Every now and then certain pieces of writing crop up which so deeply capture the zeitgeist that it seems mandatory to read them. They get passed around, referenced, and debated so much that you know you would be missing out on something essential were you to not read them. In recent memory these would include the short story Cat Person, the article The Stolen Kids of Sarah Lawrence, and any of the many modern “Girl” thrillers (Gone Girl, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl on the Train, etc…).

This is not one of those.

In fact, I feel proud to say that I may have accomplished the complete opposite of those works.  I’ve written something so useless, so out of touch with the current age, that even if one million people were to read it, I’d wager that not a single one would come away with any relevant tidbit to bring up at a dinner party.

I feel proud of this feat because it is in perfect alignment with the Oscar Wilde school of thought (a school I’m certainly enrolled in)—art is useless. And thus, without further ado, I give you: The Top Ten Greatest Foreigner Songs Ranked.

First, the criteria.

Clarity — Every great Foreigner song is absolutely unambiguous. This manifests in two ways. The first is musical clarity. You will know within 10 seconds of a Foreigner song what you’re in for, and more often than not the thing that you’re in for is rocking. The second is lyrical clarity to the point of redundancy. I’ll give you a quick example of this from the song Juke Box Hero:

Was a one way ticket,

only one way to go.

Just in case you didn’t know how one way tickets work.

Escalation — Another hallmark of any great Foreigner song is a certain ratio. During the verse, you should be at 80 percent rocking, and during the chorus you need to rocket the rocking on up to 120 percent. You may be saying, Lucas, this is just how songs work. No! Great Foreigner songs blow past the normal limits of rocking on the chorus. Like Vin Diesel’s car, Foreigner has a NOS switch attached to their songs that they flip on every time a chorus rolls around.

Tightness — You might be attempted to just equate Foreigner with all other Dad Rock. And while all Foreigner Rock is Dad Rock, not all Dad Rock is Foreigner Rock. What sets Foreigner apart is the tightness of the groove. Take for instance, flagship Dad Rock song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” This song is every bit as Foreigner-esque in its clarity and escalation. But it doesn’t quite have the same tightness of groove does it? The guitar chords are a little rushed, and the groove is just a little bit looser. You can’t get away with that looseness in a great foreigner song. We need the groove to be as tight as a python’s goodnight hug.

And with that three-tiered criteria in mind, let’s get into the ranking.

10. Cold as Ice — Some of you might be surprised to find your favorite Foreigner song so low on this list. While it scores very high on tightness and clarity, it gets docked for escalation. You know everything you need to know about this song within the 1 second of this song. That single piano riff says everything that needs to be said about the song, and frankly if the song ended at 12 seconds, right after he says “you’re as cold as ice,” it might have ended up higher on this list. Unfortunately, while the chorus of this song groovy, it actually is a very rare case of de-escalation in a foreigner song. Instead of hitting the NOS, it’s like Vin Diesel decided to have a nice picnic at a rest stop during his drive.

9. Double Vision — This song comes out real hot with some tight, clear, rocking and maintains it throughout the song. It escalates enough during the chorus so you feel impulsively compelled to bob your head. And while the message of this song is very clear, they would have scored off the charts if this song were simply and elegantly titled “Let’s Do Some Cocaine.”

8. Urgent — This song almost lost some points for lack of clarity, because the opening riff sounds like a 1990s alternative rock song. But by 10 seconds in we’re very clearly placed within the tight, early 80s groove of the rest of the song. This song also also boasts some of the most crystal clear, redundant lyrics of all time. Take for instance the first three lines:

You’re not shy, you get around

You wanna fly, don’t want your feet on the ground

You stay up, you won’t come down

The second phrase in every one of these lines serves as clarification of the first, because Foreigner doesn’t want you wasting needless brain energy on interpreting the lyrics. They’re hear to facilitate rocking, not get an A in poetry class, nerds!

