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411 Music Ten Deep 2.04.11: Top Ten White Stripes Songs
Posted by Andrew Moll on 02.04.2011

(Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of 411 Music and its staff.)

Welcome and thanks for checking in on the newest edition of 411 Music Ten Deep! It's a bit of a sad time around headquarters as one of my favorite bands has officially broken up, but we'll get through it together. In fact, putting this list together was good since the music was so damn good. Before we get to that, however, let's backtrack and look at the last week and the list of the Top Ten Best Original Song Winners:

After I saw this list, I looked at the Wikipedia entry for this award, and it's amazing how often the winning song is not the best, or even the most memorable song on the list. For example, look at 1984, which had Against All Odds, Footloose, Let's Hear it for the Boy, and Ghostbusters, but they played it safe and gave it to Stevie Wonder & "I Just Called to Say I Love you" Can anyone even tell me the film that came from without looking it up?
Posted By: Michael L (Guest) on January 28, 2011 at 12:41 AM

I haven't a clue, but it's not terribly surprising they make poor choices considering how often they screw up the other categories. These are people who thought Dances with Wolves was better than Goodfellas, so how should we expect them to have good musical tastes? There are also plenty of egregious snubs in terms of who didn't even get a nomination. Nothing for Bruce's "The Wrestler" or Pearl Jam's "Man of the Hour," or who knows how many others?

I wonder if "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" would have been as effective, had Terrence Howard not sang it himself in the movie. Call me crazy, but I like his version much much better than the Three 6 Mafia version. Great list.
Posted By: Todd Vote (Guest) on January 28, 2011 at 10:13 AM

I'm inclined to agree, actually. Something about his performance made that song work really well.

lmao....good list, comments are the usual shit, got me thinking......what songs should have won.....maybe Fuck Canada?
Posted By: DJMonkey (Guest) on January 28, 2011 at 10:14 AM

"Blame Canada" is a classic, but it's a miracle that song got a nomination at all. For fun, though, here's a brief list of songs that were nominated but didn't win:

"Unchained Melody"; "Live and Let Die"; "The Rainbow Connection"; "On the Road Again"; "Eye of the Tiger"; "Manic"; "That Thing You Do!"; "Miss Misery"; "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow";

Nice job, Academy.

Top Ten White Stripes Songs

For those that don't know, the White Stripes announced on Wednesday that they were calling it quits. It sucks, but the news isn't exactly surprising considering the number of other projects Jack has been working on. But today we will celebrate this band by looking at some of their greatest songs after we first take a look at the honorable mentions:

Some Honorable Mentions: "Blue Orchid"; "Effect and Cause"; "Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)"; "I'm Finding it Harder to Be a Gentleman"; "Jolene"; "One More Cup of Coffee"; "You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)"

10. "Conquest"

The White Stripes did cover songs as well or better than any other band in recent times, reaching back to the past and providing new takes of songs by unlikely sources. One such instance was their cover of Patti Page's "Conquest", a song from 1952 that was pitted as an epic battle of the sexes; the Stripes' approach was much the same, but this time adding Jack White's explosive guitars along with some blistering horns that increase the drama to another level.

The updated version doesn't stray too far from Page's original, but it has an impact and power that could only come from the White Stripes, with an exciting combination of garage rock and theatrics. Jack finds himself in a duel with his guitar on one side and mariachi horns on the other and the whole thing manages to be technically amazing and preposterous at the same time. That's a fine line to walk but Jack and Meg always seemed to know not to stray too far into that preposterous side, and the result was a song that none of their peers could have matched.

9. "Hello Operator"

Jack White didn't just burst out of nowhere as the best blues guitarist of his generation; he arrived in the mainstream as a fully-formed talent even though people just weren't aware of it yet. All the proof needed of this is found on the group's second record De Stijl, a garage-blues powerhouse that's led by "Hello Operator," which makes a good argument for a guitar/drum setup; everything here packs such a punch that there's no room needed for any other instruments.

Until, of course, we get a harmonica solo that solidifies the band's throwback appeal; this is messy and jittery rock and roll at its finest with the classic tale of a guy trying to reach a connection with someone. The Stripes would improve as musicians and songwriters from this album on, but De Stijl and "Hello Operator" specifically show that they were nearly as effective as just a garage rock unit.

8. "Ball and Biscuit"

"Ball and Biscuit" shows the progression of the White Stripes from a garage rock standpoint, as Jack's guitar has never been as blistering as it is here. This is the spirit of Robert Johnson channeled through some high volume amps located in the streets of Detroit; Jack White seems to fancy himself as a classic bluesman, and this is his application for such a position. He succeeds thoroughly in the role by fully unleashing his guitar prowess on the world, showing off but doing it in as an impressive way possible.

This song is also another example of how integral Meg White is to the group's sound; having a drummer playing like Neal Peart playing on a song like this would have been overkill and a terrible match. All you need percussion wise is a thunderous beat that helps give some weight to the scorching guitar work. Every bit of sexuality, bluster and swagger that Jack White has is poured into "Ball and Biscuit," but it's also a two-person operation, and both those parts help make songs like this one so great.

7. "There's No Home For You Here"

"There's No Home For You Here" gets its point across pretty quickly, right in the title and refrain where Jack makes it clear that the girl he's singing to not only needs to find somewhere else to be, but needs to do it as soon as humanly possible. The song travels the same lyrical and melodic paths that "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" travelled one album earlier, but this song is by no means a rehash. It has an energy all its own, much of it sprouting from Jack's desire to rid himself of the situation.

He sings, "I've not been really looking forward to the performance/But there's my cue and there's a question on your face/Fortunately I have come across an answer/Which is go away/And do not leave a trace." Ambiguity is not necessary here, not only in the lyrics but also in the thunderous wall of sound created by the guitars and reverberating harmonies. One listen to this song and you're inclined to take Jack's directions quite seriously.

