While procrastinating today I made a playlist with a song named after every year since 1945.
It’s not 100% successful: for 69 years, I currently have 34 tracks, but given my stringent criteria (below) that seems like good going. You can listen either on Spotify or on YouTube (also possibly embedded below, depending on how you’re reading this). The playlists are slightly different, depending on what’s available, but at the time of writing they have the same number of tracks.
If you can fill a gap with a track, or have better suggestions than something that’s already included, then, so long as it’s available on Spotify and/or YouTube, let me know. Make sure you have familiarised yourself with the following rigorous inclusion criteria:
The track’s title must include the year. Ideally, it’s nothing but the year, so there’s no Sex Crime (1984) by the Eurythmics (instead we have David Bowie’s 1984). Los Campesinos!’s 2007, The Year Punk Broke (My Heart) is allowed because it starts with the year, the rest of the title describes the year, because it satisfies all other criteria, because there’s no competition for 2007, and because it’s Los Campesinos!
The track must be about, or at least mention, the year. So we have no instrumentals such as Boards of Canada’s 1969. Ideally, the lyrics are looking back on a year in the past. Or they might look forward to a future year, or talk about the then present year, or refer to the year in a metaphorical sense (Prince: “I’m gonna party like it’s 1999”), or, if there’s little competition, refer to the year in a sense that makes little sense (David Bowie: “Beware the savage jaw of 1984”). This means Blur’s 1992 doesn’t make it as there’s no reference to the year (I think it was simply a demo recorded in that year). But 2010 by Cornelius appears because virtually its only sung lyric is the year.
The song should be in English. This is because I’m from Britain and we don’t fully trust, never mind speak, other languages. This isn’t always possible, and so foreign language music will fill any gaps. There are a handful of these, such as Amedeo Minghi’s 1950 which Google translates from Italian in a manner that complies with the previous rule (“And your eyes so beautiful, wide on the future, and closed on me, in the nine hundred and fifty”).
I must be able to bear listening to the music. It turns out I can cope with most genres in small doses, but a few songs that would otherwise have been ideal haven’t made the cut because they were dreary sub-Travis-alikes or metal that’s far too tuneless for me. Don’t complain if I won’t add your favourite song because I don’t like it; I don’t make the rules, I only… no, I do make the rules.
Only one track per year is allowed. When there are two suitable tracks they are weighted according to all the above criteria and the highest-rated (using a complex formula and whimsy) is included. Usually one candidate stands out although 1959 proved tricky, with both Sisters of Mercy and Patti Smith singing about it.
Let’s count that as a successful Friday, shall we?
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