In all forms of art and expression, sometimes less is more. There’s an art to getting right to the point, chopping off all the extra and presenting an idea as succinctly as possible. In music, this often means the sub-2:00 song. These tracks often get dismissed as interludes or filler, but sometimes they’re anything but that. Here are the 25 best songs that clock in at 2:00 or less.
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25. Mos Def – “Priority”
Mos Def, or more accurately Yasiin Bey, has this wonderful habit of being one of the most lyrically strong rappers in the game. Mos proves that he can fit his lyrical prowess into a nice and neat 1:40 with “Priority.” He may use a simplistic rhyme scheme and flow, but the power of his words is only magnified by that simplicity. It’s a track about the things that should come first, and it’s made from some serious lyrical concentrate.
24. Daft Punk – “Nightvision”
Sit down, chill out, relax and just vibe with it for a second, 105 seconds to be exact. Daft Punk’s interlude from one of the most beloved albums of all time is a testament to the versatility of the frenchmen. “Nightvision” is a departure from the dancefloor grooves that litter the rest of the album, but that doesn’t make it any less special. “Nightvision” is part of the album-long video for Discovery which was part inspiration for Kanye’s epic My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy film.
23. Sleigh Bells – “Straight A’s”
“Straight A’s” is a sprint to the finish. Brazen, brash guitar bursts through your speakers at breakneck pace, with little to no regard for you earholes. It’s loud, fast, unruly, and probably not something your grandmother would be too fond of. But that’s why we love Sleigh Bells. With the guitars at their loudest, the lights pulsating with the 808’s, the fog machine filling the stage, and Krauss at her siren best.
22. Gorillaz – “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven”
Gorillaz do their best Beach Boy impression with the penultimate track on the phenomenal Demon Days. “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” is a cautionary cry that flies through dreamy ethereal tapestries setting up a wonderful contrast to the darkness of the final track of the album.
21. Earl Sweatshirt – “Luper”
A solid example of expert storytelling neatly packed into under two minutes. Earl’s tale is a bit dark, but we all have our ways of dealing with rejection. It just so happens that Earl’s coping mechanisms include kidnapping, raping, and murdering the former object of his affection, or maybe he’s just fantasizing. Either way, “Luper” is a demented but terrific song from a young artist. We might not hear much like this from Earl again, judging from his twitter feed it would seem that he’s mellowing out and perhaps leaving the macabre content out of his new project.
20. A$AP Rocky – “Purple Swag”
Ok, so the video is pretty clearly 2:28, but if we cut out the 31-second “Peso” interlude, we’re left with the run time of the original release which is 1:59. If Rocky has lost his edge, he most certainly had not when this video/track dropped. It was the beginning of the A$AP craze, which is now most certainly in full swing. This is the track that introduced us to the Harlem-by-way-of-Houston sound that has rocketed Rocky to national attention. Regardless of his next moves, we’ll always have “Purple Swag”.
19. Queen – “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon”
“Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon” has all the things that make Freddie and the boys fantastic: operatic vocal stylings, golden guitar lead, and a theatrical rhythm that is as unmistakably English as it is unmistakably Queen.
18. Blind Melon – “Skinned”
Blind Melon is widely regarded as a one-hit-wonder, whose contributions to the music world take a steep nosedive after “No Rain,” but there’s more to Blind Melon than a well utilized bee-suit. The guys go all Buffalo Bill on us with “Skinned”, using a happy-go-lucky texture boosted by a kazoo to hide the disturbing images of cannibalism, and making furniture from body parts.
17. Sex Pistols/Sid Vicious – “Chatterbox”
Speaking of a sloppy mess, there’s no band that embodied that concept quite as well as the Sex Pistols. Jonny Rotten and Co. were on a mission of destruction—destruction of your notions, rules, and anything they could get their hands on. Sid Vicious’ lyrics of youthful misdirection and miscommunication make for a track that stands the test of time.
16. Ice Cube – “Get Off My Dick And Tell Yo Bitch To Come Here”
Remember when Ice Cube used to be a rapper? Yeah, us too. Cube wasn’t just any rapper though. He was damn good at his job, and not that quitting music and making movies and TV should take away from that, but the new Cube can’t touch the Cube who made “Get Off My Dick…”
15. The Mountain Goats – “Dance Music”
Truly great storytelling in music is a thing to behold. Storytelling accomplished in under two minutes is even more impressive. John Darnielle paints three images: one of a child who can sense that not all is well with his family, a young man who escapes from an abusive home through the volume knob on his record player, and a teenager in a fated love. In each instance music is the protector and the release. All of this contrasted by a melody that is peppy, upbeat, and a perfect example of John’s trademark dark-content-bright-melody artistry.
14. Crystal Castles – “1991”
You wouldn’t think that a feral, gothic vibe would fit so well with 8-bit music, but Crystal Castles made it work, combining horror and video game sounds for a sound that still hasn’t gotten old.
