Spotify's "Most Immortal" Playlist: Explaining How Tracks by Nirvana, Queen, Radiohead and More Remain So Popular Decades Later
The folks over at Spotify are at it again, using data from its Echo Nest holding to track the most popular songs that, by all means, shouldn't be popular anymore. By scanning the web for the most references to songs released pre-2000 and comparing that information with its own streaming information, Spotify has generated the Top 100 "immortal" tracks of all time. Keep in mind of course that a few acts, such as The Beatles, are left off the list as those catalogues aren't available on Spotify. That said, the Top 10 are still fairly interesting.
01) "Hotel California" by The Eagles
Few bands have aged as poorly as The Eagles, at least in terms of the act's core fan base. Although youngsters today still rock to Hendrix and Zeppelin, The Eagles and its collection of pop smashes hasn't stayed as fresh (perhaps kids hate harmonies...and constant fadeouts). "Hotel California," despite being one of the band's most famous songs, is also one of its most atypical. No one thinks "shredding" when The Eagles gets mentioned and yet this song is consistently ranked among the best guitar solos of all time. The alliterative and occasionally ambiguous lyrics also make for a far more psychedelic experience than "Take It Easy," a style that resonates more with current fans of alternative rock. The continuing popularity of the song might indicate the bridge between the band's older fans and the next generation. If the song is still this hip circa 2035...we'll consider our theory correct.
02) "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
No act was bigger, in terms of overall influence, during the '90s than Nirvana. Many a classic rocker has declared rock 'n' roll to be dead but we're calling B.S.: That fate may have happened had it not been for Nirvana, which made pure guitar-based rock awesome again, not just for the alt fans who had other bands to turn to, but for the MTV generation that tuned in to see the music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It's the only song in Rolling Stone's Top 10 songs of all time that was recorded after 1971. Nobody commands more respect in the alternative rock scene than Kurt Cobain.
03) "Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin
As we mentioned before, Zeppelin is an act from the previous generation that still rings true with the current era of music fans. Interestingly, it's not a "quick" and punchy single like "Been A Long Time" that is most popular but rather a lengthy operetta that stretches past seven minutes in length. The format by which we take in music might be changing but the trends haven't changed at all: "Stairway" is the most-played song in FM radio history and that hasn't changed too much since we began streaming.
04) "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
Pop culture goes a long way in keeping a hit from the '70s alive and well. Queen's most classic song accomplishes this better than the previous three songs on this list...and the rest of the songs after it as well. No use of the song in pop culture has been more widespread than the classic scene from Wayne's World of course, a scene that has inspired thousands of drivers the world over to rock out while sitting in traffic (ourselves included). That accessibility across audiences makes it an easy pick for a party playlist and therefore popular on Spotify as well.
05) "Creep" by Radiohead
As we mentioned before, no individual is more respected by alt-rockers than Kurt Cobain. Realistically however, we'd argue no act had a bigger influence on the modern state of alternative music than Radiohead. Although that band's legions of fans will devour every album turned out by the group, more casual fans will search out the "hits," and frankly, Radiohead hasn't made a career of topping the charts. The closest it's come was "Creep" and that's the go-to fix for easy listening.
06) "Eye of The Tiger" by Survivor
Remember, there's an ounce of truth behind every stereotype. The idea of the training montage has been repeatedly skewered but there's a reason why songs such as "Eye of The Tiger," made famous by the Rocky III and other '80s power-pop tracks became the go-to exercise song for generations of fans. If you think this is an exception and not the rule, know that Europe's "Final Countdown" comes in at no. 13 on Spotify's "immortal" list. Someone, somewhere, is working out to this music right now.
07) "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve
The style transition between pop music of the '90s to the 2000s was so abrupt, we're surprised that more Throwback Thursday listeners haven't made acts such as Matchbox 20 and Sugar Ray the dominant forces on this list. The first salute to true '90s pop we get however is "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by The Verve, which-unlike a great deal of '90s pop anthems-is actually a pretty great song.
08) "Wonderwall" by Oasis
Oasis, like Radiohead, was probably adored by your freshman roommate...except he only listened to three songs ("Wonderwall," "Champagne Supernova" and "Don't Look Back in Anger"). Just as "Creep" is the go-to for the casual Radiohead fan, "Wonderwall" is the go-to Oasis single. If Spotify took amateurs learning the acoustic guitar into consideration, we're sure this song would appear much closer to the top.
09) "Zombie" by The Cranberries
Color us surprised on this one. A great song no doubt but it's tough to pick out one reason why this track remains so popular among Spotify users and bloggers elsewhere. If you've got a suggestion, we're open to it.
10) "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses
Every rock band has the potential to become superstars (at least fleetingly) by releasing a ballad (consider Hinder and "Lips of An Angel"). The Guns N' Roses didn't need a ballad on Appetite for Destruction-"Welcome to The Jungle" and "Paradise City" will always be classics for rockers-but "Sweet Child O' Mine grabbed the pop audience that the band might have been missing. That appeal has continued to this day, apparently. Kind of makes us wonder, where's Bon Jovi on this list? ("Livin' On A Prayer" comes in at no. 26).