NME's 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time

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”

Comments (97)
  1. carson  |   Posted on Feb 7th +23

    hahahahahahhahahahahahahahaha. Oh shit. hahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    • Posting under this comment intentionally just so people will read mine:

      THIS IS LITERALLY THE WORST LIST THAT HAS EVER BEEN COMPILED.

      Get cheesed, NME.

      Opossum out.

  2. Oh NME, you so silly.

  3. only number 7?

  4. Load up on guns.

  5. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  6. Where to start?

    • How about with “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” being a better song then anything by David Bowie, The Beach Boys or The Beatles?

    • Or, start here – make a list of every song that’s great that’s not on this list. I don’t know, let’s choose, say, Heart-Shaped Box. Just cos. Or something by Hendrix. Or anything by the ROLLING STONES. And then think, Toxic is better THAN ALL OF THEM.

    • Or start here – make a list of every song that’s great that isn’t on this list. I don’t know, take, say Heart-Shaped Box. Just cos. Or, the 1812 Overture. The definition is ‘tracks’ so classical music is ok. Maybe anything by Hendrix or the ROLLING STONES. Hey, Blue Train is pretty good.
      So take that list and then think, Toxic is better than ALL OF THEM.
      Then despair at NME.

  7. You know, I’m actually pretty ok with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” as #2. But god damn, this list…..

    • And only 3 Smiths songs seems surprising seeing as how their Top 100 albums list probably had more Smiths albums than that

    • Yeah FWIW 1 – 4 are actually legitimately worthy of those spots IMO (to the extent my opinion means anything). I would have gone with “There Is A Light” rather than “How Soon Is Now” but both are great songs. I shoulda said that up top amid all my gentle ribbing of what they got wrong.

    • Auto  |   Posted on Feb 9th +1

      It isn’t the worst choice, but I would say ‘Atmosphere’ or ‘Disorder’ are better Joy Division songs.

  8. Eh, whatever. These lists are so stupid. I never get angry about these. People are entitled to their own opinions. I mean, so what they ignored anything made post-2005? Maybe NME gave up on music once MUSE released “Black Holes.” So, they put “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as… number one? Hm, well that song did sorta define a whole generation. So what? So they put “Seven Nation Army” ahead of “A Day in the Life” that’s… ok, I mean, I’m sure they had a perfectly good reason. Oh, I see they included Lana Del R… wait, what? Lana Del fucking Ray? In the Top 100 songs OF ALL TIME?! No way. No… ah…. I can’t even… Lana Del Ray? Video Games > oh, I don’t know… say…. What A Wonderful World? Video Games > Alex Chilton? I DON’T BLOODY THINK SO NME!

    • Oh, and I realize that they didn’t ignore everything post-2005 being that they included Lana Del Fucking Ray…. gosh! How is that?! Video Games > Get Lucky?!! Ok I’m done. [breathes heavily into brown paper bag]

  9. If NME really wanted to spark some controversy with this stupid list they should of just had Prince write 92 pages in crayon on why Batdance is the greatest song of all time.

  10. Yep – sounds about right

  11. Funny, I was just having an in depth conversation with a friend about how the best thing the Libertines ever did was far superior to anything The Rolling Stones ever did…

    SAID NO ONE, EVER.

    • *scans list* Arctic Monkeys, Libertines….
      Poor Kasabian. I guess NME’s love affair with them is over.

  12. Lists are silly, but since you mentioned it, k.d. lang’s cover of ‘Hallelujah’ is transcendent.

    • Man, the kid with the dreadlocks on American Idol 10 years ago did a transcendent version of “Hallelujah.” That song is built for transcendence! For which Leonard Cohen (not Jeff Buckley) deserves credit! And I like Jeff Buckley!

      • Yeah, I like Jeff Buckley too, but his version is a cover of a John Cale arrangement (and slight lyrical re-working) of a Leonard Cohen song. At a certain point, how many degrees of removal is too much? How could they forget John Eliot Gardiner’s “Agnus Dei” from Bach’s Mass in B minor.

        Oh, and if they were going to include a Cohen song, it should have been “Famous Blue Raincoat.”

  13. I can’t believe that actual human beings agreed upon this and then decided it was worth publishing. In fact, I don’t believe anyone actually works for NME. I’m sure that in a dark room somewhere in England there’s a supercomputer that generates random NME lists. Clearly, the “assess quality of Arctic Monkeys” function is a bit off, but that’s the least of its problems.

