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The Top All Time Songs About LA (or California)

As I was getting prepared to pack for my trip to Los Angeles, I decided to make a music mix of all the songs about LA and (slash) or California. While jamming out and eating some blueberries (something I’m know to do quite often), I thought to myself, “What’s the best song about LA and (slash) or California? I posted the question on the ole social networks and got some intriguing responses. As I was waiting to change planes, I decided I should make my own top ten list. After all, since I’ve listened to this mix a few times now and have been to Los Angeles once before in my life, I am clearly an authority on the subject. So here goes:

Before I start the countdown, you’ll be happy to know I embedded videos. Hey, it’s more fun that way, right? Also, it’s got to be a countdown, am I wrong here? I never understood why people created these types of lists and started at the top. Just dumb in my opinion. Dumb.

First let’s start with…

The Honorable Mentions

California Gurls – I remember buying this song on iTunes before it blew up, thinking it was going to be huge. I was right, but regretted the purchase almost immediately. (Before continuing, let me clarify something… I had an iTunes gift card. Pay for music. Pfft… who does that anymore?) So, why did I include a song that I don’t really like? Simple: Katy Perry is hot. Plus, the song is sugary pop music. It’ll get in your head and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you’re thinking about clicking on the link, let’s just say you were warned.

All I Wanna Do – Did you know Sheryl Crow was once a back-up singer for Michael Jackson? Well, her days of going unnoticed in the background vanished after this single hit. Like Mrs. Russell Brand, this tune is pop music at its most saccharine. Probably the reason it has stood the test of time.

Free Fallin’ – Once upon a time, I bought a record. I thought, “Hey, my Mom has a record player. I should buy a record.” The album I bought was Tom Petty’s solo effort “Full Moon Fever.” Free Fallin’ was the opening track. The video earns extra cool points for featuring a young Johnny Depp.

Burn Hollywood Burn – Off of Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet,” this is P.E. in full effect. Hey, just like the caption on You Tube says! Chuck D has few equals as a MC and the icing on this 1990 gem is that it also features Ice Cube and Big Daddy Kane (you know, back when they were cool and, in Cube’s case, not doing family films).

Going Back to Cali – Some might say that it’s sacrilegious to leave LL out of the top ten. Deal with it. I just did. It wasn’t easy though. After all, this 80’s classic came off his album, “Walking with a Panther.” The cover art included LL with (surprise) a panther. The ladies might love cool James, but (clearly) LL loves panthers.

The Top Ten

10. California Sun – In one minute and 42 seconds the Ramones energize you just like the warm California sun. On a side note, I’d kind of like life to imitate art and see Hollywood do a Ramones biopic as they almost did on Entourage (final season starts Sunday). Heck, let Vincent Chase star in it too. He needs the work.

9. Beverly Hills – “Where I come from isn’t all that great…Beverly Hills that’s where I want to be!” That’s the opening lyric and start of the chorus for this kick-ass ode to the land where Brandon and Dylan went to school. Sounds like someone watched a little too much 90210 growing up.

8. Hollywood Swinging – This song has to be mentioned, if for nothing else than its infectious beats and that hook. Yeah, that hook that’s been sampled famously by Mase (Thanks to P Diddy’s lazy producing) and DJ Kool (clearly, the far superior song between those two). I feel like the original though is a forgotten gem. Well, not to the world of hip hop…

7. California Girls – There was never a doubt this song was making the list. The real question is which one: the Beach Boys version or Diamond Dave’s. Mr. Lee Roth pulls ahead thanks to the killer music video that came out at the absolute apex of his fame when he ruled the world for like (at least) a summer. But, the Beach Boys draw even for penning the classic and having a catalog few artists can dream to have. For sake of the countdown, I’ll include them both. Enjoy.

6. California – There’s just something about this Phantom Planet song that absolutely captures the essence of Cali. Laid back but full of energy. Apparently, actor Jason Schwartzman was part of the band (on drums) “and” this song was featured on the old Fox show the OC. I knew about the dude from Rushmore, but never really watched the OC or got why Micha Barton was famous. Well, I got “why.” It’s still satisfying to see her 15 minutes are up. This song, though, will live on forever.

5. Straight Out of Compton– Ranking the top five was tough. NWA’s ode to South Central makes a good case for the top spot, but I’m placing it at #5. I almost can’t believe it’s not higher. I might have to go back and edit this list. After all, the tune includes a “crazy Mother F*#cker named Ice Cube.” I wouldn’t want to make him mad. Then again, he recently starred in the movie “Are We There Yet.” Yeah, his street cred took a major hit. NWA is staying at five.

4. I Love LA – To me this is Randy Newman’s signature song. Sure, Short People was big and he’s probably best known for his work as a film composer these days. Heck, it’s seems like he’s nominated for an Academy Award every year (and you know what, that’s basically true). This song is the ultimate in campy 80’s rock. It’s almost too fitting that it’s featured in Leslie Nielsen’s Naked Gun. In fact I can’t think of the famous comedy flick or the song without the other. To me, they’re just linked.

3. Going Back to Cali– There are two rap songs with the same name and the Nortorious B.I.G.’s hit, for me, earns the title as the best. Or, as Biggie spits, it’s all about the cheddar nobody does it better. Word. Once that opening hook hits, it’s on.

2. Under the Bridge – My favorite new Mom, Rachel Pitzel, commented that the best LA songs are by true Angelenos – the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Hard to argue with that one. The sure crank ‘em out. Dani California, Californication and this all timer. This song actually has earned the most plays in my iTunes library (actually it’s because I had to sing it in my most recent play – a man’s got to practice). Nonetheless it’s always felt like “the” LA anthem for me.  Rewinding for a second, is Angelenos an actual term? I need to brush up on my LA speak.

1. California Love – 2Pac and Dre team up to create one of the great rap songs of all time. I mean check out these opening lyrics: “Let’s me welcome everyone to the wild, wild west, a state that’s untouchable like Elliot Ness.” This track seems to call out the whole state of California (and even let’s us know that Inglewood [is] always up to no good). For me it’s clearly number one song about “California… No doubt about it.”


One Response to “The Top All Time Songs About LA (or California)”

  1. I enjoyed this list (running a lil’, so haven’t yet heard all of ’em, but will soon). Yeah, top-five lists of anything is ultra-tough! But you done good. I’m a bit sad (in a not-jumping-off-a-building-sorta way) that California Girls–both/either Beach Boys/DL Roth) didn’t creep in there–BUT ALL GOOD! Way to narrow it all down (as well as introduce me to the sugary pop goodness of Katy Perry!:)

    Posted by Eastwood | July 23, 2011, 5:43 pm

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