The ‘Top 10 Sinatra songs list’ that came from outer space!

I was recently searching the interweb for some info on Frank Sinatra – more precisely info on what people figure to be his best songs. Almost immediately, Google offered up near the top of their search results a link to a page on aolradioblog.com that they claimed to be “the best Frank Sinatra songs as chosen by AOL Radio listeners“. Okay, I thought, this should be good and quite informative and all that and give me some insight into what  many Sinatra fans think about what was his ‘best stuff’.  Instead what I read felt like kind of an epic fail on the part of aol radio’s listeners.

Here below is the resulting list from that poll in reverse order as presented by aolradioblog (for heightened drama, I guess?) with their commentary about each song included for your benefit:

10  ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’
This Sinatra favorite was penned by Cole Porter in 1936. Sinatra first performed the song on the radio in 1946, but didn’t record it until 10 years later as part of the 1956 album ‘Songs for Swingin’ Lovers.’ The swinging big-band style builds to successive crescendos on the back of an arrangement by Nelson Riddle, who said he was inspired by Bolero.
09  ‘Strangers in the Night’
‘Strangers in the Night’ is a popular song written by Ivo Robic, made famous in 1966 by Frank Sinatra. The song won Sinatra the Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year, despite Sinatra’s distaste for the song. His improvised “doo-be-doo-be-doo” at the end of the song is one of the most memorable improvisations in music, mimicking the melody of the song.
08  ‘That’s Life’
Written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon for Frank Sinatra, ‘That’s Life’ was released on Sinatra’s 1966 album of the same name. The song was a hit for Sinatra in the post-Beatles rock landscape of 1966.
07 ‘Fly Me to the Moon’
This Frank Sinatra song was not originally recorded by the musical legend. Penned by Bart Howard, it was first recorded in 1954 by Kaye Ballard as a catalog piece. The song was recorded by many others, including Nat King Cole, before Sinatra included it on his 1964 album ‘It Might As Well Be Swing.’ Sinatra’s version is the most recognized, manly due to Quincy Jones arrangement; a 3/4 waltz-time changed to to 4/4 to give it a ‘swing’ feel.
06 ‘Come Fly With Me’
This song — composed by frequent flyer Jimmy Van Heusen — was specifically written for Sinatra and was the title track of his 1958 album of the same name. ‘Come Fly Wit Me’ sets the tone for Sinatra’s album about exotic adventures.
05 ‘My Way’
‘My Way’ is identical in melody to a French song ‘Comme d’habitude,’ but completely different in lyrics. Sinatra’s version was penned by Paul Anka and was included on Sintra’s 1969 album of the same name. The song tells the story of a man nearing death, recounting his life and that he lived it without regrets. Fittingly, Sinatra released it at a time where he thought he would quit the music business. We’re glad he didn’t!
04 ‘The Way You Look Tonight’
This Frank Sinatra song was originally performed by Fred Astaire and was featured in the film ‘Swing Time,’ later winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. Sinatra is one of many performers (Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, among others) to cover the song, and his version has been included in many films.
03 ‘Theme From New York New York’
The song was originally performed by Liza Minelli in Martin Scorsese’s 1977 film ‘New York, New York.’ In 1980, it was recorded by Frank Sinatra, for his album ‘Trilogy: Past Present Future.’ His version has since become the quintessential New York tune.
02 ‘Night and Day’
‘Night and Day’ was Cole Porter’s greatest contribution to the American songbook and has been recorded by dozens of singers, including Sinatra. Sinatra recorded the song five separate times, first in 1942, and culminating with a 1977 disco version including Joe Beck.
01 ‘Summer Wind’
This song — with music by Henry Mayer and lyrics by Johnny Mercer — had its first chart hit under singer Wayne Newton, but is most famous for it’s profoundly sad Sinatra version. The Frank Sinatra song originally appeared on his ‘Strangers in the Night’ album and is one of his most-played recordings in various contexts, including a mid-2000s television ad campaign for Mastercard and Major League Baseball.

Don’t get me wrong, I would never suggest that it should be an easy thing to throw together a 10 Best list for something like this – the man had a long and outstanding recording career, after all, and I realize that when you get into the whole group think situation of voting and polls you can come up with some seemingly surprising or bizarre results, but really, this was the result? Is it being too cliched for people as a whole to still like the staple Sinatra standards enough to vote them to the top of the list where (I believe) they should be?  Do people feel that they must always be that little bit more original or different from everybody else and offer up something out of left field as the # 1 choice?  To be fair, I don’t know if the songs were picked from  a list supplied by aolradioblog or if they were just handed in cold by each listener who took part but in the end that should not matter because in either case some of Sinatra’s best were represented, just not where you would expect to see them. (Of course if the songs were voted on from a provided list that kind of amps up the ‘really?’ factor on my part since that means some of his best were passed up by lesser pieces)

So lets look at the list, shall we?  The bottom half of it (10 through 6) is filled with songs that could arguably be fighting it out in a pitched battle for the top 5 spots, although admittedly I think that they would all be fighting for a spot behind “My Way” and ‘New York, New York’. (the only two songs in their top five that I think should even have been there) I even think however that ‘Strangers In The Night’  could challenge for, ehhh – maybe even the top spot? Of course it might lose out on the moral argument that you cannot give a song the top spot when it is reported that the singer himself did not really like it too much. ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, at #4? Really? “Night and Day’ at #2? Really? Really? I’m sorry, but it is just not that good a cover of the song! Even if this was just a poll of Sinatra cover songs from the American song book, it would not rank that highly.  Sammy Davis Jr. did such a wonderful cover of the song that I kind of feel that he ruined it for anyone else so that makes it even harder for me to see it ranked so highly as a Sinatra song.  And as for their #1 pick, ‘Summer Wind’? Wow, really? Wow. I really like the song a lot and it even has some personal associations for me since it was the song that me and another much older gentleman who is no longer with us were able to team up on at karaoke one night a few years ago.  However despite all that I could not rank it so highly.  I will give the site props for the way they have each chosen song available to listen to in full on the page instead of having to browse through Youtube for a listen, but to add further tarnish to their list, they went and added a live version of ‘New York, New York’ that is not at all flattering and is missing the power of the original recording. Instead it sounds more like Sinatra near the end of his career when he was mostly just going through the motions for his adoring fans who were still coming out to see him perform live. Honestly, this list feels like it was put together by someone in the Nineties who had just come out of a Sinatra concert and had the show’s set list stuck in their head. Ouch.

I will acknowledge that interesting results like this can be found anywhere. Just today on youtube I came across someone who had offered up their own top 30 Sinatra songs list, and the reaction to it seemed to be pretty venomous by some when they realized that #2 on the list was Sinatra’s cover of ‘Something’ and that the top spot was given to the song ‘Soliloquy’. I know, everybody has to be different, right?

To wrap this up, I realize that I would probably be doing a disservice to the subject matter if I were not to offer up my own attempt at a list of what I consider to (arguably) be Frank Sinatra’s top 10 songs. Here you go:

1 My Way

2 New York, New York

3 Strangers in the Night

4 Summer Wind

5 Under My Skin

6 Come Fly With Me

7 My Kind Of town

8 I get A Kick out Of you

9 Luck Be A Lady

10 Witchcraft

There you have it. Of course it was no easy thing to throw this together and I ended up with at least another 10 songs that just missed the cut but I feel more at peace about things after doing this and committing it to the world wide web. And of course while searching this stuff out I came across yet another ‘top 10 Sinatra list’ that made me go, ‘Huh, really?’, but I will just let it go. (I’m looking at you, Mr. Ken Levine, lol)

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