Music would be nothing without numbers. Songs are all about numbers. They’re about the number of times you repeat the hooks, the number of lyrics you have, and the number of beats you have per line. For mainstream artists, songs are also about the number of weeks it takes to get to #1 on the Billboard charts. A solid one-two-three-four is the bedrock of any great dance music anthem. Numbers can be entertaining, and some musicians have found ways to play with numbers in fun and unusual ways. We want to honor songs with numbers in their titles. It might not teach you to count higher than ten, but it will hopefully get you reminiscing and singing along. We have assembled a list of, what we think, are the best songs that have numbers in their titles. The list includes some of the all-time greats by artists like Chuck Berry, Jay-Z, Madonna, U2, and so much more, along with some of the more recent songs. Enjoy.
4 Minutes (Feat. Timbaland & Justin Timberlake) by Madonna
The pop queen has made some memorable songs throughout her illustrious career. 4 Minutes was released as part of the album Hard Candy, in 2008.
Timbaland and Justin Timberlake produced the song; the latter also helped Madonna with writing the lyrics of the song. The dance track was met with good reviews from critics and the general audience, alike
Just the Two of Us by Will Smith
Will Smith, known more for his acting acumen than his rapping, wrote Just the Two of Us, after being inspired by the eponymous song recorded by Grover Washington and Bill Withers. Grover Washington was a valued Jazz saxophone player who died of a heart attack in 1999. Bill Withers is a songwriter and vocalist responsible for songs like “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Withers sang lead on this, but it was credited to Washington and appeared on his album.
The song was the fourth track on Will’s debut album Big Wille Style, which was released in 1997. The song talks about the relationship between a father and his son. This version was the basis for the “Dr. Evil Mix” in the movie Austin Powers 2, where Dr. Evil sings it to Mini Me.
2+2=5 by Radiohead
The English rock band Radiohead included 2+2=5 their sixth album, Hail to the thief, which was released in 2003. The song reached the #2 spot in Canada. The songs talk about things not necessarily being as they seem: January having April showers, two and two making a five, the term “hail to the thief” instead of “hail to the chief.”
The song is considered one of the best songs ever released by the band. Many Radiohead greatest hit compilations include the song. The song slowly builds up to a loud climax. In an interview with New York magazine, guitarist Ed O’Brien talked about the unusual time signature used in this song: “One of the things that marks our band – that Thom and Jonny used to drive home all the time – is sounding different. You can do it through stuff like using unusual intervals on harmonies [in songs like “2 + 2 = 5”]. The trouble with a lot of rock music is that people are still doing their Beatles and their Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young harmonies. You can’t just keep making replications of those things.”
One Headlight by The Wallflowers
The song One Headlight was written by Jakob Dylan, the lead vocalist of the band The Wallflowers. It was produced by T-Bone Burnett. The song is one of the most commercially successful songs released by the band. In 2008, it was listed as the 58th greatest pop song of all time in the list compiled by MTV and Rolling Stones.
Jakob Dylan said in an interview: “I tend to write with a lot of metaphors and images, so people take them literally. The song’s meaning is all in the first verse. It’s about the death of ideas. The first verse says, ‘The death of the long broken arm of human law.’ At times, it seems like there should be a code among human beings that is about respect and appreciation. I wasn’t feeling like there was much support outside the group putting together the record. In the chorus, it says, ‘C’mon try a little.’ I didn’t need everything to get through, I could still get through – meaning ‘one headlight.”
505 by Arctic Monkeys
Alex Turner, the lead vocalist and main songwriter of the band Arctic Monkeys, wrote 505 and reached new levels of emotional depth lyrically. Alex Turner’s friend Miles Kane of The Rascals played additional guitars on this track. In 2008 Turner and Kane released an album together as The Last Shadow Puppets.
The organ chords used in the song are the same as the ones used in the soundtrack for the movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Singer Alex Turner wrote this song about going to meet his girlfriend in room 505 at the hotel where she’s staying. Turner has admitted that this was the first proper love song the Arctic’s have done. Here is a sample from the lyrics: “I’m going back to 505
If it’s a seven-hour flight or a forty-five-minute drive, In my imagination you’re waiting, lying on your side, With your hands between your thighs”
Ol ’55 by Tom Waits
Ol’ 55 is the lead single from the first-ever album Tom Waits released, Closing Time (released in 1973). Watts wrong the song himself and Jerry Yester embodied it melodiously. The song wasn’t really successful but has since been covered by numerous artists. Some of the most famous renditions have been done by Eagles, Sarah McLachlan, and Sass Jordan.
The song has been covered by numerous artists, most notably by the Eagles, produced by Glyn Johns for their 1974 album On The Border. In a 1975 interview, Waits was critical of the Eagles’ cover version of his song, admitting that he was “not that particularly crazy about (their) rendition of it … I thought their version was a little antiseptic.”