7. Head Games — The intro to this song blows the doors down in a way that none of the previous do, the groove is extra tight, and lead singer Lou Gramm goes from shouting the lyrics in the verse to triple shouting them in the chorus. This has all the hallmarks of a great foreigner song.

6. Take Me Home Tonight — Now at this point you’re probably thinking one of two things. 1. I didn’t know that Foreigner wrote Take Me Home Tonight, or 2. I know that Foreigner definitely did not write Take Me Home Tonight. And yes, group number two, you are right. Take Me Home tonight was definitely performed by Eddie Money. But here’s the thing, nowhere in my criteria does it say that a great Foreigner song has to be by Foreigner. A Foreigner song is a set of ideals, and this song embodies those ideals as good as any. Listen and tell me I’m wrong.

5. Rock You Like A Hurricane — See above entry for Take Me Home Tonight.

4. Dirty White Boy — While this was not as big of a hit as other Foreigner songs, it captures the clarity, escalation, and tightness more than most. This song above any other definitely scores the clarity prize. Watch any moment from the video to this song. Look at the band. Try to come up with three words that would apply to all of the members of the band. Dirty. White. Boy.

3. Feels Like the First Time — It’s no coincidence that Hollywood has latched on to this song (see Magic Mike, I, Tonya, Ancorman 2, and Pitch Perfect). Its tightness, its clarity, and its escalation make it a perfect storytelling device whether you’re using it literally or ironically. But here’s the thing Hollywood, so does every other Foreigner song! Use them.

2. The Boys Are Back In Town — “Guess who just got back today!” is the boisterous first line to this near perfect Foreigner song. I’m gonna guess… the boys?

1. Hot Blooded — 10/10 on clarity. 10/10 on escalation. 10/10 on tightness. This is without a doubt the greatest Foreigner song.

Some brief notes on why your favorite song by Foreigner is not on this list:

Juke Box Hero — There’s too much of a journey in this song. I don’t know what the hell this song is about until the chorus.

I Wanna Know What Love Is — This is may be the greatest song by Foreigner, but it is not on the list of greatest Foreigner songs because it represents the only time in the Foreigner universe when the singer is unsure of himself. He’s vulnerable. He admits to not knowing. He wants to know. It isn’t clear. This is a recipe for a great song, but not a recipe for a great Foreigner song.

Starrider — Is this really your favorite song by foreigner?

And finally, apropos of nothing, here are two tracks I wrote that sound nothing like foreigner. One track I spent about two weeks on, and another other I spent about four hours on. I like the one I spent four hours on more. Both include bird sounds.

April 26 — The Noble Loon

May 3 — Spring Callin’

Last Thursday I went to 55 bar to see my teacher and guitarist extraordinaire Wayne Krantz perform with Michael League (bass) of Snarky Puppy and Josh Dion (drums) of Paris_monster. Like every Thursday night at the 55 bar, Wayne grooved, funked, rocked, and shredded his way through a fresh creative stream of unique modern music. I’m ever impressed at the fact that his playing is both technically precise and supremely spontaneous. Wayne’s music carries on the spirit of jazz (highly creative and centered around improvisation) without exactly sounding like jazz (Wayne rocks and grooves, he doesn’t swing). Although he told me afterwards that it felt like a bit of an off night, to an outside observer he, Michael, and Josh were in top form, demonstrating the height of musical possibility. I left the show extremely impressed and feeling like I urgently needed to go practice so that I can reach such a high level of musicianship.

On Friday I joined a new friend at Rockwood Music Hall and saw my first true rock show since I’ve moved to New York (wow, it had been far too long since I’d seen a good rock show). They are an L.A. based band is called Veers and my friend described them well as “smart rock.” They combined intelligent chord changes, tasteful instrument/vocal tones, and interesting song-forms over rhythmically precise rock grooves (i.e. “smart rock”). I’m sure the lyrics were thoughtful as well, but you know, it’s a live rock show in a relatively small room— to my ears the lyrics invariably get drowned out in these situations. After the show I met the lead singer and also chatted with some other musicians in the local NYC music scene. I heard casual talk about people jetting to Australia to play shows, or potentially doing an arena tour, or being music director for an up-and-coming indie rock songstress. I left the show happy to have gone, but feeling like I urgently needed to go immerse myself in the scene and meet the right people so that I too could have cool opportunities to travel and perform.

