By the time the Gibb brothers appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, they had been putting out music for a decade. But it speaks to the hugeness of their songs here that they are forever associated with the movie and with disco in general. A tune about powering through life in a city (specifically New York), “Stayin’ Alive” is an anthem to perseverance. It’s there in the steady, repetitive beat, a looped drum snippet from “Night Fever.” It’s there in the “Ah, ha ha ha” chorus, which burrows relentlessly into your consciousness. It’s there in the Gibb’s falsettos, which reach the most mockable heights and then continue ever upward. You can tell by the way you change your walk when you listen to the song that it works on some subconscious level. You can’t help it. You can’t fight it. All of a sudden, you’re not strolling. You’re strutting. It’s less a song than a cause. And you are the effect.
(Browse the All-TIME 100 Songs and more than 100 other pop culture lists on TIME’s Populist iPad app)
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