Music unites people, but it can also be incredibly divisive. Especially on a platform such as Listverse, which is visited by a wide variety of people, all with their own valid opinion on what constitutes good music. Some prefer rock and hate pop; others might go the opposite direction or even choose classical music above all. And that is just three of the more than 1,300 genres of music to be found in the world!
This list highlights some of the most underrated songs of the last 70 years, according to various websites’ stats, fans’ opinions, and rankings on Top “However Many Songs” lists.
Which of these do you agree with?
Related: Top 10 Little-Known Facts About Popular 1990s Songs
10 “Cindy Lou” – Dick Penner (1957)
The ’50s saw artists like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry, Nat King Cole, Ritchie Valens, and Patsy Cline dominating the music scene, to mention but a few. People danced to “That’s Amore,” sang along to “I Walk The Line,” and fell in love while listening to “Love Me Tender.” Most likely, very few people would mention “Cindy Lou” by Dick Penner when the topic of ’50s music comes up.
Before recording “Cindy Lou,” Penner co-composed “Ooby Dooby,” which was eventually handed to Roy Orbison, whose recording was a huge rockabilly hit. Penner, who was a singer, guitar player, recording artist as well as a retired English professor, scored his own hits with “Move Baby Move,” “Fine Little Baby,” “Honey Love,” and of course “Cindy Lou.” Sadly, none of these songs ever made it to the popularity level of “Ooby Dooby,” but “Cindy Lou” remains a great, albeit very underrated, track.
9 “Cloudy” – Simon & Garfunkel (1966)
There is no doubt that Simon & Garfunkel will always first be associated with “The Sounds of Silence, “Bridge over Troubled Water,” and “Mrs. Robinson. However, they had a slew of other tunes that were great too. These include “Old Friends, “Feelin’ Groovy,” and “Cloudy.”
“Cloudy” has a whimsical sound to it and is definitely catchy. It was released in 1966 as part of the duo’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album. It was co-written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley and reflects the narrator’s thoughts as he watches the clouds travel across the sky.
8 “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” – The Hollies (1971)
The Hollies did have some success with “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” after the song’s release in 1972. It sold two million copies worldwide and reached the runner-up spot on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed put for two weeks.
Then came controversy in the form of John Fogerty of CCR fame suing The Hollies for plagiarising his song “Green River.” The case was settled out of court, and Fogerty received half of the proceeds for the song.
Despite the drama, however, “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” remains a very memorable tune and is one of the most underrated songs of the ’70s.
7 “The Night Chicago Died” – Paper Lace (1974)
When Paper Lace sent their song “The Night Chicago Died” to Richard Daley, the then-mayor of Chicago, they didn’t find a new fan in him. In fact, it was reported that the mayor hated the tune, as did most of his staff. One staff member went as far as to say Paper Lace should “jump in the Chicago River, placing your heads underwater three times and surfacing twice.”
Many music lovers are still of the same opinion and hate the song just as much. Others feel that the song is grossly underrated and should get more love. Either way, “The Night Chicago Died” is about a fictional shoot-out between the Chicago police and the Al Capone Syndicate. It includes a unique intro during which an electronic synthesizer imitates a police siren, after which the first four lines are spoken.
6 “Sweet Dreams” – Air Supply (1981)
Air Supply will probably never win any awards for being cool. The band members themselves admitted that they probably weren’t cool enough for MTV or Rolling Stone and that it may be the reason neither would feature the band or their music.
Despite this, Air Supply boasted eight top ten hits in the U.S. during the ’80s, and the band was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame in 2013. Their most popular hits include “Even the Nights Are Better,” “All Out of Love,” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.”
One of their most underrated hits however, is “Sweet Dreams.” It is beautiful and touching, with a rock edge, and shows off Russell Hitchcock’s amazing vocal range.
5 “Baby, Can I Hold You” – Tracy Chapman (1988)
Tracy Chapman has enjoyed worldwide success with her hits, “Give Me One Reason,” “Fast Car,” and “Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution.” Her albums have gone multi-platinum, and she has four Grammy Awards under her belt. Yet, Chapman remains one of the most under-acknowledged artists in the world. Her songs receive little airplay, which is a shame because she possesses an outstanding vocal ability. She wowed the audience on the Letterman show in 2015 with an excellent cover of “Stand By Me,” and it just reaffirmed how underrated her talent truly is.
One of her best songs is “Baby, Can I Hold You,” which failed to make the Top 40 in the U.S. in 1988. This under-appreciated song was covered by Boyzone in 1997, which peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and was the 26th best-selling single of 1997 in the UK. It doesn’t have a patch on the original, though.
4 “Twist in My Sobriety” – Tanita Tikaram (1988)
Including the iconic line “All God’s children need traveling shoes,” which was originally used as the title of a book by Maya Angelou, “Twist in My Sobriety” was the biggest international success that Tanita Tikaram achieved in 1988. Tikaram said that the obscure lyrics of the song alluded to growing up and going through an emotional “relationship” with the world at age 18.
The song didn’t make it big in the U.S. but hit the top 10 in several European countries. Tikaram’s deep vocals suit the melody perfectly and add to the atmosphere of the song.
3 “What’s Up” – 4 Non Blondes (1992)
The lead singer of 4 Non Blondes, Linda Perry, wasn’t a fan of the production of the song “What’s Up,” and the final version was eventually recorded in one day after the band re-recorded Perry’s demo version. It only reached number 11 on the pop chart but has since received a lot of radio airplay.
Some, however, hated the song to the extent that they called it the worst song of the ’90s, while others called it the worst song ever written. Regardless, the song is still a radio staple and has a stable fanbase. “What’s Up’s” underrated status dropped a bit in 2021, when its official music video passed one billion—and still climbing—views on YouTube.
2 “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Deep Blue Something (1993)
The nineties were a time of TV shows about teen angst, sitcoms that ruled over all others, memorable cartoons, and some of the best music ever recorded. No, I’m not talking about the Macarena, even though it was so popular that even important people busted out the moves during public events. The ’90s gave us The Offspring, Nirvana, Supergrass, Weezer, Oasis, TLC, Missy Elliot, and a whole lot more.
There are also a whole lot of underrated songs from the ’90s, including “Another Night” by Real McCoy, “Show Me Love” by Robyn, “Crush With Eyeliner” by R.E.M, and “Most Girls” by Pink.
Another terribly underrated ’90s song is “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something. Released in 1995, it was the band’s only hit song. The lyrics were inspired by the film Roman Holiday and named after the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, both starring Audrey Hepburn.
1 “Perfect” – Simple Plan (2002)
The drummer of the band Simple Plan didn’t have his parent’s support or approval when it came to his choice of career, and he claimed that the lyrics of the song “Perfect” were inspired by this experience. Backing vocalist, David Desrosiers, has also claimed fame when it comes to the lyrics saying that they tell the story of his brother supporting him in his music career.
“Perfect” reached the top 40 in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand and was the band’s biggest hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is underrated today, but at the time, it resonated with teenagers worldwide who had unresolved issues with their parents.
+ “Ugly Heart” – G.R.L. (2014)
The music of the 2010s is a far cry from the tunes that were released back in the ’50s through the ’90s. But this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any good music to come out of this decade. One of the most overlooked songs of the 2010s is the banger “Ugly Heart” by American-British-Canadian girl group G.R.L.
The group received critical acclaim for the song, but their success was sadly short-lived. “Ugly Heart” was their last single before one of the group’s members, 25-year-old Simone Battle, committed suicide on September 5, 2014.