It’s Deep Cut Week here at Billboard -- have you heard? If your head’s been buried in Paramore's After Laughter or Jack White’s back catalogue then maybe not, but even so, we’ve got a list for you. It even includes one of the many groups Jack’s played in over the years. We give you: the 40 best deep cuts from popular rock bands of the 21st century.
So first off, what counts as a popular rock band? For this list, we tried to forego the indie-famous, album-oriented artists that so often dominate internet lists, and focus on rockers that actually scored hit singles, in the traditional sense. As with our Pop Deep Cuts list, we employed the hyper-subjective Four Songs Test: Does this artist have four hit songs, since 2000, that your casual rock fan would likely know? So for our boy Jack, the White Stripes absolutely count, but the Raconteurs and Dead Weather don’t quite make the cut. We’re here to turn you onto the epic deep cuts you never knew these radio rockers had.
We went for the fan favorites, the songs with stories behind them -- the type of tracks bands play to raucous encores, but are still largely unknown to outsiders. Generally, any non-single was eligible, though we allowed promotional singles, non-U.S. singles, and tracks that were technically singles, but received no considerable push. We know it’s subjective, and that’s why we debate.
40. Korn, “Here It Comes Again” (Take a Look in the Mirror, 2003)
Singer Jonathan Davis has helped shine a light for fans struggling with depression with confessions like this cut from 2003’s Take a Look in the Mirror. He candidly depicts the battle he experiences when combating thoughts of despair, and the track’s walloping breakdown complements the wrenching conflict so deeply expressed in his lyrics. -- CHRISTA TITUS
39. Foster the People, "I Would Do Anything for You" (Torches, 2011)
It'd be something of a stretch to call Foster the People's Torches this decade's version of The Cars' self-titled debut, but decades from now it could have the same effect of confusing new fans into assuming it's the band's greatest hits, by virtue of having all the songs they already know on it. Remarkably, one of those wouldn't even be the effervescent "I Would Do Anything for You," a sublime disco-pop groover with a Looking Glass-worthy chorus, left as a deep cut seemingly because the world could understandably only handle so much Foster the People at once. Take it from Uncle Ric: Save something for album two, guys. -- ANDREW UNTERBERGER
38. Trapt, “Lost Realist” (Someone In Control, 2005)
Known for their dogged, can’t-hold-me-back hard rock (see megahit “Headstrong”), Trapt balanced out the ballistics on their 2005 sophomore album Someone in Control with romantic, yearning harmonics. The introspective look at commitment phobia contains a toe-tapping, irresistible bridge that repeatedly laments, “Why do I rush to slow down?” It’s a refreshing change of pace within the Trapt discography (see also: the melancholic, deeply melodic “These Walls” from 2002’s self-titled). -- C.T.
37. Weezer, “Don’t Let Go” (Weezer a.k.a. The Green Album, 2001)
First, you’ve got to bring yourself to accept that the SoCal-based modern rock quartet known as Weezer is probably not going to write Pinkerton 2.0 anytime this millennium. Then, you remind yourself that when Weezer find the right chords and play verse/pre-chorus/chorus connect the dots, they’re playing with fire few of their power pop peers can match. This millennium, they’ve approached that perfect formula for plenty of, if you will, islands in the shade, but a ways back in 2000, they opened their third album with this true scorcher. -- CHRIS PAYNE
36. Staind, “Tangled Up in You” (The Illusion of Progress, 2008)
As the metal act moved away from intense rock that excavated deep-seated wounds, this acoustic song from The Illusion of Progress indicated it was just as talented at writing a graceful love song. The gentle siren of its lap steel guitar also signaled vocalist Aaron Lewis’ future foray into country music. -- C.T.
