Top Ten Songs With Great Buildups


Now, I love music. I do. Truly, madly, deeply. The reason I love music is because it has this wonderful way of transporting a person, sort of like reading a book does, but to a previous time in life when that song, or those songs, meant something. Music is a powerful thing.

One thing I like in music is a good buildup – it gradually becoming more and more… oomph, before a big release. So, without further ado, here are my Top 10 Songs With Great Buildups.

As always, these are just my opinion – feel free to comment on our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or at the bottom of this page with your thoughts.

So, let’s begin.

10 – Flight of the Conchords – If You’re Into It

For those of you who aren’t aware, Flight of the Conchords (FotC) are a New Zealand-born comedy music duo who, for a while, had a TV show to showcase their adventures in New York, as well as showcase their music. One half of the duo went on to voice “Tomatoa” from Moana, if you’ve seen it (and if you haven’t, please do, it’s a gem!)

In this particular song, the other member of the duo is singing, with support, about all the things he’d do with his lover, if that’s what she’s into. It’s about two minutes long, and the video makes it, if I’m completely honest, because while the song itself is amusing, its the accompanying visuals that make it great.

As you can expect, the lyrics start off sort of sweet – he’ll hang around with her, if that’s what she’s into – but eventually get highly sexualised, culminating on how he’d “double-team” her with her room-mate, “Stu”, whilst involving food in some unspecified way, if that’s what she’s into. Oh, and “If Stu’s into it to”.

At least they’re big on consent, eh?

9 – Mike Oldfield – Finale

I’ve actually written a review on this semi-instrumental already, way back when we started out in 2011. Good Lord, has it really been that long? You can read that review here to get a bit more substance on the music itself, as well as listen to it on YouTube here, but briefly, Oldfield here uses all sorts of instruments, ranging from types of guitars to the Glockenspiel, before ending on tubular bells which gives us our fantastic release of all the musical energy built up throughout the song.

The reason this makes the list is because, not only is the release so great, but it’s just the same music, with different instruments on top of it, and then on top of those instruments, and then instruments on top of those instruments. It’s skillfully created, and for a one-man effort, it’s truly brilliant. And of course, that release as he moves onto the true finale, just superb.

8 – Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

This one might be a bit of a cheat, really, but I’m putting it in anyway. Not that you’ll need to, but you can watch the video here and give it a listen whilst you’re there.

Now, I would normally argue that this is three very different songs about the same topic, in sequence. However, for the purposes of this post, that’s wrong and I’m an idiot for thinking it.

It starts off all slow, very emotional, very solo artist with a bit of musical accompaniment – it’s great, it’s relaxed whilst highly charged and then all of a sudden, it’s faster paced, it’s a group effort, with very little transition between the two. And that’s not all, it’s got the third act as well where it turns into full-on rock music. It builds up, and I think it’s great.

7 – The Who – Baba O’Riley

The Who, creators of My Generation and Who Are You. I, personally, always preferred Baba O’Riley (video here). The tale it tells, the emotion of the characters within, their self-determination to be who they are and to make a real go at it in this world… it’s just brilliant, it really is.

As for the build ups, there’s a few notable ones. For me, the best ones are the drum sections – just a few seconds of drums, but enough that it used to genuinely give me shivers. The one you’ll be most interested in, though, will be the ending. Violin (I assume, though it looks to be a harmonica in the live versions I’ve been looking at), along with a drum, I believe a keyboard, and just goes on becoming thicker, faster, until it suddenly stops. A great and fitting end for a song that, to me, is all about life.

6 – Eminem – Rap God

Anyone who knows me will be amazed to see this song on the list, and even more amazed to find out that, actually, I quite like it. It’s risqué, as you can see for yourself here, but what good rap isn’t, heck, what Eminem song isn’t?

I’ve seen this one described as “bragadocious” and to be completely honest, I think it sums it up brilliantly. This is another one of those where the lyrics are the reason it’s on the list. Now, this is a rough one to explain really, as it’s fast and slow and calm and rushed from one moment to the next. However, it’s specifically the complexity that warrants the place here.

Now, I’m a sing-a-long-er. I’ve tried to rap along to this with, I’ll admit, mixed results. Until about two-thirds of the way through, it works its way up, the lyrics becoming harder to follow, harder to imitate, until around the 4:20 mark when he starts speaking in tongues.

