The top 4
4 – “New Jeans” (2023)
OK – if you want to be technical, the Newjeans do not have a space in the name, and their song does. So maybe this is homophonic instead of homonymic. Suppose you want to get technical. But with all this testosterone-driven metal, I thought it would be a nice touch to include some all-girl K-pop.
This is a great dance tune that has a lot more going for it than just a beat. It almost sounds like a Dionne Warwick/Burt Bachrach concoction before morphing into something more modern. They play around with the beat a lot more creatively than most of their contemporaries.
3 – “Bad Company” (1974)
No – it’s not number 1. That doesn’t make it any less iconic. It’s still a bronze medal. From the moment you hear Paul Rodgers' brooding piano riff, you know you are somewhere out west, in the presence of dark forces. Simon Kirke, who co-wrote the track with Rodgers, crashes a few cymbals to add to the sense of menace, before Rodgers' equally brooding vocal picks up that vibe.
Maybe that’s why it has been used in movies and TV shows and video games galore over the years. The only reason I have dropped it to third is that I’m not sure this is really where the band ended up going on later releases. Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet proved to be the successor to this particular track. Well, that’s not the only reason it is number 3. There are also two kick-ass homonymic tracks that I think are even better.
2 – “Bo Diddley” (1958)
I remember the first time I ever looked at the songwriting credits for this track and saw Bo Diddley co-wrote it with some guy named Ellas McDaniel. This was pre-internet, so it would take me years to learn that Ellas McDaniel was in fact, Bo Diddley. Somehow, I guess I presumed that Mr. and Mrs. Diddley had named their son “Bo.”
This tune – again, the first track on the first album – established an entire wing of rock & roll. That Bo Diddley beat was instantly iconic. If I was allowing for songs that had titles that were close to the artist’s name, instead of exact matches, another track from that debut – “Hey! Bo Diddley” would also make the list.
1 – “Iron Maiden (1979)
Back in the late 1970s, Iron Maiden would often play “Phantom of the Opera” as the penultimate song on their pre-encore set. Ten years later, “Hallowed be Thy Name” was the standard second-to-last song. And fifteen years after that, you’d probably hear “Fear of the Dark” in that slot. Just last year, they were routinely playing “Number of the Beast” just before the final tune.
But no matter what they have played as their penultimate song, they always close the main set with their self-titled classic. It opened their first EP in ’79 and closed their first full studio album a year later. It doesn’t matter whether Bruce Dickinson is singing or whether Maiden’s original vocalist Paul Di’Anno is doing it (as he did on the original recording), I know of no song that declares who a band is any better than this one.