35. Imagine Dragons, "Amsterdam" (Night Visions, 2012)
You knew Imagine Dragons meant business on their debut album, because the singles run out early in the A-side, but the LP still sounds huge throughout. "Amsterdam" actually might've been a better third-single mid-tempo power ballad than "Demons" -- the lyrics may be a little Interpolian in spots ("I'll take the West train, just by the side of Amsterdam/ Just by my left brain, just by the side of the Tin man"), but the combination of twinkling guitar, chugging bass undertow and stadium-echoing drums makes them feel unmistakably anthemic just the same. Given the continued refusal of Night Visions to depart the Billboard 200 albums chart, it might not even be too late to give this one its due. -- A.U.
34. Matchbox Twenty, “The Difference”/“So Sad So Lonely” (More Than You Think You Are, 2002)
Man, it’s a hot one. Rob Thomas and company are typically at their best when laying on the schmaltz, and they closed off the hit-filled More Than You Think You Are with this teary-eyed, slow dance nocturne, one that’s less midday sun, more ocean under the moon. “Night swimming in her diamond dress / making small circles move across the surface”: listen to Thomas’ voice tremble as he savors every last detail, as if he could somehow undo this past heartbreak. He can’t, but -- surprise! -- seconds after the "The Difference" fades out, he’s off and running on “So Sad, So Lonely,” a revved-up rockabilly hidden track that ends the album once and for all, with Single Rob Thomas finally reveling in his solitude. -- C.P.
33. Panic! at the Disco, “Time To Dance” (A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, 2005)
Few bands epitomize mid-'00s Fuse-esque music video playlists more than Panic! at the Disco, and "Time to Dance" would have absolutely been a lead single in heavy rotations for a dozen bands of that ilk in 2005 -- had, you know, Brendon Urie, Ryan Ross and Co. not had "I Write Sins Not Tragedies," "The Only Difference..." and others under their belt on A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, too. Its call-and-response post-chorus is a blast live, and the lyrics as a whole are full of memorable lines (aided by the Chuck Palahniuk references, no doubt) that keep the song indelible alongside the album's fellow classics 12 years later. Bonus: it would have been way less of a mouthful for DJs to say on the radio than any of the set's other singles. -- KEVIN RUTHERFORD
32. AFI, “Endlessly, She Said” (Decemberunderground, 2006)
AFI gave no quarter on 2006’s superb Decemberundergound, capping off its punk/goth rock masterpiece with “Endlessly, She Said.” Its surreal intro dissolves into a powerful screed about a relationship that has faded into one-sided love, despite the narrator’s best intensions. It wraps the band’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with classic AFI flair. -- C.T.
31. Linkin Park, "The Little Things Give You Away" (Minutes to Midnight, 2007)
Third album Minutes to Midnight answered any questions about whether or not Linkin Park would be able to outlive the nu-metal moment rapidly dwindling behind them, seeing the band expand their bombast to less traditionally angst-ridden forms of stadium rock, without sacrificing their melodic or technological ingenuity. "The Little Things Give You Away" was the closer and the crown jewel, a gorgeous, six-minute epic that slow-builds and swells without ever truly exploding, since its chorus sentiment ("All you ever wanted was someone to truly look up to you/ And now, six feet under ground, I do") is too quietly devastating for that kind of catharsis. -- A.U.
30. Bullet for My Valentine, “Forever and Always” (Scream Aim Fire, 2008)
The closer from the U.K. metalheads’ 2008 opus Scream Aim Fire is a love letter to touring life and the fans who make it possible. The anthem’s repetitive chords and foot-stomping drums meld together for a high-octane lullaby that invokes deep feelings of loyalty and camaraderie between the group and its followers. -- C.T.
29. Thirty Seconds to Mars, “Oblivion” (Thirty Seconds to Mars, 2002)
Yes, Thirty Seconds to Mars had radio singles (and an album!) pre-"The Kill," though they lacked the runaway success (and, generally, catchiness) of the A Beautiful Lie-era material. "Oblivion" isn't your typical Leto fare; in fact, it's the closest the band had ever (and have since) sounded to Deftones, particularly beneath the electric guitar-addled crunch of the chorus. Not that this one gets much credit from Leto himself these days; a video from a 2013 concert finds him playing a portion on acoustic guitar, decrying the fact that barely anyone was singing along and telling the "three people" who actually knew the song that, "you gotta move on, you know?" True? Perhaps, but this still would have been a killer single in 2003. -- K.R.
