My AP Top 25 Songs List

When we were kids, every month I made members of my family list their AP (Audio Popularity, not Associated Press) top 25 songs. I’d then compile them based on points ranking and come up with the family’s favorite song. We did this literally every month. I was insistent.

It wasn’t always the most straightforward ranking as there was strategy involved. Just like voting by SEC coaches in the Coaches poll. I was always trying to promote Arrested Development, so I’d co-opt Math, my youngest brother, to rank Tennessee or some such song higher. In any case it’s been 10 years since the last one, but we’re all compiling our top 25’s again this year.  I doubt any song will make any two family members’ lists at this point, oh well. The winner will be a five-way tie between everyone’s #1!

My thinking on this year’s list is that I’m a lyrics guy.  So I’ll emphasize lyrics in presenting my list. Oh and also, you only get one entry, even if you’re Dylan or Cohen. I also have a top 25 covers list I made here. Rightfully, about 5 of those should appear in the top 25 here. But I leave them off.

I also don’t include here traditional songs, or blues, or musical songs, or classical, or anything except pop. If I did, 16 Tons, O Death, Le Mis’ Look Down, everything recorded by Blind Willie Johnson, and too many more would have to be considered. This list is just rap and rock, aight? It’s just easier to compare apples to apples.

After all, it’s an AP top 25: Audio POPularity, not a favorites list. It is what it is…NB I did all of these lyrics from memory so it’s possible some might be  off. But not too far off, maybe a word or two, methinks.

#25) Keep ‘em Separated, The Offspring. My family knows the insider meaning for what the special spot #25 means: guilty pleasure. I hated this band 5 years ago but now I’m a citizen of SoCal. Perhaps due to constant radio play I actually like Offspring more every day. “Tie your own rope, hey!”

#24) Walk, Pantera. Everyone knows this song. It is metal, but uses only two chords through almost the whole song–punk at heart. Plus it references evolutionary wisdom. The wisdom of the ages. I would put “Revolution is My Name” up here too but am too scared of being judged for being a closet Pantera fan. “A lesson learned in life, known from the dawn of time, Respect, walk.”

#23) The Distance, Cake. I don’t really like Cake, but this song was a high school favorite as I like running both distance and speed. Half of the lyrics are bad. But the other half are goooood. “Fuel burning fast on an empty tank”

#22) Thief, Third Day. No description needed. Not all thieves will hang beside Jesus.

#21) Goldilox, King’s X. A love song for a love that never even started. One of my best bands ever, this song wins the coin flip tie of A Box, Dogman, Pleiades, King, Human Behavior, Static, Run, and more that could all be considered my favorite. “Wishin you could be the one, but not here this way.”

#20) Rocked By Rape, Evolution Control Committee. Pure genius delivering powerful commentary using only samples. “Danger War Killer Fraud…Have a great weekend.”

#19 ) All Stripped Down, Tom Waits. The sweetest triple entendre song ever, even above Cohen’s Hallelujah. Love, Heaven, and music. And per usual Waits style, recorded live to two-track, very stripped down. Then again, Clap Hands should probably be the Waits song on this list. Or Step Right Up. Or Filipino Box Spring Hog. Or Goin’ Out West (“Ima do what I want and I’m gonna get paid”). I need to make a Tom Waits top 25.

#18) Are We Still Married?, His Name is Alive. I prefer the This Mortal Coil remix of this, their most marketed song. A perfect band, low-fi, austere, a bit disturbing. Karin’s beautiful vox also gave us Is This the Way That Tigers Do, We Hold the Land in Great Esteem, E-Nicolle and Cornfield. All twisted distortions of songs that hemorrhage beauty mixed with aching. “Crashing down romance, will this tear us in two.”

#17) Non-Zero Possibility, At the Drive-in. The first many times I listened to this band, I though the lyrics were esoteric gibberish. But then I realize it was like James Joyce—you have to try really hard, but when you understand a passage, it is like unlocking a mystery and you feel empowered and enlightened. Cedric later dedicates an entire EP, The Mars Volta’s Mute Francis, in expanding this song’s intense theme of surviving an abortion. “This hex was delivered spent…I was bitten on the entrance”

#16) Lost, Neurosis. Theatrical and indulgent. Screaming and terrifying. Primal and violent. A hard listen, and an intense one. The sound bites are incredible, not to mention the lyrics. One of the most powerful statements on death and the human condition I have ever heard recorded. “My eyes were jaded, so close to the center I could not see. But now they are fixed and glaring at the sacrifice to be made.”

