10. “(You Ain’t Woman Enough) to Take My Man” (Coal Miner’s Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn, 2010)
…However. If you’ll permit an old man to yell at the cloud for a sec, even rock’s best love song in recent memory has nothing on classic Loretta Lynn. The original “Misery Business.” Baton passed. Please put her in a studio with Pistol Annies.
9. “Taken” (Petals for Armor, 2020)
Uniquely emotionally healthy and self-aware as she is among A-listers, one thing the writer of “Fake Happy” never had was subtlety. So the shock of Williams’ solo album isn’t that she’s having a love affair with negative space but the fact she’s so damn good at it. Over her most abstract hook ever, a bassline fit for an Esperanza Spalding record, Williams steps up to the plate with juicy, Erykah Badu-blessed jazz-lite and a cheeky, slippery R&B chorus: “If anybody asking, I’m taken / If anybody wants to know, then he is too.” A jam like this could be a note-perfect one-off or a whole new direction. She’s not running out of worlds to conquer anytime soon.
8. “Ignorance” (Brand New Eyes, 2009)
Paramore excels at great songs about shitty inter-band communication, a time-honored rock tradition three times over when you take spiritual cues from Stevie Nicks. But devoting one of one’s best-ever singing performances to a rollercoaster of tango-metal, literally screaming to “accept that the change is good!” is a new one. Bonus points for the backup “whoa-ohs” provided when the change-haters were reached for comment.
7. “Ain’t It Fun” (Paramore, 2013)
You just know some Limbaugh-loving asshole somewhere is misappropriating Paramore’s biggest hit into some boomer shit. But maybe not. “Ain’t It Fun” gives so much life it transcends any possible smarmy applications in the age of using “snowflake” as a slur. Hence, the only acceptable use of “don’t go crying to your mama” is when a full gospel choir sings the shit out of it for an extended outro. Rock’s most iconic, best bridge since the Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done.” Paramore’s got soul (and a Best Rock Song Grammy) but they’re not soldiers.
6. “Looking Up” (Brand New Eyes, 2009)
Music fans love delusional obsessives for sure, from Kanye West to Morrissey to Drake to Lana Del Rey. But I suspect that one reason Williams is so beloved is that her perspective is so…healthy. Few artists take time out from their self-congratulatory, we-made-it “it’s not a dream anymore” anthem to point out “God knows the world doesn’t need another band.” And it’s to her credit as a capital-R rock star that she follows it up with a sly “…but what a waste it would have been.” Her wide-eyed rapture at being hired for her dream job — “Honestly, can you believe we cross the world while it’s asleep??” — might draw tears you didn’t know you had.