28. Green Day, "Give Me Novacaine" (American Idiot, 2004)
Midway through the iconic punk opera that is American Idiot, our protagonist appears on the brink of suicide. As its title predicts, “Give Me Novacaine” tackles drug addiction and its “throbbing toothache of the mind,” while the track’s tender introductory chords -- some of the gentlest on the album -- mimic the drug’s promised relief. Sure, it’s not an American Idiot standard like “Holiday” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” but it is a crucial turning point -- where our Jesus of Suburbia nearly loses all hope before being shocked back into clarity by the bursting interruption of “She’s A Rebel.” -- TATIANA CIRISANO
27. Muse, “Assassin” (Black Holes and Revelations, 2006)
Muse reached its creative peak in the mid-aughts, cranking out arena-ready epics that spliced together the most extravagant bits of Queen and Radiohead, while doubling down on the latter’s stance on global capitalism. 2004’s Absolution and its 2006 follow-up are rife with hit singles and choice deep cuts, but we’re set on this three-and-a-half-minute buzzsaw from the latter. Frontman Matthew Bellamy elevates his riff-playing to “Flight of the Bumblebee”-level warp speed, leading the power trio through a quest to see just how fast they can play without sacrificing hooks or precision. Lyrically, he makes his mission clear from the opening verse: "War is overdue/ the time has come for you/ to shoot your leaders down/ join forces underground." -- C.P.
26. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Wet Sand” (Stadium Arcadium, 2006)
Lack of an ironclad hook might have kept "Wet Sand" from the airwaves; otherwise, it could have stood alongside cuts like "Soul to Squeeze" when it comes to the Chili Peppers' most palatable mid-tempo radio hits. Deeply introspective lyrics make this one a meaningful listen no matter what, but it's a killer outro -- from the final declaration of "You don't form in the wet sand/ I do" to John Frusciante's squealing guitar solo -- that really drives this one over the top. "Wet Sand" still makes appearances in the band's live sets in 2017, and it's easy to see why. -- K.R.
25. Coldplay - "Yes" (Viva La Vida, 2008)
For the undying argument that Coldplay was just a bunch of Radiohead rip-off artists, "Yes" served as the ultimate argument both for and against. One one hand, it was a sweeping, high-production-value mini-opera, stunning and unpredictable even before it completely switches up halfway through, proving the band to be capable of so much more than you'd know just from their more lighter-waving-friendly alt-rock radio anthems. On the other hand, Radiohead had one of those too. -- A.U.
24. Kings of Leon, “Knocked Up” (Because of the Times, 2007)
With their third album, Nashville country rockers Kings of Leon broke through indie rock’s glass ceiling. The LP packs many KoL classics (like singles “On Call” and “Fans”) but there are some truly incredible deep cuts on this record, namely the opener. “Knocked Up” is a slow-starting song of rebellion and angst against both family stigma and religion as frontman Caleb Followill sings about himself and his pregnant girlfriend running off to raise their baby. Though a purely fictional story, it contains deep meaning for the band, as they confront their conservative Southern surroundings. It’s also become a live show staple, as the band extends its typical seven-minute runtime into a marathon riff sesh. -- JOE KELLEY
23. Black Keys, “Everlasting Light” (Brothers, 2010)
Is there a declaration of love more pure than “let me be your everlasting light?” The Black Keys beg the question with this soulful rock ballad, where lead singer Dan Auerbach pleads to “be your sun when there is none” in haunting falsetto, to a backdrop of scraggly guitar, bluesy "shoop, shoo-wahhhh"s and biblical references that underline the weighty theme of worship. "LIght" provided the perfect kick-off for the band’s 2010 LP Brothers, which would go on to win the duo their first Grammy. -- T.C.
