The 50 Best Title Tracks of All Time

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The 50 Best Title Tracks of All Time

Title tracks often distill an album’s essence into one succinct, memorable song. Other times, they might glue a record together or serve as a thematic starting point for the artist. Some title tracks have become the most defining songs of that particular artist’s career and some are under-appreciated deep cuts that have become cult favorites. Not every album has a title track, but the ones that do often warrant deeper listening to see if the artist was trying to relay a message about the body of work they’ve created. In celebration of the mighty title track, Paste’s music staff compiled 50 of our favorite title tracks of all time, limiting ourselves to one song per artist.

Here are the 50 best title tracks of all time:

50. Green Day: “American Idiot”

Green Day  were a defining band for a whole generation of kids in the ’00s, and their seventh studio album American Idiot became the rebellious punk-rock bible for many. The concept album featured a punk-rock adolescent folk hero of sorts and was packed with hit singles like “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” “Holiday” and “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” but none captured the boisterous energy of Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals and deep-seated political scorn like the title track. With a Clash-like spirit and contemporary pop-punk framework, Armstrong points to the conservative media’s (Fox News’) normalization of war and fear-mongering that led to the proliferation of American hysteria, idiocy and the empowerment of redneck, right-wing America. —Lizzie Manno

49. Cher: “Believe”

Cher is an icon. Since the 1970s, she’s been flawlessly transforming herself with every decade. In all that storied career, though, “Believe” stands out as her most popular song by far—on Spotify alone it’s been listened to more than 112 million times. Cher diehards know that this was the title track and opener of her 1998 album. We’ve been listening to the song for 20 years now, and I don’t think we’ll ever tire of singing along emphatically. —Annie Black

48. Motorhead: “Ace of Spades”

From the first rumble of Lemmy’s bass, to those final staccato chords, “Ace of Spades” is the closest any band has ever gotten to plowing right over its audience like a freight train. It’s basically a perfect song, the most elegant summation of Motorhead’s version of punk-inspired metal (if you can call anything about this band elegant, that is). I’m not proud of calling it a roller coaster, but that silly comparison really fits here—“Ace of Spades” is a quick burst of simulated fury and danger that never gets old. —Garrett Martin

47. Against Me!: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

Florida punk-rockers Against Me!, led by frontwoman Laura Jane Grace, made a powerful statement on their 2014 sixth studio album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. After coming out publicly as a trans woman in 2012, Grace addressed her gender transition and coming out on her band’s new record. The album clocks in at less than 30 minutes and it centers on the fiery title track. With lines like “You’ve got no hips to shake,” “Shoulders too broad for a girl” and “We can’t choose how we’re made,” Grace annihilates gender norms with a brisk punk tune. Grace had every right to make the song a riotous middle finger to anyone hostile to her or other transgender people, but instead of unleashing unrelenting anger on the track, she made a song that also feels celebratory, defiant and joyful. —Lizzie Manno

46. Supergrass: “In It For The Money”

Though Britpop stalwarts Supergrass were unfairly overshadowed by Oasis, Blur and Pulp in the press and became largely associated with their kooky debut album I Should Coco (featuring their 1995 hit “Alright”), the band’s second album, In It For The Money proves they were just as capable and exciting as their peers. The album’s title track is one of their most memorable songs with frontman Gaz Coombes’ hearty, infectious lead vocals, bassist Mick Quinn’s ever-underrated backing vocals and the alt-rock rapture created by triumphant horns and Danny Goffey’s spirited drum assault. After hearing the opening vocals on this track, you won’t find yourself absorbed by Coombes’ distinct sideburns or their wacko “Alright” video—they were a serious band capable of earworm melodies and frequent pop/rock genius. —Lizzie Manno

45. Dixie Chicks: “Wide Open Spaces”

The title track for the Dixie Chicks’ major label debut, and first with new member Natalie Maines, is the feminist anthem we need right now. As far too many men in power seek to stifle the dreams and aspirations of women around the world, these three country/bluegrass legends are here to offer up a melody as vast as the song’s title and lyrics encouraging young girls to get out in the world and make some “big mistakes.” And it offers a small salve to the parents of these ladies to not be afraid to let go and let them fly free. If the music wasn’t so bright and bold, this would have had the world weeping when it was released in 1998. Twenty years later, it’s clear that it needs to be heard and taken to hear by people all over this land. —Robert Ham

44. Spiritualized: “Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space”

Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space was the third studio album by British space rockers Spiritualized and it was the most celebrated and critically acclaimed record of their career. The title track displays the 1997 album’s lush sound and dynamic melding of space rock, shoegaze, neo-psychedelia, noise pop and art rock. The song’s dense mix of ethereal otherworldliness and gripping drone is created by layers of vocals (mostly by frontman Jason Pierce), strange keyboards and distorted guitars. —Lizzie Manno

43. Joni Mitchell: “Blue”

The first side of Joni Mitchell’s fourth studio album Blue ends with its title track, a piano and vocal only lament that floats from the inside of a particularly troubled relationship. Mitchell knows those well having famously struggled to maintain normalcy as she’s dated some equally famous men during the fallout of the idealistic ’60s. Who she is singing about in this heartrending tune is up for debate, but what is never in doubt is her tortured feelings at watching this person fall prey to the allure of “acid, booze and ass, needles, guns and grass.” Mitchell knows such delights are a zero-sum game and that she has to let this person float free lest they drag her down with them. She leaves them with this song, a “foggy lullaby” that’s devastating in its simplicity and poetic charge. —Robert Ham

42. Kevin Morby: “City Music”

Kevin Morby’s fourth solo album is a dusky ode to urban life, and its core is its seven-minute-long title track, which perfectly captures a carefree wander down a city street on a warm summer night. “City Music” travels at a walking pace atop a pulsing bass line, as Morby coolly sings a love song to downtown sounds. But it’s his army of guitars that make this tune truly soar. They’re squirrelly and skyscraping and seductive, like Television plucked out of a New York City punk dive and plunked down in front of some sweeping L.A. vista at sunset. That vibe? That’s the vibe that carried “City Music” to the top of our list of 2017’s best songs. —Ben Salmon

41. Julien Baker: “Turn Out the Lights”

Julien Baker makes some of the darkest, most vulnerably personal music in recent music memory—there’s a reason she was prominently featured in Paste’s list of the saddest songs of the 21st century. But usually buried in the last quarter of many of her songs is a show-stopping, goosebump-inducing, life-affirming scream that makes you forget, if only for an instant, the brutally dismal lyrical content of the song in favor of an epic fist-pumping catharsis. “Turn Out the Lights,” the title track from Baker’s incredible sophomore release from last year, showcases this better than anywhere else in her back catalogue; the slow march to the octave-raised “BUT WHEN I TURN OUT THE LIIIIIIIIGHTS” refrain is a journey that rewards you with one of the most memorable screams in quite awhile, backed by a pitch perfect guitar build behind her that when all put together, makes the most unremarkable commutes and droll daily routines feel like the climax of a movie. —Steven Edelstone

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