Have you ever wondered which songs you’ve played ad nauseam on Spotify? I’ve been a Spotify user since 2012, became a paid subscriber (premium user) in 2016. Yet, until recently I had no idea, data-wise, which songs and/or artists I listened to the most on Spotify’s streaming music platform. After doing some online digging, I found a database that detailed my Spotify music preferences.
Below are my top 50 ‘most played’ Spotify songs (ranked #50 to #1), which includes links to the songs and artist biographies along with commentary. At the bottom of the article/song rankings is a playlist which includes the songs on my ‘Top 50’ list.
My Music Streaming Services
Besides Spotify, I do listen to and discover music via other video and music services such as YouTube, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, AccuRadio and iHeartRadio. Nevertheless, Spotify became my streaming music service-of-choice, primarily because of its then (2016) huge music catalog of over 30 million songs. Note: As of September 2018, according to CNET, Apple Music has the largest music library at 45 million songs, with Spotify in second at 35 million songs. Since I’ve become a heavy listener of streaming music, I don’t purchase or download music as much. As a result, I’m an inconsistent iTunes user (e.g. purchasing or saving music on my Mac Laptop or iPhone) and I rarely purchase music CDs.
Gathering the Data
One of the drawbacks with Spotify is that ‘readily accessible data’ about individual streaming data (e.g. what songs or artists you’ve listened to the most) is not available on Spotify. Other services such as Apple Music’s iTunes readily provides such data, but for whatever reason, Spotify has this information on lockdown. The only data you do see on Spotify is how many times a song has been streamed (listened to for at least 30 seconds) per individual.
You can find out what were your top Spotify songs for the most recent year via Spotify’s ‘Wrapped Feature‘ playlist, but unfortunately, the service doesn’t do a similar individual playlists for your ‘most played or popular’ songs. Therefore I had to find other means to retrieve this inexplicably and needlessly ‘top secret’ Spotify data.
There are several website out there that claim to do what Spotify can’t (or won’t) do for its listeners. I decided to use this one (FB 220.127.116.11:8080/public/top) since I’ve seen it referenced on social media and several websites (e.g. Reddit, AltPress, Twitter). It’s simple to use since it only requires you to log-in to your Spotify account to get your desired data. The website provides you with a list of your top Spotify songs/tracks and artists over a four-week, six-month and long-term (years/all-time) period. The only drawback, albeit a notable one, is that for these data retrieval sites, including the aforementioned one, is that they don’t provide you with how many times you’ve played X-songs (data that is readily provided by iTunes). Therefore, you have to trust that the algorithms used by these non-Spotify data-gathering sites are providing you with accurate information about your Spotify listening preferences.
My Spotify Music Preferences
Overall my Spotify ‘Top 50’ list does reflect my varied music interests such as hiphop, neosoul, alternative rock, rhythm & blues, country, folk and electronic music (e.g. Sampha, Rihanna, Hozier, Blackmill, alt-J, Chris Stapleton). The occurrence of multiple-songs by X-artists on the list is probably due to 1) the fact that my Spotify library (200+ songs) isn’t as extensive as my iTunes library (3500+ songs) and 2) my Spotify library includes mostly songs that have been released within the past ten years, again, unlike my iTunes library which has songs from the 1930s to the Present.
As for whether any of my ‘Top 50’ Spotify songs were deemed ‘popular,’ some did make Billboard Magazine‘s ‘Top 100’ during its release year, such as ‘What You Know’ by T.I. and ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ by Chris Stapleton. However, according to my rudimentary calculation, at least 80% didn’t make that particular chart cut. What can I say? I find my music my own way.
There were a few songs on the list that I’m sure made the list simply because it followed a song that I really liked and for whatever reason, I didn’t immediately ‘skip’ over it or hit the ‘stop’ button after I heard my selected song. This phenomenon most assuredly explains why there are five songs by the Norwegian group, Wardruna, on this list (I don’t like them that much). Overall, I would estimate that over two-thirds of the songs on my Spotify ‘Top 50 Most-Played Songs List’ are ones that I did and still do enjoy listening to regularly, some probably a tad obsessively such as ‘Incomplete Kisses’ by Sampha.
I don’t expect everyone to read the entire list, though it has a chock-full of information and links for your music knowledge and pleasure. My hope is that you will discover new songs and artists to add to your music library, and maybe inspire you to take your own ‘Spotify’ music journey.
