Early in the process of choosing the All-TIME 100 Songs—as we editors and writers wrangled over the choices in email chains that grew longer than the extended mix of “Nights in White Satin”—I thought it would be fun to create a single song out of all 100, a pop-tune mash-up spanning 88 years. The video you see above is the end result.
I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into until I sat down to edit. If you listened to every song in its entirety, it would take a few hours (I did it one Saturday afternoon on Spotify). I had to boil that down to three minutes, the length of a longish pop song. My challenge was to find the essence of each tune in about 1.8 seconds each.
(MORE: See this list, and hundreds of others, on TIME’s new iPad app, Populist)
I was confronted with tempo changes, genre shifts and mood swings, as well as a time span that begins with Al Jolson and ends with Janelle Monáe. [Insert your own comment here on how times have changed since 1924] Not to mention avoiding all the f-bombs in the hip-hop tunes. Like our list, I grouped them by decade, playing with the order to find a cohesive through-line, with mixed results. There are jarring transitions and some surprisingly smooth ones (who knew that “I Feel Love” would cut so nicely with “Baba O’Riley,” or the Beach Boys could segue so well with the Supremes?). At the end, if nothing else, I had 180 seconds of 100 memorable riffs.
If you want to challenge yourself, you could close your eyes and just listen to the audio, and see if you can name all 100 songs as they whiz by. Or, if you want to keep your eyes open, the album covers will tell you who’s who. Enjoy.
(Hear all the songs in their entirety on our All-TIME 100 Station on Pandora)