6. "We're Going to Be Friends"

For such a loud guitar-based band, the White Stripes sure knew how to quiet things down and embrace a schoolyard sense of twee and sweetness that stood in opposition to their normal stance as a hard rocking blues band. The difference can be jarring, but it is also incredibly important when listening to an album like White Blood Cells; if you're served nothing but crunching guitars you'll grow numb to it after awhile. A song like this can help to greaten the impact of those louder tracks around it.

Of course, this song wouldn't be on the list for that reason only; it's also a wonderfully tender ballad that hits a childlike sense of wonder that everyone can relate to. We all know what Jack is referring to when he sings, "Tonight I'll dream while I'm in bed/When silly thoughts go through my head/About the bugs and alphabet/And when I wake tomorrow I'll bet/That you and I will walk together again/'Cause I can tell we are gonna to be friends/Yeah, I can tell we're are gonna be friends." Armed with only an acoustic guitar, Jack proved himself just as capable as when he has a loud electric guitar instead.

5. "The Denial Twist"

As the group moved on in their career there was an increased willingness to move away from just guitars and drums, a progression that helped make Get Behind Me Satan one of the group's most interesting albums. Never was that transition better or more welcome than on "The Denial Twist" that explores the well-known topic of a boy losing a girl, but it's done in an incredibly fun way in addition to showing a new side to the band while still sounding like one of their works.

Never before on one of their songs had the duo showed an ability to maintain a groove like they do on "the Denial Twist," which bounces along for a little less than three minutes, remaining the entire time in the pocket that it creates for itself. The simple choice of focusing the melody on a piano riff rather than a guitar riff gives the song an entirely different sound than people may have been used to. The White Stripes were never about reinventing the wheel, per se, but building their own wheel that fit their needs perfectly.

4. "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself"

Written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" was originally recorded by Tommy Hunt in 1962, and a couple of years later it became a UK #1 hit for Dusty Springfield. Nearly forty years later, the White Stripes offered up their own take on the song and once again took an unexpected cover choice and made it their own. Bacharach and David presumably couldn't have figured that someone would add some explosive guitars to their tale of lost love, or that it would work as well as it does.

Jack starts off as longing as Springfield does when singing, "Planning everything for two/Doing everything with you/And now that we're through/I just don't know what to do." But by the time he gets to the chorus, he's sounding angrier and angrier and then by the final refrain, with the guitars wailing along with him, the entire thing sounds almost epic and triumphant. It's a definite departure from the original, but one that fits quite well with that White Stripes did.

3. "Fell in Love with a Girl"

Travel back with me to 2002 when "Fell in Love with a Girl" was released. The Strokes had hit it big and were supposed to be the new Nirvana and help the garage rock revival take over the world. The Hives stormed in from Europe and some of us even convinced ourselves that the Vines were a good band. "Fell in Love with a Girl" was written off by some as just a part of this emerging scene, but looking back it shows why the White Stripes endured and many of their peers could not.

To start off with, it has a white-hot riff that few could hope to match, as well as the kind of frenzied and rollicking energy that helped to make the Stripes' early work so great. Jack and Meg waste literally not a second in getting in, making their impact, and then getting out in a frenetic and infectious one minute and fifty seconds, their mission accomplished. The song and those repeated harmonies are now stuck in your head and you will never get them out, so don't even bother trying. Never again would the White Stripes be this catchy, but they also never needed to be; this song got the job done well enough on its own, and set the stage for the band's work to come.

2. "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"

"Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" opened the group's breakthrough third album White Blood Cells with a squall of guitar, immediately letting you know what was to follow. This is a grimy and grungy rocker that explores the end of a relationship in exacting and cathartic detail, with White alternating between sweet and vicious, rueful and bitter. In fact, he is most likely all those things at once both in terms of his lyrics and vocals, as well as the way his guitar blasts out of his speakers.

It's that combination and tension of love and hate that drives a lot of the band's best work, and this song is no exception; lyrics like "I didn't feel so bad till the sun went down/Then I come home/No one to wrap my arms around," seem welcoming and sweet, but when sung by White amongst the backdrop of a crunching guitar riff it takes on an entirely different meaning. Smartly, the group's assault only comes at the most opportune moments, giving them as much impact as they can. Those loud/soft/loud dynamics take on a dramatic sense when employed as such by the White Stripes, and this is a band that has always embraced that aspect of their sound.

1. "Seven Nation Army"

This was the opening track to the group's best album Elephant, the song that proved to people the White Stripes were here to stay, and also the song that the writers of this very website named as the best of the previous decade. There was really no other option for the number one spot on this list, since "Seven Nation Army" so perfectly encapsulates what makes this band great; from pounding drums to power chords to a hypnotic sense surrounding everything, this is the definitive White Stripes song.

The song begins in a subdued manner, with Jack's guitar sounding exactly like a bass while Meg begins to build the song's steam; Jack continues by pushing the song forward, singing, "I'm gonna fight'em off/A seven nation army couldn't hold me back/They're gonna rip it off/Taking their time right behind my back/And I'm talking to myself at night because I can't forget/Back and forth through my mind behind a cigarette." From there, release is the only possible option and the band delivers with a rousing chorus. The song only gets more of a groove from there, confidence and momentum building before a guitar freakout that is the height of Jack's prowess as a guitarist. "Seven Nation Army" was arena rock coming straight from the garage, an explosive bit of guitar work that made them into the rock stars that they sounded like. The White Stripes would be this powerful and interesting again, but never this good.

That'll do it for this week folks, thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments or concerns feel free to let me know, and make sure to leave your own lists in the comments. I'll see you all next week. And if you're out on your bike tonight, do wear white.


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