We here at TIME love lists. We have the 100 All-TIME 100 Movies, the 100 All-TIME 100 Novels, the 100 All-TIME 100 Albums—we even have a new iPad app dedicated to all the lists we’ve made over the years. But you know what we’ve never bothered to dabble in? Songs.
Well, that’s about to change. Next week, TIME will release its All-TIME 100 Songs list. Compiled by a group of the magazine’s writers and editors, the list is the result of months of heated debate and one really, really long email chain about disco.
So who’s on the list? Well, the Beatles are, of course. But they appear only once—we decided to limit each artist or group to only one entry. We also hedged the “all time” category to encompass only songs written after 1923, the year TIME Magazine was founded (a conceit we’ve used for all of our major lists). Yes, the parameters are somewhat arbitrary. But without limits, the list would be dominated by classical composers, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. This way, we’re keeping it manageable.
(LIST: Bob Dylan’s Best and Worst Songs)
Each person was allowed to make as many suggestions as he or she wanted, which meant that our preliminary song list included more than 600 tracks. We narrowed it down by asking a series of questions. Did every music genre need to be represented? Were all decades created equal, or should we have more music from the 1960s because it was such a culturally rich time period? Which did we value more, cultural importance or a catchy tune? Could we have a Jackson 5 song and a Michael Jackson song, or did that break the ‘one song per artist’ rule? All in all, the process took about three months.
As one of the people involved in the project, I’m really proud of this list. It’s difficult to distill an entire art form down to 100 essential pieces, and while this is by no means definitive I think we’ve done an excellent job. We’ve added some surprising, even obscure, entries and have left off several very famous songs (but always for a reason). You probably won’t agree with everything we’ve included, but hopefully you’ll read our explanations and understand why we did.
The list will be posted here next week. If we did our jobs right, maybe we’ll expose you to something new. We encourage you to read the list, share it with others and, most importantly, let us know what you think about it. What did we get right? What did we get wrong? We look forward to talking to you about the list.