Note: Make sure to visit the ‘Music‘ category on this site for additional music commentary.
50. Heartbeat (Chase & Status Remix) – Nneka
I have Pandora to thank for helping me to discover Nneka. I love how her music is a wonderful mesh of styles (neosoul, African/Nigerian, hiphop). Plus her vocals are just aching, yet also soaring. I like the original ‘Heartbeat’, but this mix takes the song to a level that’s just in-your-face with its awesomeness. The guitars, the keyboards, the thumping beat along Nneka’s vocals just makes this an epic music moment that is worth numerous repeats.
49. Broken Halos – Chris Stapleton
I’m a bit surprised this is on the list. I really like Stapleton, but when I think of his music this song doesn’t come to mind. It’s a good song that shows-off his mix of country and bluegrass style along with his strong vocals. However, I don’t think it’s one of his stand-outs, though music critics have said otherwise. Then again, there are A LOT of music acts where this song would be a career and musical highlight.
48. Ledges – Noah Gundersen
Gundersen’s music has a quiet, neo-folk, gospel, pop style that I like, especially since it shows off his crisp and distinctive vocals. This isn’t one of my go-to songs by him, but I do enjoy listening to it. His hoarse vocals, the guitars, soothing lyrics and the soaring fiddle at the end all come-together nicely.
SG Lewis specializes in chill, moody songs that have an upbeat quiet-storm vibe. This song exemplifies SG Lewis’ cool style, which JP Coopers’ wonderfully smooth, soulful vocals ably support. I also love the piercing guitar and soft piano work that adds to the song’s soothing vibe. Though the ‘Shivers’ album version is good, this live version is so much better.
46. Restless – Nneka
Interesting that this song by Nneka ranked higher than ‘Heartbeat’ (#50) though I do prefer the latter. I can only assume that the higher ranking for this Nneka song is due to the fact that it was a more recent download, hence I inadvertently listened to it more. Nevertheless, I really, really like this song. The way it starts out acoustically lets you hear Nneka’s characteristic, emotive vocals. Plus, the lyrics such as “there’s darkness surrounding my world” are just heart-breakingly personal. When she starts wailing “You don’t need me no more. Now my work has been done. And I set you free.” It leaves me kind of gobsmacked.
45. To Be Alone – Hozier
Hozier’s music has a deep and ominous undertone which is a perfect match for his vocals. He has other semi-upbeat songs he’s known for such as ‘Work Song‘, but I think his more intense songs really show-off his musical prowess. His live versions of his songs are almost always better than the album versions, as with this song. His lyrics to this song are something else such as: “You don’t know what hell you’ve put me through. To have someone kiss the skin that crawls from you.” Don’t be surprised if you find yourself listening to more than just a few of his songs.
44. A Formal Invitation – Cold Specks
Canadian Ladan Hussein (AKA Cold Specks) has a singing style that’s gloomy, intense and distinctive. Her music is combination of soul, blues, country and world. As you can see, she’s hard to pigeon-hole, though she describes her sound as “doom soul.” First time I head Cold Specks was on an episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ in which they played ‘Lay Me Down‘ a wonderful acoustic blues/fold song by her. Anyway, ‘Formal Invitation’ definitely shows-off her self-defined music style.
43. Fehu – Wardruna
You may have heard this Norwegian band’s music before if you’re a viewer of The History Channel’s The Vikings series. Wardruna’s vocals and music are intense, melancholic and muscular as they honor their Old Norse roots. With ‘Fehu’ you get a deep mix of drums, chanting, fiddles and wind instruments – most of them homemade by the band. Think of the crap that you hear at those pseudo folk festivals and imagine what music of the early 9th-11th Centuries might have sounded like, but with a full-fledged band. That is Wardruna. Once you hear them, you might find yourself in a melancholic state or wanting to fight, drink and pillage.
42. In the Night of Wilderness – Blackmill
Blackmill isn’t a group, but one-person, an electronic music producer named Robert Card. Blackmill specializes in a type of electronic music genre called melodic/chill dubstep. His digital music soars in that you hear so many types of sounds (piano, nature, techno, violins, guitar, keyboard, etc.) that helps create his transient, soothing, relaxed yet sexy music. This song is a prime example of Blackmill’s wonderful music catalog.
