My Top 48 Songs Of All Time (Part 1)

The start of a new academic year heralds the start of another year for Air3 Radio. A new year means that many of the faces you’ve come to know, have graduated and ventured out into the big bad world and in their place, a new team steps up. My name is Liam Daniel McNair and I am Air3 Radio’s new Head of Music Promotions, taking over from William Harmar after 4 years at the helm. I’d like to thank William for providing us with years of entertainment and musical knowledge and wish him good luck in his future endeavors. I’ve been part of Air3 since 2019, hosting my own music show Live on The McNairwaves over the past year. I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember so progressing into working with music felt only natural to me. While I can’t play a musical instrument to save my life, I’ve got a decent understanding of what a song is meant to represent or what the story of a song is. I look forward to serving as your Head of Music Promotions and hope that you will be able to join me and the rest of the station in the year ahead.

When talking about media, there is always one thing that you will get quizzed on, and that’s what your favourites are. Some people have a pretty easy time deciding their favourites because they may only listen to one type of music or only a handful of artists, but I am not one of those people. As someone who listens to music non-stop, I thought it would be a good ice breaker to write about some of my favourite songs.

Most people make lists of maybe 25, 50, or 75, but this time around I’m mixing it up a bit by going with 48. But why 48? Well, it’s one song for every year that Air3 Radio has been on the air. When creating this list I decided to go for songs that I have some form of connection with, whether it be through a specific point in my life or through a specific person. I’ve also had to limit the number of songs from each artist to only one otherwise it would just be “48 Oasis and Frank Sinatra songs” list. Without further ado, here is part one of my favourite songs of all time.

1. Live Forever – Oasis

Released as the third single from their outstanding debut album Definitely Maybe, Live Forever is a song up with not just some of the Oasis greats but with the greatest among British Music. While their first two singles, “Supersonic” and “Shakermaker” received modest success at the time, Live Forever really elevated the band and scored the Manchester band their first UK top 10 single. The song acts as a positive outlook on life (and a potential ode to the Gallagher Brother’s mum), a stark contrast to the depressing grunge that dominated the early to mid-90s. The composition of the song is Oasis as their finest, being a song from their debut, the band were obviously out to make a name for themselves and that they did. Liam’s raspy vocals and the works of the rest of the band are outstanding but Noel’s work on lead guitar is the stand out aspect of the song and even to this day just sends tingles down my spine.

2. Will We Talk? – Sam Fender

One of my favourite songs from one of my favourite artists of the past few years, Sam Fender’s “Will We Talk?” Is an anthem of modern times. Will We Talk tells the tale of modern courtship, fuelled by booze and filled with uncertainty that consumes you afterwards. The constant shift in the songs lyrical perspective from a “narrator” to a girl, gives them a unique outlook on a subject that is usually only viewed from the perspective of one person. The instrumentals of the song are able to replicate that high octane energy that you often encounter at a club or bar, adding to the immersion that the song possesses. Will We Talk is a fine example of the immense ability that Sam Fender as a musician and lyricist, further cementing the fact that Fender is a one to watch in coming years.

3. Mr Brightside – The Killers

There is no song in history that has left such a massive societal impact like The Killer’s debut single Mr. Brightside. Mr. Brightside is imbedded into British culture, a song so popular that it might as well be the UK’s new national anthem. It has been in the UK top 100 charts for over 234 weeks, more than any song in British chart history beating the closest next song by over 77 days. Despite its upbeat and almost triumphant nature, the song is about jealousy and infidelity, based on Brandon Flower’s experiences at the time of the song’s writing. In spite of this, the song is an absolute joy to listen to, and an even better song to sing along too, especially in a room full of your friends on a night out.

4. Heroes – David Bowie

Written during the Berlin Years (1977-79) of David Bowie’s career, Heroes is the pinnacle of Bowie’s discography and a turning point in his artistry. It marked the end of the flamboyant personas of the past like the Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust and introduces a more grounded Bowie. Inspired by the sight of two lovers embracing at the Berlin Wall, Heroes tells the story of lovers caught on opposing sides of a divided city. The Lyrics of the song really paints a picture of what the mood was like in Berlin at the time, people willing to risk everything in order to get a taste of love and freedom. David Bowie’s vocals on this song are just incredible, by far the best in his career, if not some of the best of all time from any musician.

