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The Lefsetz Letter: Your Top Songs 2016

Spotify Playlist

Actually, it's MY top songs.

I just opened the Spotify app on my iPhone (a 7, you did see the $650 rebate for the 6, right? Verizon had it, AT&T too, I got a brand new device for essentially nothing…well, I upgraded to a Plus, and accounting for the bigger size and the upgrade fee and the tax I was out two hundred bucks, no big deal, and the best thing about the 7 is the BATTERY, you do know that the iPhone battery fades after about 18 months, which is one more reason to get a new device, and if you have AppleCare you get a new battery if your device starts to fade, just saying…)

So one thing I loved about iTunes, which I never use anymore, is the play count. I find it fascinating to know what I play most. But Spotify lacks this feature. But it turns out the Swedish streaming company has been keeping track in the background, and now I'm confronted with the tracks I listened to most.

And here's where you judge me. What is it about music fans that they love to put down what others listen to?

But I'm gonna take a risk.

In order…

1. "Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah" Andy Grammer

Some tracks just make you feel good!

And when I find one I play it over and over again, could be ninety minutes straight, the length of a hike in Will Rogers Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. We live in a pop era, and sometimes it's fun to just join in!

"I think I finally found my hallelujah
I've been waiting for this moment all my life Now all my dreams are coming true, yeah I've been waiting for this moment
Feels good to be alive right about now (woo-hoo)"

Woo-hoo, yeah! I'm not the most optimistic person, but when the right track is playing I believe life is beyond worth living, I want to eat it up, take advantage, surf the zeitgeist, share my stories, I love this track!

2. "It's About Time" – The Beach Boys

This was a complete surprise.

"Sunflower" was the comeback album that wasn't. The follow-up gained traction, but "Surf's Up" is nowhere near as good. "Sunflower" is the last truly great Beach Boys album, and it's not dependent upon Brian for its high quality.

"It's About Time" is a tour-de-force, listenable throughout.

The lead is sung by Carl Wilson, who had one of the sweetest, most mellifluous voices of all time.

And the lyrics…

"I used to be a famous artist
Proud as I could be
Struggling to express myself
For the whole world to see
I used to blow my mind sky high
Searching for the lost elation
Little did I know the joy I was to find
In knowing I am only me"

They do it for the adulation, but it doesn't solve their problems, we're all equal, and when you're in touch with your own greatness, when you finally feel secure, the world makes sense.

3. "Mountain" Tonic

This is another hiking song. It just makes me feel good. I'm alone with the song, but I feel part of something bigger, like standing on a mountaintop and experiencing nature.

4. "Wasted Time" Keith Urban

I prefer the earlier stuff, "Stupid Boy," "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me," but this, another hiking song, is full of twists and turns, different instruments, it's a blend of country and Top Forty and it too makes you feel good.

5. "Sorry" Justin Bieber

The comeback story of the year. Which makes Scooter Braun the manager of the year. How they dug deep and came up with this, I don't know. Bieber makes music just a cut above everybody else. I know, I can't believe I just said that, but I did! He chooses the best collaborators, and I'd rather listen to this than anything on Adele's "25," an album that sounds good but just doesn't grab you.

6. "Rainbow Ends" Emitt Rhodes

From my absolute favorite album of the year, this is the title track.

I hate the era we live in, where there's so much noise that greatness doesn't penetrate without a huge push.

But if you're a boomer, if music used to rule your life, listen to this album, it all works, the sound, the story, an unexpected gem.

7. "Helpless" Phillipa Soo, "Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton"

"Hamilton" is a sleeper. Like a book. It's been hiding in plain sight, but you've got no idea how big it is. I realized this when I read that Melinda Gates listens to it in her car, then I kept reading in interviews that people were listening to the recording.

The "Hamilton" mania has just begun. The "Mixtape" will help spread the word, but really it's all about the original recording, where the lyrics shine, you can hear them, and there's melody and…

"I would like to change your life…"

Isn't this what we all want to hear?