41. Slow Dancer – Noah Gundersen
This the second of three songs by Gundersen that is on this list (previous one is at #48). ‘Slow Dancer’ feels like a road song with a bit of a Tom Petty vibe to it. I really like how quiet the song starts, then you hear the words “Call me a snake and a liar. I will be the fire that keeps you warm” then the rest of the instruments and vocals just smoothly join him at just the right time . A nice gem.
40. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – Hozier
I didn’t expect that this Hozier song would be on the list, let alone be the higher ranked of the two songs (the other is at #45). There are other songs by him that I could’ve sworn I listened to more (Run, To Be Alone, Work Song), but the algorithm I used to create this list says otherwise. What makes this song notable is the call-and-response, gospel sound to the song. Plus, Hozier’s vocals are always crisp and personal. He never short-changes his songs in that you don’t feel as if they’re filler in order to meet an album quota.
39. What You Know – T.I.
When T.I. came on the scene in the early 2000s, rap stars still mainly from the East and West coasts. Southern rap wasn’t on most people’s music radar, until T.I. came along. ‘What You Know’ is a slick, layered rap jam with a hard beat that will have you nodding your head in appreciation. I also really liked how it seamlessly combined Roberta Flack’s ‘Gone Away‘ and Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Hey Joe‘ in that the songs weren’t just used as background with rap lyrics lazily thrown over it. This song and ‘The Way We Ride‘ (another cool song) shows-off T.I.’s music style in a nutshell.
38. Living Signs – Cold Specks
The opening ‘waw-waw’ sound of the guitar sets the tone for ‘Living Signs’ which is kind of a definitive track of Cold Specks’ music style. It’s not one of her stand-out songs, plus it’s pretty short at barely over two-and-a-half minutes. Yet, the dark and gloomy lyrics mesh well and slightly ominous vibe of the music gives you a good sense of what you’ll get from Cold Specks. It’s far from being one of my favorite songs by her (though it’s the second of three songs by her on this list, the previous one is at #44), but it’s still a solid one.
37. The Love You’re Given – Jack Garratt
London musician Jack Garrett is a singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist whose vocals and music style are a mix of R&B, pop, neosoul and electronic music. As soon as he starts singing “I’ve been trying to give you my love. But you wont’ let me, won’t let me” you will find yourself nodding your head to the beat of this slinky jam. The song starts out as kind of an achingly sweet lament about a relationship gone wrong, surrounded by a quiet beat, but around 3:25 in segues into a louder, scratchy, techno slow-jam. Yet, it all somehow flows quite sinuously.
36. Blood On Me – Sampha
I’m forever thankful to Solange’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair‘ or I may not have ever heard of Sampha. His work on the aforementioned song is what turned me onto this talented dude with his truly original style. He looks like a teddy bear, but his vocals are raspy and higher-pitched than you would expect. His music is hard to define in that he incorporates a variety of genres such hip-hop, rap, neosoul, pop and electronic music. This song jumps-out at you in that it has a quiet intensity, as shown in the chorus “I swear they smell the blood on me. I hear they’re coming for me.” I have annihilated his catalog in that I’ve yet to hear a song by him that I don’t like. That is a rare achievement.
35. Soul Sista – Bilal
It’s always disappointing when you hear a song by an artist and think ‘They’re going to be big’ and then it doesn’t happen. ‘Soul Sista’ has a wonderful and loving message about the beauty of Black Womanhood, especially for our darker-skinned sisters. The video, music and lyrics all admirably come together for a song that wraps around you like silk. Bilal’s aching, 70s-style of singing captured the essence of a truly sexy R&B song. Sadly, his entrance onto the music stage seems to have been his career highlight. Though he still puts out music, it’s nothing as original as this song.
34. Old Knives – Cold Specks
I’m kind of flummoxed that three songs by Cold Specks are on this list. Well, at least this one is the highest ranked of the three (others are at #44 and #38), and deservedly so. I just love how deep and ominous her voice sounds on this song. Her band plays along well: the gloomy guitar; the soft, but pointed drums and the quiet, streaky horns in the background.
33. Out My Mind, Just In Time – Erykah Badu
I’m sure that this song was a bit of surprise for Badu fans, if you know her primarily from her Grammy-winning debut album, ‘Baduizm.’ The beginning of it may remind you of some of her previous neosoul tracks, but then starting at 2:35 it gets beautifully trippy with such poignant lyrics as “Never knew. I was blind. What it through. I can’t see there. Mama say. Let there be. Easily. Said and done. I can’t feel. I am numb. Bitter dream. Fruit so raw. Winter cold. Let me out.” The quiet drums, piercing guitars, spacey sound of the keyboards – the music just matches perfectly with Badu’s dreamy, psychedelic vocals. This 10+ minute song is worth every second.