While Bowie’s vocals are outstanding, the sound production of the song is what makes it iconic. Tony Visconti’s production on the single is second to none, using traditional song production methods such as gating in unusual ways to create very unique sounds. Heroes in my eyes is a very unique song, it’s a song whose impact rippled through society, something that I feel very few songs achieve. Bowie’s performance of this song at the Reichstag in 1987 is often credited as a catalyst for the fall of the Berlin Wall less than 2 years later. It’s a song that’s influenced musicians for over 43 years but more importantly, it’s a song that gives people a voice and inspires hope in the face of adversity.

5. Born Slippy .NUXX – Underworld

When most people think about techno music, I guarantee that Born Slippy .Nuxx is one of the songs that immediately come to mind. Released in a time where raves were all the rage, Underworld’s seven and a half minute epic encapsulates the essence of the rave scene. The structure of the song can be compared to that of watching drugs kick in, it starts off very slow and euphoric and slowly descending into a high tempo beat as you feel like your heart is trying to burst out and you’ve lost all control. The high energy of this song always makes me want to go do something work out or go for a run and is always a staple on my gym playlists. Despite the evolution of the genre, Born Slippy .Nuxx is a song that still able to hold its self against its modern counterparts.

6. American Pie – Don McLean

Commonly regarded as Don McLean’s signature song, American Pie is one of the most influential and lyrically outstanding songs ever written. The song is an ode to the American way of living and the ever-changing society of the 50s and 60s with the song starting off with a tribute to the American Dream of the 50s and ending in a more somber note as those idyllic times had vanished and a new society emerged. The beginning third of the song talks about the halcyon days of the 50s: school dances, the prevalence of religion in the states, and the emergence of rock and roll. The second third shifts towards the 60s and the chaos of the decade with events such as the Red Scare, The Manson Murders, and the Rolling Stone infamous Altamont Free Concert all mentioned. The final third acts as America’s wake up to the world, the world of sunshine and rainbows that they knew was gone and a harsher and less idyllic world lay before them.

The song is littered with references and iconography associated with the times. While some are more obvious like the reference to The Monotone’s 1958 hit, The Book of Love, others are more subtle. Lyrics such as “Oh and while the king was looking down, The jester stole his thorny crown” referencing the emergence of artists such as Bob Dylan in the 60s and the decline in popularity for artists like Elvis. McLean’s ever-changing tone throughout the song runs parallel to the lyrical themes in the song, starting off high energy and eventually descending into an emotionally charged finale. This song is an absolute treat to listen to and is always a mainstay on my playlists, Don Mclean’s incredible vocals and cryptic lyrics make me come back to it time and time again. I’d even go far enough to consider it the greatest song of all time.

7. Skyfall – Adele

Coming off of an incredible year in which she gathered international acclaim for her hit album 21, Adele went and pulled another show stopper out of nowhere with 2012’s Skyfall. While a lot of people prefer a lot of Adele’s more emotive works such as Someone Like You and Chasing Pavements, I feel like Skyfall is the strongest performance of her discography and hands down the best title song from any James Bond film. Adele’s vocals harmoniously accompany the large orchestral arrangement, creating that sense of elegance and sophistication that the series and the character are often associated with.

8. Loaded – Primal Scream

Released as the lead single of their Mercury Prize-winning album Screamadelica, Loaded is considered a magnum opus of Primal Scream’s discography. Working with English DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall, Loaded Started off as a remix of I’m Losing More Than I’ll Never Have (a song from their 1989 self-titled album), and slowly descended into a new song after the band rejected the first cut of Weatherall’s remix. By the time they had finished production, it had become a completely different song with most elements of the original thrown out and replaced with new sounds and samples. The song can be described as an indie dance anthem and certainly lays the groundwork for the rest of Screamadelica, incorporating the alternative/indie sounds of their first two albums and the psychedelic dance sound found throughout the album.

