Just about anyone who likes music invariably has an all-time favorite song — not necessarily a “greatest song ever” candidate, but just that one tune that, if it appears on the radio on your evening commute, you’re not changing the station, or if it pops up on whatever streaming service you favor, you’re not skipping it, even though you’re hearing it for the 138,476th time.
For me, it’s Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” From the day my older sister Andrea brought home an “Appetite for Destruction” cassette tape and popped it in her boombox, I was entranced. This was something different. Slash’s intro guitar riff on “Sweet Child” remains incomprehensibly brilliant to me three decades later.
My wife’s favorite is “Under Pressure,” by Queen and David Bowie — another track that makes an instant impression, thanks to John Deacon’s iconic bass line, and just gets better with Bowie and Freddie Mercury, two of the greatest frontmen of all time, trading lines in a dramatic build culminating in their eventual duet.
But what about musicians themselves? I asked a few of the professional performers who came through Salt Lake City in 2017 about their faves, and it inevitably turned out to be quite the conversation starter. Shockingly, people who make music for a living have some strong opinions about the songs that appease their own ears!
Here are 10 of the best responses, edited for length:
I’m a huge fan of Tracy Chapman and her voice and just the vibe she gives off. So whenever “Fast Car” comes on, I’m never gonna change the channel. When I was 14 years old, it came on one time, and I just had goosebumps the entire time. I was just like, “What … was … that?” And ever since then, I’ve loved the song — the storytelling behind it, the simplicity, the hope, moving forward and wanting to get away. I think Tracy’s an introverted person, and I relate a lot to that. To this day, I love that song.
“As,” Stevie Wonder. Just gorgeous, man — chords, melody, beautiful. “I’ll be loving you always.” Forget about it. Beautiful. He’s only twice as good as No. 2 — or three times as good as whoever’s No. 2. He only has more talent than the next five guys put together. Forget it. He’s Wayne Gretzky. No, he’s way bigger than Wayne Gretzky.
Oh, I have a lot of those. … “Urgent” by Foreigner. I have memories tied to it, memories from going to the skating rink and all that stuff. But really, his singing is so incredible. Lou Gramm’s singing is just beyond understanding, really. … There’s so much emotion and passion when he sings, no matter what song it is. He’s just teetering on the edge of a cliff, and it’s about as exciting as it gets. … He’s heartbroken, destroyed, it’s just super-passionate. I’m trying to think who’s even like that. I don’t know if I ever could say “this person gives the same feeling as Lou Gramm.” I don’t think there is anybody. He’s the most passionate singer you could possibly find.
Zacky Vengeance (Avenged Sevenfold)
I would say that my all-time favorite song, without a doubt, would be the song “Would?” from Alice In Chains. I feel like it captures a darkness, a sadness, an angst. The strength in [Layne Staley’s] vocal performance — you can really hear just pure anguish and pure humanity from a guy who’s trying to do the best he can and trying to dig himself out of a hole, but has fallen into a dark spot, yet still managed to write this eerie, haunting, beautiful, powerful song. I think Alice In Chains’ “Would?” is the ultimate masterpiece of a song.
Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum)
It would have to be Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” It’s just such a perfectly crafted song, and one of my all-time favorites. Anytime that song comes on, even if I’m in the most hyped mood, I can’t turn it off. It’s like when the stars align. … Even the musicians, you feel like they’re feeling everything. I feel like it was just an almost-5-minute piece of captured magic. And the lyrics are just heartbreaking. It’s very much the epitome of vulnerability to look at somebody and say, “I can’t make you love me if you don’t,” you know? It’s just heartbreaking, but it’s so good, it’s so raw and vulnerable. The mix of melody and chord progression and dynamics, all together — it’s just a masterpiece.
Let’s see … “Rhapsody in Blue,” from Gershwin, I’ll pick that. … It’s just a staggering and unique piece of music that goes into just about every emotional texture that you could explore in music. … It’s probably the first piece of music I remember having this physical reaction to. It’s quite dynamic — it’s really rocking, there’s fast parts, and then there’s that incredibly triumphant, sweeping, beautiful, emotional slow part. But there’s these incredible melodic signature motifs throughout that are very memorable, they feel like you’ve known them from a past life, they hit you so hard. And I didn’t know that there was this thing in the world that could make you feel that way, that music could change the way it felt to be alive! Not just your mood or your emotional state, but your entire being. It made me feel like I was supposed to exist, so that I could hear this, so that I could feel this way. It was the first time I ever had clarity in a world of confusion and of fear and doubt and insecurity and instability — music was the antidote to all that.
Isom Innis (Foster the People)
“Disorder,” Joy Division. I could listen to that song a million times and it would never get old. It still sounds like music from the future. Whatever is in that song, I want it in my life, and will always strive to channel whatever it is. … It takes me to another place. I think that all my favorite music kinda reminds me that there’s something else out there, there’s some other universe out there that the greatest music is coming from, and that I want to live in. It’s a mood, it’s an aesthetic, it’s an emotion — the way the drums are recorded, and the groove of the song, the bass line, the guitar lines, the way the song’s arranged, the lyrics and the of the vocal — it’s just perfection.
Exene Cervenka (X)
I would say “Midnight Rider” by Gregg Allman — not the Allman Brothers version, but the one that he did later is one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s super-haunting. It’s an incredible song. That’s one of the best songs ever. Somebody said, “Oh, is that the same one the Rolling Stones did?” “Noooooo! It’s not!” No, that’s a travesty. One of the great things about it is it gives you a time and place that you can see — maybe it’s the 1800s, or maybe it’s modern times, or a Bonnie and Clyde kind of thing, but you can see this thing happening with this guy, running and trying to stay with this lady for a while. It’s got this manic kind of Americana thing to it that I love.
Ben Thatcher (Royal Blood)
Let’s see … “Party All the Time,” by Eddie Murphy. It’s just a great party song. You can’t be in a bad mood listening to it.
Coen Janssen (Epica)
That’s a good question. … I would say the thing that’s been stuck in my mind since the beginning of this tour is the soundtrack of the “Moana” movie from Disney. I’ve been watching that with my daughter just a week before we left on tour, and the music is so good, so well-done. I sing the songs in my head even after the shows we do! It’s fun. … It’s not a real metal answer, but it’s the truth. I can’t help it!
TELL US YOUR FAVORITES
What is your all-time favorite song? We want to hear the stories behind the tunes that you love. Send an email to email@example.com with “Favorite Song” in the subject line, and include the name of the song, the artist and a brief description of why it’s your fave — whether there’s a specific memory attached to it, or you just think certain lyrics or musical segments are brilliant. Also include your name, city of residence and contact info, as the best may be used in a follow-up story.