What are the shortest songs ever to hit the airwaves commercially? Find out in this article.
In the world of modern music, it is very difficult to find commercial songs that are successful and last less than two minutes. Thinking of songs that last less than a minute is almost impossible. The average duration of a song is between 3 and 4 minutes and has been decreasing recently.
However, according to a study by the news portal Quartz, the songs appearing on the Billboard charts are decreasing in duration. Before, 2013, we used to have songs of more than three minutes. But from 2018 till now, most songs don’t exceed three minutes. It was established that in 2018, 6% of the songs had an average of 2 minutes and 30 seconds and less.
Today, there are many songs that captivate us within a short time. Normally, these types of songs are by way of intros, intermediates, or musical oddities. In this article, you’ll discover the best shortest songs ever. These songs do not reach the two-minute mark. Check them out!
25 of the Shortest Songs Ever
Let’s take a closer look at the shortest songs released commercially recently:
1. Napalm Death – You Suffer (Duration: 1.3 seconds)
1.3 seconds, you saw that right and it’s not a typo! In 1989, the British punk group Napalm Death released on their debut album, what according to Guinness records, is the shortest song ever recorded in the history of music. It has an exact duration of just 1.3 seconds!
Napalm Death claims to have been inspired by a 1985 composition by the American punk group Wehrmacht. They have a song that barely lasted two seconds too.
2. Smashing Pumpkins – 17 (Duration: 17 seconds)
Here’s another little oddity we have found in the album ‘Adore’ by Smashing Pumpkins. The last song on the album, number sixteen, is called “17” and lasts 17 seconds.
3. The Beatles – Her Majesty (Duration: 23 seconds)
The Beatles are no doubt some of the great groups in the history of music. They recorded short songs on their legendary album Abbey Road. In 1969, they released several songs of less than a minute. ‘Her Majesty’ a creation of Paul McCartney was the shortest song of the group. It closed the famous album with only 23 seconds long.
4. Green Day – The Ballad of Willem Fink (Duration: 32 seconds)
Punk is the style that usually creates the shortest songs. In 1999, the NOFX group, Fat Wreck Chords, released a compilation titled “Short music for short people.” This short ballad by Green Day stand out among many very good ones.
5. Jonny Trunk – Ladies’ Bras (Duration: 36 seconds)
This is a composition by Jonny Trunk and Duncan James Wisbey. It’s a silly song about bras. In September 2007, it became the shortest song to feature in the charts, reaching number 27 on the UK single list.
6. Coldplay – Parachutes (Duration: 46 seconds)
The song that gave name to the debut album of the London band Coldplay, ‘Parachutes’ was a soft acoustic song. It was sung with a guitar and includes the voice of Chris Martin. It is one of the shortest songs ever recorded by a successful group. And no, it’s not an intro!
7. Bad Brains – Pay To C*m (Duration: 1:31)
This furious hardcore punk cut was the song with which the mythical group from Washington DC made itself known to the world. In just a minute and a half, Bad Brains, pierce the listener’s ear relentlessly, with extreme speed and without leaving a puppet with a head. That’s how The Bad Brains were, whether you like it or not!
8. The Beatles – I Will (Duration: 1:46)
Among the endless jewels that populate The Beatles’ White Album is this love song whose sweet tenderness manages to convert even the most cynical. Watch out for that “low vocal,” courtesy of Paul McCartney). Impressive how much the Liverpool band can do in such a short time. And, paradoxically, for such a short song, it took a whopping sixty-seven takes to find the definitive version that would end up on the album.
9. Big Star – I’m In Love With a Girl (Duration: 1:48)
Along with “Thirteen”, this is the most sincere and direct love song of the Memphis band. It is sang through the eyes of a child, with a bittersweet innocence that returns us to the nostalgia of adolescence not lived. It perfectly reflects the tremendous pop sensibility of Big Star, who, with unusual simplicity, were able to express precious melodies and feelings in a song.
10. Bob Dylan – Oxford Town (Duration: 1:50)
Oxford Town is, in essence, a typical protest song from Dylan’s early days, where the Duluth denounces racism and violence. This was in the wake of the riots that occurred due to the admission of the first negro student at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1961.
11. The Box Tops – The Letter (Duration: 1:53)
It seems incredible that Alex Chilton was only sixteen years old when he recorded this song along with the rest of the group. As much as he was forcing her, his harsh voice was unbecoming of someone of that age. The Letter is famous, above all, for being one of the shortest to reach the top of the charts. And it’s a classic in itself.
12. Buddy Holly – Words Of Love (Duration: 1:55)
It is mysterious as to how this song was not a hit in its day. Buddy Holly did it all on his own. He also recorded the two different vocal melodies separately. In turn, the Beatles did a version – not inconsiderable – in Beatles For Sale.
13. Elvis Costello – Mystery Dance (Duration: 1:36)
Elvis Costello is dying to know the secret formula of the mystery dance and that is why he sings this song. In the song, in the beginning, Romeo and Juliet appear comically. Not missing is a short rock-and-roll guitar solo and a great fleeting ending.