"Hamilton" will change your life, it will enrich it, make you happy you're alive.

8. "God, Your Mama, And Me" Florida Georgia Line with the Backstreet Boys

Never underestimate the power of vocal ability, the Backstreet Boys put this over the top, it makes you feel so good to listen to, just try not singing along.

9. "I Took A Pill In Ibiza" – SeeB Remix Mike Posner

My musical highlight of the year was the Glenn Frey memorial at the Forum.

But number two is seeing Mike Posner at the Grammy Museum. I went to hear this, because when you love a song you must go to the show, but the stories put it over the top, Mike is intelligent, he'd thought about the issues…how refreshing!

10. "Play It Again" Luke Bryan

Probably my favorite song of the second decade of the twenty first century.

Criticize me all you want, I don't care. A song with gravitas and elation all wrapped up in one? SIGN ME UP!

11. "Dog On A Chain" Emitt Rhodes

The album's opening cut.

Seemingly every baby boomer is divorced, you'll resonate with the lyrics.

12. "Dust" Parquet Courts

I didn't realize I listened to this this much!

13. "Let Me Love You" DJ Snake, Justin Bieber

Another Bieber gem, incredible!

14. "I Took A Pill In Ibiza" Mike Posner

The original acoustic iteration. It's just as good as the sped-up remix, maybe better.

15. "My Shot" Lin-Manuel Miranda, et al "Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton"

This is dense, there's a lot of story and wisdom dropped.

But the essence is…

"I am not throwing away my shot"

We all have dreams, I hope yours still burn bright, you've got to need it, some people get it.

16. "Statue (The Pills Song)" – Didrick Remix Smith & Thell

An instant classic, you'll get this immediately.

17. "We Don't Know" The Strumbellas

Sometimes you've got to see an act to get it. That was the case with the Strumbellas. After seeing them live, acoustic, at the Grammy HQ, I couldn't stop listening to this.

18. "Alexander Hamilton" Leslie Odom, Jr., et al "Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton"

The opening number.

It tells the story, sets up the play, and them comes the key line, the one that stops the show, the one that makes the audience erupt.

"My name is Alexander Hamilton."

I get chills while I write this.

Lin-Manuel Miranda delivers it almost sotto voce, it has so much meaning, whew!!

19. "Oh Canada" Missy Higgins

Zero traction, I don't get it.

20. "Helpless" Ashanti & Ja Rule "The Hamilton Mixtape"

When you love something you just can't get enough of it.

21. "Lively Up Yourself" Bob Marley & The Wailers

This is a surprise too, but even though I don't smoke dope a reggae track can infect your brain and make you unable to switch the channel.

22. "The Water Lets You In" ("Bloodline" Main Title Theme) Book of Fears

The second season of "Bloodline" was better than the first, every time I cued up the Netflix show and heard this…it set the mood, just like Alabama 3 did with "Woke Up This Morning" on "The Sopranos."

23. "Stranger In A Strange Land" Leon Russell

Probably my favorite cut by him.

2016 has been a year of loss.

But the music lives on.

24. "My Own Worst Enemy" Steven Tyler

Better than anything Aerosmith has done in decades.

But that didn't seem to matter.

25. "Love Yourself" Justin Bieber

What a year he had!

26. "How Do I" Wendy Waldman

She keeps chugging on, despite the spotlight being on the younger generation. Wendy's gone back to college, to get her degree, her dad would be proud, but he's gone, this song is about him.

27. "Isn't It So" Emitt Rhodes

The first track off of "Rainbow Ends" that hooked me.

28. "Simple Man" Bad Company

Sorry Mike Posner, you've just been bumped to number three, now I remember how great that Bad Company show was, truly incredible, made me realize who I am, the guy who got hooked by the sound to the point it steered my life.

"Freedom is the only thing means a damn to me"

The ability to think what I want and do what I want as long as it doesn't negatively affect another.

I don't want to be in your business and I don't want you to be in mine.

I just want to live for the music.

