The Riff
Published in

The Riff

My Favorite Song(s) From Every Decade, Since The 30s

What I enjoyed in my past lives, and my current one.

Photo by Mohamed Osama on Unsplash

This one is pretty simple, today I’m going to go through each decade and give you my best answer for my favorite (non-country) song from each one! I don’t want to include country music because it would probably take up every single space if it was involved, so I want to make that it’s own separate list!

It’s incredibly hard to choose just one from some of these decades, so I had to include multiple on several.

1930s- “Easy Living” by Billie Holiday

There weren’t a ton of 30s choices for me, but when I realized this song was from that decade, it became a very easy choice.

Billie is one of the all-time jazz greats for a reason. Her effortless, dreamy delivery of this song is what makes it so great in my mind. There’s just something about the way she flows like a smooth river throughout this whole song that makes me want to lie down and look at clouds all day.

The clarinet and piano that carries the track through is just as woozy and easy-going as Billie’s voice as well, which ties it all together so well.

1940s- “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” by Johnny Mercer

I am very bad at taking this songs advice in most situations, but life is much better when I do remember to “accentuate the positive.”

This is such a clever, catchy little tune. The catchiness is one of the reasons I love it, because if I get it stuck in my head, all it does is remind me to be positive.

There are many versions of this song, but I think the original has got to be my favorite, although obviously, I do also love the Willie Nelson rendition. It’s just so creative in the way it stretches out those syllables.

1950s- “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard and “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley

This is the decade I was dreading, because this is probably my favorite decade of music ever. I simply couldn’t choose between the two kings of rock and roll; Little Richard, and Elvis. The more you look into the 50s, the more you realize that it was the great awakening for all genres of music.

First, I’ll cover “Long Tall Sally.” This song was one of the main songs that drew me into the 50s so hard. I was addicted the first time I ever heard it. Little Richard’s powerful, near-yelling vocals will catch you off guard, but get you ready to absolutely cut a rug at the sock hop.

There’s something about the way the guitar blends with the piano that just hooks your attention, and makes the instrumental very unique. The pauses between Little Richard belting each line of the chorus is lovely as well.

Next is “All Shook Up.” This song is my favorite of the King’s, and I honestly don’t know why. It’s got that same addicting feel that “Long Tall Sally” has.

The piano has such a nice flow to it, and Elvis take a smooth delivery throughout the song. I am infatuated with the humming he does in the chorus.

There’s also a couple lines that make no sense but are extremely catchy:

“I’m itchin’ like a man on a fuzzy tree
My friends say I’m actin’ wild as a bug”


It doesn’t even matter what it means, it’s cute, funny, and catchy.

1960s- “I Get Around” by The Beach Boys

This was another tough decade to decide, but this is definitely the right pick.

I am don’t normally fancy boy bands, I was never a big Beatles guy, or anyone like that, but this song is an exception.

It’s catchy, it’s dynamic, it’s cool as can be daddy-o (I’m sorry). The harmonies are gorgeous, and I love the contrast of the high pitched lead in the chorus, to the deeper voiced verses.

I would give anything to go back in time to the 60s, and cruise through a bumpin’ strip in a beach town with this song blaring through a staticky radio speaker. I would’ve been the coolest cat in town, but now when I cruise through town blaring this song, people think I’m 80 years old.

1970s- “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC and “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie

Once again, I just couldn’t do it…I could not leave either of these songs off this list.

“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” is far and away my favorite AC/DC song. I’ll admit, I’ve never really taken a deep dive into their catalogue, but I definitely prefer it over their other hits.

Bon Scott’s signature screeching works so well this song, and I love the deep growling delivery at the end of the chorus when the hook is repeated multiple times.

It’s such an interesting subject matter too, as you don’t hear many songs about hitmen.

As for “Moonage Daydream,” I think this is one of Bowie’s quintessential pieces. The lyrics have that signature spacey, futuristic feel that he is known for, and the sound reflects it.

It’s such a creative song, and so ahead of it’s time. I have to say, I’m not a mega-fan of Bowie, but I can bump this song anywhere, anytime.

1980s- “Dancing In The Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, “Take It On The Run” by REO Speedwagon, and “Working For The Weekend” by Loverboy

I had no idea I was such an 80s fan until I made this list.

I know Pierce McIntyre is going to appreciate this one.

“Dancing In The Dark” is my favorite Springsteen song, because it perfectly captured the feelings I had at the time when I first really started listening to it a lot.

I love the deep, echoey delivery, and the emotion you can hear in his voice. The signature 80s keyboard is used to perfection here. This song just makes me want to scream because it’s so damn good.

I genuinely think this has to be one of the catchiest, most memorable opening lines in history.

“Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another, you been messin’ around.”

This opening line hooked me on the song immediately, and the rest of it lives up to the standard set by that opener.