32. Milk & Honey – Celeste
Celeste’s music and vocals has a jazzy sound to it with a mix of R&B and electronic music. Yet, ‘Milk & The Honey’ is like warm caramel that coats over you, but the lyrics tell a bit of a different story. The beginning of the song sounds soft and gentle, but the opening words are of pain: “You should thread carefully in my shoes. Would you rather it be me instead of you.” Her vocals, the music and lyrics all come together for a hypnotic song.
31. Cold Game – Maverick Sabre
As much as I love Maverick Sabre, seeing this song on the list slightly made me question the algorithm I used to create it. I’m not saying that it’s not a good song, but it’s not even close to the several songs by Maverick that I’ve listened to endlessly. What I do like about this song is that it reminds me of the 1970s soul/R&B music that I heard growing up, such as Curtis Mayfield or New Birth. Of course, Maverick adds his own Irish style to the old school vibe with his usual singing and bits of rap verse. It’s the kind of song you listen to while you’re laying around contemplating the universe as it’s raining outside.
30. Hallucinations – dvsn
This was the first song by dvsn that I ran into the ground. The duo (producer/vocalist Paul Jefferies and lead vocalist Daniel Daley) are so damn talented. Whenever I get in my ‘Whatever happened to R&B Music?’ funk, I put on this group and everything is alright with the music world again. They specialize in R&B love songs that make the soul ache whether from happiness or hurt, especially with lyrics like “Tryna rewind ’til we’re back where we started. Yeah that’s all I want.” Daley’s vocals on this beautiful song are sweet and heart-rendering, the music production by Jefferies is tight and slick in that nothing sounds out-of-place. If you don’t have this group in your music collection, you’re missing out.
29. Warm – SG Lewis
This is SG Lewis’ second song on this list (the other is at #47). The fact that Sampha, one of my favorite artists, is the lead vocalist on this song is surely one of the reasons why I like it so much. Also, I’m a fan of SG Lewis, a producer, songwriter and DJ who, according to AllMusic, specializes in “emotive, atmospheric approach to dance-oriented, electronic-based music.” That’s a pretty apt description. ‘Warm’ just makes you want to close your eyes and just let it wrap yourself around you. It’s a supple and appealing song.
28. Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton
I stumbled across Chris Stapleton via a WordPress blog that I follow, thank goodness. Before then, it had been quite awhile since I listened to country music. Most of it sounded too pop-like and homogenized for my liking. Maybe because my idea of country music was influenced too much by my mom (Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, etc.). Must admit, I debated whether to give Stapleton a listen, but I’m so glad that I did, which is why this is the second of three songs he has on this list (previous one is at #49). ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ gives me the old-style country music vibe that I remembered, without it feeling like an imitation. It’s a nice, bluesy number, which amazingly isn’t my favorite song by him (we’ll get to that one later), but it still shows off his fabulous vocals very well. I never fail to sing along to the lyrics “You’re as smooth as You’re as sweet as strawberry whine. You’re as warm as a glass of brandy. And honey, I stay stoned on your love, all the time.”
27. We Exist – Arcade Fire
The lyrics to the song are stark and pretty fierce. It’s about being yourself, facing your fears and being accepted. Arcade Fire’s style is layered in that their vocals and musics overlap, in that neither one or the other is ever truly in the background. They have a pop sound (though their lyrics aren’t light-hearted) that plays a lot with electronic music. I do like this song, but my appreciation for it really starts at the 2:22 mark, when it kicks-ass with its operatic, electronic sound. It just intensely pounds away as the vocals and lyrics speed along and become more epic. When they sing “Let ’em stare! Let ’em stare! If that’s all they can do! But I’d lose my heart, If I turned away from you.” It’s not a loud song, but it packs a wallop.