29. "Mountain" (Acoustic 2016) Tonic

From this year's acoustic "Lemon Parade Revisited."

Not quite as good as the original, but almost, which is why I played it so much!

30. "Pure" Hey Violet

I thought this would go somewhere, it didn't.

Proving you can work with the best people, have the best team and still not break through.


31. "Somebody Else" -Alt Edit The 1975

Better than the original.

You keep reading about the band but don't know where to start.

Start here.

32. "Hand In My Pocket" Alanis Morissette

The hope from the Great White North, can't anybody come down and save us once again?

"And what it all comes down to"…

She could never follow it up.

But when I hear this my mind jets back to 1995 when she went from nowhere to everywhere and putting her disc in the deck boosted my spirits when they needed it.

33. "Tomorrow Never Knows" The Beatles

Since launching on streaming services, Beatles songs have been played over two billion times!

This is the John Lennon spectacular from the album that just had its fiftieth anniversary, it sounds as experimental and fresh as today, even more so!

34. "Stay Downtown" Cole Swindell"

It's so hard to say no.

You remember being together, it would be so easy to get together one more time.

But then you'd end up exactly where you were before, the place that made you so unhappy, you've got to move on.

35. "I Want To Tell You" The Beatles

Did George Harrison invent riff rock?

36. "Cold Water" Major Lazer, MO, Justin Bieber

The artist of the year, hands down.

37. "Gone Tomorrow (Here Today)" Keith Urban

The second best cut on "Ripcord." It's so damn POWERFUL!

38. "Faithless Love" live J.D. Souther

From the expanded edition of "Black Rose," J.D.'s best album.

There's nothing like a song sung by the original writer…

39. "Renegade" Styx


Now you're completely flummoxed. As was I. Until I remember it was in the trailer for the second season of "Narcos," I watched it over and over again and then had to play the cut over and over again.

40. "Stupid Boy" Keith Urban

To this day most boomers don't know country is the new rock and roll.

This is the cut that started it all for me a decade back.

Stay through the guitar solo, you'll be closed.

41. "Fragile" Prince Fox, Hailee Steinfeld

Actresses are not supposed to make good records.

But Hailee Steinfeld did.

42. "Huntin', Fishin' And Lovin' Every Day" Luke Bryan

The best cut from "Kill The Lights."

I can listen to this every day. Really.

43. "Karn Evil 9 1st Impression, Pt. 2" Emerson, Lake & Palmer

And now Greg Lake is gone too.

He was not a lucky man.

And never forget he sang with King Crimson.

I can't compute this past year, with all my heroes passing, it's so strange.

44. "True Devotion" live BoDeans

Better than the studio take, from one of the best double live albums ever, "Joe Dirt Car," finally on Spotify.

45. "Time Out" Joe Walsh

From "So What," the follow-up to "The Smoker You Drink…"

I usually play "County Fair," I'm surprised this is so high on my list, but it's great.

46. "Fix" Chris Lane

Another country song I discovered on Spotify.

This is infectious, really.

47. "Habit Of You" Keith Urban

The third best song on "Ripcord."

48. "Here's To The Farmer" Luke Bryan

The title cut from his surprise EP, this is the best cut on it.

49. "What It Means" Drive-By Truckers

Which is why a protest song must be made by one of the Spotify Top 50, this is great, but it ended up inside the hermetically sealed Americana echo chamber.

50. "Part Two – In My Own Way" Ray LaMontagne

The Pink Floyd song you've been waiting for.

51. "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" Bob Dylan

My favorite Dylan cut, with wisdom dropping from every phrase.

If you want to know why he won the Nobel…

This is the track with "He not busy being born is busy dying."

"And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine But it's alright, Ma, it's life and life only"

Ain't that the truth.

I've revealed my inner truth, you should see the hatred in my inbox, but you cannot be afraid, because…

It's life and life only.

52. "Restless In Mind" Wendy Waldman

Just listen to those chords!

My favorite late period Wendy Waldman track, it's genius!

