Right. Forget everything you’ve been told about music. Wipe it all from your mind.
Forget ‘hottest records’. Forget ‘buzz’. Forget ‘cool’. Forget ‘boundary-pushing’. Forget peer approval. And in the words of a great artist: listen without prejudice.
Several months ago I embarked upon a mission. A mission to create the singularly greatest playlist that has been compiled. Of course, there are many other great ones, but this is the best.
Because this playlist is a monument to the safest place in music. The middle-of-the-road.
“But isn’t middle-of-the-road music boring and predictable?” I hear you cry. Well, some of it is, yes. But what I have created; what I have distilled down through a series of brutal, honest and sentiment-free reductions, is the very best, the pinnacle, the greatest bangers of the middle-of-the-middle-of-the-road.
The middle of the white line in the middle of the road. This playlist is perched, perfectly poised, balancing on the single atom that lies in the middle of the infinitesimal globule of white paint that lies in the middle of that white line in the middle of the road.
All of these songs are undisputed, undeniable bangers, built for the activity that the road itself is designed for. Drivin’, groovin’, freewheelin’ and foot-tappin’.
Anything remotely edgy has been purged. Huey Lewis and the News? A bit too funky. Bon Jovi? Too rocky, we don’t want to disturb those hands on the wheel. Tears for Fears? Bit too ‘out there’.
Westlife? Too slow - we want to drive at a constant 63 miles per hour towards our destination: musical utopia.
This is Magic daytime. This is Ken Bruce. This is the greatest playlist you will ever listen to. You show me someone who says that each and every one of these songs isn’t utterly amazing and I will show you a liar and probably also someone who has at some point in their life approached six points on their driving licence. Do you really want to take the advice of someone as reckless as that? Of course not, you’re not a damn fool.
Are you ready? You were born ready. Let’s hit the road.
Bruce Hornsby – ‘Every Little Kiss’
What a truly amazing song to get us off and running. Fretless bass? Check. Bluesy guitar licks? Check. Groove? Check. Storytelling about ‘the docks’? Check. Take it away, Bruce.
Christopher Cross – ‘Ride Like The Wind’
Menacing chords, serious conga action and a giant sweep pad in the first 20 seconds. And then in comes in the piano riff. You don’t even need to hear the vocal to know that this is going to incredible. And Christopher does not let us down.
John Waite – ‘Missing You’
Possibly the most middle-of-the-road speed of any song ever. It just grooves along, never getting too carried away. You can practically see the cat’s eyes passing you by outside your window.
Prefab Sprout – ‘Bonny’
Matthew Richards writes on YouTube: “A serious candidate for the best song ever written”, while Steve Semenuk states: “A masterpiece that only improves with time.” Both Matthew and Steve are correct.
Paul Carrack – ‘How Long’
A voice made of pure silk. Just try to stop your toes tapping when that groove kicks in a minute in. Just try it. You won’t be able to. It’s science and you are powerless.
Don Henley – ‘New York Minute’
When was the last time you heard a song this good? Brilliant lyrics, beautiful vocals and some insanely amazing bass playing throughout.
Keane – ‘This Is The Last Time’
Try all you want, you cannot argue with Keane. Just try it, they’ll talk over you. But seriously, bang in the middle of the road, but by God it’s melodic genius at its absolute finest. Would you pay to watch a piano-off between Keane and Bruce Hornsby? We would. Who would win? Music.
Paul Young – ‘Every Time You Go Away’
There’s a lot of fretless bass on this list, isn’t there? Maybe that’s the secret. Lock down the drums and let the bass meander around, but make sure it’s fretless – don’t want too much note definition in there to upset the balance. Where were we? Oh yes, what a tune.
Dire Straits – ‘Tunnel of Love’
Seriously, it really gets my goat how Dire Straits are constantly ignored in the lists of greatest bands ever. They were bloody brilliant. Mark Knopfler is a genius guitarist and they did eight-minute long TOTAL BANGERS like ‘Tunnel of Love’. Phantom Zephyr writes, accurately, on YouTube: “Dear God, thank you for Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler”. Gabriel Lima comments: “Who the fuck would dislike this song??” Idiots Gabriel, that’s who. Idiots.
