Why “I’m a Believer” is the greatest pop song

January 5th, 2009

After listening to thousands upon thousands of songs, it becomes clear that some songs stand out more than others to the point that most of the others aren’t worth more than one listen.

A great pop song makes it very hard to not sing along: you want to be a part of it and share in what emotion is being expressed. A “pop” song, by definition, should be about something that everyone can relate to – that’s why most songs are about love and its various aspects.

There’s no end of unhappy songs about love, but one shouldn’t listen to those all the time. A surprising number are about being “in love”, meaning that they’re about people already in relationships. My second favorite song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell is such a song. But that can just as easily make someone unhappy as, say, “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators.

No, a great pop song should inspire hope - so that there’s something uplifting when feeling down.

Taking all of this into consideration, I stand behind calling The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” the greatest pop song. It’s about love, specifically about falling in love. For me at least, it makes me want to sing out loud every time. The person doesn’t actually get the girl, he may never get the girl, but seeing her certainly lifted his spirits and made him rethink his preconceived notions about love.

I’ve felt that way before, and I’m sure you have too.

There’s far more to loving than what’s in “I’m a Believer” – but the final criteria for a great pop song is that it should be relatable to anyone 12 years old and up. I say 12 because that’s just the cusp of the teen years, when we start discovering what it means to want another person. We may not have understood sex, and certainly not how to have a real relationship with another person, but at 12 it’s not unreasonable to fall madly in love with someone else. Conversely, “I’m a Believer” rings true for anyone who’s ever had a bad relationship, or spurned by others.

“I’m a Believer” was written by Neil Diamond and the best version was recorded by The Monkees.

A note about bias in choosing the song:

The three songs mentioned in this post all come from 1960s pop music. I do have a bias towards that era, as the foundation of my musical tastes was discovering the Beatles  at 13. However, the vast majority of the best pop songs were written and/or recorded sometime from 1964-1968. Also, I listen to nearly every genre of music, and have favorites in all of them. My iTunes playlist of favorite tunes currently has 839 songs (and growing), all of which are nearly equally as good. “I’m a Believer” just happens to be just that much better than the rest.

One last thing: because I don’t want to totally come off as a music snob (even if everyone else thinks so), here’s a few songs on my “Favorite Song” list that a typical music snob would think embarrassing to like:

  • Christina Aguilera “Genie in a Bottle”
  • Dee-Lite “Groove is in the Heart”
  • Monica “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)”
  • Pointer Sisters “Automatic”
  • SoulDecision “Faded”
  • Stereo MCs “Connected”

Think another song is the greatest?

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