  14. vill  |   Posted on Feb 7th +2

    cmon, its NME, lets not act surprised here

  15. Sure, why not.

  16. What an utterly futile undertaking.

    That said, I like most of these songs. Could be worse.

  17. Here we are now, entertain us………. Yeah!

  18. Strokes at #5? Hilarious.

  19. This was already covered in an episode of It’s Always Sunny. The greatest song of all time is Tubthumping by Chumbawumba. Case closed.

  20. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  21. NME is the Michelle Bachman of music journalism.

  22. Great list.

  23. Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit as #1. Didn’t see that coming <_<

  24. Where’s (etc, etc, etc)???

  25. Do you guys remember when hip-hop, electronic, and metal all happened? That shit was dope.

  26. The LA’s at #22, that’s what you get when NME is trolling you.

    • Hehe, yeah, especially considering it’s place there right ahead of ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Well-earned, for sure!

  27. drgonzo  |   Posted on Feb 7th +11

    If I had a nickel for every time I threw my computer out a window in a rage over an NME list, I’d have five bees. “Give me five bees for a quarter”, you’d say.
    Now where were we? Oh yeah, the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…

    • Three wars back we called Sauerkraut “liberty cabbage” and we called liberty cabbage “super slaw” and back then a suitcase was known as a “Swedish lunchbox.” Of course, nobody knew that but me. Anyway, long story short… is a phrase whose origins are complicated and rambling.

  28. HA!

    IT’S WRONG YOU GUYS!

    LOL

  29. NME needs a good punch in the back of the head lenny style.

  30. Load page -> ctrl+f -> “Radiohead”: “1 of 1″
    Well, I guess I’ll be taking my leave then.

  31. Was there really any demand at all for a list of the 500 greatest songs? I suppose no one asked for a ’500 best albums’ list either.

  32. #1 – Be My Baby. Why pussyfoot around it and put it at 9 … it really is the best song ever written.

  33. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  34. Must be great having “Hey Ya” to listen to, without having to bother with those other pesky Outkast HIPHOP songs.

    And “Girls & Boys” isn’t even the best Blur song.

    At least the Bluetones aren’t in there…

    Or are they?

  35. Yo these motherfuckers really think Toxic by Britney goddamn Spears is one of the 100 best songs ever created.

  36. FUCKING LANA DEL RAY IS BETTER THAN A KILLING IN THE NAME OF

    KILLING… IN THE FUCKING NAME OF

  37. So much could’ve been solved with the addition of “in no particular order.”

  38. “99 problems is the best rap song of all time.” -NME

  39. I wonder if the world of literature has this problem? Are there lists out there with Dan Brown ranking above Dostoevsky, and people are getting paid to publish them?

    • More like better than Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare combined. The market has spoken!

    • On a reputable list, the books aren’t even ranked. It’s just a compilation of the “100 greatest novels” or something similar. TIME has done it a few times.

    • They do. In 1998, the Modern Library trolled the entire literary community with an embarrassing 100 Best Novels list from which women and non-English speaking foreigners were conspicuously absent. Have a look:

      http://www.modernlibrary.com/top-100/100-best-novels/

      The Reader’s List was even worse. Ayn Rand had four novels in the top ten (including #1 and #2), and L. Ron Hubbard had three.

      • a) Women writers are very under-represented on that list, but hardly absent.

        b) The list was for the best 100 best novels originally published in the English language in the 20th century. So the whole lack of non-English speakers was less a function of narrow-mindedness than a function of ability to understand instructions. Might as well complain about them leaving off Tolstoy.

        c) Say what you will about the utility of ranking things, but that list is hardly an embarrassment (the public list – yes, but people are fucking idiots). Sure, there are some omissions that I would like to see on there. But there really is nothing really close to saying the Arctic Monkeys wrote one of the best 10 songs of all time.

  40. These lists are just stupid. Everyone should stop making them.

  41. The list is a big joke and nobody is laughing,hahahahahahaha.

  42. Auto  |   Posted on Feb 9th +2

    Apparently there is a person who thinks the Libertines wrote a better song than Talking Heads (and, whilst we’re on the Heads, left ‘This Must Be the Place’ of a list of the best songs).

  43. danbe  |   Posted on Feb 9th +4

    “Top 500 Greatest Songs We’ve Spent the Last 40 Years Directly Promoting and Profiting From of All Time”

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