100 Greatest Songs of All Time: 100-51

An epic staff list that's hopefully as timeless as the tracks...

100 Greatest Songs of All Time: 100-51
The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, artwork by Steven Fiche

    In the fall of 2012, the editors and senior staff writers of Consequence of Sound assembled in various apartments to piece together the 100 greatest songs of all time.

    There were debates. There were fights. There was spilt Thai food. Nobody cried, everyone prevailed, and below is the list that came from those long September nights.

    They have since remain untouched.

    100. Phil Collins – “In The Air Tonight”

    Face Value, 1981

    Phil Collins wrote a song about his divorce that was so taxing, macabre, and vitriolic that people actually thought he witnessed the death of another human and was seeking either atonement or vengeance with the line, “I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.” In truth, Collins just knew that wretched heartbreak would find him sooner or later. Look at his sad face! But even his defeatist mentality and the wringing of his poor British heart stands in the shadow of Collins’ drum work. “In The Air Tonight” sports one of the first and most popular uses of “gated reverb,” a sound that would later define the ’80s snare, Blondie’s CR-78 drum machine that set the lonely mood in the beginning, and one of the best drum fills of all time. There are parts of the world where it is illegal not to air drum that fill. –Jeremy D. Larson

    99. Sonic Youth – “Teen Age Riot”

    Daydream Nation, 1988

    Thanks in large part to “Teen Age Riot”, a group of No Wave-y, feedback-loving, odd-tuning Glenn Branca acolytes wound up taking a large part in the shaping of indie rock. The introductory track to the legend-making 1988 album Daydream Nation, the tune jammed together rock star riffage and mystical overtone swirls, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore’s guitar prowess pulling the reins of a massive pop hook. Allegedly inspired by an alternate reality in which Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis is appointed president, the song’s rollicking energy is perfectly matched by its inciting lyrics. “You’re never gonna stop all the teenage leather and booze,” Moore smirks, and you can just imagine the waves of kids picking up guitars around the world and starting bands because of Sonic Youth’s empowering eccentricity. -Adam Kivel

    98. Kraftwerk – “Autobahn”

    Autobahn, 1974

    The Autobahn expressway is an achievement of human engineering and a symbol of how technology removes limits. It’s fitting that German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk would pave their own musical thoroughfare in the form of a titular, 22 minute sprawling opener that seats listeners on the passenger side of a drive along the road of electronic ambiance, synthesized vocoding, and automated melody. The avant-garde song is a journey, rather than a destination. And yet, droves of artists and fans alike took the trip, arriving at a thousand new forms of music. From New Wave to rave, to ringtones, mp3s, and all manners of 1’s and 0’s, its novel exploration of technological enhancement make it the song that plugged this brave new world into the computer age, forever changing the digital landscape of popular music. –Dan Pfleegor


    97. A Tribe Called Quest – “Scenario”

    The Low End Theory, 1992

    With the group’s second album, Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest stripped everything down to the essentials, creating a minimalist sound with vocal emphasis on the downbeat. In doing so they produced a genuine fusion of hip-hop attitude with the laid-back atmosphere of cool jazz, hard bop, and rare groove; something not even Miles Davis could accomplish (Doo-Bop?). Initially propelled by word of mouth, it was third single “Scenario” that pushed the album over Gold status. (It has since gone Platinum.) Sampling soul artists in addition to jazz legends Miles Davis and Brother Jack McDuff, “Scenario” is built around a beat developed by Q-Tip, and is a vocal collaboration with Charlie Brown, Dinco D and Busta Rhymes, the three MCs of fellow Native Tongues members Leaders of the New School. During the song’s construction, Q-Tip read Busta Rhymes’ verse and immediately decided to put as the anchor in the relay, reigniting the song’s intensity before its conclusion. However, rather than simply pass the mic to Rhymes at the end of his own verse, Q-Tip wanted Bussa to come in on Tip’s part as a means of setting own verses up, effectively ‘featuring’ Busta Rhymes. Rhymes himself said “[“Scenario”] was the record that pioneered features…That record made me the number one go-to guy for features…for a long time.” –Len Comaratta

    96. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “From Her To Eternity”

