60 songs under 60 seconds, because who has the time?



The parameters of pop – and by extension, rock – don’t usually allow for too much experimentation in, let’s say, temporal form. The reigning radio hits almost always clock in at three minutes (Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” at 3:39, Bruno Mars’s “That’s What I Like” at 3:27, Portugal. The Man’s “Feel it Still” at 2:44) and have for decades.

Much longer, and your odds of getting radio play decrease proportionally.

Tim Minchin in his “Three Minute Song” hilariously laments his own approach. “But the problem with my particular oeuvre/is that half my songs are five minutes and over” he sings, “and the wisdom here at the BBC is that viewers switch off if you go past three.” So too did Billy Joel in “The Entertainer,” suggesting that songs, no matter how beautiful or well written, need to be cut at 3:05 to appeal to listeners.

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This was originally a technological limitation. 10″ 78s only had 3 to five minutes of recording time per side. As the most common medium for music in the early 1900s, it was a simple practicality. If you wanted to record longer songs, the quality would diminish as the grooves drew closer together.

Really, it’s been more like a century dominated by the digestible 3-4 minute track.

All this exposition might lead you to think I’d like to shatter the ceiling, that I’d like a format where artists can endlessly experiment and not suffer punishment from the music industry for not abiding a dated restriction. And that’s true.

Aim lower

But today, I’m looking at artists that subverted the industry standard another way. These are songs that aimed lower, dragged three minutes into the mud and undercut it, songs that crammed beginning, middle, and end into the shortest of spaces.

I’m celebrating songs that are 60 seconds and under.

I knew when I had this idea that the list would bias heavily towards punk, so I gave myself two parameters for qualifying songs:

  1. Only three songs from a given artist.
  2. Listen it can’t just be punk, Danny.

In the interest of brevity, which is just so on brand right now, I’ve decided to describe songs 60-11 in six words each. It’ll be like Earnest Hemmingway’s alleged six word story, but with less infant death. I’ll go more in depth with 10-1.

This is 60 songs under 60 seconds.

60. “Dude, We’re Finally Landing (Good News!)” by Weezer

Rivers Cuomo vocal fugue, nice harmonies.

59. “The Death And The Berth” by The Dear Hunter

Horn rip, sad cello (possibly viola).

58. “928 Horn Jam” by Trombone Shorty

Second line dancer for the uninitiated.

57. “Old Mother Reagan” by The Violent Femmes

Love child of delta and punk.

56. “Park Music” by The Avalanches

Verdant and organic, tinges of nostalgia.

55. “Beyoncé Interlude” by Beyoncé

Actually, it’s more like beat poetry.

54. “I Am Crazy” by Thundercat

Wading through a dense fog, moping.

53. “Grace” by Jethro Tull

Also wrote an album long song.

52. “Fertilizer” by Frank Ocean

More bleepy-bloopy than the original.

51. “In Accordance To Natural Law” by Bikini Kill

I read it in a fanzine.

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