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Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs
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Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs

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This exclusive podcast from Rolling Stone tells the stories behind the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield dissect Rolling Stone's iconic list and explore the magic and mythology behind the songs on this in-depth new series. From classics like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” to The Ronettes' “Be My Baby,” and modern-era hits like The Killers' “Mr. Brightside,” and Britney Spears' “...Baby One More Time," we talk to artists and insiders about what makes these the greatest songs of all time.
12 Episodes
On this week’s episode hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield break down Jeff Buckley's "Grace" as well as his much-too-short career due to his tragic passing at age 30. The pair are joined by Rolling Stone senior writer David Browne, who penned the 2001 biography about Jeff and his father Tim Buckley titled Dream Brother: The Life and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley. Browne had been an early fan of the younger Buckley, having been one of the singer's first interviews. In the early Aughts, Buckley’s heartbreaking cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" became a radio staple and minor hit for the singer. Upon the release of his debut album however, Grace performed poorly and received mixed reviews, with Buckley's emotional intensity being a turn-off to some critics and listeners. When Buckley died it felt like a young singer-songwriter's promising, burgeoning career was cut much too short. At the time of his death, Buckley's place in music was still unclear. No one could have anticipated that three decades on, Buckley would more famous than ever. Thanks to the internet, millennial and now Gen Z fans have emerged as a massive audience for Buckley's music. His sweeping romanticism mixed with the lore surrounding his passing has made him a tragic hero of sorts, on par with Kurt Cobain, Elliott Smith and River Phoenix. Buckley not only showed incredible promise as a songwriter but also as an interpreter of great music, and there was so much more he was working to showcase on his sophomore album, which ended up being released posthumously.See for privacy information.
Anyone who’s heard The Killers' "Mr. Brightside" has an almost Pavlovian response to the song's opening lines. It's hard to go anywhere in the world without watching a room or crowd immediately sing along to the synth-rock classic. First released in 2003, the group's unique sound mixed with Brandon Flowers' New Wave vocal delivery helped make this song about jealousy, deception and calling a cab one of the most irresistibly catchy hits in pop history. On this week’s episode, hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield discuss the story of “Mr. Brightside,” breaking down the song’s gargantuan global success. From the Eighties pastiche of Hot Fuss to the song's entry into the pantheon of wedding DJ must-plays, the hosts unpack what it is about this single that has kept it charting in the UK for over 400 weeks. Later in the episode Rob and Brittany are joined by mixing engineer Mark Needham, who was working with members of Fleetwood Mac when he got the call to work with this burgeoning Las Vegas band. Needham was instrumental in developing the band and shares technical details about the recording process, the song's distinctive sound, and anecdotes about working with The Killers during their early days.See for privacy information.
On this week’s episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield discuss the story of “Be My Baby,” breaking down the song’s massive impact on pop history. The song comes in at #22 on Rolling Stone’s list and is as universal as a pop song can be. It’s the song that made Ronnie Spector a timeless rock & roll legend, a teenage girl from Spanish Harlem who packed a lifetime of raw power into three minutes. Ever since Ronnie belted “Be My Baby” in 1963, it’s been the classic that sums up the whole Sixties girl-group era, with Phil Spector’s lavish Wall of Sound production – but it’s never left the airwaves. It’s been the foundation for artists from Brian Wilson to Bruce Springsteen to Lana Del Rey. You hear it everywhere, from Scorsese movies to goth clubs to hair metal, from the Ramones to Beyoncé. This week Rob and Brittany are joined by a true legend: Jeff Barry, who co-wrote “Be My Baby.” The Barry/Greenwich team cranked out a host of Sixties girl-group smashes for stars like the Crystals (“Then He Kissed Me”), the Dixie Cups (“Chapel of Love”), the Chiffons (“I Have a Boyfriend”), and the Shangri-Las (“Leader of the Pack”). Barry discusses the making of “Be My Baby,” the early Brill Building songwriting days, and his long career from pop to soul to country.See for privacy information.