    From Her to Eternity, 1984

    It balances the Sturm and Drang psycho-sexual theatrics with a more straight-forward propulsion. It’s one of the first songs written by Cave and all the members of the Bad Seeds — his first band after the goth pioneers The Birthday Party dissolved. The Bad Seeds build a bed of tension with piano stabs and a bass line idling like an 18-wheeler. Cave writhes and shakes with the kind of heroin histrionics that could make Jim Morrison look like Karen Carpenter, all while wrestling his id into submission with lines like, “This desire to possess her is a wound/ And its naggin’ at me like a shrew/ But, ah know, that to possess her/ Is, therefore, not to desire her.” The junkyard in Nick Cave’s head has manifested itself in poems, books, screenplays, film scores, and “From Her To Eternity” is one of the most accurate reflections of his work as an uber-artist who lives without a filter. It’s jagged, desperate, and full of so much noise and love. – Jeremy D. Larson

    95. Sleater-Kinney – “Dig Me Out”

    Dig Me Out, 1997

    While Sleater-Kinney had previously released two LPs, Dig Me Out was the first album to feature force of nature Janet Weiss at the kit. With Weiss’ rolling thunder fills now backing Brownstein’s manic guitar and Corin Tucker’s vibratic howls, the opening title track is the emblem of post-riot grrrl, post-alternative, post-punk, post-everything intensity — of a band that refused to be pigeonholed. Tucker admitted in an interview that they “were a little bit overwhelmed with the success” of the album, but “Dig Me Out” is a perfect pop hook in the midst of a riotous punk package, and it justified their newfound attention. -Adam Kivel


    94. Underworld – “Born Slippy .NUXX”

    “Born Slippy .NUXX”, 1995

    Originally released as a B-side in January 1995, “Born Slippy .NUXX” gained traction in 1996 as the galloping anthem at the conclusion of Trainspotting. The track famously backdropped the wry transformation of Mark “Rent Boy” Renton (Ewan McGregor) from a junkie into a smirking, productive member of society — which is fitting because Karl Hyde penned this song amid his own alcohol addiction, trying to capture the mood of a drunken night. He performed the vocals in one take, telling The Guardian, “when I lost my place, I’d repeat the same line; that’s why it goes, “lager, lager, lager, lager.” The track pushed Underworld into the limelight, and was one of the first of its kind to make the jump from the club to the broader pop culture consciousness. It whetted the palette of the masses for talent like The Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, and The Prodigy, who were able to reach levels of fame unlike many earlier electronica producers. 2012 may be the current high point in EDM, but its status is only possible due to the early ground breaking achievements of Underworld. -Derek Staples

    93. Devo – “Uncontrollable Urge”

    Q: Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!, 1978

    Devo have never been a band to embrace their music with a great deal of fun or playfulness, opting instead to use their music much more deliberately. The high-minded Akron art rockers formed the band as an angry statement against mindless complacency and fall-in-line subordination, and “Uncontrollable Urge”, the first song off their first full-length, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, laid the band’s disdain for modern living bare. A new wave song with punk rock flare, the song didn’t generate the buzz or attention of the band’s later, synth-driven work, but in retrospect “Urge” stands as Devo’s de facto mission statement. When Mark Mothersbaugh laments, “Got an urge, got a surge/ And it’s out of control/ Got an urge I wanna purge/ ’cause I’m losing control,” it’s essentially the Devo philosophy at work, the same one that would drive and inspire the band’s influential output to come. Consider it the launching point where the band’s collegial smarts and punk attitude crashed head on. -Ryan Bray

    92. Aphex Twin – “Windowlicker”

    “Windowlicker”, 1999


    Much of the DNA in the recent boom of electronic music traces back to Richard D. James and this song in particular – which remains his most influential work. James has always been a master at seamlessly shifting between disparate styles of electronic, and “Windowlicker” is the prime example of his prowess. From subtle ambient sections to rigid break-beat segments, it manages to be fun, creepy and beautiful all at the same time. Perhaps the most experimental song to ever chart in a major country (reaching #16 in the UK), “Windowlicker” has an inexplicable ability to draw people in, and will be doing so for years and years to come. -Carson O’Shoney


    91. Funkadelic – “One Nation Under a Groove”

    One Nation Under a Grove, 1978

    “One Nation Under a Groove” reflects George Clinton at the peak of his social and political consciousness. With lyrics superficially speaking to the liberating power of dance and shouts to James Brown’s “Get On the Good Foot”, Clinton connects his own rally cry of positivity and acceptance with the Godfather’s message of unity through music. Beyond such literal interpretation, the song is reveled as one of Clinton’s most spiritually fulfilled songs. Aside from the obvious groove/God substitution, the song is laden with images of a universal consciousness. From the song’s opening lyric (taken from the gospel hymnal “So High”) to the shepherding hand of the groove (“Gonna be freakin’ up and down Hang-Up Alley Way with the groove our only guide”) to simply “getting down on the one which we believe in,” Clinton brought the pulpit to the dancefloor and nobody was the wiser. -Len Comaratta