Music is timeless, knows no cultural boundaries and is the pillar of our cultural arts. Some songs are also timeless – but definitely not all songs. What songs make the Timeless Songs Hall of Fame? What is the criteria for said Timeless Songs Hall of Fame? What truly makes a song “timeless”?
All I can say is that after countless hours on Youtube I am ready to make some tough calls on which songs deserve to be considered timeless (would this have been possible without Youtube? No, no it would not).
Before we can begin with the inaugural inductees (and I know there are going to be thousands-ish of songs that fit this criteria and apologize if I miss out on your personal choice) we need to get some ground rules out of the way first:
Rule #1) The Song has to be good – This seems like a pretty logical step to take in choosing timeless songs, but some people’s definition of “good” is a little bit looser than others. While “Romeo and Juliet” by Taylor Swift may have been popular…it is not timeless. It is also not good. “Since You Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson – a much better chance of winding up on this list.
Rule #2) The Song has to be able to come out and be a hit in any time period – The major reason for this: songs become very dated when you can hear specific references or the reflections of a particular time period. Henceforth we will refer to this as the Kanye West / Eminem / Gangster Rap Rule. Loving your Bugatti will not mean anything a thousand years from now. Apologies to Flo Rida.
Rule #3) Whenever you hear the song you listen all the way through – You know those times you do not want to turn off the car because of the song currently playing and your innate desire to hear it all the way through? These are those songs.
Rule #4) No specifics – Specifics ruin the whole time period thing, and if you are dropping the name of “Russell Wilson” before he has even completed his third season in the league I can guarantee your song is not making this list. If Russell Wilson becomes one of the most memorable human beings in the history of the world I will stand properly corrected. Another example: Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” which mentions Brad Pitt. Heartbroken I cannot include this song.
Rule #5) Could said song be used in a movie trailer? – A key make or break rule for those songs that are on the edge of making it. Take some of the newer songs like anything by Demi Lovato – they may sound okay now, but in ten years they will not carry a movie trailer under any circumstances.
Rule #6) Can the song support multiple versions or survive in different genres? – Take Avcii’s great “Wake Me Up” (which set an unintentional record last year when I heard it for more than 180 straight days while driving to work), this song already has multiple versions! One of them is straight club music, and the other is a freaking country song! If not for being in contention for the most random thing ever Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” / Country version “Gin and Juice” could have made this list. If ever there was one song I never thought could be made into a country tune…it was a song about living in South Central in the eighties. Again, how has more not been made of this? Until you have heard a country singer refer to himself as “Snoop D-O-double G” or say “kick a little something to the G’s” or “we gonna smoke an ounce today” or even “rolling down the street smoking endo sippin on gin and juice, laid back”; I am not sure you have properly lived.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Inaugural Entrants to the Timeless Songs Hall of Fame are as follows (from time to time on this blog songs will be added to the list but the criteria will remain the same):
Changes (Tupac) – A stunningly powerful song, and almost more relevant today than when it was released this is a brilliant rap song with a social conscience that transcends era (and was sadly incredibly prescient). For Tupac this was climbing Mount Everest and the song proved he had something to say…and could drop a wicked beat.
Imagine (John Lennon) – Probably the most widely played song from John’s post Beatles career, this is a thoughtful meditation on how to change the world that is applicable today and is as far reaching as any other tune. As long as organized religion and war play a part within our world, this song will be timeless. How many more masterpieces did John Lennon have in him?
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) – When you hear this song on your IPOD or phone or even on the radio it is impossible not to turn off; in fact, you may immediately replay the song two or three more times. The message is clear, beautiful and inspiring. Believe in the power of love, period. This will be used as a first dance song for as long as there are first dance songs.
In the Air Tonight (Phil Collins) – A haunting melody that has captivated listeners for decades and has improbably managed to shake the eighties off of it. The iconic images this song conjures are those of the pilot episode of Miami Vice…but, it was also used in the Colin Farrell Miami Vice which basically proves its timelessness. Additionally, you can play this before any situation to pump yourself up…or cool down. Not many songs can make the same claim.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole) – One of the most beautiful versions of one of the most beautiful songs ever written, there is no description that can do justice to this one.
(Brief Editor’s Note: When you search these songs on Youtube the recommended listens are all the other songs on this list. Timeless, I told you!)
Hurt (Johnny Cash) – Every once in a while a song gets covered in a way that is better than the original. Sometimes it is much better than the original. In this case, the NIN original was a good song – until it got completely destroyed by an aged Johnny Cash who turned it into a song that radiates pure, heartbreaking pain. If you ever want to know what pure anguish is like in musical form, this is the timeless song for you. Yet, it is also one of the most incredibly beautiful songs ever, aided by Johnny’s once-in-a-generation timbre.
Tiny Dancer / Rocket Man (Elton John) – Anyone could remake these songs (and many, many, many have from My Morning Jacket to William Shatner?!! have); literally anyone. The lyrics are poignant and you can sing it with your buddies (I have) and it could have come out at any time. I challenge anyone to listen to the first few bars and change the station or stop listening, it simply cannot be done. Put these in any movie trailer, drama to comedy and they work. Just try and stop them.
What I Wouldn’t Do (Serena Ryder) – Bear with me for a second because I can hear people slapping the keyboard and yelling “what!? Serena bloody Ryder? What I Wouldn’t Do? This guy is a complete idiot, how can a relatively new, CANADIAN, song be timeless already?” Prepare to have your mind blown because I am going through this one point by point. Firstly, be glad I did not include anything by Celine Dion. Secondly, it is a great song. Try and stop yourself from replaying it immediately. It could be in any movie trailer, is not specific in any way and could – and this is the tough one – could be covered by the right artist. This is a wonderful song about love and loyalty and in a few short years it has become one of my favorite songs of all time. Listen to it three or four times in a row and then tell me it is not timeless – it is. This song holds up, and despite Serena’s pretty individual talent it could be covered one day, though I doubt the version would be better (then again, William Shatner covered Elton John).
So there you have the first bunch of songs with many, many more to come. I invite your nominations and reasoning on any songs I have not yet mentioned.
Songs I am still figuring out how to include:
Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
Don’t Stop Believing (Journey)
Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac)
Sound of Silence / I am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)
I Want it that Way (Backstreet Boys) – Editor’s Note: Not a joke.