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’