – “Fight The Power”
94. The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”
93. Kanye West – “Gold Digger”
92. Britney Spears – “Toxic”
91. LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”
90. MGMT – “Time To Pretend”
89. Jeff Buckley – “Hallelujiah”
88. Eminem – “Lose Yourself”
87. Lana Del Ray – “Video Games”
86. Missy Elliot – “Get Ur Freak On”
85. Morrissey – “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
84. Sex Pistols – “Anarchy In The UK”
83. The Clash – “Complete Control”
82. Beyoncé – “Crazy In Love”
81. Jay Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris”
80. The Beatles – “Taxman”
79. The White Stripes – “Fell In Love With A Girl”
78. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Into My Arms”
77. The Beatles – “Hey Jude”
76. Kate Bush –  “Wuthering Heights”
75. The Streets – “Dry Your Eyes”
74. Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out”
73. PJ Harvey – “Sheela-Na-Gig”
72. The Velvet Underground – “Venus In Furs”
71. Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)
70. The Who – “My Generation”
69. The Clash – “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”
68. The Beatles – “Blackbird”
67. Oasis – “Cigarrettes & Alcohol”
66. N.W.A. – “Straight Outta Compton”
65. Ben E. King – “Stand By Me”
64. The Smiths – “This Charming Man”
63. Massive Attack – “Unfinished Sympathy”
62. David Bowie – “Young Americans”
61. New Order – “True Faith”
60. Pulp – “Babies”
59. Primal Scream – “Loaded”
58. Elvis Presley – “Suspicious Minds”
57. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean”
56. Beastie Boys – “Sabotage”
55. Kraftwerk – “The Model”
54. Bruce Springsteen – “Born To Run”
53. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”
52. Daft Punk – “One More Time”
51. David Bowie – “Ashes To Ashes”
50. Lou Reed – “Walk On The Wild Side”
49. Bob Dylan – “Like A Rolling Stone”
48. The Cure – “Boys Don’t Cry”
47. Madonna – “Like A Prayer”
46. Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”
45. Radiohead – “Paranoid Android”
44. Pixies – “Debaser”
43. Manic Street Preachers – “A Design For Life”
42. Blur – “The Universal”
41. Amy Winehouse – “Back To Black”
40. Jay Z – “99 Problems”
39. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
38. Sinead O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
37. Ike And Tina Turner – “River Deep – Mountain High”
36. Oasis – “Wonderwall”
35. The Beatles – “Strawberry Fields Forever”
34. David Bowie – “Life On Mars”
33. Suede – “Animal Nitrate”
32. The Clash – “London Calling”
31. The Stone Roses – “Fools Gold”
30. Talking Heads – “Once In A Lifetime”
29. The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter”
28. The Libertines – “Time For Heroes”
27. Sex Pistols – “God Save The Queen”
26. LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge”
25. Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”
24. Bob Dylan – “Hurricane”
23. The Kinks – “Waterloo Sunset”
22. The La’s – “There She Goes”
21. The Specials – “Ghost Town”
20. Blur – “Girls & Boys”
19. Blondie – “Heart Of Glass”
18. OutKast – “Hey Ya!”
17. The Beatles – “A Day In The Life”
16. The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”
15. David Bowie – “Heroes”
14. The Beach Boys – “God Only Knows”
13. Oasis – “Live Forever”
12. The Smiths – “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
11. The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”
10. The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”
9. The Ronettes – “Be My Baby”
8. New Order – “Blue Monday”
7. Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor”
6. Pulp – “Common People”
5. The Strokes – “Last Nite”
4. The Smiths – “How Soon Is Now?”
3. Donna Summer – “I Feel Love”
2. Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
1. Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”