2 Become 1 by Spice Girls
All the members of the Spice Girls teamed up with Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe to write 2 Become 1. The song was produced by Matt and Richard. 2 Become 1 was included in the girls’ debut studio album, and it pretty much helped them gain worldwide recognition. The pop song includes the usage of an electronic keyboard, a guitar, and string instruments.
The Spice Girls changed a lyric from the song in 2019 to make it more LGBTQIA-friendly. Speaking to Gay Times, Emma Bunton said they made the decision whilst on the road to change the lyrics from: “Any deal that we endeavor, Boys and girls feel good together” to “Once again if we endeavor, Love will bring us back together, “We felt like it needed to be more inclusive,” Bunton explained.
5 O’clock by T-Pain ft. Wiz Khalifa, Lily Allen
Released in 2011, 5 O’clock was the showstopper from T-pain’s 4th studio album, Revolver. T-pain’s full name is Faheem Rasheed Najm, he was born September 30, 1985. T-Pain, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. The song, 5 O’clock, features Wiz Khalif and Lily Allen. Lily Allen’s part in the song is sampled from her 2009 single “Who’d Have Known”, which in turn resembles Take That’s 2007 single “Shine”.
The song reached the #10 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list and was an online sensation for years after its release. The official remix to the song features Lily Allen and Puerto Rican duo Wisin & Yandel. The remix was released on iTunes on November 18, 2011.
Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry is credited for the original recording and performance of the song Sweet Little Sixteen, which has since then been performed with slight tweaks, by many artists. For example, The Beatles recorded this song for a radio show on 10 July 1963 at the Aeolian Hall, London. It remained unreleased until Live at the BBC in 1994.
Also, John Lennon recorded a cover version of “Sweet Little Sixteen” for his 1975 album of cover versions, Rock ‘n’ Roll. The song reached the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list and is a staple of Chuck’s career, along with Johnny Be Good. In the UK, it reached number 16 on the UK Official Charts. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 272 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004.
54-46 Was My Number by Toots and the Maytals
Fred “Toots” Hibbert wrote 54-46 was my number, and then later performed it alongside other members of the Toots and the Maytals. It was released in 1968. A follow-up version released a year later, “54-46 Was My Number”, was one of the first ska songs to receive widespread popularity outside Jamaica, and is seen as being one of the defining songs of the reggae genre.
A reworked version of the song was released a year later, and it became one of the first ska songs to actually receive recognition outside Jamaica. The lyrics describe Toots’ time in prison after being arrested for possession of unauthorized substances. The song features a similar riddim to “Train to Skaville” by Toots and the Maytals’ contemporaries, The Ethiopians.
Back to Zero by The Rolling Stones
Back to Zero was released as part of The Rolling Stones’ 1986 album, Dirty Work. The song was written and produced by Keith Richards, Chuck Leavell, and Mick Jagger. The song was written over the fear of a possible nuclear war. This song is also the only song where Chuck Leavell has been given a writing credit.
Here’s a fun fact: The band’s earliest members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had met each other for the first time when they were just 5 years old. They met at the Wentworth Primary School but at that time they weren’t friends with each other. Also, even though it is a clichéd fact that members of rock bands sleep with guitars, but it became a reality in The Rolling Stones band. In the sessions for 1973’s “Goat Head Soup”, guitarist Keith Richards was found to be sleeping with his guitar.
99 Problems by Jay-Z
The Black Album featured some of the most iconic Jay-Z songs, and 99 Problems is undoubtedly one of them. “I got 99 problems, but a b*tch ain’t one” was actually taken from Ice-T’s song of the same name. The song elucidates the troubles Jyga faced while trying to up his rap game and make a name for himself. He recounts having to deal with racial profiling from a police officer who wanted to search his car without any justifiable reason. The song reached number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song came in at #2 on Rolling Stone’s top 100 songs of the ’00s. On the updated list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the song was added and came in at #172. The song was listed at #14 on Pitchfork Media’s top 500 songs of the 2000s (decade) and in October 2011, NME placed it at number 24 on its list “150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years”.
One More Night by Phil Collins
Anything Phil Collins touches turns to Gold. One more night, the song featured in Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, was/is no exception. Being a drummer, it’s not unexpected that Collins began this song on a drum machine. He explained to Playboy that he was playing around with the device when inspiration hit: “I had a tempo in mind. I was thinking of one of the Jacksons’ songs actually when I strung a chorus on it. The line ‘one more night’ just fit what I was playing. The rest of the song was written very quickly.”
The song reached the #1 spot in the US and other countries from around the world. The song was released in 1984, but even though more than 3 decades have passed, it’s still regarded as one of Phil’s greatest hits. The song was also featured in the 1986 Martin Scorsese drama The Color of Money, starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman.