22. Fall Out Boy, “Hum Hallelujah” (Infinity on High, 2007)
This raucous rock track is a sure standout off Fall Out Boy’s second album in the mainstream spotlight -- it also best fits the album title, as it sees the punk rockers kick things up a notch. The reverb-drenched riff and steady drumbeat serve as a solid backbone for Patrick Stump to offer his simple instructions (via lyricist-bassist Pete Wentz): hum hallelujah, because flatly saying “hallelujah” is surely not punk. Leonard Cohen interpolations definitely are, though. -- LYNDSEY HAVENS
21. Paramore, “Born For This” (Riot!, 2007)
Did you really think Riot! would go quietly? Paramore capped off its sophomore album and commercial breakthrough with this white-knuckled, berserker sprint through stardom and back. Guitars blare as frontwoman Hayley Williams wails through one last storm surge, nodding to Paramore’s then-two-year old debut single (“Tell me, tell me do you feel the pressure now?”) and furiously interpolating the “we want the airwaves back” salvo from Refused’s “Liberation Frequency.” Sure, the lyrics of “Misery Business” left plenty of room for maturation, but a skilled transplant from a seminal punk album hinted at Paramore’s future mastery. -- C.P.
20. Avenged Sevenfold, “Blinded In Chains” (City of Angels, 2005)
Avenged Sevenfold's breakthrough album was marked not just by an uptick in production quality from its predecessors, but also a goldmine of radio-ready hooks, driving three songs to the Mainstream Rock Songs chart. Had another made the commercial leap, "Blinded in Chains" would have been a strong candidate, chock full of memorable dueling guitar hooks from Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance, alongside a bevy of intriguing melodies from M. Shadows to lodge in one's brain. -- K.R.
19. System of a Down, “Violent Pornography” (Mezmerize, 2005)
Few songs on this list are no-brainers in terms of the reason they didn't achieve single status quite like "Violent Pornography," which would have required a Herculean editing display to get the song both presentable and somewhat coherent for mainstream rock radio in 2005. Heck, maybe they wouldn't have gotten the opportunity anyway; along with the uphill battle lyrically, the song's parent CD, Mezmerize, only really saw significant singles ("B.Y.O.B." and "Question!") released before it was time to move on to Hypnotize, released six months later. Had Mezmerize gotten a little more time to shine on its own, co-vocalists Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian's occasionally gibberish tale of "the kind of shit that's on your TV" would have been a fun one for the hard-rock radio crowd, that's for sure. -- K.R.
18. Modest Mouse, “Florida” (We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, 2007)
Modest Mouse's skittering follow-up to "Float On" spawned hits like “Missed The Boat” and “Dashboard,” but the guitar riff on “Florida,” paired with its bright and breezy chorus, creates yet another album standout. All the while, frontman Isaac Brock’s vocals fluctuate between melodic and enraged -- a compelling fusion on a track that dares to go against established formula. -- L.H.
17. Evanescence, “Hello” (Fallen, 2003)
The most personal track from Evanescence's ultra-successul major label debut LP memorializes Amy Lee’s sister, who died in childhood. The singer-pianist was just six when she found out her three-year old sister Bonnie was gone, and she got the heartbreaking news on her school playground. With nothing but Lee’s voice, sparse piano, occasional flaring guitar and a quivering string solo, she expresses the heartbreak and disbelief at the loss of her sibling in a beautifully haunting requiem. -- C.T.
16. Franz Ferdinand, “Jacqueline” (Franz Ferdinand, 2004)
The Scottish disco-punks’ self-titled debut will be forever tied to “Take Me Out,” and for good reason -- it’s one of rock’s most deservedly iconic singles of the 21st century. But the album actually opened with an unheralded burner that followed the format of its much more famous third track to similar success. Just like “Take Me Out” pulled a bait-and-switch and went from Strokes to Gang of Four around the one-minute mark, “Jacqueline” arrives with an ace up its sleeve. What begins with wispy, romantic guitar strumming explodes into hedonistic, romping Brit-rock and Alex Kapranos toasting self-destructive holidays: “That’s why we only work when we need the money.” -- C.P.