Wet Wet Wet – ‘Sweet Little Mystery’
We’re not sure why the band decided to go to Gambia to film the video for this, but we bet the people of Gambia were eternally grateful for Wet Wet Wet bringing the gift of an all-time middle-of-the-road classic.
Travis – ‘Sing’
Travis were originally quite indie but settled into their middle-of-the-road ways with ease. Why speed in the outside lane when you can cruise along in the middle, eh guys? This is one of those songs that comes on and you think ‘oh this isn’t that amazing’ and then you get to the end of chorus one and think ‘actually it is’ and blow us down with a feather if we’re not, ahem, singing along and tapping that foot like there’s no tomorrow.
Deacon Blue – ‘Real Gone Kid’
Seriously what a banger. VISIT SCOTLAND.
KT Tunstall – ‘Other Side of the World’
Good god this is middle-of-the-road. But what a melody. What a melody.
Chicago – ‘Hard to Say I’m Sorry’
Captyon writes: “Just flying helicopters in the sunset in GTA 5 listening to this song”. A song so brilliant that it doesn’t even limit itself to the road. It can travel in the middle of the sky as well.
Phil Collins – ‘Something Happened on the Way to Heaven’
Jesus Christ what a song. You can read elsewhere on ShortList.com the myriad reasons that there should be a place in your heart for Phil, but really even if you hate everything else (you’re wrong), this song is outrageous. Every bit of it is amazing: the lyrics; the melody; the drumming; the horns; the bass playing. Again with the bass playing. Plus the video is told from the viewpoint of a dog.
Snow Patrol – ‘Chocolate’
I debated for a while whether Snow Patrol qualified truly for middle-of-the-road. Were they a bit too edgy? A bit too indie? Gary and the gang will be glad to know that they just made it.
Simply Red – ‘Stars’
Just because Mick Hucknall is a prick doesn’t mean he’s not a genius.
Fleetwood Mac – ‘Everywhere’
I wrote in my track-by-track analysis of Tango in the Night: “The opening 68 seconds of this song is, without any question, better than the entire recorded output of Bob Dylan.” And I am still correct.
Bryan Adams – ‘Run to You’
No Bryan, I’m gonna drive to you, in my car, in the middle of the road.
Lighthouse Family – ‘Ocean Drive’
Again, internal debate about this one. Is it truly a banger? It is a bit soft, but, in my opinion – and that’s the only one that counts right now – it ‘bangs’ just enough. Is it also middle-of-the-road? Don’t make me laugh.
Crowded House – ‘Fall at your Feet’
More internal debate about this one. Are Crowded House too cool? It’s such a brilliant song we’ll sneak it in. Just absolute classic songwriting. Sorry we can’t think of anything funny to say about this because it’s just great.
Mike & The Mechanics – ‘Over My Shoulder’
Just to prove that the middle of the road needn’t rule out a degree of experimentation, this mid-’90s classic (previous entrant Paul Carrack making a second appearance) features a whistling solo. Also, little fun fact for you: Tom Fletcher from McFly is in the video as a little boy in a classroom.
James Blunt – ‘1973’
We all know Blunty as a Twitter star these days, and we try to forget about his music, but props are eternally due to the Bluntmeister general for this genuinely brilliant song, which was the first single on his second album, when the hate against him was at its highest. Time will prove Blunty right on this one (though we’re not forgiving him for You’re Beautiful). And of course it’s staggeringly middle-of-the-road, which just makes it even better.
Steve Miller Band - ’Abracadabra’
This one? It’s magic.
Will Young – ‘Leave Right Now’
This is on the very edge of acceptable slowness, but there’s enough of a driving groove to keep you on the road (and in the middle of it). A sublime vocal, a beautiful melody, and that those legato octave bass drops in the chorus – possibly the biggest hook of the entire track. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BASS AGAIN GUYS.