26. The Line – dvsn
Oh my goodness, this song is just so damn luscious to the ears. The lyrics are so tender and dvsn’s vocals are incredibly beautiful and heartfelt. Guess you can tell that I just LOVE this song. This is the second song by dvsn on my list (the first one is at #30). Sadly, you don’t hear R&B music like this more, though that hasn’t stopped dvsn from rewarding their fans and attracting new ones with their producing and vocal talents. This song always takes me to church in that whenever I hear it I sing to it with my eyes closed, swaying softly while raising my arms in rapture. This is an alluring song from beginning to end. Hell, even the live version is fantastic. I hope this group sticks around for awhile.
25. All the Things She Said – Simple Minds
I’m not sure if I would’ve ever guessed that this song would’ve made the cut. It is one of my top songs by Simple Minds, but I didn’t think I listened to it this much. Some of you probably remember them from their bigger hit ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)‘ from the movie ‘The Breakfast Club.’ Others are probably thinking that if any Simple Minds song is on a music list, it would’ve been the aforementioned one. As for ‘All the Things She Said’ the lyrics are what I think about, such as “Through the eyes of God, you never know what hate is” which has still stuck with me. The music on this song is typical Simple Minds in that it has a mini world music vibe to it, along with some heavy use of synthesizers. The background vocalist, Robin Clark, always adds needed heart and heat to their songs. Though it’s the oldest song on this list, it’s still a good one.
24. Helvegen – Wardruna
This is the second of four songs by Wardruna that are on this list (previous one is at #43). I’m not sure how that happened. I’m guessing it is because when I listen to one song by them I have the tendency to just let most, if not all of the songs on the selected album play. ‘Helvegen’ reminds me of a funeral procession, though not exactly a mournful one. The Norwegian-to-English lyrics have a lot of weight to them, like this section: “Who shall sing me, Into deathsleep sling me. Whence I on the path to Hel go. And this track I tread. Is cold, so cold, so cold.” The Gregorian chant-style vocals really makes the song reverberate, along with Wardruna’s usual, yet original folk-style music.
23. Oh Miah – Blackmill
Blackmill is another music find that I discovered via Pandora. Electronic music has a lot of genres and subgenres. Yet when it comes to chill electronic music, you can’t do any better than Blackmill. So it wasn’t a surprise to see that Robert Card (AKA Blackmill) has two songs on this list (the other is ranked #42). ‘Oh Miah’ is a soothing and sensual mix of atmospheric sound, with vibrating vocals and a dreamy electronic backing (keyboards, synthesizer, electric guitar). If you’re going to take a dive into Blackmill’s music catalog, you can’t go wrong by starting with this sublime track.
22. Wolves – Kanye West
There are songs by Kanye West that I like, but I’m not a Kanye fan. As a result, here’s another song on this list that I’m not sure how it made the cut. Again, just because I’m surprised it’s on the list, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve to be here. I’ve always liked the robotic, stop-and-start sound of the song, which goes well with Kanye’s calm, yet reflective rap style. Also, the hollowness and stark techno sound are nicely-complemented by Vic Mensa and Sia‘s backing vocals. It’s a somber song, lacking the usual antsy and bravado that infiltrate most of West’s songs, which makes it float around in your head a little longer.
21. Fast Lane – Bilal
The first time I heard this song was on an episode of the long-cancelled NBC Show, ‘Boomtown.’ I completely forgot that I liked it, when out-of-the-blue it wiggled its way back in my head. I was so happy about it that I played this song on Spotify quite a bit. Interestingly enough, when I think of Bilal, this isn’t the song that comes to mind (it’s actually another song by him, ranked #35 on this list). Though at times I think the song tries too hard to be all things (R&B, hiphop, old school), it’s still a good musical outing by Bilal and for those coming to his music for the first-time.
20. Number One – Koven
Koven is a good group to start with you if you’re an electronic, melodic music newbie. The vocals (Katie Boyle) and production (Matt Rowat) make for a good, electronic music version of alternative rock with an anthem feel to it. The lyrics to the song are straight-forward such as “No thought for anyone. Not giving a damn who you step on. Looking out for number one. The only thing that matters to you is what you want”, but Boyles’ vocals puts some nice, splendid-sounding heat to them.
19. Drunk On Your Love – Brett Eldredge
This is definitely a feel-good song about love. The chorus is just joyful: “I woke up, up still drunk, drunk. On your love, love, on your love, love, love. Now I know whyy, I’m feeling so high, high. ‘Cause I’m still drunk, drunk on your love, on your love, oh yeah.” I’ve gotten looks when I’ve blasted this song while driving my car, the ‘That black chick is listening to country music!’ type of stares. Whatever, a good song is a good song, doesn’t matter the genre. The sweet-sounding harmonica and guitar along with Edredge’s full-of-warmth voice is why I’ve yet to get tired of this song, to my husband’s distress.