15. Paramore feat. Joy Williams, “Hate To See Your Heart Break” (Paramore [Deluxe Edition], 2013)
By the time Paramore released their fourth album in 2013, frontwoman Hayley Williams had built a reputation as a badass vocal powerhouse through hits like “Ignorance” and all-time bruiser “Misery Business.” So you might be surprised by the soft, feathery vocals and twinkling keys on this acoustic number -- but you won’t be disappointed. Williams wrote it for guitarist Taylor York and, for the version included on Paramore’s deluxe edition, invited longtime friend (and Civil Wars singer) Joy Williams to join her for this gorgeous, breakup-healing duet. -- T.C.
14. Panic! at the Disco, “LA Devotee” (Death of a Bachelor, 2016)
In 2016, Panic! at the Disco enjoyed their greatest commercial success since debuting with 2005’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Their new album Death of a Bachelor debuted with an eye-popping 169,000 in sales its opening week, and clocked in at No. 23 on Billboard's year-end albums chart. Extravagant offerings like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “Victorious” got more attention, but holding down Panic!’s more familiar side was this brass-addled pop-rock pep rally. Frontman Brendon Urie was raised Mormon in Las Vegas, but as this song shows, a decade into his career, he’d certainly found his crowd amongst the debauchery in Los Angeles: “The black magic on Mulholland Drive/ Swimming pools under desert skies/ Drinking white wine in the blushing light/ Just another L.A. Devotee.” -- C.P.
13. Jimmy Eat World, “23” (Futures, 2004)
Jimmy Eat World delivered one of the most memorable growing pains anthems of all time with 2001’s “The Middle,” a power-pop pep talk that addressed a nation of awkward teenagers with tender reassurances. But then came the mature album. While 2004’s Futures had fewer sunny hooks, it filled the emotional void with gorgeous, guitar-laced musings on an ever-pressing post-“Middle” topic: adulthood. It all concludes with “23,” a heart-tugging, string-swept seven-minute epic fixated on emotions many are still grappling with well past their twenties: “I won't always love what I'll never have/ I won't always live in my regrets.” -- T.C.
12. Foo Fighters, "White Limo" (Wasting Light, 2011)
If you're going to ask for Lemmy to appear in your promo video, you better have the riffs to justify it. "White Limo" is one of the few Foo Fighters songs from this century that could accurately be described as "blistering," with frontman Dave Grohl's vocals so buried under six-strings and distortion that he can get away with nonsense lyrics like "You had a mollusk in the palm of your hand!" and "Whatever happened to DayGlo thongs?" Hey, it's not like "Gimme some rope I'm coming loose" was pure poetry, either. -- A.U.
11. The White Stripes, “I’m Finding It Harder To Be a Gentleman” (White Blood Cells, 2001)
It’s awfully hard to compete with timeless tracks like “We’re Going To Be Friends” and “Fell In Love With A Girl,” but The White Stripes’ third album White Blood Cells boasts a hefty handful of under-appreciated songs -- namely “I’m Finding It Harder To Be a Gentleman.” The carefully paced production allows for greater emphasis to be placed on the lyrics, which see White deliver a raw and relatable narrative. -- L.H.
10. No Doubt, “Making Out” (Rock Steady, 2001)
You know No Doubt from their singles. The first (and certainly most memorable) decade of their career is calcified in an ironclad hits comp, just about everything a non-diehard needs of the ska-to-pop icons fifteen years later. But 2001’s “Making Out” more than holds its own. The band teamed with William Orbit for this Rock Steady cut, and the "Ray of Light" producer added a glitchy, trance-like sheen to its throbbing, immensely catchy underbelly. Tony Kanal’s driving bass slides set the groove, and Gwen Stefani yearns for everything her lover just can’t do over the phone. You, however, can re-listen to this one without thinking of Gavin Rossdale. -- C.P.