Level 42 – ‘Running in the Family’
Another tune with an incredible bass player on it. There’s a pattern developing here. A neglected and classic MOR tune, this.
Jackson Browne – ‘Somebody’s Baby’
What a groove. What an utter, utter banger of a track.
Stevie Nicks – ‘Rooms on Fire’
Gorgeous production, amazing vocals, a whipcrack snare, lovely liquid bass playing, percussion touches, synths, it’s got the lot. You can slip into fifth gear on this one.
The Script – ‘The Man who can’t be Moved’
The modern kings of middle-of-the-road, this is an undeniable tune. We’ll never forgive them for the absolute audio atrocity that is Hall Of Fame, but it should not impact on this making it in to this hallowed list, although they (and Will.I.Am) should be forced to apologise for it until the day they die.
Hootie & The Blowfish – ‘Only Wanna be with You’
The ‘90s kings of middle-of-the-road in America. Of course the Friends characters loved them. Tune though.
Eagles – ‘Take it Easy’
Drop down to a safe 55mph for this one, don’t want to burn up all of that ‘gas’ too quick.
The Feeling – ‘Love it when you Call’
Embarked on an almost single-handed mission to bring back MOR in the mid-’00s against the tide of a slew of indie bands, but by God they nearly managed it. Go on, do the hand action when the title comes in. Do it.
Tom Petty – ‘I Won’t Back Down’
A close cousin of John Waite’s Missing You. Put those windows down, rest your arm on the door and let the wind blow through your hair. You deserve it big guy.
Savage Garden – ‘To the Moon and Back’
When they build roads on the moon, this is what people will be listening to when they’re driving in the middle of them.
Hall & Oates – ‘Private Eyes’
Did you really think we wouldn’t have a Hall & Oates track in here? Behave.
Genesis – ‘Invisible Touch’
Without doubt one of the greatest songs ever written, this is absolute peak Collins-fronted-era Genesis. Just glorious.
Sting – ‘If I Ever Lose My Faith in You’
A lesser-known track from his canon, nonetheless this is a driving classic. Kudos for the lovely little bass flicks at the end of the first phrase in each verse too.
Walking on Cars – ‘Speeding Cars’
Some young blood to mix things up a bit, this is a total banger, released by the Irish band in 2015. MOR WILL NEVER DIE.
Simple Minds – ‘Alive and Kicking’
What. A. Tune.
Electric Light Orchestra – ‘Livin’ Thing’
Come back on, ELO, and carry on playing!
Supertramp – ‘The Logical Song’
A song so good even Scooter couldn’t ruin it.
Royworld – ‘Dust’
It pains me, physically, that this song never got the recognition it deserved. It only got to number 29 in the charts because the British public are idiots. Ken Bruce gave it single of the week on his Radio 2 show though, because Ken NEVER EVER EVER GETS IT WRONG.
Coldplay – ‘Talk’
Coldplay, as much as they constantly try not to be, are middle-of-the-road. Nothing wrong with it. Embrace it, Chris. You’re called Chris Martin for God’s sake, it doesn’t get any more middle-of-the-road than that.
America – ‘A Horse with No Name’
If you don’t think this is brilliant you don’t deserve to have ears.
Wax – ‘Bridge to your Heart’
The full-length version of this song is entitled the ‘unabridged version’. Amazing. What a tune.
Johnny Hates Jazz – ‘Shattered Dreams’
David Fincher directed the US video for this. Clearly, because he knows a bloody Clint Boon when he hears one.
The Alan Parsons Project – ‘Eye in the Sky’
That ‘Eye in the Sky’ is watching a car drive at a steady speed, within the rules, and reaching its destination at the predicted time.
Paul Young – ‘Come Back and Stay’
OK Paul, you can have another track, even if you are getting a little funky with us. Some seriously fruity bass playing too from the Welsh wizard Pino Palladino.
Athlete – ‘You got the Style’
Tune. Nearly there guys.
Vanessa Carlton – ‘A Thousand Miles’
Literally performed in the middle of a road. No more fitting way to end the playlist.