Urgent is one good descriptor of Manhattan (sidenote: it’s also a great Urgent). This city buzzes with an energy that sometimes seems to scream: “WORK HARD, PARTY HARD! You’re tired? DON’T SLEEP!!! THAT’S WHAT COCAINE IS FOR!” Kids, don’t do drugs. Also friends, family don’t worry, I never touch the stuff either— I hear it gives you double vision (I wish I could say that that is the last Foreigner reference in this blog post). Furthermore, whether you live in New York City or not I think most of us are victims of the sense of urgency created by the technological age that we live in. We walk around everyday with these little handheld super-computers giving us access to countless text messages, contacts, emails, songs, pictures, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, news stories, and social media accounts (not to mention the entire rest of the internet). We see pictures of our friends and family going on fancy vacations, or winning awards, or getting job promotions, or getting married, or having babies, etc. and it’s easy to think: oh my god I need to do that! I need to get married now! I need to have a high-powered job now! I need to be rich and famous now! Our sense of time and possibility is shaped by our setting, and personally my setting seems to be telling me that time is running out and I need to move quickly if I want to accomplish anything.

Yet there is another perspective on time housed right in my back yard. Saturday I took a solo stroll across Central Park on a beautiful sunny day in route to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon arrival, I instantly remembered how much I love going to art museums by myself (an activity I hadn’t done since my first semester of college at Lake Forest College when I would often take trips to the Art Institute of Chicago). It is a fine thing to go to a museum with friends, but I am never able to fully immerse myself in the experience of the art unless I am alone and free to roam at my own pace and let my own sense of taste guide me. During this intimate communion with the museum my thoughts slow down and I can get in touch with a different experience of time, for the mere act of taking time to gaze at a piece of art is a meditation.

Yet the art itself often also points to a story about time that is different than our prevailing cultural view. Take for instance this statue of Ugolino and His Sons by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux created from 1865 to 1867.


This work is a visceral depiction of angst and desperation and an incredible technical feat of expert marble sculpting. It also represents a feat of patience and diligence which is rare in our culture today. The work is telling us: “yes it may take you two years of your life to create something this great— it may very well take you a lifetime, and you may be working on a single pinky toe for a decade— but you are taking this time because as an artist, you are attempting to create something that is timeless.”

Sure, there is no art that is literally “timeless”— every human creation is tied to the time in which is was made, and everything material will sooner or later deteriorate, yet somehow I do believe that the attempt to create something timeless is still a worthwhile pursuit. For viewing and creating these works of art does indeed expand our normal sense of time and let’s us touch something meaningful that extends both far into the past and far into the future.

If you are at all inclined, I encourage you to treat yourself to a solo date at your nearest art museum. I am certainly spoiled in that I’m a mere walk away from one of the greatest collections of art in the world, yet I think that any art museum will do. I strongly believe that the act of taking time to appreciate a painting or a sculpture in its every minute detail will make you a better person. The constant motion and rapid pace of our age (especially in a place like New York City) presents you with one hypothesis about time: time is running out! Days, months, years, and lives are short so let’s get to work, and then part hard! YOLO! Yet the art museum presents a different perspective: nothing great is made overnight. Greatness is made through slow, deliberate steps towards your goal. Furthermore, you don’t only live once (YDOLO!)— your physical body will perish, but your great work may live on throughout the ages, being born again and again for each new generation to appreciate and interpret…for to them, it feels like the first time.

Yes I just ended this blog post by jamming in another completely uncalled for Foreigner reference! BOO YA!