If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Originally Posted 3/4/13
One usually hopes that a song is great from beginning to end, but more often than not, certain parts are better than the whole thing. For me, if there's any part of a song that has to be good, it's the ending. (From my point of view, a good ending makes the whole song worth listening to.) Here are some great songs that happen to have fantastic endings.
The Beatles - "Hey Jude"
Actually, now that I think about it, a good number of Beatles songs have awesome endings ("A Day In The Life", "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", "Rain", etc.). However, I chose this song because it was the first one I thought of when making this list. (More accurately, thinking about this song inspired me to make this list.) Once Paul McCartney finishes singing his verses, he, the rest of the band, and what sounds like everyone in the whole world all come together and sing "Na-Na-Na-Na, hey Jude" for the last three minutes. To top it all off, there's an enormous orchestra playing in the background! (It adds so little, yet so much.) It's hard to get more epic than that. (Whenever I envision this song being played live, I see thousands of lighters/cellphones swaying in the air during this part.)
Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb"
In order to truly appreciate this song, one has to understand the context: at this point in The Wall, the main character, Pink, has shut himself off completely from the world, and this song balances his mental state with how others "outside the wall" perceive him ("Hello, is there anybody in there?"). The two David Gilmour solos that distinguish this song are very different in regards to mood: the one that comes after the first two verses is fairly pleasant and calm while the other, which closes out the song, is much bleaker and more emotional. While both solos are great, it's the second one that is considered by many to be the single greatest guitar solo of all time. Personally, while I may disagree (I think the greatest guitar solo of all time is Brian May's on Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"), it's my personal favorite guitar solo and easily one of the greatest song endings of all time.
The Rolling Stones - "Going Home"
After 50 years, the Rolling Stones have proven time and time again that they know how to rock. One thing that most people take for granted, however, is their ability to jam. On their 1965 album, Aftermath (the U.S. version), the Stones end their first "completely-originals" album with an 11-minute blues jam (the first rock song to ever go over 10 minutes). The reason why this song is on a list of "epic song endings" is because the first 3 minutes sound like a traditional Brian Jones-era Stones song, but instead of fading out at the end, it keeps going and eventually evolves into a sleazy, dark blues jam. Essentially, the last 8 minutes are the "end" of the song and, as it turns out, the best part.
Led Zeppelin - "When The Levee Breaks"
While most of the songs on this list gradually build toward its epic conclusion, this song is 100-percent epic all the way through. In fact, this song is the very definition of epic (seriously, look up "epic" in the dictionary and this song will start playing), from the pounding drums at the beginning to the last little guitar sounds at the end. So, why is it on this list? Well, I've always felt that when Robert Plant starts singing "Going down now, going down", the epic-ness goes completely into overdrive, almost as if the band itself is being swept up by the storm that it created!
Nirvana - "All Apologies"
The final song on Nirvana's final album. It's a bit hard listening to this song knowing that frontman Kurt Cobain killed himself some months after the release of the album, and it's especially hard after listening to the ugliness and cynicism that permeated the other 11 songs. This song tries to sound peaceful but ends up sounding heart-wrenching, especially in hindsight. The most difficult part is the repetition of "All in all is all we are", as if Cobain is desperately trying to find some peace within himself and within his life, which he was never able to.
Radiohead - "Karma Police"
My favorite song from Radiohead's 1997 epic OK Computer, "Karma Police" loosely describes an Orwellian world where people are penalized for not looking, thinking or speaking like everyone else. That's the first verse; after the second verse, where Thom Yorke starts to complain that he's done all he could but it's "not enough", this gives way to the refain, "This is what you'll get when you mess with us." As if he's been punished for his complaining, he comes back a reformed man, repeating to himself until the end of the song, "For a minute there, I lost myself". This is the most haunting moment of the song and probably the most haunting moment of the whole album. (Something about the way he sings the line makes it sound like a disturbingly empty statement.)
DJ Khaled ft. Akon, T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman & Lil Wayne - "We Takin' Over"
This is an awesomely boisterous song by anyone's standards: it starts with a killer verse by T.I. and maintains it's high energy level throughout. However, it's Lil Wayne's verse at the tail end that shoots this song into the stratosphere. Personal feelings about Lil Wayne aside, this was the song that helped make him a household name in the first place.
Kanye West - "Runaway"
On the full-length version of Kanye West's 2009 single "Runaway", the song continues where the single version ends with what sounds like a crunchy guitar solo over the piano and violins. At least, that's what it sounded like when I first heard it; it's actually Kanye's voice mumbling the chorus, heavily auto-tuned and distorted beyond all recognition. It's strangely hypnotic and ends up making this great song sound even more awesome.
*UPDATE (3/6/13)* - Here are some other songs I forgot to put on the list or were otherwise awesome enough to mention.
Atoms For Peace - "What The Eyeballs Did"
The fact that this song was left off Atoms For Peace's debut, AMOK, never ceases to amaze me. Sure, all of the other songs are pretty decent, but few of them match the awesomeness -- and downright danceability -- of this B-side to their single, "Default". It's the song that comes closest to matching the energy of their live performances and features one of the hardest-hitting basslines I've heard in a long time, which only gets harder as the song winds to a close. In fact, if the song went on for five more minutes, I'd consider this the best song of 2012 hands-down.
The Stone Roses - "I Am The Resurrection"
The Stone Roses' debut album is widely credited with creating the Madchester genre of British rock music. Regardless, it's easily one of the greatest pop albums ever made: there's not a single bad song on the album, and it begins and ends on a high note. (It was originally released in 1989, but subsequent versions of the album feature "Fool's Gold", which ends the album on an even higher note.) The final track, "I Am The Resurrection" starts off simple yet boisterous, then it soars when Ian Brown starts singing, "I am the resurrection and I am the life/I couldn't ever bring myself to hate you as I'd like." If it ended there it would still be a pretty good song, but after three minutes of boasting about how awesome they are, they prove it in the remaining five minutes by grooving like no one else's business. The Roses clearly felt like gods when they were making this song, and by the time the song is over, you'll feel like one too.
Metallica - "Fade To Black"
As much as I have earnestly tried, I can't get into heavy metal to save my life. Still, I'll call a good song when I hear it, and "Fade To Black" isn't just a great metal song, it's an incredible rock song in general. After three minutes of brooding melancholy, the song picks up the pace and evolves into a galloping headbanger track, ending with Kirk Hammett playing one of the greatest guitars solos of his life.
Here are some other cool songs that have cool endings:
Spacemen 3 - "Revolution"
The Smiths - "What Difference Does It Make?"
The Horrors - "Sea Within A Sea"
Interpol - "PDA"
The Stooges - "1970"
Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird"
Franz Ferdinand - "Lucid Dreams"
Mogwai - "Like Herod (BBC Sessions)"
In case I remember/discover any more songs, check out my playlist here on YouTube.
If you know any other cool songs with cool endings, leave a comment and let me know!