#15) Rise Above, Black Flag. The greatest hardcore punk anthem. Defiant, confident, upbeat. The authenticity of 70s proto-punk with the more directed version of the message of the Sex Pistols. “We are tired of your abuse! Try and stop us, it’s no use.”

#14) Jesus is for Losers, Steve Taylor. Amazing premise for a song. Maybe the Finish Line is better. But maybe not. It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “If I was hoping, hoping respect would make a sturdy footstool, I am a fool.”

#13) The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel.  Ostensibly written about Dylan, I really related to this song as I left for the Peace Corps. “I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.”

#12) Da Mystery of Chessboxin’. Wu-Tang Clan. The song is like the group, sprawling, incoherent, and amazing.  I first heard of these guys when a Mar-Lu-Ridge bunkmate listened to only Wu Tang. A year later and they were everywhere. Together with Protect Ya Neck and Triumph, this is a royal triumvirate. “My hip hop will rock and shock the nation like the emancipation proclamation.”

11) No Shelter, Rage Against the Machine. Guerilla Radio, Sleep Now in the Fire, Freedom, and Down Rodeo all try to get across the same message but No Shelter does it best. Obscure because it’s not an album track, it points a very blunt finger at our consumer culture’s dearth of humanity.  I used to sing this on the Appalachian Trail when I was tired and thought I should have gotten to the next lean-to already–“There be no shelter here.”

#10) Get Yourself Up, KRS-ONE. I want to put at least 5 classic Kris songs on here, but I chose this newer one, not least because of its energy in a live performance. The best package I received in Peace Corps was from John Bashir who send me a bunch of burned KRS CDs. “How do you judge an MC when he’s rockin? I mean rockin it live, not pickin his cotton.”

#9) Mississippi John Hurt Beats NSFTM, No Sunlite for the Media. I’m bound by humility to not pick Triumph of the Profits. So this will do, one of many killer tracks (pun) on this album and in their entire catalog. It’s got samples and good lyrics, along with some nice Jana vox for the tri-fecta of the NSFTM trademarks.” “Lo-fi, no-fi, Dungeon, watch the real music begin.”

#8) Paradise, John Prine. A lonely, sad, perfect song, written in ‘Nam when Prine heard about his childhood wilderness in Western Kentucky being destroyed by coal mining. Spanish Pipe Dream and Angel From Montgomery are slightly less famous but equally masterpieces. “A backwoods old town that’s often remembered so many times over, my memories are worn.”

#7) Washed Away, Arrested Development. I haven’t given up promoting these guys by putting them artificially high yet. Fresh for a spell, this is one of their deeper deliveries. “Give it to the children who know how to listen, so they can pass it after I drown.”

#6) Spoonman, Soundgarden. I used to listen this to keep me up as I did my physics homework. Ridiculous drumming and spoon-clanking, and one of my favorite lyrics ever “steal the rhythm while you can.”

#5) Disarm, Smashing Pumpkins. This was my 2nd favorite song the last time I ranked my AP top 25, in 2001 (see photo of list below). I always thought it was about becoming a jerk when you get older. However I just heard it on the radio this month, and I’m completely convinced it’s an entendre for considering abortion. “Cut you like you want me to, cut that little child, a part of me and such a part of you…what I choose is my choice…The killer in me is the killer in you”

#4) Closing Time, Leonard Cohen. The most potent songwriting by the most forlorn of songwriters. Tragic and funny, simultaneously both upbeat and lonely, like a bar. “I loved you when our love was best, I love you still now there’s nothing left, I missed you since the place got wrecked by the winds of change and the weeds of sex.”

#3) Year of the Hex, Frodus. An epic final track if there ever was one, the culmination of years of dedication, idealism and defiance. “There is no final word, as long as you breathe. There is no final verse, as long as you live.”