Mambo No. 5 by Lou Bega
Mambo No. 5 is a jazz dance and mambo song by Cuban musician Pérez Prado, which was released in 1950. The song was initially done in 1952 by the Cuban-Mexican bandleader Perez Prado. Known as the ‘King of the Mambo,’ Prado recorded various mambos, and when he ran out of inspiration, he would number them, and “Mambo No 5” was one of a series of 8.
Lou Bega, the German artist, gave the song a new life when he sampled the last 30 seconds of the original song and featured it in his debut album, A Little Bit of Mambo, which was released in 1999. Bega once told Fox News that the story behind the song was a simple one. “I dated a lot of pretty nice ladies when I was younger,” he said. “These names of my past, you know, just came to me, and I wrote it down, got the melody, and the rest is history.” Asked if he had a favorite, Bega replied, “My favorite is Sandra, that’s why she was the one in the sun.”
1984 by David Bowie
The iconic English singer David Bowie released some memorable songs during his career spanning 5 decades, and 1984 is undoubtedly one of them. Bowie wrote this song as the theme for a musical version of George Orwell’s novel 1984. The musical never surfaced as the Orwell estate would not authorize it, but several of the songs found their way on to Diamond Dogs, most noticeably “Big Brother” and “We Are The Dead.”
It was released as part of his 8th album, Diamond Dogs, in 1974. The song is a direct tribute to the novel 1984, by George Orwell, in which he talks about a dystopian world where the government has inadvertently stripped the people of their ability to think for themselves.
Two Princes by Spin Doctors
Two Princes was a single by the rock band Spin Doctors, released in 1993. The song reached the #7 spot in US, #3 spot in Australia and the United Kingdom, and the #2 spot in Canada. In this song, Chris Barron (the lead singer of Spin Doctors) takes the voice of a poor prince trying to persuade a girl that she should marry him instead of his rich counterpart.
The underdog theme shows up a lot in Barron’s lyrics, something he attributes to his childhood – he spent time in Australia and Europe before settling in New Jersey. The song was by far the band’s most commercially successful hit. It talks about the rivalry between two princes who are both trying to win the same girl over.
A Thousand Years by Christina Perri
Christina Perri’s a Thousand Years, featured on the album The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, is one of the greatest love songs written in the last decade. The song reached the #31 spot in the Billboard Hot 100 list and peaked at other charts from around the world. The song, which also has a music video, talks about a woman who has been waiting for her lover for a thousand years and loves him so dearly that she’s happy to wait for a thousand more.
For Twilight fan Christina Perri, getting a track on the soundtrack for Breaking Dawn was a dream come true. She told MTV News how she wrote the song after attending an early screening of the movie. Said Perri: “I tried not to get hyped out, because it’s one of my favorite movies, one of my favorite books, one of my favorite soundtracks, and that could potentially freak out the little songwriter in me. So I tried to put that aside and take it one step at a time, went to see the movie and cried like a baby, because it’s so good, and I felt so lucky to be there. And then went home and wrote a love song to Edward and Bella… and to have it be chosen, I’m unbelievably honored.”
In the Year 2525 by Zager and Evans
In the Year 2525 is the greatest song ever released by the American duo Zager and Evans. It stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 list for over six weeks. The song, written and produced by Rick Evans himself, resonated immensely with the youth of the 60s, who weren’t sure about the present, and even less about the future.
As one critic in Songfacts writes: “This bleak futuristic tale is a very unusual song, but 1969 was a very unusual year, with hippie anthems like “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” going to #1 along with bubblegum songs like “Sugar, Sugar.” The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and The Temptations all had classic #1s, but “In the Year 2525” stayed at #1 for six weeks, which was longer than any other song that year and earned it the distinction of #1 record of the year 1969. The song reflected the apprehension of the times and also the wonder of technology: it started its run at the top of the US chart the week before the Apollo 11 moon landing.”
A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton
A Thousand Miles almost didn’t make our list, because it was initially titled Interlude. The song was written, composed, and performed by Vanessa Carlton. The song pretty much brought Vanessa to the musical spotlight and is still one of her most successful songs. It was released in 2001 when it also reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. This song features in the 2004 movie White Chicks, starring Shawn and Marlon Wayans as FBI agents who go undercover as white girls.
The agents are nearly busted when they’re riding in a car with some real white chicks when “A Thousand Miles” comes on, and they don’t know the words like every white girl should. Later in the movie, we find out that it’s the favorite song of another character in the film, who happens to be a big black guy. Critics trashed the movie and nominated for a Golden Raspberry award for Worst Movie, but some people love the film, and lots of people saw it both in the theaters and on its many TV showings.
Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford
Sixteen Tons is a song initially written by Merle Travis in 1946. However, when Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded his own rendition in 1955, that’s when the song garnered global acclaim. General Electric used this in a commercial television advertisement campaign.