The subtle electric guitar compliments the drums and distant sounding delivery of the vocals.

The opening cowbell, the synth keyboard, the rocking guitar, ugh — chef’s kiss. Need I say more?

1990s- “No More ?’s” by Eazy E and Ice Cube

There were lots of amazing rap songs to choose from here, but I landed on this one because it’s so interesting.

The idea that it’s an interview is really cool to me, and I love the reporter having a part in the song. The subdued, story-telling of the second verse is also super compelling.

The whole song just has a funk to it as well with that repetitive guitar riff.

2000s- “Me & Mr Jones” by Amy Winehouse, “Hum Hallelujah” by Fall Out Boy, and “Teenagers” by My Chemical Romance

We’re finally into a decade where I was alive! Funnily enough, I didn’t listen to any of these in my childhood though (very protective christian parents).

I don’t know if anyone will ever compare to the vintage voice of Winehouse. She talked the talk, and walked the walk of a bygone era. She was not afraid to put a modern spin on it, though.

The backing harmonies are beautiful, and the attitude in Winehouse’s conveyance adds a lot. Of course there’s the iconic line:

“What kind of fuckery is this?”

Which is (in a good way) exactly what I asked myself when I heard Amy Winehouse for the first time.

I really got into this song when I was preparing to go to a Fall Out Boy concert in late 2017. I was going over the expected setlist, and I didn’t know all the words to this one, so I was determined to learn it. The more I listened, the more I fell in love with it.

The hard rocking sound is great, and the lyrics are the same great quality you always expect from Fall Out Boy. I love the chorus, particularly these lines:

“I thought I loved you, but it was just how you looked in the light.
A teenage vow in a parking lot, ’til tonight do us part.”

I love you Gerard Way.

This is pretty much the song that started my emo phase full-on during freshman year. It is the ultimate rebellious “loser” song.

I simply could not leave it off the 2000s.

2010s- “Slow Dancing In The Dark” by Joji, “Someone Like You” by Adele, and “Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…)” by Panic! At The Disco

This one was pretty much impossible, because this is when I really got heavily into music. There were a million possibilities, but I believe these three are pretty solid.

I fell in love with Joji’s music towards the end of the decade, and the album this single is from; Ballads 1, is probably a top three, 2010s album for me.

There is just something so intriguing about his sonic aesthetic. It’s dreamy, but distorted, calming but manic. This song makes me feel every single human emotion available, but mostly pure agony (in the best way possible).

The instrumental sounds like the night sky looks.

Speaking of pure agony…

In 2017 I experienced my first true heartbreak. This song was my anthem, and I cried to it so many times. There is a reason Adele is considered one of the best. No song can transport me back to that time period like this one can. I can see so vividly the trees of the parkway as I took a sorrowful drive. I can smell the exact incense that I burned around that time. It’s perfect.

Adele’s voice is really one of a kind, and she uses it so well to convey such a solemn sense of mourning and sadness. The piano in the background echoes like tears falling on a marble floor.

It’s just plain gorgeous.

I love the way this song opens with a kids’ choir. The transition into the actual song is so steampunk sounding, which fits the albums aesthetic perfectly.

The lyrics are bizarre, but work so well. There are too many lines that I love to even choose one to highlight.

It’s ever-evolving and depends on the day, but I believe this is probably my favorite P!ATD song.

2020s (so far)- “Heartless” by The Weeknd, “Life Is Good” by Drake and Future, and “What’s Poppin’ (Remix)” by Jack Harlow featuring DaBaby, Torey Lanez, and Lil Wayne

I’ve not been super in depth into much other than country so far in the 2020s, but these are definitely the stand-outs that I’ve really enjoyed.

If this song doesn’t make you feel like a badass, I don’t know what will.

When I gave After Hours a listen, this was immediately the standout song to me. I’ve said it about other songs before, but this chorus definitely has crack in it — it’s so addictive.

It’s got the usual, polished, lush feel of a Weeknd song, but with some bite. I really feel as though this song will not be out of my favorites even after the decade ends.

“Life Is Good” is two songs masquerading as one, but it’s okay, because the transition is nuts.

This is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. I’ve always liked Drake, but was never a big fan of Future. Both of them bring the heat on this track, though.

Drake’s part is a thumping, smooth beat, typical of what Drake does his best work over. Future’s part starts with silence, then he says; “It’s cool man, got red bottoms on, life is good, you know what I mean, like?” Then the beat drops, and he goes in with a great verse.

This song contains Tory Lanez’s best verse ever, and some of the best verses for the others as well.

I went into this remix thinking I’d be disappointed, because normally powerhouse remixes like it don’t really live up to the hype, but this one exceeded it.

This is one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard, and for the entirety of 2020 it was stuck in my head every other week.

So there it is! Thanks for reading!

What do you think of my choices?

If anybody else wants to give this a go, feel free!



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store