Loaded is a unique song in both Screamadelica’s track list as its one of very few songs that lack vocal throughout, but the few vocals present really give the song its character. The song starts off with the now iconic audio sample of Frank Maxwell and Peter Fonda from the 1966 film The Wild Angels which focuses on the counterculture of the 60s and its rebellious youth. By including the sample in the song, Bobbie Gillespie and Weatherall manage to encapsulate that same ethos and attitude with in the song, making its self part of the dance/house counterculture of the 90s. It’s a song that’s managed to stand the test of time 30 years after its release and still gives you that carefree and rebellious feeling it gave our parents all those years ago.

9. You Get What You Give – The New Radicals

The 1990s were a decade of countless one-hit wonders: Vanilla Ice with Ice Ice Baby, Tubthumping by Chumbawumba and Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy, but there’s one song that always comes to mind when one-hit wonders are ever mentioned. That song is You Get What You Give by The New Radicals. Released in 1998, You Get What You Give is a motivational song akin to Eye of The Tiger but disguised as a peppy pop song. The song is brimming with energy and motivational lyrics often talking about not letting go of your dreams and through hard work you will achieve those dreams. In the 22 years since it’s release, it’s a song that’s become loved by many (including Ice Cube who said it’s one song outside of rap that wowed him) and regarded as one of the best songs of the 1990s (Rolling Stone ranked it 37 in their top 50 songs of the 90s list in 2019). It’s a song I often find my self coming back to again and again, it’s such a cheerful song that is guaranteed to brighten up your day and leave you in a good mood.

10. Charlie Brown – Coldplay

While everyone loves to hate Coldplay, It’s a band I fondly enjoy and have many memories associated with their music, especially with their 5th studio album Mylo Xyloto. Mylo Xyloto is an album I remember listening to constantly around the time it came out way back in 2011 and this is where we get to number 44 on this list from in the form of Charlie Brown. While the song does lack a decent amount lyrics compared to some of the band’s previous works, the lyrics that are present really help paint a picture of the story in the song, a coming of age tale. The backing track to the song is the strongest aspect of its composition, giving the lyrics of the song more meaning and really creating an atmosphere for the song, a feeling of youth and freedom that is associated with adolescence as the world opens up and you begin to experience new things.

11. Shallow – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

If you said to me 5 years ago that one of my favourite songs would have been a duet with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, I would have thought you were insane, But here we are 5 years later with Shallow. From the 2018 film “A Star Is Born”, Shallow is an outstanding ballad with phenomenal production. Written by Gaga herself along with Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando, and Mark Ronson, The song has been produced in a way that very closely mimics the films narrative structure, starting off with Cooper front and centre, then introducing Lady Gaga where she eventually “takes over” the song. The instrumentals are arranged in a way that perfectly complements the vocal styles of the duo, with soft acoustics for Cooper’s sections and a louder building of pianos, drums and guitars accompanying Lady Gaga’s Contralto vocals. The usual stellar performance from Gaga mixed with Bradley Cooper’s surprisingly fantastic performance makes Shallow one of the most effective ballads I’ve heard in a very long time and one of the best soundtrack songs I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

12. Quarter Past Midnight – Bastille

Ever since the release of their smash hit single, “Pompeii” in 2013, Bastille is a band I have kept my eye on, Since then they’ve released 3 top 4 albums and this pick comes from their most album “Doom Days.” Quarter Past Midnight is a song of spontaneity and experiencing the world in a different light. It’s told through the view of a couple running around a city, experiencing the unpredictability of a night out and the composition helps reflect this. The song’s two verses are very light on the instruments only featuring a few piano keys and a beat, almost mimicking the intimate conversations the couple is having as they wander the mysterious cityscape. The Chorus adds to the instrumentals, adding additional vocals and upping the tempo as if both the couple and city have sprung into life. Quarter Past Midnight is a song that absolutely deserves more recognition than it already has and is one that I thoroughly recommend.

12 songs down, 36 more to go. A Spotify playlist containing all the songs featured in this series will be available once the list is complete. Let us know some of your favourite songs in the comments down below, and follow @air3_music on Instagram to hear more of the latest music news, history, and games!

This article was written by Liam Daniel McNair, Air3 Radio’s Head of Music Promotions.

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