Ernie’s version of the song was a #1 hit in the United States. In 2015, the song was inducted to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. At the time, this was the fastest-selling single in the history of Capitol Records – impressive when you consider they had Frank Sinatra on their roster. According to Archie Green, author of Only A Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs, the title refers to an old practice of initiating new miners by having them haul 16 tons, compared to the typical 8 to 10, on their first day.
I Got 5 On it by Luniz
The hip-hop duo Luniz’s debut album, Operation Stackola, was released in 1995, and it included the hit song I Got 5 On it. The song also features an R&B part by Michael Marshall. The song reached the # 8 spot in the United States, #2 in Germany, and #3 in the United Kingdom.
The song’s hypnotic instrumentation has been sampled by countless artists, including Puff Daddy for his 1999 hit “Satisfy You,” Nas for his 2002 single “I’m Gonna Be Alright” and Meek Mill for his 2013 track “Heaven or Hell.” Also the rapper Lecrae recorded in 2014 an updated version of the song titled “Nuthin’.” A creepy remix of the song was featured in the 2019 horror thriller movie Us. The remix is listed on the film’s official soundtrack as the “Tethered Mix.”
25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago
Robert Lamm, the founding member and keyboardist of the band Chicago, penned down the song 25 or 6 to 4 in 1969. The song reached the #4 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release. The song was reworked by James Pankow and rereleased as part of the album Chicago by the band in 1985. 25 or 6 to 4 has for decades been the go-to song for Chicago, during live concerts.
Robert Lamm, the keyboard player and singer for Chicago, wrote the song. It’s about trying to write a song, with the title referring to the time of day: either 3:35 a.m. (25 to 4) or 3:34 a.m. (26 to 4). Lamm explained on The Chris Isaak Hour: “I was living with a bunch of hippies up above Sunset Strip. One of the advantages of this particular house was that it was in the Hollywood Hills, and I could look out over the city late at night. I wanted to try to describe the process of writing the song that I was writing. So, ‘waiting for the break of day, searching for something to say, flashing lights against the sky’ – there was a neon sign across the city. That song came from the fact that it was 25 or 6 to 4 a.m. when I looked at my watch – I was looking for a line to finish the chorus.
1999 by Charli XCX (featuring Troye Sivan)
Australian musician, Troye Sivan, and English singer, Charli XCX wrote and performed 1999, which was released on 5th October 2018. The cover of the single was inspired by the 1999 movie, The Matrix. The duo also released an album before the single in the same year, by the name Boom.
Charli told Billboard she had been looking for a way to collaborate with Troye for a long time, and they’d been sending ideas back and forth. When she played him this song, he instantly jumped at the thought of collaborating. The official music video which stars both artists is jam-packed with nostalgic references to 1999 music, film, and technology. XCX directed the clip alongside Ryan Staake (Diplo, J.Cole).
7/11 by Beyoncé
7/11 was released on November 25, 2014, by Queen Bey, and it became an instant online sensation. The song was auto-tuned, which wasn’t appreciated by some of the critics. Beyoncé also released a video to go with the song, which has now gained over 514 million views on YouTube. The song reached the #11 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
Beyoncé is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 100 million records worldwide as a solo artist and a further 60 million records with Destiny’s Child. Her success during the 2000s was recognized with the Recording Industry Association of America’s Top Certified Artist of the Decade as well as Billboard magazine’s Top Radio Songs Artist and the Top Female Artist of the Decade.
Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
Baby One More Time is the eponymous song from Britney Spears’ debut solo album. The song talks about the feelings of a girl who has just gone through a breakup. The song reached the #1 spot across 18 countries and gave Britney the recognition and appreciation she deserved. Britney has been performing the song live many times for the last 2 decades.
This song was Britney’s first hit, and it launched her to stardom. The glossy sound earned lots of radio play, but it was the image of the schoolgirl Spears, just 16 when the song was released on November 3, 1998, that made her a sensation. MTV played the video, but it was the internet that gave her the most traction.
Over the next ten years, Spears led the world in celebrity news, with one incident after another documented by the paparazzi. But it all started with this: a very smooth pop song about a girl who wants another chance with the guy she broke up with.
Song 2 by Blur
Song 2, which is often wrongly referred to as Woo Hoo, is a rock song by the English band Blur. The 1997 song reached the #2 spot on the UK songs chart. At the 1997 MTV Music Awards, the song received nominations for Best Alternative Video, and Best Music Video. In 2011, NME gave the #79 spot to the song on their list of the 150 best tracks that were released in the last 15 years.