18. Man of the Year – ScHoolboy Q
This must be a good rap song, because the female-butts-bouncing-in-slo-mo video (not the one above) didn’t deter me from it. SchHoolboy Q has a bit of a fast rap style that kind of side-swipes you, in that it may take a few listens to fully grasp what you’re hearing, lyrics-wise, let alone trying to rap along with him. Luckily, his melodic style is catchy, which means you’ll eventually pick-up on all the words that are flying at you. The sample he uses (‘Cherry‘ by The Chromatics) helps set the beat and mood for this song, with Schoolboy’s rap bouncing readily along with it.
17. Let Me Go – Maverick Sabre
This is the second of two songs by Maverick Sabre (the other is ranked #31) that are on this list. It is also the song that truly turned me into a big Maverick Sabre fan. I love the retro, 1960s James Bond-theme music sound of it, aided by its samples of Issac Hayes’ ‘Ike’s Rap II‘ and Simon Haseley’s ‘Hammerhead.’ Of course Maverick’s one-of-a-kind singing and rapping style adds to the slickness and coolness of the song. I really like the verse “You made me feel, you understand. With you I won’t be, a better man” in that the simple word “don’t” changes the whole meaning of what seems like a typical song verse. I honestly don’t get why he’s not as well-known as he deservedly should be. His music style crosses a lot of genres, yet he still puts his own stamp on it. Plus he can actually sing and rap, normally it’s one or the other. On a side note, the video for this song is pretty good, in that it tells a story from beginning to end. You don’t really see music videos do that anymore.
16. Cigarettes – Noah Gundersen
Another repeat artist on this list (previous songs are ranked #48 and #41). Gundersen is such a strong lyricist, combine that with his earnest vocals, you get a fantastic song such as ‘Cigarettes.’ Yes, he’s metaphorically comparing a woman he loves to cigarettes (“Once you had me, you don’t have me anymore. I don’t crave you in the morning or at the company store. I don’t use you to escape, in my fingers out the door. Once you had me, you don’t have me anymore.”), but the song is more than that. It starts kind of quietly, with a mournful harmonica and an acoustic guitar, Gundersen and a female background vocalist. Then at 4:30 it kind of crescendos in which other instruments follow-along with Gundersen until the end of what’s a sad, yet also kind of uplifting song in that the protagonist has finally moved on from an unhealthy love. Gundersen’s vocals are the shining moment of this song, which he never fails to put to excellent use, especially live.
15. Come Fly Away – Maverick Sabre
This is the third song by Maverick that is on this list (others are at #31 and #17). It was the first single he released from his contemplative second album, ‘Innerstanding.’ He actually sings a lot more on this album, which is a bit unusual in that he normally bounces back-and-forth between singing and rapping in his songs. From what I can tell, he hasn’t used any samples as well, it sounds just like a band in the background. The song is about life and how it can beat you down, which he laments with his strong vocals during the chorus (“Come fly away somewhere. Been here for days wanting. And nothing has changed for you. You’re tired and you don’t want to live like this.”). This was another song by Maverick Sabre that I’ve played endlessly. It’s that good.
14. Hunger of the Pine – alt-J
English band alt-J’s sound is a mix of indie rock and folk with sometimes a hint of electronic music (dub and pop) via their synthesizers. Don’t let the latter use give you the impression that they’re heavy music samplers. In ‘Hunger of the Pine’ the only sample you hear is Miley Cyrus singing ‘I’m a female rebel’, the rest is all alt-J. According to bandmember Gus Unger-Hamilton, “The lyrics [to ‘Hunger of the Pine’] mainly suggest the idea that missing someone — pining — can be a physical pain much like hunger.” The song has a stark and futuristic vibe with slightly uncomfortable lyrics, all of which makes it worth a listen.
13. Without – Sampha
I’ll refrain from waxing poetic, again, about how much I listen to Sampha, which is exemplified by the fact that this is the second of three songs (previous one is at #36) of his that are on this list. I just love his mix of R&B, pop and electronic music that flows with his soft, yet raspy vocals. The samples he uses are so seamless that sometimes I forget that they’re samples and not an actual band. ‘Without You’ is about someone in love with someone, but not sure how much they should show it. It has such pointed lines such as “I can’t stay forever. But if this would go straight. I conquered the catastrophe.” A lot of people are still sleeping on this talented artist. Here’s your chance to not be one of them any longer.
