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Friday, 20 April 2012

When making these music lists, it's important to set the ground rules.  Too many times I've seen magazines just launch rabidly into their stupid lists with not so much as a sentence of explanation.  So, let me clarify what I'm looking for in a pop song that would qualify it as "perfectt".

1. Accessibility

This is not a list of the greatest songs of all time; this is pop music, which means they are easily digestible to your average listeners. We're talkin' McNuggets here, not foie gras  For instance, Procol Harum's "Salty Dog" is a masterpiece, but not even close to the strict definition of a POP song.

I can hear it now "Why isn't 'Strawberry Fields' on the list? Are you some kind of retard?" Keep in mind: I'm looking for music that is simply easy and pleasurable to listen to, which has nothing to do with artistic depth.

2. The Right Ingredients

The perfect pop song is nothing more than a joyful auditory nugget.  It doesn't need to be "bubblegum", but it can't meander or get carried away either.  "Hey Jude" and "My Sweet Lord" may be pinnacles in the history of popular music, but they're hardly tightly constructed with their long symphonic stretches. And Dylan had some historic lyrics, but these ingredients for a pop gem just aren't there:
A. Pleasant non repetitive verse
B. Melodic Chorus (see criteria #3)
C. Bridge - a tightly constructed pop song has a seamless bridge
D. The Middle Eight - the perfect pop gem breaks things up after the second chorus with a 3rd melodic part
E. Key Change - listener's attention span begins to waiver without this pop necessity
F. Coda - you can't just end it abruptly or fade out; that's for the lightweights.   
Now, not all my top ten meet these ingredients to the letter, but this is a good guide to cooking the perfect pop nugget.

3. Melody

The perfect pop song has a catchy melody without being just a jingle.  This is perhaps the most abstract qualification of all because you can't verbalize what makes certain chords, sounds, harmonies resonate with the human mind, while others do not. There's been tens of thousands of pop songs released over the years, but only a select few that literally "strike a chord" in the auditory center of your brain.  It's fresh sounding, a slightly novel melody, but at the same time it's by no means 'prog'.

And lastly, this is only a top 40 because - who gives a damn what my 179th greatest pop gem is? This is the type of list that could quickly turn into a boring reproduction of the top forty charts over the years.  No - let's keep it to the best of the best.  I relish your input - please let me know of any unconscionable oversights.

So, now that we got that out of the way, on with the list!

  1. I'm a Believer by The Monkees/ Neil Diamond
  2. Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tennille/ Neil Sedaka
  3. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys
  4. I Feel Fine by The Beatles
  5. Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
  6. We Can Work It Out by The Beatles
  7. God Only Knows by The Beach Boys
  8. Dancing Queen by ABBA
  9. Sugar, Sugar by The Archies/ Neil Diamond
  10. Don't Go Breakin' My Heart by Elton John & Kiki Dee
  11. I Love You by The Climax Blues Band
  12. If I Can't Have You by Yvonne Elliman/ The Bee Gees
  13. Cuddly Toy by The Monkees/ Harry Nilsson
  14. Heart of Glass by Blondie
  15. Lola by The Kinks
  16. Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go-Gos
  17. If You Leave Me Now by Chicago
  18. The Things We Do Love by 10cc
  19. Call Me by Petula Clarke/Nancy Wilson
  20. Uptown Girl by Billy Joel
  21. Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears
  22. Rich Girl by Hall and Oates
  23. Never My Love by The Association
  24. Take a Chance on Me by ABBA
  25. Day After Day by Badfinger
  26. Day Tripper by The Beatles
  27. Reminiscing by The Little River Band
  28. Sail On by The Commodores
  29. It Don't Matter to Me by Bread
  30. (Don't You) Forget About Me by Simple Minds
  31. Shambala by Three Dog Night
  32. Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles
  33. Head Over Heels by The Go Gos
  34. Call Me by Blondie
  35. Hello Goodbye by The Beatles
  36. Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson
  37. Downtown by Petula Clark
  38. Happy Together by The Turtles
  39. I Melt With You by Modern English
  40. To Sir, With Love by Lulu


Retrospace doesn't touch anything from the 1990s and later; but, if I had to throw a few out there I might choose "There She Goes" by The Las, "Crash" by The Primitives or "Son of Sam" by Elliot Smith

I know there's nothing particularly obscure in this list. Quite frankly, the very nature of being the perfect pop song means you are going to instantly resonate with listeners.... a perfect pop song will not be hidden for long.


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