Blur’s bassist Alex James told Q Magazine’s 1001 Best Songs Ever: “I remember having a really bad sweaty hangover that day. And it was very sunny. We were at Mayfair Studios, Primrose Hill, and I’d been trying to think of a title for a TV show a friend was doing about Rock Wives. Then it came to me: ‘Hits and Mrs!’ So I thought that was my work for the day over. It sums up Song 2 really. We didn’t think about it at all. Graham (Coxon) set up two kits, Dave (Rowntree) and Graham started playing drums at the same time, this real “aggro” beat. Then the chorus is two distorted basses and Damon’s guide vocal. It was kind of a throwback. We’d always done brainless rocking out, though maybe it’s not what we’re known for.”
9 to 5 by Dolly Parton
9 to 5 is a song by Dolly Parton from the 1980 eponymous comedy movie. The song also appeared on Dolly’s album titled, “9 to 5 and Odd Jobs”. The song received 4 Grammy Award nominations and one Academy Award nominations. It also peaked at music charts from around the world.
In a 2009 interview with 60 Minutes, Parton talked about the unlikely inspiration for this song: her fingernails. She had very long, acrylic nails, and discovered that when she rubbed them together she could create a rhythm that sounded like a typewriter, and since the movie was about secretaries, she was able to use that sound to compose the song on the set. She even played her fingernails as part of the percussion sound when she recorded the track.
When I’m Sixty-Four by The Beatles
The song When I’m Sixty-Four was written by Paul McCartney and featured in the 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. McCartney famously jotted the song down at a tender age of 16, but the song wasn’t officially released for another nine years. The song is believed to be about Paul’s father, who was around 64 when it got released.
Julian Lennon, John’s son, recorded a version of this that was used in 2002 commercials for Allstate insurance. This was not typical of Julian, who usually shied away from his father’s legacy in an effort to forge his own identity. Cameron Hirtle (from songfacts.com) writes: In opening scenes of the 2007 musical Across The Universe, the main character, Jude, has his ticket stamped to New York by an elderly man who says that he would have left the city sooner when he was young, but he is now 64 and still working at the shipyard. It’s a definite reference to McCartney’s song that didn’t make it into the movie, which features only Beatles songs.
Just the Two of Us by Grover Washington Jr. with Bill Withers
Just the Two of Us was a song written by William Salter, Bill Withers, and Ralph Macdonald. It was performed by Bill Withers and George Washington Jr. before getting released in 1981. The smooth jazz song talks about the ebbs and flows of love. In particular, it elucidates Bill’s desire to be with a woman he can’t possibly woo.
In an interview with songfacts, Withers was asked about the collaboration with Grover and said: Grover and I didn’t do anything at the same time. My friendship was with Ralph McDonald, who was a writer and a producer, then he has a partner Bill Salter. They had written this song, and I’m a little snobbish about words, so they sent me this song, and said: “We want to do this with Grover, would you consider signing it?” I said, “Yeah if you’ll let me go in and try to dress these words up a little bit.”
“Everybody that knows me is kind of used to me that way. They said, “Fine.” I actually met Grover when I went over there to sing the song. It was with today’s technology and overdubbing and stuff, so I really never got to know Grover that well. My friendship was with Ralph McDonald. I’d admired Grover because Grover did the first cover version that I knew about of any song I’d written – he did an instrumental version of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” I think it was on his first album. The connection there was with Ralph McDonald, it just happened to be a Grover Washington album.”
99 Luftballons by Nena
99 Luftballons is a song by the German band Nena which was released in the United Kingdom in 1984. An English version of the song was written by Kevin McAlea, and released as part of the album Luftballons in 1984 after the original song garnered great commercial success. The inspiration of the song comes from the guitarist Carlo Karges’ visit to a Rolling Stones concert, where he saw released balloons soar towards the sky.
One interpretation for the song, though hard to understand, is about the dreams of the German people that were lost after World War II. The 99 balloons represent the many dreams that each person had. At the end of the song, she wants to prove that the German people did have goals by finding one balloon – she finds one balloon, a dream, and lets it go.
Seven Wonders by Fleetwood Mac
Seven Wonders is a song by British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac. It was part of the 1987 album, Tango in the Night. Sandy Stewart wrote the song, for which the vocals were handled by Stevie Nicks. The song has been featured in many TV shows and movies ever since;
Most recently in the season finale of the horror show, American Horror Story: Coven. In the 2014 finale of the TV series, Stevie Nicks opens the episode, which was called “The Seven Wonders,” by performing this song. Nicks had appeared on a previous episode and was a plot point in the series. In the show, the “seven wonders” are a series of challenges the witches must perform to determine their next leader. The song is about a moment that is so special, nothing will ever approach its beauty. Stevie Nicks sings that even if she gets to see the seven wonders of the world, it won’t match this moment.
22 by Lily Allen
22 is a song from Lily Allen’s 2009 album, It’s Not Me; It’s You. Some of the critics commended the song because of its rousing lyrics and sound, while others weren’t too receptive. The song made it to the top 20 of the UK charts, and also did great in other countries like Australia, Netherlands, and Ireland.