12. Isa – Wardruna
This the third of five songs by Warduna on this list (previous songs are ranked #43 and #24). I honestly can count on one hand how many times I’ve purposely selected this song via Spotify or on my iPhone because I wanted to listen to it. So if I had to pick any song on this list that I’m completely confused about how it made the cut, it’s this one. When I looked at my Spotify downloads I see that it follows ‘Laukr’ (#10 on this list), so I can only assume this is another song that I just let play after hearing the song I chose to listen to. ‘Isa’ isn’t a bad song, it hits all of the usual musical notes (hypnotic vocals, atmospheric vibe, New Age/Norwegian folk sound) for this band. It’s just that they’ve done better ones.
11. Work It Out (Live) – Tye Tribbett
The main reason why I love this song is that it never fails to lift my spirits. I’m religiously-ambivalent and I’m not a fan of a lot the new gospel music. The lyrics aren’t exactly original theme-wise, if you’ve listened to gospel music over the years (“The enemy tryna make you feel like pain will be (always). But you know like I know that trouble will never last (always). So hold ya head up high. God is on your side. And He loves you. And He cares.”). However, Tribbett and his background vocalists put a lot of emotion and gusto into this song, which adds to its inspirational tone. Plus, you have to give Tribbett props for making great use of trap music style for a gospel song, definitely not a style you hear in gospel music. Note: I stumbled across this video by Lifeline Dance Ministry, who do a wonderful dance set to this song. The women kick-butt and the audience loved it.
10. Laukr – Wardruna
This is the fourth Wardruna song on this list (previous ones are ranked #43, #24 and #12). It is also the first song I had ever heard from Wardruna. I was watching The History Channel’s ‘Vikings’ and this mournful song came on. The show barely went to commercial over before I hit-up my laptop to find out the name of the group. This song is all about sorrow, which you hear in the brief lyrics (Danish to English translation): “Laukr is water tears from the eye waterfalls from mountains drops from ice waves on water. The waves rock me and deeply, I fall asleep.” The song has an end-of-days feel to it, yet it’s somehow not depressing
9. Wait for It (Hamilton Soundtrack) – Leslie Odom, Jr.
Odom, Jr. deserves all the kudos in the world for his stellar rendition of this lyrically intricate song written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Tony Award-Winning Broadway musical, ‘Hamilton.’ I’m sure when Odom first saw the words to this song, he probably thought ‘There is now way I’m going to be able to sing this without f*cking it up!’ Well, maybe he didn’t think that exactly, but I’m sure that sentiment has crossed the minds of vocalists when tackling this song. Luckily for Odom, it became one, of if not the biggest song from the musical. Odom’s vocals sound so clear, crisp and soaring in this song. He starts kind of slow and gentle, but when he gets to the part “I am the one thing in life I can control” is when you really recognize how special his voice is on this song. The song, and Odom, are a show-stopper, plain and simple.
8. All Hands On Desk – Tinashe
Tinashe can sing and dance, and has been pretty busy putting out music. Yet, she hasn’t come close to re-capturing the pumpin’ heat on this R&B/electronic music jam. I must admit the captivating video (wide-screen shot of dancers in cargo holds, the choreography), at first, did increase my interest in the song. However, in the end, her crisp, sexy vocals and the catchy beat ruled the day. Plus I love singing the chorus: “All hands on deck. All in front all in the back just like that, like that. Imma blow your mind take it out on the floor like that, like that. Imma blow your mind like that.” It’s a song that will get you moving whether you’re in the dance club or home alone remembering the last time you went to a club.
7. Nara – alt-J
This is the second of two songs from alt-J on this list. I would’ve never guessed that two songs from alt-J would be on this list, let alone one of them being in the Top 10. Of the two songs, I actually prefer ‘Hunger of the Pine’ (#14 on this list) over ‘Nara’, not that the latter is musically inferior to the former. Lyrically, this song, which seems to be about a love between two men, is less dense than most songs by this group. As for the vocals, I really like the high falsetto parts, which make for a nice contrast to the semi-eerie music. If I was going to introduce someone to alt-J’s music, this song wouldn’t be the first one I would play for them. I’m not sure if it’s a good representation of their music catalog, but it’s not a bad one either.