Even before Beyoncé kicked off her solo career, it was clear that she was a legend-in-the-making. As the de facto leader of Destiny's Child, she was a guiding light for the girl group and helped shepherd them to stardom in both the pop and R&B spaces. The group was at their height (and still very much together) as she launched her solo career, first with "Work It Out" for the Austin Powers in Goldmember soundtrack but with more gusto on "Crazy in Love. "Crazy in Love" served as the lead single for Beyoncé's debut solo album Dangerously in Love. The song was written in two hours and became a Number One hit the same week Dangerously in Love topped the albums chart. Beyoncé has developed significantly as an artist since then with her last two albums, Renaissance and Cowboy Carter, being prime examples of how she’s still growing and finding new ways to master her artistry even two decades after the world first got a taste of who Beyoncé was on her own. On this week’s episode hosts Rob Sheffield and Brittany Spanos discuss Beyoncé's career trajectory and how the superstar ended up being the youngest artist with the most entries on the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time List. Later in the episode, they are joined by their Rolling Stone colleague Mankaprr Conteh to dig into the star's artistry and appreciation for Black music history, which she continues to embed in all her work.See for privacy information.
Kate Bush has always been a fiercely original art-pop icon. But with “Running Up That Hill,” she achieved a new kind of feat. “Running Up That Hill” was a massive Top Ten hit, dominating U.S. radio all over the summer of 2022—even though it was a song she released back in 1985. Her classic synth-goth anthem sounded ahead of its time in the Eighties, but only Kate Bush could make it a song that STILL sounds ahead of its time nearly 40 years later. In this week’s episode of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs, hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield discuss the long, incredible legacy of Kate Bush and “Running Up That Hill.” They’re joined by their brilliant Rolling Stone colleague Julyssa Lopez, a Kate Bush expert and longtime hardcore fan, to discuss why “Running Up That Hill” speaks to our moment.See for privacy information.
Taylor Swift knows a thing or two about swerving when her listeners and detractors least expect it, but nothing could prepare anyone for her total abandonment of country music on her 2014 album 1989. Sure, she had teased some Max Martin-assisted pop hits on her previous album Red, but 1989 was a total 180 from the country starlet's past, trading her teardrop-soaked guitar for sassier synths instead. On this week's episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs, hosts Rob Sheffield and Brittany Spanos discuss the crown jewel of the 1989 album, "Blank Space".  While lead single "Shake It Off" was an empowering kiss-off to the haters, its follow up was an unexpected satirization of Swift's public image at the time as a "maneater" for her romances with famous men and ensuing songs about their times spent together. Swift fits back against sexist criticism of her writing "too many break-up songs" and her dating habits with this ferociously catchy track that highlights her sense of humor and wit, all while helping break free a bit more from her "girl next door" image. Later in this episode our hosts are joined by their colleague and Rolling Stone Music Now host Brian Hiatt to dig into just how big of a risk her pop pivot had been, as well as explore what makes this song so great and how it shifted Swift's sound and lyricism for the better.See for privacy information.
On this episode of our 500 Greatest Songs podcast, we dive into the unique chemistry Missy Elliot and Timbaland have had throughout their careers. In the Nineties, Missy and Timbaland were just a pair of kids from Virginia — but they ended up changing the sound of hip-hop and pop forever. The two geniuses would collaborate on production for their friends and eventually on Missy Elliott's own successful string of albums and major hits. The most inventive of them remains to be "Get Ur Freak On," the lead single off 2001's Miss E...So Addictive. This week Brittany and Rob dig into everything that makes "Get Ur Freak On" so iconic: the experimental production that fuses dancehall with bhangra, Missy's inventive wordplay, the surprise samples and of course that inimitable creative chemistry she shares with Timbaland. The pair also celebrate the impact the two have had on music since they burst on the scene, whether it’s their reinvention of Aaliyah's career, the trippy, avant-garde music videos for Missy's own hits, or Timbaland's world-shifting touch on pop music in the aughts. Later, Sheffield has a conversation with the so addictive Miss E herself, delving into her early musical partnership with Timbaland, their creative process, and the making of her debut album 'Super Duper Fly.'See for privacy information.
This week our hosts Brittany and Rob look at one of the longest, craziest stories in pop music: the never-ending saga of “Hound Dog.” Big Mama Thornton came out with this massive R&B belter in 1952 and was the first hit from the legendary writing team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. The song comes in at #318 on the list, and instantly became a cultural phenomenon, inspiring countless cover versions, answer songs, rewrites and sequels in blues, pop, and country. The most notable was Elvis Presley’s version of Hound Dog” in 1956, but he wasn’t covering Big Mama Thornton’s song – these were two very different tunes with the same title, and the only thing they had in common was the opening line, “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog.” In this episode, Brittany and Rob dive deep into the secret history of “Hound Dog” and why time has simplified the story to being between Big Mama and Elvis. Rolling Stone senior writer Angie Martoccio also joins us to look at the song and its complex cultural afterlife. Together we celebrate the greatness of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, and the incredible power of her “Hound Dog”. For a song that’s continued to change constantly throughout the past 70 years after it first became a hit, there’s really no other story in music history like this one. From Jimi Hendrix to Doja Cat, we look at how “Hound Dog” keeps on inspiring sequels and likely will for the rest of history.See for privacy information.