14. The Clash – Koka Kola (Duration: 1:47)
No, the Clash are not singing here about our favorite bubble drink, but about a different coke. Koka Kola is nothing but a scathing and satirical portrait of the corporate world in which unscrupulous executives get up to their ears with cocaine between meetings. That’s how those at the top in the advertising world have it, Joe Strummer tells us.
15. Buzzcocks – Love You More (Duration: 1:49)
There’s probably no one who can come up with catchy melodies, with humor and an unmistakably British style and humor like the Buzzcocks. The song is based on their cynically romantic vision of love. The song is marked by their characteristic guitar playing and their hyperactive rhythms.
16. Dead Kennedys – Na*i Punks (Duration: 1:00)
If the Dead Kennedys were serious about something, it was punk. They were attacking all those skinheads who came to their concerts with the wrong idea of what punk really was. They make it very clear: real punk is not a religious cult, and to be a real punk, it is not enough for you to spike your hair with gel. Just a minute is enough for them to make their position clear. And, to them, witnessing such nonsense was like seeing someone pissing on the floor of their own house.
17. Fugazi – Greed (Duration: 1:47)
Following the strict philosophy of its leader Ian McKaye, the people of Fugazi here remind us of the evils of modern consumerism. They attack the invisible entities that govern our lives and that take advantage of the needs that create us. The band tells us we are all driven by greed, asking us to do something about it.
18. Hank Williams – Ready to Go Home (Duration: 1:48)
Hank Williams is the eternal loner, the genuine American cowboy in its purest form. As a personification of the most authentic country, Williams left us an unforgettable legacy, and the song is one of the many songs that helped to forge his musical personality. It’s an apocalyptic song about the end of days, which is bleak and sad. In this song, he asks us if we are prepared for the advent of the final judgment.
19. Janis Joplin – Mercedez Benz (Duration: 1:48)
This is a cappella song. It is composed by Joplin together with poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth. It was recorded in one take. The song is a well-known classic in which Joplin asks God to buy him a Mercedez Benz, plus a color TV and a night on the town. All her friends already have a Porsche and she just demands a level playing field. It was one of the last songs the singer recorded, three days before her early death in October 1970.
20. Minutemen – Viet Nam (Duration: 1:30)
The Minutemen are experts in the complicated art of conciseness and brevity. Their album contains forty-five songs in just eighty-one minutes. The Minutemen always displayed an enviable capacity for synthesis in their songs without putting everything in — even under pressure. They bring out the incredible interaction between its three members. The song features Mike Watt’s bass and that cutting guitar of singer D. Boon – who died in a traffic accident in 1985.
He is supported by the precise drums of George Hurley. The song is one of the group’s most famous songs. It is also one of the small samples of one of the key groups of the American underground of the eighties.
21. Misfits – Halloween (Duration: 1:53)
Here is one of the most famous songs of the group, Misfits. It’s without a doubt one of those that best encompasses the virtues of the so-called horror punk that it staged. The b-side of the album was “Halloween II”.
22. Magnetic Fields – Reno Dakota (Duration: 1:05)
In 69 Love Songs, Stephin Merritt and company took on the commendable and difficult task of composing sixty-nine love songs on a triple album. This is why many of them are barely two minutes long. This one in particular features clever rhymes and the lovely voice of Claudia Gonson.
23. Minor Threat – Straight Edge (Duration: 0:47)
As a result of this fleeting and brutal song, the straight edge subculture, typical of the hardcore of the eighties, was created. It calls for abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and, even sometimes, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.
24. Neil Young – Till The Morning Comes (Duration: 1:20)
This is one of the best by the Canadian singer-songwriter. This little song, before ending, will have you smiling from ear to ear and singing at the top of your lungs.
25. Neutral Milk Hotel – Communist Daughter (Duration: 1:57)
We are facing another of the many works of the genius of Jeff Mangum. With his frequent images of lyrical and twisted surrealism – cocoa leaves scattered across the border and cars turning in the clouds – he sings about a mysterious communist girl that we can’t help but wonder endlessly after hearing the song.
The KISS principle isn’t only applicable in design. Music is taking a cue from it too. After all, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Music has been diligent in reminding us how much can be done in a very short time. Some groups have even had entire discography in the said formula, and many genres particularly lend themselves to it with special docility. These include punk, the grindcore, etc.
Unlike, say, progressive rock — whose inordinate length of its songs often bordered on the vain and unnecessary — short songs get us straight to the point, swiftly and bluntly, sometimes with unexpected and abrupt endings.
For something, punk reacted early to its indulgent excesses, punching the table, as if to say: enough, it’s time to return to the essence. That is, if you can get your message across in a short time, do it!
Among the featured songs, the only and arbitrary validation criterion for their inclusion is that they don’t exceed 1:59 minutes. We can find songs from different genres here. These include hardcore, rock & roll, folk, pop, etc. It shows that brevity does not understand genres.
Header image credit: George Apodaca