53. "The King Must Die" Elton John

"Tumbleweed Connection" is his best LP.

But I always find myself playing its predecessor.

And it contains "Your Song," but the ones I play most are "Sixty Years On" and "The King Must Die."

Every once in a while I hear from Elton, he's so conversational, so personable, so regular, but…

He's probably the biggest rock star of the seventies. And he's soldiered on.

If he'd died way back when he'd be Elvis.

Or close.

54. "Drink A Beer" Luke Bryan

The cut that closed me on Luke.

55. "Sugar" (feat. Francesco Yates) Robin Schulz, Francesco Yates

Another Spotify discovery.

56. "Hot Summer Nights" Walter Egan

"Magnet And Steel" is the one that gets airplay, but this is my favorite cut by him. I play it on…THOSE HOT SUMMER NIGHTS!

57. "Dear Prudence" The Beatles

Now my favorite cut on the White Album, and I used to slide right by it, still high on "Back In The U.S.S.R."

58. "Prayer For You" Wendy Waldman

"The sun's sinkin' down behind the haze and the trees Just another L.A. day"

Play this as the sun is setting. If you're in L.A. or if you've been there, you'll get it.

59. "Where Are U Now" Jack U, Skrillex, Diplo, Justin Bieber

This began the Bieber comeback.

60. "Back Where I Come From" Mac McAnally

Kenny Chesney had the hit, but the original is better.

Mac's never broken through, but that's not because he's not talented enough.

61. "Adore" Jasmine Thompson


62. "Cant Get Enough" Winger

Yes, Kip, who was just nominated for a Grammy, in some classical category!

This slid right by me, but I went to a friend's bachelor party at the Hollywood Tropicana and the women wrestled to this and…


63. "Moonage Daydream" David Bowie

The first of his cuts that closed me. I'd been in London, he was triumphing, he meant nothing in the U.S. but I bought "Ziggy Stardust" and played it over and over again and saw the tour at the Boston Music Hall and…

Memories are made of this.

64. "Noise" Kenny Chesney

His new album is a disappointment after "The Big Revival."

This sounds good, but is ultimately meaningless.

A "B."

Kenny usually does better than this.

65. "How About That" Bad Company

From the wrong version of the group, featuring Brian Howe on vocals.

Still, this always makes me feel GOOD!

66. "Dust" Lucinda Williams

Lucinda's like Bruce, what I hate most about them is their fans! It obscures their greatness, these people endlessly testifying.

But I certainly do like this.

67. "Back Where I Come From" Kenny Chesney

The hit take.

68. "Dark Necessities" Red Hot Chili Peppers

Stop making albums. Just drop a track like this every couple of months.

69. "Spirits" The Strumbellas

Another song you can't get out of your head.

70. "I Want It That Way" Backstreet Boys

My second favorite cut by them, from the smash album "Millennium."

< Another Max Martin, Swedish triumph.
71. "Paradise City" Guns N' Roses

Once upon a time Axl and his band of merry drug addicts meant something.

Ignore the reunion tour, that's a dash for cash.

This was the cut that put "Appetite" over the top, how many times did you watch the video on MTV?

72. "Fly To The Angels" (acoustic version) Slaughter

A completely forgotten band.

But that first LP is a pop metal classic.

This is the best cut.

73. "Meadows" Joe Walsh

The opening cut on side two of "The Smoker You Drink…"

I thought I'd never hear it live and then a couple of months back at the All For The Hall benefit Joe's sitting on a stool strumming an acoustic guitar and I realize…HE'S PLAYING MEADOWS!

This is what we live for. These moments. Hearing our favorite songs live.

74. "True Devotion" BoDeans

The studio take.

75. "I and I" Bob Dylan

A wise man testifying, with one of the world's greatest bands, one of his many peaks.

76. "When The Stars Come Out" Chris Stapleton

Country boy comes to L.A., love the references.

77. "Before She Does" Eric Church

The opening cut of "Caught In The Act: Live."