13. Danny Brown – “XXX”
The opening and title track from XXX has everything that makes Danny Brown one of the most engaging rappers in the game. A wild beat, Danny’s trademark oddball flow, drug use, oral sex, and a Spongebob reference. What more can you really ask for?
12. Nirvana – “Very Ape”
“Very Ape” is a side of Nirvana that stems from their punk roots. It’s messy and chaotic, and that’s the best part. The crunchy guitar and frenetic drums flirt with the edge of control. Kurt’s words are groaned in typical fashion, making “Very Ape” a Nirvana classic.
11. The Smiths – “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”
Morrissey and Co. try on the sweet, simple track for size, and it turns out that it fits pretty damn well. The chorus is a touching plea, and subtle guitar work combined with Morrissey’s trademark croon made “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” an instant classic.
10. Nick Drake – “Harvest Breed”
Nick Drake’s Pink Moon is often batted around as a contender for one of the best albums of all time. Yes, that’s a big claim, but don’t knock it until you’ve listened to the whole thing. 98% of the album is nothing but Nick and his guitar. It’s an intimate, raw, and breathtaking album. The poetry that Nick is able to pair with his impeccable guitar work is packed with imagery that sends the imagination on trips down gravel roads with autumn leaves falling, days of harvest, and the break of morning when everything is golden and calm. “Harvest Breed” showcases the strengths of that album, putting a spotlight on Drake’s simplistically elegant guitar figures and caramelized croon.
9. Radiohead – “I Will”
Radiohead is just as skilled at drawing out songs into epic territory, but “I Will” is a concise masterpiece to behold. The choir of Yorke’s is hauntingly beautiful, ominous in approach and delivery and the refrain of “little babies eyes” is enough to send chills down your spine.
8. The Ramones – “Judy Is A Punk”
It’s classic Ramones. This ode to two dedicated Ramones fans (Jackie and Judy) is perfectly suited for the short run time. The Ramones may not be best known for their lyrical prowess, but the words in this song carry a particular weight. According to sources and told in the End of the Century documentary, Jackie and Judy ended up dying in a plane crash, making that “perhaps they’ll die” line prophetic and a little unsettling.
7. Jay-Z – “Friend Or Foe”
“Friend Or Foe” shows us exactly the type of rhymes that Jay has built an empire on. Before his romance with Beyonce, before he fathered the heir apparent, before he was a multi-million dollar mogul, and before he chopped the top off a Maybach, Jay-Z was just a skinny kid spitting and hustling to get by.
6. Madvillain – “Accordion”
Madlib’s accordion sample was a stroke of genius. On Madvillainy, the best underground hip-hop album of all time, “Accordion” is an effortless standout. A far cry from your average banger, DOOM and Madlib form an album with the aesthetics of an antique shop, using dusty, vintage sounds to craft an off-kilter modern classic with no choruses necessary.
5. Neutral Milk Hotel – “The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1”
“The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1” is the opener to one of the most influential indie rock albums ever. Neutral Milk Hotel envisioned something large, out of the ordinary, and special with In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and “The King Of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1” sets the tone from the very start, in exactly 2 minutes.
4. The Clash – “White Riot”
Blood, sweat, rage, riot. The Clash’s classic “White Riot” may be short, but it packs a punch. Joe Strummer’s lyrics are a challenge to the white UK youth to find something they’re passionate enough about to riot over. Naturally the UK is not to jazzed up about rioting, so the track caught plenty of shit from the English press. Three chords, quick playing, and no remorse makes this one beyond effective.
3. Pixies – “Broken Face”
The Pixies sub-two minute effort is another short song with darker content, as the Pixies hit us with a little bit of incest. But more importantly, this is the Pixies at their best—fast, dirty, unrefined, and packed with energy. “Broken Face” is the perfect soundtrack to getting a broken nose.
2. The Beatles – “Her Majesty”
Short, sweet, and melodically strong, “Her Majesty” was one of the very first bonus/hidden tracks. Appearing 14 seconds after “The End” on the legendary Abbey Road this McCartney-penned tune is one of the true hidden gems of the Beatles vast catalogue. It clocks in at just under 23 seconds and its inclusion in the album is a funny story.
Originally intended for placement between “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam,” Sir Paul decided he didn’t like it there and asked that the recording be destroyed. The EMI policy at the time was that no Beatles recording was ever to be deleted, so the track found itself tagged onto the end of the album. The last note of the song is missing, and can be found at the beginning of “Polythene Pam”
1. The White Stripes – “Fell In Love With A Girl”
From start to finish, “Fell In Love With A Girl” never stops to catch its breath. It’s garage rock on steroids, full of noise and distortion but catchy enough to get radio play and muscular enough to make less than two minutes feel like 12. And if you haven’t watched the lego-animated video in a while, watch it again below. It’s worth it, and it won’t even take two minutes.