In an interview with the Observer Music Magazine back in December 2008, Allen told the magazine that this song was about a female character who’s all washed up at 30 wasn’t intended to make her more elderly listeners depressed. Allen explained: “It’s more about girls that haven’t figured out what they want to do with themselves. Especially really pretty girls. They can rely on their looks to an extent: people will pay for their dinners and drinks, and they don’t really have to think. And then suddenly it hits them that they’re not doing anything with their lives and it’s too late. And, yes, it’s about a specific person. Most of my songs start like that and then become more general.”
21 Questions by 50 Cent ft. Nate Dogg
“21 Questions” is a song recorded by American rapper 50 Cent featuring American rapper Nate Dogg. The song was written by Nick Corrado for 50 Cent’s commercial debut studio album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003). In the song, the rapper asks 21 questions from her lover, which mostly have to do with loyalty.
Inspiration for this song came when 50 Cent heard a romantic LL Cool J song, and the girl riding next to him was clearly enjoying it. This convinced him to write a song revealing his softer side and his appreciation for women – something that most gangsta rappers shied away from. “If I wrote you a love letter, would you write back?” and “If I fell off tomorrow, would you still love me?” are some of the questions 50 asks in the hit song.
One Minute Man by Missy Elliott
Missy Elliot wrote One Minute Man on a hot summer day in 2000. She and Timbaland produced the song which was to be featured in her third album, “Miss E… so Addictive.” The song also features Ludacris. It reached the #15 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list and the #10 spot on the UK singles chart.
Elliott explained the inspiration for “One Minute Man” in a 2001 interview with the Observer Music Monthly: “I’ve had so many men that’ve been like, ‘You wait, you get me in the bedroom and zoom, zoom, zoom.’ You get them in the bedroom, and it’s like, ‘What? Is it over? Already?’ The song is my revenge on those dudes and a wake-up call to the male species. Get your s–t together in the bedroom!”
She later added: “As soon as I experienced it, I knew I had to write a song about it. I knew there must be other females who’d experienced one-minute men. It’s all good, though, there’s Viagra!”. She claimed after the album was released, she never had another problem with a “one-minute man” again.
’74-’75 by The Connells
’74-’75 is a song by the American band The Connells. The song garnered global success by charting across Europe. It was a huge success in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway. The song talks about a woman who is trying to locate a man who she was in love with during the years 1974 and 1975.
The Connells were a rock group formed in Raleigh, North Carolina by David Connell (bass), his brother Mike Connell (guitar), Doug MacMillan (vocals), and John Shultz (drums), who was soon replaced by former Johnny Quest percussionist Peele Wimberley. In 1990 they added Steve Potak (keyboards) to their line up. The song opens with: “Got no reason for coming to me, And the rain running down, There’s no reason, And the same voice coming to me like it’s all slowin’ down, And believe me, I was the one who let you know, I was your sorry-ever-after seventy-four, seventy-five”.
7 Years by Lukas Graham
7 Years is a song by the band Lukas Graham, from their 2015 eponymous album. The song recollects the years past and talks about the experiences of the band members during different stages of their lives. In addition to bringing back memories from the past, the band also shows worry about their life in the years to come.
Much of the song is autobiographical: I always had that dream like my daddy before me, So I started writing songs, I started writing stories, Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me, Cause only those I really love will ever really know me.
Lukas Graham wrote on Genius: “Despite (or perhaps because of) his early success as an actor and singer (he toured worldwide as a member of the Copenhagen Boys Choir), Lukas has never been enamored with the trappings of fame. His focus is not on the fans and hangers-on that are attracted to his fame, but instead on the people who truly matter.”
One by Metallica
One is considered to be one of the best Metallica songs ever. It was released in 1989, as part of the album, …And Justice for All. The song sheds light on the experiences of a soldier who is fighting a war when suddenly mortar blows off near him. He loses all his senses and all his limbs. As he comes out of a coma in a hospital, he recollects about his past and all the things his father told him.
The lyrics are based on the 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, which is about World War I. A specific passage that inspired the song is: “How could a man lose as much of himself as I have and still live? When a man buys a lottery ticket you never expect him to win because it’s a million to one shot. But if he does win, you’ll believe it because one in a million still leaves one. If I’d read about a guy like me in the paper I wouldn’t believe it, cos it’s a million to one. But a million to ONE always leaves one. I’d never expect it to happen to me because the odds of it happening are a million to one. But a million to one always leaves one. One.”
James Hetfield was introduced to the book by his older half brother, David Hale, who was also in a band.
