Sam Smith remembers how Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” got them through a tough time. “I went through a breakup, and I went into a forest and listened to this in my headphones and screamed at the top of my lungs,” the singer-songwriter said. Rolling stone. “I am a huge drama queen. This song corresponds to my drama.
“It’s all coming back to me now” landed on Smith’s ballot for Rolling stones new ranking of the 500 greatest songs of all time. Smith was one of more than 250 artists, journalists and industry figures to participate in the new list. Here are their other choices.
1. Aretha Franklin, “Bridge over troubled waters”
Obviously, this song is the origin of Simon and Garfunkel, and the first time I heard it would have been their version when I was a kid. But about four years ago I heard Aretha Franklin’s version and literally had a spiritual experience. She just sang it like nobody’s done it before.
There is no voice the first minute. It’s just a piano. This is how special the melody is. It’s almost as if Aretha is honoring the melody. I don’t know if that was the intention, but it’s amazing. It’s a love song, but it’s not just in terms of a relationship. It reminds me of family. So now whenever I’m in love, sad, or want to feel inspired, I always play that version of that song. It is a piece of music that I will always aspire to and I think I will never, never make it. This song is a safe place for me.
2. Joni Mitchell, “A Case of You”
“I could drink a case of you and stand up” is the best saying ever written. Every time I hear it, it amazes me. The first time I heard this song was in Practical magic, which is my favorite movie. This film was passed on to all the women in my family. The soundtrack has been with me forever. This song is in the scene where Nicole Kidman drives towards her sister [Sandra Bullock]. It makes me smile every time.
What makes it more special now is that I have the honor of meeting Joni. Oh my God. About two years ago I sang for her and met her. It made the magic of everything even more alive because she is the greatest artist of our generation.
3. ABBA, “The winner takes it all”
ABBA is absolutely amazing. They are icons. I love the way they have been shamelessly pop throughout their careers. I love the spirit of their music, the honesty of their music. The melodies are outrageous and the lyrics absolutely heartbreaking. I think if someone is going through a breakup this song for me is triumphantly miserable. So when you are sad and you hear that, it almost makes you feel powerful in your grief. I would really love to sing this song someday.
4. Stevie Wonder, “knock my feet off”
There are so many amazingly massive and amazing songs Songs in the Key of Life, but it’s my favorite Stevie song, and one of my favorite songs. Lyrically, it’s amazing. But at the level of the melody, I remember that this song troubled me for a long time when I was a child. The melody is so strong that I felt like each part was the chorus of a different song. And then as I got older I kept trying to find that song. Then I realized that all the melodies were from the same song. It’s wild. Just magical song.
5. Rihanna, “We found love”
This song changed my life when I was 18. I moved to London and this song came out. It must be out [on a] Thursday or Friday, because I was working in a bar and I remember seeing the clip of it. I was so inspired and excited after watching it. It was then that I got to see Rihanna in a way that I felt like she was like me. She wore street clothes and creeper shoes, then everyone wore creepers from Brick Lane in London. I remember being so inspired by its release. I took a three day tour and started partying on my own at all these gay bars. I was listening to this song in my headphones, on the train on my way to the club, and ended up being with a lot of guys for three days. I basically tried to recreate the video.
6. Randy Newman, “It feels like home”
I must have been very young when I heard that because I feel like it has always been in my life as a song. I think it was about six years ago when someone introduced me to Randy Newman, and I just didn’t realize how iconic his music and writing was. I also remember that it was in How to lose a guy in ten days, and that made me cry too.
It’s crazy, but he’s wonderful because he doesn’t look like someone who would be a songwriter. For me, hearing him sing the songs brought it all to life, because I wouldn’t say he’s the most amazing singer I’ve even heard technically – but the way he sings those lyrics is just a another level of honesty. It makes me feel like Joni.
7. Céline Dion, “Everything comes back to me”
My first memory of hearing the song was my mom playing it on vinyl and I think that made me gay. I think it was the first memory of music I have ever heard. And God, this song is just amazing. It is so over the top and dramatic. And some.
8. Robyn, “Be mine”
I’ve played this song a lot lately, and everyone I play with is like, “Oh my God, I forgot this song!” I remember hearing this as a child and being immediately captured by Robyn’s voice, then slowly falling in love with whatever she did. Robyn, to me, is that incredible voice that speaks to the hearts of queer people. I went to a show of her about two years ago, right before Covid, and it was the best show I have ever seen in my life. I cried my eyes. It was just the top level.
I think it’s his most special song. It gives me the same feeling as “Time After Time”. It was the start of my love affair with sad songs that you can dance to. There is nothing better than being able to dance to a sad song.
9. Feist, “The park”
I must have been 10 years old when I heard this album [2007’s The Reminder] and I completely fell in love with it. Over the years, it has become my Sunday album. Every time I spend a day at home – whatever mood I’m in – I play this album really loud, I sit down, read a book, and I light the fire. It’s just a really, really special record.
10. Amy Winehouse, “You sent me flying”
Franc came out when I was 11. He completely rocked my world. It was the first time I heard a bad word in a song. She was just brutal – those honest and sometimes dirty words. It really spoke to my heart and soul. “You Sent Me Flying” has been a huge, huge teacher for me in the way of singing. There are a few songs that I would say were the first songs that I really learned, and that would be it. His way of singing is anchored in my voice forever.