If you doubt the power of country music, LISTEN TO THIS!

78. "Come On Get Higher" Matt Nathanson

I'd never heard it! And then I discovered it on Sirius and came right home and played it over and over again on Spotify, oh, what a great world we live in!

79. "Back Where I Come From" Kenny Chesney

From his live album, one of the truly great country ones, this track'll reach in and grab you.

80. "Spring Is Here" Wendy Waldman

The LP disappeared in a divorce, I stole it on Napster, I put it on my Rio went out on a cold spring evening and danced around elated.

Reaches me each and every time.

81. "What Do You Mean?" Justin Bieber

More Bieber! The one Howard Stern kept making fun of. That's your goal, to become part of the cultural conversation, then you know you've really made it.

82. "I Remember You" Skid Row

They opened for GNR at the Forum during the "Use Your Illusion" tour.

I was there.

83. "Surf City" Jan & Dean

The live version from "Command Performance," a vinyl album I played so much it turned grey.

If this doesn't make you want to move to California…

You'd rather live in a place two years behind where you have no fun.

84. "Back Where I Come From" (live) Mac McAnally

When I like a song I just can't get enough of it!

85. "Suga Suga" Baby Bash, Frankie J

Songs no longer disappear, they're waiting online for you to discover them.

86. "Adore" acoustic Jasmine Thompson

I want to hear all versions.

87. "Liar Liar" Aubrie Sellers

New country with the soul of the old, featuring great instrumentation to boot!

88. "Brace For Impact (Live A Little)" Sturgill Simpson

The Grammy nomination made him famous. Will people grab hold?

Doubtful. Because it's just that hard to penetrate these days.

This is real music made by someone who needs to make it and we haven't had that spirit here since…

89. "Baby Seat" Barenaked Ladies

You can't live your life in the baby seat, you've got to grow up, this is the song that closed me on BNL.

90. "Nobody To Blame" Chris Stapleton

Honesty. Humbleness. The ingredients of classic country. All embodied in this cut.

91. "A Little Is Enough" Pete Townshend

Forget the Who tours, I'd like to see Pete solo.

This is the best cut on "Empty Glass," I sing it in my head ALL THE TIME!

92. "Stop Where You Are" Corinne Bailey Rae

Her new album did not have a hit single, but this song resonates.

93. "California Girls" The Beach Boys

Testify all you want about "Good Vibrations," THIS IS IT!

Do you have any idea what it was like to hear this emanating from your transistor back in '65?

94. "The Way It Is" Tesla

Another forgotten band, this song resonates so… I could do twenty minutes on it if we were face to face.

95. "Old Time Love" Wendy Waldman

The opening cut on side two of her debut "Love Has Got Me," this song made me a fan.

96. "A Hard Day's Night" The Beatles

I'm telling Alexa to play this for me ALL THE TIME!

97. "How Many Friends" The Who

From the disappointing "Who By Numbers."

I distinctly remember listening to the cassette as I drove to the Salt Lake City Post Office to drop off my law school applications before the deadline.

How many friends have you really got?

That love you.

That want you.

That'll take you as you are?

Very few.

98. "Love Song" Tesla

The hit from "The Great Radio Controversy," but I like "The Way It Is" better, but I like this too, remember the video?

99. "The Real Me" Pete Townshend, et al "Pete Townshend's Classic Quadrophenia"

What a revelation to hear real strings!

100. "Just Your Fool" The Rolling Stones

It's hard to complain when the Stones make their best album since the seventies, a truly authentic gem.

101. "Brand New Day" Sting

He executed a publicity tour-de-force, he came across as so intelligent on the Stern Show, there were stories in all the old fart media, but…

No one cared about his new album.

But I still care about "Brand New Day." If only he could cut one track as good this. That's all we ask for, one track.

And I'm sure your Top Songs are completely different from mine. But if I turned you on to anything, I'm happy, you turn me on to great stuff, when you're not telling me what a clueless idiot I am, but…

When I hear the above songs in my headphones…

I don't care.