#2) It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Bob Dylan. Perhaps even better lyrics than Desolation Row and Hard Rain, it’s also more whimsical and perfectly placed on my favorite Dylan album. “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

#1) Ohio, Crosby Stills Nash and Young. When you write about a political event, record it and get it on the airwaves within a week of the event, you’re using music in the most powerful way. It’s recorded live, hardly any lyrics but a clear message, and Neil Young beaks down and cries at the end. Raw. This song is in my opinion the most important song in American Music History. “How can you run when you know?”

And for posterity, the excessively long list of honorable mentions. Some ones near the top actually were probably closer to making the list, but it’s not really in order. Still I only allow one song per artist to keep it at least not insanely long…

#26) Schism, Tool. “I watched them tumble down.”

Will the Circle be Unbroken, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. “But I could not hide my sorrow, when they laid her in the grave.”

In my Eyes, Minor Threat. “You tell me that I make no difference, at least I’m f***in trying—what the f*** have you done?”

Blue Ridge mountains, Fleet Foxes. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. I love you, I love you, older brother of mine”

Liberation Frequency, Refused. “We don’t just want air time, we want all the time, all of the time”

Brokedown Palace, Grateful Dead “going home, by the water’s edge I will rest my bones”

Our Mother the Mountain, Townes Van Zandt. “Love not a woman with hair black as midnight, and a dress made of satin, all shimmering blue.”

King of Rock, RUN DMC. “Other rappers can’t stand us, but give us respect!”

Guitar and Video Games, Sunny Day Real Estate. “What if we refuse to follow the rules of fashion?”

Love Song 58, Dime Store Prophets. “Someday I’ll be strong enough to say, I once needed to be loved.”

Squirrel Song, Shellac. “This isn’t a metaphor.”

Losing my Religion, REM. “Life is bigger…bigger than you, and you are not me.”

Saturn Return, REM “You’ve found the ladder in the pattern of your wrist.” [Yes, two REM songs. They have a lotta albums, sorry. It won’t happen again.]

Ring True, Poor Old Lu. “What is this, thru strange and bad, it does not touch this joy I have.”

For Heaven’s Sake, 16 Horsepower,  “I’ve been to your house and I seen what you adore…where could I go, but to the Lord?”

Devil Went down to Georgia, Charlie Daniels Band. “I’m the best there’s ever been.”

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town, Pearl Jam “Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away.”

Fight the Power, Public Enemy. “Fight the powers that be.“

The River, Bruce Springsteen “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse.”

F*** the Police, NWA.  “Comin’ straight from the underground.”

Hunger Strike, Temple of the Dog. “I don’t mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence.”

Give it Away, Red Hot Chili Peppers. “I can’t tell if I’m a kingpin or a pauper.”

Lost the Plot, Newsboys. “Why’re you still calling, you forgave, we forgot”

Star Spangled Banner, Hendrix. All-American.

Scenario, A Tribe Called Quest. “…the chocolate chicken”

Tiger Woods, Dan Bern. “Even though my balls are big, sometimes I wish they were bigger.”

Acquiesce, Stavesacre. “wandering the streets, in need of release from what I have become.”

Salamander, The Choir. “Rest your belly on a sunny rock.”

Dive, Nirvana. “Pick me pick me yeah…Dive in me”

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott Heron. “There will be no re-run brothers. The revolution will be live.”

Judas Kiss, Petra. “And I wonder how it makes you feel when the prodigal won’t come home.”

Gasoline Dreams, Outkast. “It seems that mother nature now on birth control”

Jolene, Dolly Parton “I could easily understand how you could easily take my man”

Would You Die For Me?, Bride. “What’s more important, your money or your life?”

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, Killah Priest “too much knowledge, it might break up the rhyme, I did it anyway just to wake up the mind”

Get Born Again, Alice in Chains. “Get born again, just repeat a couple lies.”

Hands in the Air, The Waiting. I lift my hands in surrender today.”

Oh the Wind and Rain, Helium. “This girl knows where she wants to go– over the river in a little white boat”

Language Arts, The Arsonists. “You must learn to accept defeat.”

Tones of Home, Blind Melon. “So if you don’t like the way I’m living…I’m flying home”

Everybody Else, The Kinks. “I don’t wanna live my life like everybody else.”

