Best of British: since when do only white men make good music?

When Radio X announced their annual ‘Top 100 Best British Songs Of All Time’ list on Tuesday night, they clearly expected their announcement to pass by fairly innocuously. What they were instead met with was a huge Twitter backlash after it was pointed out that every single act on the list was male; as Twitter user Roisin O’Connor observed, fifteen Oasis songs made the cut, whilst only 1 female and two BAME musicians were included out of the 130 band members on the list.


Whilst the list can be seen to reflect the make up of Radio X’s listenership, are we really to believe that not a single female artist fits within the category? To challenge these backwards ideas, I am pleased to present to you twenty songs that absolutely deserve to be named Best British Songs of All Time.

‘Paper Planes’ by  M.I.A. (2007)

Let’s start with an easy one; anyone who can get a crowd to dance to gun and cash register sound effects in a song about immigrant stereotypes has made an undeniable hit.

‘Back To Black’ by Amy Winehouse (2006)

Every single from the Back To Black album could sit happily on this list, yet it is Winehouse’s ability to make the lyric “kept his dick wet” sound heartfelt which puts the titular track at the forefront.

‘Total Eclipse of The Heart’ by Bonnie Tyler (1983)

The definitive 80s power ballad, Welsh popstar Tyler’s song is still a sing-along staple at many a club night and in many a shower.

‘American Boy’ by Estelle feat. Kanye West (2008)

‘American Boy’ brought singer and rapper Estelle into the mainstream, allowing her to boost the confidence of 5’7 guys everywhere.

‘Downtown’ by Petula Clark (1965)

The timeless nature of ‘Downtown’’s Lyrics have prompted many famous covers, including from Dolly Parton; Clark’s clear vocals and soulful vocals, however, keep her version canon.

‘Shout Out to My Ex’ by Little Mix (2016)

Whatever your thoughts may be on X Factor acts, it’s hard to deny the quality of the pop bangers that Little Mix produce and this empowering break-up anthem is no exception.

‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex (1978)

Fronted by Poly Styrene, the pop punk band’s song about identity crisis can be seen as a precursor to the riot grrrl feminist rock movement.

‘Superstar’ by Jamelia (2003)

As the soundtrack to many a Singstar game and school disco, Jamelia’s ‘Superstar’ is a nostalgic fusion of pop and R&B that is sure to get any millennial up dancing.

‘Running Up That Hill’ by Kate Bush (1985)

From everyone’s favourite interpretive dancer, the powerful vocals and synth keyboard heard on ‘Running Up That Hill’ can get even the most lethargic fans rolling around on the floor and waving some scarves around.

‘Rolling in the Deep’ by Adele (2011)

It would be wrong to write about the greatest British pop songs without mentioning Adele; her performance on ‘Rolling in the Deep’ is only made more impressive when remembering that she was only 21 at the time of recording.

‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ by Dusty Springfield (1969)

Originally written for Aretha Franklin, Springfield’s record experienced a revival some 25 years later following its inclusion on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, making it the hit it still is today.

‘Wannabe’ by Spice Girls (1996)

Guilty pleasure or not, the Spice Girls, with their message of girl power and killer music video had a stand out record in ‘Wannabe’. Now, about that 20th anniversary reunion tour…

‘Put Your Records On’ by Corinne Bailey Ray (2006)

Whilst rooting itself in the noughties (she sings about “faded jeans”!), there is something about Bailey Ray’s pure and clean vocals that keeps the song feeling fresh and relevant in 2018.

‘Diamonds Are Forever’ by Shirley Bassey (1961)

The Welsh songstress’ powerhouse vocals feature on three Bond theme-tunes, but ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ remains the most iconic, and makes for the best karaoke song!

‘New Rules’ by Dua Lipa (2017)

Lipa’s “anti-fuckboy anthem”, complete with empowering music video has quickly become an instant classic, topping Time Magazine’s ‘Top 10 Songs of 2017’ list.

‘Dog Days Are Over’ by Florence + The Machine (2008)

Never has a harp solo more effectively opened a pop song than in Florence Welch’s uplifting ballad: the perfect track to underscore any emotional TV reunion scene.

‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics (1983)

With its incredible use of synthesisers and Annie Lennox’s sultry alto vocals, ‘Sweet Dreams’ to this day remains the ultimate club classic.

‘Two Weeks’ by FKA twigs (2014)

One of the most interesting figures on the contemporary British music scene, FKA twigs’ alternative R&B number fuses her controlled vocals with raw beats to make one sexy, sexy song.

‘Shout’ by Lulu (1964)

Any hit record which manages to incorporate yodelling into its vocals is a winner in my eyes, and Eurovision winner Lulu manages to do just that in her cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout’.

‘Foundations’ – Kate Nash (2007)

Nash may be making waves across the pond in Netflix’s 80s wrestling comedy GLOW, but her first hit single ‘Foundations’ still has the power to make British crowds sing along every time, albeit with a terrible cockney accent.

Isobel Lewis

Image: Radio X


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