The MOR classic rock song is something I’ve always considered as American as apple pie, the Grand Canyon, and leveraged buyouts. It is the AM radio tune you’ll hear a thousand times and find tattooed on your subconscious until the day you die. In most cases, this wouldn’t be a good thing, but if we’re being honest, we have to admit that a bunch of those songs will catch you in just the right mood and sound like an epiphany (similar to the sighting of the burning bush). Here are the five best examples of such a song:
ELO – “Sweet Talking Woman”
From that slightly ludicrous string intro to the even more ludicrous distorted vocals that follow, it’s hardly the most promising opening. The call-and-response verses are better, but then comes that glorious chorus. The moment the words “you’ve got to slow down” come in and the beat switches to become pure disco gold, the song becomes irresistible in the way a dessert does after you’ve promised yourself only one bite. You know, just to taste it.
Supertramp – “Goodbye Stranger”
Some of these MOR classics are inevitable guilty pleasures, in that there is something dirty about admitting you like them (a lot more on that later), but the truth about “Goodbye Stranger” is that it’s blessed with a moving lyric about going forward not back, while infused with just enough melancholy to ground it in non-cheese. And again, the chorus is a corker, a gorgeous falsetto melody that would even make the likes of Thom Yorke kick the wall and mumble “I wish I’d written that.”
Boston – “More Than A Feeling”
I’ve done some research on this, and pretty much everything that Boston wrote represents the worst of ’70s and ’80s production excess and soullessness. Almost everything anyway. They also wrote “More Than A Feeling,” which has a good shot at the title of Greatest Song Ever Written. Try a little experiment next time you finish work on a Friday. Have about four drinks, then put this on and try telling me it’s not the best thing you’ve ever heard. Because as everyone knows, true wisdom is only achievable after four drinks.
Tom Petty- “Free Fallin'”
Blame Tom Cruise for this one. Jerry Maguire fans know what I mean. That’s all I can say really, although it has been pointed out that anyone who didn’t play this as the soundtrack to Felix Baumgartner’s astonishing skydive from the edge of space recently probably missed a trick. Count me in the group that missed out.
Nickelback- “How You Remind Me”
You want the definition of a guilty pleasure? Take a comically earnest break-up song. Add a video with a really nonsensical love story and Chad Kroeger’s hair, for which there are no words. Sing the entire song in that weird Eddie Vedder ripoff voice that’s been used by every American buttrock band of the last twenty years (hello Creed!), and then filter it through some inappropriately chunky riffage. This combination of wrongness, added to the fact that Nickelback isn’t even an American band, makes it even more difficult to admit that after more than a decade of saying every possible awful word under the sun about this song, I secretly love it with every bone in my body. And if any of my friends in England read this I’m so, so sorry…