One by U2
U2’s One is arguably one of the greatest rock songs ever written. It was featured in the 1991 album, Achtung Baby. The band stumbled upon the melody which later gave life to One while working on the song “Mysterious Ways.” Everyone instantly felt something special about the song. The beautifully powerful lyrics were written by Paul David Hewson, also known by his stage name, Bono.
The band wrote this song in Berlin after toiling there for months trying to record Achtung Baby. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, so the band was hoping to find inspiration from the struggle and change that was coming to the region. Instead, they found themselves at odds with each other and unable to do much productive work.
This song came suddenly – the bones of it written in about 30 minutes by most accounts, and it rejuvenated the band creatively. When they left Berlin, they had little to show for it except for this song, but they were able to complete the album back home in Ireland with this song as the centerpiece. Says The Edge: “It was a pivotal song in the recording of the album, the first breakthrough in what was an extremely difficult set of sessions.” (From Q Magazine, September 2005.)
21 Guns by Green Day
21 Guns is a powerful song from Green Day’s 8th studio album, 21st Century Breakdown. The singer questions whether the wars we are fighting are worth the loss of human life, and shows a longing for lasting peace. The song was released in 2008 and has since then become a staple of Green Day’s live performances. According to Billie Joe, the song is as much as about looking for inner peace, as it’s about world peace.
Marc Webb (Maroon 5, My Chemical Romance) directed the music video, which features a fugitive bank-robbing couple holed up in a room with Green Day lyrics scrawled on the walls. To stage the shoot-out, a thousand tiny explosives called squibs were embedded in the walls and furniture to mimic gunfire, and the crew shot marbles from guns to shatter the fish tank. No fish were harmed – they were swapped out for rubber ones – but the actors (Josh Boswell and Lisa Stelly) were left battered and bruised. He was hit by shrapnel from the exploding room while she received a squib blast that drew blood.
Two of Us by The Beatles
The third song on the list with the phrase Two of Us is by The Beatles. The song was written by Paul McCartney and was released as part of the iconic album, Let it Be. Paul McCartney has always claimed that this song was about him and his wife Linda Eastman, who he married only a few weeks after the song was released.
VH1 used the title for a fictional movie about Lennon and McCartney getting together in the ’70s. This was the first original movie VH1 made. Others they produced include movies about Meat Loaf and Def Leppard. Lennon and McCartney sang together on this. At the time, most of their songs were written by and contained a lead vocal from one or the other.
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon
Paul Simon himself wrote and produced 50 ways to leave your lover. The single that featured on his second album, Still Crazy After All These Years, was released in 1975. The song was famously written after Paul divorced with his wife, Peggy Harper. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 list for around 3 weeks.
In a 1975 interview published in Rock Lives: Profiles and Interviews, Simon told the story of this song: “I woke up one morning in my apartment on Central Park and the opening words just popped into my mind: ‘The problem is all inside your head, she said to me…’ That was the first thing I thought of. So I just started building on that line. It was the last song I wrote for the album, and I wrote it with a Rhythm Ace, one of those electronic drum machines so maybe that’s how it got that sing-song ‘make a new plan Stan, don’t need to be coy Roy’ quality. It’s basically a nonsense song.”
Take Five by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Take Five was written by Paul Desmond and performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The band included the song in their album Time Out, which was released in 1959. The pop hit has been used in numerous movies, and television shows ever since its release. The song was named so because it was written in an uncanny 5/4 meter.
It was one of the first Jazz songs with a time signature other than the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time. Brubeck explained in a 1995 interview with Paul Zollo that he asked Desmond to try writing a song in 5/4. Said Brubeck: “I told Paul to put a melody over (drummer) Joe Morello’s beat. So Paul put a couple of melodies. But he didn’t have a tune. He just had two melodies. He said, ‘I can’t write a tune in 5/4,’ and he had given up. I said, ‘You’ve got two good melodies here, let’s work out a form.’ So I worked out an A-A-B-A form and Paul caught on immediately.”
One (Is the Loneliest Number) by Three Dog Night
One (Is the Loneliest Number) was written by Harry Nilsson and performed by Three Dong Night. The song made it to the #5 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list. The 1968 song has been known for its famous opening line, “One is the loneliest number you’ll ever do.” It’s believed that Harry wrote the song after calling a person and being put on hold for a while. The constant beeping sound gave him the inspiration to write the song.
This was the first song on Three Dog Night’s first album. It was one of 21 US Top 40 hits for the group, who did very well with songs written by other artists. Other hits by Three Dog Night include “Joy to the World” (written by Hoyt Axton), “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” (written by Randy Newman) and “The Show Must Go On” (written by Leo Sayer).
Love Me Two Times by The Doors
The American rock band, The Doors have released some smashing hits over the years, and Love me two times, is definitely one of them. The song was featured in the 1967 album, Strange Days. The song was initially banned from being played on the radio because it was “too controversial.”
