If you saw this title and worried about profanity, never fear: Outside a couple of selections, this is a pretty clean listing; title-wise, the most scandalous word you’re going to see is the name of Beelzebub’s stomping grounds.
Nope, this list is purely literal: Every song included has a title comprised of just one word made up of four letters.
Credit where due: I was inspired by the great Richard Blade on putting this one together. On his show on Sirius XM’s 1st Wave, he happened to play two of these back-to-back and mused that it made for a mini version of his Themed Thursday feature, during which he plays a handful of songs that – like this column and its playlists – all have something in common.
“Stop” – Jane’s Addiction
There’s a certain irony to starting a playlist with “Stop,” but the Jane’s Addiction classic has one of the greatest spoken-word intros in the history of music, so it just sounds right at the start of a playlist.
“Zero” – The Smashing Pumpkins
One of two songs with this title to make the playlist. The Pumpkins became massively popular in the era of this song, so much so that they were subject to a lot of indie disdain, but the best stuff from “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” – this one included – has aged very well.
“Rope” – Foo Fighters
One of two songs from one of the indisputable greatest live bands working today. If you’ve never considered yourself anything more than a casual fan of Dave Grohl and co., go see them live – they’ll convert you.
“Rise” – Public Image Ltd.
This high-concept, generic-themed album – titled “Album,” or, if you bought it in non-LP formats, “Cassette” or “Compact Disc” – could have put several songs onto this playlist, as in keeping with the concept, all songs were limited to one-word titles, several of which were four letters long. But this one is a standout in the overall PiL catalogue, and one of John Lydon’s most enduring songs.
“Cars” – Gary Numan
“Burn” – The Cure
First of two songs from Robert Smith and co. on this list, both of which are relatively obscure non-singles. This one was written and recorded for the soundtrack of the 1994 film “The Crow,” and while it is very memorable to fans of that film (and the band), it was never a single.
“Evil” – Interpol
“Laid” – James
This beautiful, brilliant and short song is amongst my all-time favorites; when it was initially released, I listened to nothing but this song on repeat for a week. It still bears repeating on a regular basis.
“Kiss” – Prince
“Lies” – Thompson Twins
“Maps” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
First of two songs on the list for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and one of the most beautiful ballads of the 20 years.
“Stay” – Oingo Boingo
People tend to focus on the more frenetic, upbeat side of Oingo Boingo, but this moodier, more downtempo song has always been one of my favorites from the band – and indeed, from throughout Danny Elfman’s stellar songbook of compositions. I mean, I like “Dead Man’s Party,” too, but there’s something irresistible about the melancholy hook of this song: “Girl, don’t you go, won’t you stay with me one more day if we get the room one more night?”
“Hell” – Squirrel Nut Zippers
“Fool” – ALL
Just a couple of minutes of pop-punk perfection and easily my favorite ALL song, among the first with the band’s second lead singer, Scott Reynolds. I recently had the pleasure of dancing to this with one of the people who introduced me to the band at her wedding.
“Rush” – Big Audio Dynamite
“Push” – The Cure
The second Cure song, this album track from 1985’s “The Head on the Door” absolutely could have followed “In Between Days” and “Close to Me” as the third single from that album – but didn’t. (The same is true of that album’s gorgeous “A Night Like This,” but that wouldn’t fit this theme.)
“Zero” – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Rent” – Pet Shop Boys
“Stan” – Eminem
There’s a certain irony to Eminem following the Pet Shop Boys, whose 2001 song “The Night I Fell in Love” is a very thinly veiled tale of a young male fan having an affair with the rapper, whose character pieces have occasionally had homophobic themes. The 2001 Pet Shop Boys song – which Eminem responded to on 2003’s bootleg track “Canibitch” – even name-checks “Stan.” But really, the motivation for placing these two songs together is more artistic than trivial; they simply sound really good together.
“Jump” – Kris Kross
“Slam” – Onyx
“Walk” – Foo Figfters
“Fame” – David Bowie
“Icky” – They Might Be Giants
For such a prolific band – this track comes from their 16th studio album, 2013’s “Nanobots” – They Might Be Giants have a significant dearth of four-letter titles. I could only come up with one more, the classic “Dead” from 1990’s seminal “Flood,” coming up in a few more tracks.
“Roam” – The B-52’s
There’s a significant backlash against the B-52’s “Cosmic Thing” album – their 1989 commercial breakthrough and most popular album to date. I’ve heard many people who happily drop “down, down” with “Rock Lobster” and enjoy living in their own “Private Idaho” respond with indifference or outright hatred to “Love Shack,” and I don’t see a significant difference, save for the production on “Cosmic Thing” being a bit more polished. The tracks are split, production-wise between Don Was of Was (Not Was), who handled the first two singles, “Channel Z” and “Love Shack,” and Chic’s Nile Rogers, who did most of the rest of the album, including this amazing, pure pop single.
“True” – Spandau Ballet
“Luka” – Suzanne Vega
“Stay” – Shakespeare’s Sister
“Dead” – They Might Be Giants
“Yoda” – “Weird Al” Yankovic
Sure, I could’ve gone with the Kinks’ original, “Lola,” but where’s the fun in that? OK, it’s an amazing song, yes, and plenty of fun on its own. But we’re at the end of the list, and this is the standard last song performed at every “Weird Al” show, so it’s absolutely the best way possible to wrap up this playlist.