7. Arcade Fire — “Haiti”
Regine Chassagne’s ode to her homeland off of 2004’s Funeral features the same lush orchestration Arcade Fire fans have come to know and love, but it’s her ethereal vocals that make this the most hauntingly beautiful track about dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier you’ll ever hear.
6. Oasis — “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
That Noel Gallagher’s a sneaky one: While recording 1995’s uberhit record Morning Glory?, he told brother Liam that he wanted to sing lead on “Wonderwall.” Liam refused, and Noel relented, on the condition that he could sing the next song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” His consolation prize ended up on Billboard’s top 10 in the U.S. and reached number one in the UK. Some skillful bargaining, huh?
5. Simon & Garfunkel — “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Art Garfunkel would probably take offense to us referring to Paul Simon as “the lead singer of Simon & Garfunkel,” but it’s a sad truth that ol’ Art was mostly known for singing harmonies. This song, however, is perfectly tailored to his tenor voice, and when he hits the top of his range, it’s hard not to get chills. Don’t try banning it from your household, or this’ll happen.
4. The Pixies — “Gigantic”
Kim Deal takes the lead on this adultery-inspired tune. The song was the Pixies’ first single, and the killer bassline and smiling vocals were inspiration for none other than Kurt Cobain. In 1992, he told Melody Maker, “I was completely nihilistic up until about four or five years ago, when I first heard this. It changed my attitude.” Good enough for Kurt, good enough for us.
3. The Who — “I’m One”
When Pete Townshend penned Quadrophenia, he had mods and rockers in mind, but the themes of needing to fit into a group and searching for an identity have resonated with generations of angsty teens. “I’m One” starts off subdued before defiantly declaring, “But I can see/ That this is me/And I will be/You’ll all see/I’m the one.” Oh, and it was once used brilliantly on an episode of Freaks and Geeks.
2. The Kinks — “Strangers”
If you ever find yourself pondering the meaning of life, have a listen to this Dave Davies tour-de-force, and things should start making sense. The passionate vocals and the profound lyrics manage to reassure us that we’re all in this together without sounding cheesy or trite. OK, Dave, you’ve got the question of human existence all figured out, now answer us this: why did you only sing lead on a handful of Kinks songs?
1. The Beatles — “Something”
This George Harrison song from Abbey Road is widely regarded as one of the best by anyone, lead singer or otherwise. Over 150 artists have tried their hand at it, making it the second-most covered Beatles song, behind “Yesterday.” And to think, The Beatles waited until they were just months away from breaking up before releasing a Harrison tune as an A-side. As George would say, “Me mind boggles at the very idea.”