Doors guitarist Robby Krieger wrote this song after their keyboard player Ray Manzarek implored the band members to go home and write some songs. Krieger came up with this one “Light My Fire” in about an hour. It was a rare Doors song where lead singer Jim Morrison did not contribute lyrics. Through most of the song, Jim Morrison left off the “s” in “two times,” creating a double meaning to the phrase.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) is a song both written and performed by The Proclaimers. It was the lead single from their album, Sunshine on Leith, released in 1988. After the song was featured in the movie, Benny & Joon, it was released in the US and other countries from around the world. It reached the #3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
In the line “I’m gonna be the one who’s havering for you,” ‘havering’ means babbling on. However, several US radio stations initially refused to play the song, as they thought ‘havering’ meant something much more naughty. Craig Reid in the Daily Mail, March 23, 2007: “I can remember sitting at the piano and the chords just came to me. I reckon I just wrote the whole thing in 45 minutes. I knew that it was a good song, maybe even a single, but I had no idea how popular it would become.”
Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes
Jack White of The White Stripes wrote Seven Nation Army, which was released as part of the band’s fourth album, Elephant, in 2003. The song topped the alternative songs chart following its release and cemented the band’s place in the alternative rock hall of fame.
This song deals with The White Stripes’ rising popularity and the negatives that came with it. After White came up with the riff, he devised a storyline in which a protagonist comes into town and all his friends are gossiping about him. “He feels so bad he has to leave town, but you get so lonely you come back,” said White. “The song’s about gossip. It’s about me, Meg and the people we’re dating.”
One Way or Another by Blondie
One Way or Another stood out in Blondie’s third studio album, Parallel Lines. The song didn’t really make the charts in the early years after its release but became a staple of punk rock stations. The song was released after Heart of Glass, which still remains the band’s only song to have peaked on the US music charts.
This song is about a stalker. The lyrics are very dark and go into detail about a guy with evil intentions, but the music is very light and catchy, which masked the meaning of the song. According to Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry, it was inspired by real events. She told Entertainment Weekly: “I was actually stalked by a nutjob, so it came out of a not-so-friendly personal event. I tried to inject a little levity into it to make it more lighthearted. It was a survival mechanism.” Harry says that the title and the idea for the song popped into her head during a rehearsal, and most of the song was hashed out on the spot.
Summer of ’69 by Bryan Adams
Summer of ’69 is a song by the Canadian singer, Bryan Adams. The song was featured in the 1984 album, Reckless. Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance wrote the song themselves, and Adams combined with Bob Clearmountain to give the song its melody.
According to Vallance, many of the lyrics were inspired by other songs: “I got my first real six-string” – from Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” and the line, “I bought a beat-up six-string in a second-hand store.” “Standin’ on your mama’s porch, you told me that you’d wait forever” – Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and the line, “The screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves. Like a vision, she dances across the porch as the radio plays.” “When you held my hand, I knew that it was now or never” – The Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
Eight Days a Week by The Beatles
We promise this is the last song by The Beatles on this list. Paul McCartney came up with the idea for Eight days a week, which was eventually co-written by him and John Lennon. The song was released as part of the album, Beatles for sale, in 1964. The song ended up becoming their 7th song to top the Billboard Hot 100.
There are two possibilities to where the title came from. In Bob Spitz’ The Beatles: The Biography, Paul McCartney claims that he asked his chauffeur (while being driven to John’s house in Weybridge) if he was busy, and got the answer “Busy? I’ve been working eight days a week.” In a later interview, Paul says that it was Ringo who coined the phrase: “He said it as though he were an overworked chauffeur. When we heard it we said ‘Really?’ Bing! Got it“! John Lennon also claimed it was one of Ringo’s malapropisms.
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
For the last song on our list, we turn to the king of funk-rock, Freddie Mercury, and his entourage, Queen. The song was actually written by the bass guitarist, John Deacon, but Freddie is said to have made his own edits to the lyrics as well. It was featured in the 1980 album, The Game.
The song instantly became a global sensation, reaching the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and staying there for several weeks. It also won an American Music Award for Favorite Rock Single, along with a Grammy nomination. Another One Bites the Dust, is right up there with Bohemian Rhapsody, when we talk about some of the best Queen songs ever.
A Thousand Miles From Nowhere by Dwight Yoakam
Have you heard this one? This song was written and recorded by American country music artist Dwight Yoakam. It was released in 1993 and the song peaked at number 2 in the United States and number 3 in Canada. The song was also featured in two movies: Red Rock West and Chasers.
What’s the song about? The narrator is dealing with the aftermath of the end of a relationship with his significant other. The breakup made him feel sad, lonely and lost. Some of the lyrics (“time don’t matter to me” and “there’s no place I wanna be”) describe his feelings of apathy and disinterest with everything else that’s going on around him.