6. 4 Degrees – ANOHNI
It’s kind of weird to enjoy a song that’s about the annihilation of nature due to global warming (“I wanna hear the dogs crying for water. I wanna see fish go belly-up in the sea. All those lemurs and all those tiny creatures. I wanna see them burn, it’s only four degrees”). Yet, Anohni somehow accomplishes such a feat on this song, with her soft and lilting singing-style, which somehow isn’t drowned out by the glorious techno bombast of the layered horns, drums and keyboards. It’s nice mash-up of pop, dance and electronic music with a serious message that doesn’t get lost because of Anohni’s haunting, yet crisp vocals.
5. Doesn’t Matter – Andrew Huang
Huang is an unknown and unsigned music artist and video producer. According to his website “[Huang] has released over 2,000 songs in a massive range of genres. He is perhaps best known for the strange feats of musicianship which have earned him over 1.3 million subscribers and 170 million views on his YouTube channel.” So, how did I first hear about Andrew Huang? I was on Soundcloud, letting music play randomly, when I heard ‘Doesn’t Matter.’ The pumping sound right at the beginning sets the tone for the entire song. It is a funky, electronic music jam, that will have your head-nodding and body-popping.
4. Kiss It Better – Rihanna
Rihanna’s music never really made a mark with me until I heard several tracks from her ‘ANTI‘ album. It’s a really strong album, and ‘Kiss It Better’ is simply stellar. Her reedy vocal style blends really well with the soaring electronic music on this Prince-like song. You can tell she really likes this song because her vocals are a lot firmer on here than I’ve heard on her previous songs, especially when she sings (or practically laments): “I’ve been waiting up all night. Baby, tell me what’s wrong. Go on and make it right. Make it all night long. Man, fuck your pride. Just take it on back, just take it on back babe. Take it back all night. Just take it on back, take it on back. Ooh do what you gotta do, keep me up all night (all night). Hurting vibe, man, and it hurts inside when I look you in your eye.” It’s ridiculous that this song wasn’t a massive hit, because it’s a damn good one.
3. UruR – Wardruna
The last and the highest of the five Wardruna songs that are on this list (others are at #43, #24, #12 and #10). I like them, but I don’t love them, though the algorithm used to create this Spotify list says otherwise. However, what it did get right, data-wise, is that this is my favorite Wardruna song. It has a trance-like, stealth vibe that is really compelling, along with the call-to-arms horns, resonating drums and deep, chanting vocals. Whenever I listen to it, I find myself stomping along to the beat as I close my eyes and let the song take me away to wherever Wardruna emotionally-goes when it plays this song.
2. Fire Away – Chris Stapleton
I played this song so much that my then-preteen song knew most of the words, which was not something he was trying to achieve. Stapleton’s vocals on this song are sorrowful and sincere that you almost forget that he’s accompanied by a band. Right from the beginning, the lyrics set the tone for the song: “Honey load up your questions and pick up your sticks and your stones. And pretend I’m a shelter for heartaches that don’t have a home.” The rest of the song tells a story about someone who has taken an emotional beating from a loved one and/or has put them through the wringer. Yet, they’re still trying to stick around, to be there for them to the very end. ‘Fire Away’ shows why Stapleton has been crowned the savior of country music, though it’s a crown he doesn’t want. He’s a talented singer and musician, not just a country artist, which is exemplified by his gritty cover of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares to You’ – and the fact he has three songs (others are at #49 and #28) on this list.
1. Incomplete Kisses – Sampha
When I first decided to take on this musical task, I had no doubt that this song was going to be at the top of the list. If it wasn’t, I would’ve called total bullsh*t on the algorithm and this article would’ve never existed. This is the third song by Sampha on this list (the other two are at #36 and #13), though I’m mildly surprised that there weren’t a few more since I listen to his music a lot. However, ‘Incomplete Kisses’ is the one I’ve constantly come back to, and for good reason. There is a softness to this song in that it makes me feel good whenever I hear it. Musically, the electronic-piercing keyboard sound adds to Sampha’s gentle vocals and tender lyrics. I’m sure my family can’t wait until I finally get tired of it, though I honestly don’t see that ever happening.
PLAYLIST: My ‘Top 50 Most Played Songs’ On Spotify