Now, he isn’t, I know that, you know that, but he might as well be, and because of the way it builds up to that moment, that 20 seconds or so of rapping, this makes the list.

5 – Coldplay – Fix You

I happen to have reviewed this one too, with the link to that here, and the link to the video here.

I used to love this song – it was the song that taught me that there’s a certain artistic style when you use a juxtaposition of poor quality singing – which I consider the majority of the song – with high quality music (throughout), and brilliant singing – which I believe to be the case post-buildup release.

So, the buildup. Guitar, drums, the latter faster, getting louder, faltering for just a moment to get into a slightly different rhythm, and then BOOM. Quite literally, if you watch the video, as that’s when the pyrotechnics begin.

Now, I’m listening to, and watching the videos to these, as I write about each of them and I got the shivers on this one. I knew it was coming, I mean, fuck, I was writing about it coming, and I still got the shivers. That’s a powerful experience, that is, that’s why it’s on the list. That’s why.

4 – Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight

I’m not so big a fan of this one – I find it dull, I find it repetitive, and I just don’t enjoy listening to it at all. If you do, or if you think you might, here‘s the video.

That said, he can play the drums brilliantly. I know it, you know it, he knows it, and the way the non-drum music builds up to the part we all know, and how the drum changes from rhythm to art in a flash… It’s the reason anyone who knew about this song’s existence knew that it would be on this list. It had to be, right? Between you and me, it’s the song that inspired the list, alongside #1. But that’s an opinion for later.

3 – Dire Straits – Money For Nothing

Now, I prefer the longer version for the purposes of this top ten, but for ease, here‘s the short version video with the buildup and release right at the start.

In the longer version, there’s about a minute of the harmonic lusting for a TV, backed by the ethereal sounding music, before bringing in the drums, the synths, and, ultimately, the release in the form of guitar. For the full effect, I really do recommend the long version. In fact, fuck it, here it is. It’ll take another 2 minutes of your life. You can manage that, right?

That buildup, that guitar, just… it’s just fantastic.

2 – Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

For those of you who don’t make it a habit of listening to older songs from the glory days of music, you’ll probably know this one as the Formula 1 theme before they went ahead and ruined it, and that section is exactly the reason why it’s on the list.

I can’t see a good quality video so this‘ll have to do, I’m afraid.

The song starts calm, it gets more vigorously, lyrically, as the song goes on, but the bit that makes the list for me is the bass, into electric guitar around the 3 minute mark. It’s a truly stunning piece of music, and it’s a fantastic choice for a sport that can be simultaneously boring and exciting, swapping from one to another depending on how many mistakes there are.

1 – Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven

Stairway To Heaven is, without a doubt, Led Zeppelin’s most famous song – it’s probably in the top 20 best known songs in the world, at least, for anyone over the age of 30. Start throwing “young people” into the mix and it’ll be fucking Despacito that they all fucking talk about. God knows why, it’s a fucking terrible song. Catchy, yes, and I can see that there’s a certain allure to the video, what with its attractive people and beautiful scenery… But that’s a rant for another day.

Stairway To Heaven is a masterpiece, and it’s a masterpiece that builds up over the course of about six, seven minutes. You start off with a few lyrics, a bit of guitar and some haunting pipe. Next thing you know, the guitar ramps up, then there’s a drum and it’s talking about how..

“Your head is humming, and how it won’t go, in case you don’t know.”

And I mention that particular line for one reason. It did exactly what it says on the tin and got stuck in my fucking head, for like, two weeks. I’m not even joking. My head was humming, and it just wouldn’t go away.

Now for the release. It’s the drums and the screamy vocals that really do it for me. The song was building up to that moment perfectly, and as great as the lyrics and the vocals are, it’s more the drums that I enjoy in the last-minute of the song – if I could play the drums, this is the song that I would want to learn to play along to, and the release is the specific minute worth of music as to why.

So, that’s the list. That’s my Top Ten songs With Great Buildups. As always, comment, like, share, donate £20 to a dogs home, whatever – tell us what you think, or don’t as the case may be. Think we got it wrong? Tell us. Think we got it spot-on, let us know.

That Guy

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