9. Linkin Park, “Nobody’s Listening” (Meteora, 2003)
It’s hard to blame Linkin Park for following their Diamond-certified debut Hybrid Theory with an album that, for the most part, sounded a good deal like it. But towards the end of 2003’s Meteora, you can sense the band getting restless -- they test more melodic, rap-free waters on “Breaking the Habit” at track nine, drop in a bit of instrumental DJ Shadow worship at the penultimate slot (“Session”) and on the track before that, drift as far towards the “rap” side of the rap-metal spectrum as they ever have. From the jump, M. Shinoda sets the bar high, riffing on Jay-Z’s opening couplet from “Brooklyn’s Finest” -- and while his “’Til I Collapse”-esque bars of sweat-drenched perseverance sometimes grow weary, Chester Bennington’s white-knuckled chorus and those sublime pan flute samples have his back every time. -- C.P.
8. Twenty One Pilots, “The Judge” (Blurryface, 2015)
Who was it that decided Twenty One Pilots’ most Billy Joel-sounding song shouldn’t be a single? Nestled halfway through the 2015 album that made the suburban Ohio duo super-mega-millionaires, “The Judge” bops along like a polite ukulele ditty, then lodges permanently in your brain when Tyler Joseph pounds the ivories and drops an immaculate falsetto hook. Not to get too normie on us, this Blurryface cut features numerous time changes, unexpected marimba tones, and, naturally, rapping. It also has more Spotify plays than any other Twenty One Pilots non-single. -- C.P.
7. Blink-182 feat. Robert Smith, “All of This” (Blink-182, 2003)
Imagine being two years removed from releasing “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” and getting Robert Smith to duet with you. That’s the level of reinvention we’re talking with Blink-182 self-titled -- a deep, daring, and still utterly enjoyable album -- evocative enough to lure a true post-punk icon into the studio. Smith drapes his tortured drawl all over Blink’s bare-bones arrangement, acoustic strumming that chips and chisels into nothingness, while Tom DeLonge yelps, “Use me Holly, come on and use me.” Smith makes the desperation even more salient: “Another night with her / But I'm always wanting you.” -- C.P.
6. Arctic Monkeys, “A Certain Romance” (Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, 2006)
Off Arctic Monkeys’ stellar 2006 debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, "A Certain Romance" has an unexpected urgency to it -- for a closing track, that is. The driving drumbeat that bookends the song makes it clear that though the album is coming to its end, the band has no intention of slowing down. The song takes off on a sonic rollercoaster through different tempos, all tied together by the bass line, which keeps the listener engaged up until the final note fades out. Even more compelling is frontman Alex Turner’s of-the-times commentary (which, even early on, was already as trenchant as ever), best illustrated when he claims: “There’s only music so that there’s new ringtones.” -- L.H.
5. Death Cab For Cutie, “Transatlanticism” (Transatlanticism, 2003)
With their fourth studio LP Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie edged into indie-rock royalty and provided us with plenty of songs that could’ve cracked this list. We could’ve gone “Lightness” or “Tiny Vessels,” but the eight-minute epic at the album’s center truly is the masterstroke. Not content to simply bridge one side of vinyl to the other, frontman Ben Gibbard details the creation of the Atlantic Ocean and how his distant love is drifting away on the opposite coast. “I need you so much closer / so come on” are repeated into oblivion, as the band’s chiming riffs and insistent drums pound towards the horizon.
Over the years, “Transatlanticism” has endured as a frequent set-closing encore song. It’s a sign of the band recognizing its power, knowing the teary eyes and chest-pounds it’ll surely elicit. Two times I have even witnessed wedding proposals by hopeless romantics who just needed their significant other “so much closer.” -- J.K.