This week our hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield look at an Eighties dance-floor classic, from one of the all-time biggest pop legends: Madonna’s “Into The Groove.” It wasn’t Madonna’s first single (that was “Everybody”) or her first hit (that would be “Holiday”), but “Into The Groove” is the one that instantly evokes Madonna in her raw, gritty early days. It’s a cheap, fast, in-your-face disco anthem that hits as hard as punk rock, from the hungry young Madonna, aiming to sum up the whole history of dance music in one song. “Into The Groove” is still the song at the heart of her lifelong bond with the club scene and the dance community. It’s the one that where she sings right into your ear: “You can dance, for inspiration.” For this episode Brittany and Rob are joined by one of the most brilliant music writers around, Suzy Exposito, a longtime journalist for Rolling Stone and the L.A. Times. They break down the song’s impact on club culture, including the goth world (the dancing boy in the music video became an iconic goth figure in himself!). They’ll also seek to answer the questions of why we’re all so obsessed with this song? Why does it loom so large over Madonna’s other hits? Why is it the gateway drug that hooks so many generations of Madonna fans? Take a listen to find out!See for privacy information.
You probably don’t know his face or his voice, but you definitely know his music. In this episode of 'Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs', hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield take a deep dive into iconic songs like Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” and the enigmatic writer-producer behind them: Max Martin, the Swedish genius responsible for so many hits of the past quarter-century. Martin has always been an elusive figure, remaining behind the scenes. He refuses to become any kind of celebrity, yet he has helped create so many classics, from Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space" to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want it That Way” (both featured on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list). In this episode Brittany and Rob aim to shed light on the mysteries of Max Martin: How does he do it? What’s his secret recipe? How can one mastermind keep creating so many hits, over so many years, without losing his magic touch? How does he have so many famous songs, while remaining out of the spotlight? This week our hosts are also joined by a Rolling Stone legend, Senior Writer Brian Hiatt. The trio go deep into how Spears made “…Baby One More Time” into a classic debut single and how Kelly Clarkson turned "Since U Been Gone" into a classic break-up anthem, all while exploring the long and unique career of pop’s ultimate mystery man.See for privacy information.
Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list is one of the most popular — and most-argued over — features the magazine has ever produced. It’s a trip through eight decades of pop music, from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello, Aretha to Ariana, hip-hop to art-pop, and beyond. Its rankings are hugely influential, and — if you disagree enough with them, at least — infamous. In the first episode of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs podcast, hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield dive into the history, significance, and weird quirks of the list, zeroing in on its most recent version, from 2021.    The hosts are joined by special guest and Rolling Stone staffer Angie Martoccio as they pivot to “Dreams,” the iconic 1977 Fleetwood Mac song that finished 9th on the most recent version of the 500 Greatest Songs list. In recent years, the Stevie Nicks masterpiece found new life — and a new audience — as a tik-tok mainstay and Gen-Z touchstone, but its history runs deep. The hosts delve into the fascinating story of the song, placing it within the context of the nonstop romantic drama that was Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s. Amazingly, Nicks wrote the song “in about 10 minutes,” as a mystical elegy to her fading relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. But its legacy is so much greater than that story would suggest — it’s a testament to making great art amid turmoil, and to the singular, shawl-clad sorcery of Stevie. “Dreams” sums up everything we love about her in four brilliant minutes. See for privacy information.
This exclusive podcast from Rolling Stone tells the stories behind the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time." Hosts Brittany Spanos and Rob Sheffield dissect Rolling Stone's iconic list and explore the magic and mythology behind the songs on this in-depth new series. From classics like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” to The Ronettes' “Be My Baby,” and modern-era hits like The Killers' “Mr. Brightside,” and Britney Spears' “...Baby One More Time," we talk to artists and insiders about what makes these the greatest songs of all time.See for privacy information.
Comments (3)

Kevin Abraham

By neglecting to play the song upfront, or excerpts along the way you diminish the interest of the discussion.

May 8th


yes.... you read my mind

Apr 1st

Jamison Fisher

Awesome insight, great information. If possible, would love to hear the song in its entirety first before you drop the knowledge.

Mar 18th
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