Frail, Jars of Clay. “If I were not so weak, if I were not so cold…I would be frail.”

Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes. “Make the sweat drop from every pore.”

Ball and Chain, Social D. “I’m sick and I’m tired, and I can’t take any more pain.”

Free Bird, Lynard Skynard. “And this bird you cannot chain”

Dance to the Beat, Wacko-Hed. “I said, I don’t care what you think.”

Idioteque, Radiohead. “Here I’m alive, everything all of the time.”

World Without End, Five Iron Frenzy. “In the soundless awe and wonder, words fall short to hope again.”

The Good Left Undone, Rise Against. “Returned the flower to the Earth, so it could live I walked away now.”

Rabbit Run, Eminem. “If I have to scream till I have half a lung, if I have half a chance I would grab it”

Resurrection, Common. (Large Prof remix) “Ima get this one out for the south side, the west side, Chicago.”

Where the River Goes, STP. “I wanna be as big as a mountain”

Surfwax America, Weezer. “You take your car to work, I’ll take my board.”

Rap Degreez, Zion I. “Populate the planet with rhymes galore.”

God’s Gonna Cut you Down, Johnny Cash. “You can run on for a long time.”

Runaway Train, Soul Asylum.  “Wrong way on a one way track.”

Body Count, Ice-T and Body Count. “What’s a brother gotta do to get a message through to the Red White, and You?”

Fire on the Mountain, Marshall Tucker Band. “All for the use of some no good worthless claim.”

Blind, Korn. “ I can see I’m going blind.”

Gimme the Loot, Biggie Smalls. “I’m a bad man”

Sorrow, Bad Religion. “There will be sorrow, no more”

Liquid Swords, GZA. “Lyrics are weak, like clock radio speakers”

Hate the Police, The Dicks. “I had a bad day.”

Ball and Chain, Janis Joplin. “And I said woahhhh, oho oh, ohhhhh…”

Intergalactic, Beastie Boys. “I run the marathon to the very last mile.”

No Handle Bars, Flobots. “And I can split the atoms of a molecule.”

Bloodbuzz Ohio, The National. “Never thought about love, [the way I] thought about home.”

Goliath, The Mars Volta. “Never heard a man speak like this man before.”

Hits of Sunshine, Sonic Youth. “Her lush eyes showed surprise of how we could gather knowledge.”

My Own Prison, Creed. “Demons cluttering around, my face showing no emotion.”

Paranoid, Black Sabbath. “Finished with my woman cuz she couldn’t help me with my mind.”

What the Water Gave Me, Florence and the Machine. “Lay me down, Let the only sound be the overflow.”

Lightning Crashes, Live. “I can feel it coming back again.”

Kerosene, Big Black. “Set me on fire!”

Poison, Prodigy. “I got the post-symptom rhythmical remedy”

PK, Johnny Q Public. “It’s like the pictures that I draw of dinosaurs. They remind me of the man who prays for the needy in our church. In other words, I’m not a good artist.”

Methamphetamine Blues, Mark Lanegan. “Rollin just to keep on rollin.”

Dead Flag Blues, Godspeed you Black Emperor! “I open up my wallet, and it’s filled with blood.”

If you made it this far, many thanks for reading. Hopefully your interest in one or two songs is piqued and you’ll check ‘em out on YouTube. For double posterity, here’s the 2001 list:


About zoomloco

I zoom-zoom loco like the pony express.
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One Response to My AP Top 25 Songs List

  1. Hmm…. I’m now wondering what would make my list of 25…

    The problem, of course, is that so much is dependent upon experience. I liked Stone Temple Pilots until I saw them in college: they were opening of Megadeth, and quite obviously thought they were too good to be playing in a glorified gym in southern WV; Megadeth, on the other hand, LOVED the smaller venue and put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, reveling in the intensity of the crowd (I loved Megadeth before the show–I loved them even MORE after that.)

    And mediocre songs can become favorites from experiences unrelated to the music–Blind Melon’s ‘No Rain’ reminds me viscerally of sitting around between classes with friends from college laughing over who knows what, so it makes me happy, despite the fact that at the time I didn’t much care for it.

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