4. Jimmy Eat World, “Hear You Me” (Bleed American, 2001)
Two years before Train totally ruined lyrics about angels and the calling of them, Jimmy Eat World was out here being earnest, writing a gorgeous acoustic ballad a bunch of sensitive 16-year olds could demand get played at their future funerals. “Hear You Me” is actually buried in indie-rock lore, written as an ode to Weezer fan club leaders Mykel and Carli Allan, who died in a car crash on the way back from a Weezer show in 1997.
Rivers Cuomo actually wrote the first ode to his old high school friends (while they were still alive, in 1994); Jim Adkins took the sisters’ catchphrase from the Weezer message board and made it the title of this sentimental centerpiece from 2001’s Bleed American, their commercial breakthrough. And speaking of those angels, this one sprouted some obligatory “Are JEW a Christian band?” threads on Jimmy Eat World’s own message board. -- C.P.
3. The Strokes, “New York City Cops” (Is This It, 2001)
The best deep cuts come with some sort of gritty intrigue, a little-known backstory the heads can impart onto the newcomers. “New York City Cops” has this in excess: a stellar Ramones-ian burner left off the American edition of Is This It -- not because it wasn’t up to par, but because the Strokes’ debut arrived Stateside a month after 9/11, and both the label and the band agreed a song mocking the NYPD wasn’t a good look.
But it’s lived on, and deservedly so. You’ll still hear it in Strokes sets, its groove-riding, stylish verses leading to that simple, shout-along chorus: “NEW YORK CITY COPS, THEY AIN’T TOO SMART.” Public opinion of NYC's police officers hasn’t exactly improved over the past 16 years, though the song’s original intent was less socio-political and more… recreational. Listen closely, and you’ll hear a distinct snorting sound as the track plays out. -- C.P.
2. My Chemical Romance, “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” (Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, 2004)
It lacks an immediate, candy-sweet hook like that of "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" or "Helena," but Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge absolutely should have gotten a single to follow "The Ghost of You" ("Welcome to the Black Parade," after all, was another eight-ish months off) -- something a little more consistently uptempo, in the "I'm Not Okay" vein. This should have been the song to get the call off the bench. A staple of MCR's sets until around the time Danger Days rolled around, the high-voltage track would have cemented MCR's status as rock radio's new favorite sons even before the release of The Black Parade.
Frontman Gerard Way runs circles around the humorless machismo of the era’s mall emo, lending frenzied yelps and high-pitched squeals to this breakneck narrative of a sheltered guy who’s caught in a gunfight, thrown into jail, and forced to “do push-ups in drag,” all the while developing unexpected feelings for his “killer” cellmate. Plus, it features backing screams from The Used's Bert McCracken. What's not to love, and what gets more 2004-05 than that? (Okay, this.) -- K.R.
1. The Killers, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” (Hot Fuss, 2004)
“We didn’t come all the way from Las Vegas to New York City to not play ‘Jenny Was a Friend of Mine'!"
This was Brandon Flowers during the Killers' 2016 performance at New York’s Governors Ball -- one of their biggest headlining gigs -- already a song into the encore, giving Hot Fuss’ never-a-single opener the VIP treatment. Perhaps the song's allure is in the enchanted, mood-setting, new wave paranoia, the way we all remember the last slap of that legendary bass line and the synths jittering and cutting out, setting the table for “Mr. Brightside” at track two.
Sure, it was overshadowed by a quartet of massive Hot Fuss singles, but “Jenny” is a certified monster. The guitars and keyboards burst with fear and passion, Mark Stoermer’s slicing, melodic bass work answers the call, and Flowers’ frenetic "OH OH OH" caps off a desperate plea of innocence over the death of an ex-lover. The frontman navigates the rest of the album in a histrionic frenzy, as if the ghosts of old flames as well as those of New Order and the Cure and the rest of the post-punk canon are out to get him.
It’s the fulcrum of a great band’s first and greatest album. For every song not picked as a single, that’s a fate worth aspiring to. -- C.P.