2.3.16

 The songs ranked from #79 to #1

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76. “This I Love” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
The oppressively overdramatic — yes, even by GN’R standards — climax to Chinese Democracy, and the biggest reason the album feels 40 minutes longer than it actually is. Axl always had Andrew Lloyd Weber pretensions, but his unflattering Phantom envy was never clearer than him howling, “So if she’s somewhere near me / I hope to God she hears me” from some subterranean studio. — A.U.

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71. “Riad N’ the Bedouins” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
An incomprehensible character theme for the rock opera that Chinese Democracy most decidedly was not, making the album’s second side as confusing as the end of the “Estranged” video. Best remembered today for getting the band sued for plagiarizing nu-gaze producer Ulrich Schnauss, of all people. — A.U.

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68. “Prostitute” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
The Chinese Democracy closer, and for at least its first minute, probably the only GN’R song that would ever make sense as One Tree Hill montage music. “If my intentions are misunderstood, please be kind,” Axl pleads, seemingly unaware that he’s already at least 20 years too late. — A.U.

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62. “Scraped” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
Choral vocal echoes like something from a Kate Bush record explode into the band’s best-ever Soundgarden impersonation, Axl spewing, “All things are possible / I am unstoppable.” — A.U.

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57. “Street of Dreams” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
Nobody knows what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams quite like William Bruce Rose, though this Chinese Democracy deep cut is actually more Bruce Springsteen than David Coverdale, all racing piano and burrowing regret. Largely powerful stuff, though you have to imagine Geffen execs hearing lyrics like “What this means to me / Is more than I know you believe” and rolling their eyes at the $13 million and 15 years in sunk cost. — A.U.

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51. "I.R.S." (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
Love it or hate it, Chinese Democracy is many things and simple is not one of them. The blessedly uncomplicated “I.R.S.” is a sane four-and-a-half minutes, a sane four chords, and, despite a handful of interstitial trip-hop moments, it boils down to a riff that isn’t all that far removed from “In Bloom” — as well as the most memorable chorus on the least-hooky arena-monster album of all time. And it helps for believability that Axl Rose probably really has conversed with at least one president, a private eye, definitely the I.R.S., and the F.B.I. isn’t out of the question, either. — D.W.

50. “If the World” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
 Despite actually having a hit covering one of the damn things, nobody would ever shortlist Guns N’ Roses for a potential Bond theme — they could be sexy, dangerous, and sweeping, but rarely all three at the same time, and never in a way vague enough to be equally applicable to a debonair British spy and a maniacal displaced hayseed. “If the World” was probably as close as they came, with a slinking groove halfway between Moon Safari and “Come Undone,” Axl hypothesizing, “If the world would end today / Then the dreams we had would all just slip away.” A mite too fatalistic for Bond, but certainly beautiful and blustery enough. — A.U.
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45. “Sorry” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
Undoubtedly the list of people it’s too late for Axl to say sorry to is a long one, but it should come as little surprise that the title here isn’t one of apology, but one of patronizing sympathy — “I’m sorry for you, not sorry for me / You don’t know who you can trust now, or you should believe.” The potential vileness is undercut by one of Chinese Democracy’s finest arrangements, a sublime, patient power-ballad crawl that feels more like one of Layne Staley’s quietly guttural howls than Axl’s usual brand of widescreen self-pity. — A.U.
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 39. “Madagascar” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
The closest thing Chinese Democracy has to an “Estranged,” Axl delivering his most frail and confused vocal since the fraught UYI climax over a “Stairway to Heaven”-like melody, if not “Stairway” grandiosity. It doesn’t need all those movie snippets and MLK samples in the bridge, certainly, but with our protagonist croaking, “I can’t find my way back anymore,” it’s affecting end-credits music to the GN’R story. — A.U.
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36. “Chinese Democracy” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
Sure, Axl snoozed long enough that System of a Down swiped his big fakeout-pause intro seven years before Chinese Democracy, but Chinese Democracy also gestated long enough that nu-metal thermodynamics no longer had any sway over whether or not his songs were good. This album was never going to be timely, so let ‘er rip. We’re all better off that his lyrical shortcomings limit the Kundun-inspired title track to taunts like “It would take a lot more time than you have got for masturbation,” which don’t distract from Buckethead and Robin Finck’s Tom Morello-influenced squealing. They try to do for the Great Wall what U2 did for Berlin, failing miserably under a sky full of extravagant guitar fireworks. — D.W.
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30. “There Was a Time” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
 This is the one that really delivers everything Chinese Democracy promised, with a choir, some looped tintinnabulations, a sea of distorted guitar roil, and orchestral interjections poking out like shark fins. Bluesy piano and slyly cinematic passages set up the highest notes Axl’s full-health throat has ever belted, and the stratospheric, take-me-higher solo makes an honest shot at toppling “November Rain” from its post in Valhalla. You bet your ass it’s seven minutes long, used to be titled “T.W.A.T.,” and includes more parts than a class production of Rent. — D.W.
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26. “Catcher in the Rye” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
It’s easy to picture Axl empathizing with J.D. Salinger and his most famous protagonist even before he disappeared from the public eye for the better part of two decades. But ironically, “Catcher” was meant as something of a takedown of Salinger’s definitive work — “utter garbage,” he called it in a 2008 online chat, explaining that the song’s outro was written as a tribute to John Lennon after seeing a program about assassin (and Salinger devotee) Mark David Chapman. It’s a rare GN’R expression of sympathy for the victims rather than the abusers, and one of the band’s most compassionate overall songs, demonstrating more humanity in a stretch of Oasis-like “Na na naaaa naaaa“s than on entire sides of earlier records. — A.U.
 18. “Shackler’s Revenge” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
 In some ways, this Rock Band-debuted single is just a steroidal update of what the flailing, pointless “Oh My God” was probably supposed to be: screeching Deftones opening riff, programmed industrial funkadoodles last heard in 1997, and disco midsection, check, check, double-check. But in other ways, there’s just no other band that sounds like this. None of their hair-metal contemporaries cared about technology or progress like GN’R’s reclusive frontman, and no Nine Inch Nails disciples have a world-class singer to build soaring melodies or laser-beam soloing around. So here’s an unholy marriage of the two, with a twist on what sounds like a classic Axl-denial-zonked chorus of “I don’t believe there’s a reason”: He called it his response to school shootings. It’s a step toward solicitude, the last thing anyone expected from Chinese Democracy. — D.W.
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6. “Better” (Chinese Democracy, 2008)
 Many Guns N’ Roses songs realign themselves several times through melodic sections, mean rejoinders and thrashing turns from one movement to the other, usually on the back of a virtuosic, bleeding-rainbow guitar solo. The unexpected highlight of the band’s most-resented album compresses these parts into a crowded, claustrophobic elevator where they’re forced to sit more still than they prefer, and they rage appropriately within the confines of the glass. Not quite a power ballad, “Better” nonetheless has a salty sadness streaking down its bulging neck veins — it’s closer to something Henry Rollins would shout outside a recent ex’s window. But therein lies the gift of this band, who serve as the adenoidal voice of the overly heard. Males in extremis have commanded artistic situations in such wide-ranging works as Raging Bull and The Marshall Mathers LP. And longtime contributor, first-time caller Axl Rose’s high-pitched sputtering through artless bits like “I never wanted you to be so full of anger” might help convince you that bitterness can have soul. — D.W.

Compiled from this article

Well done, Robin! "Better" comes just after "Sweet Child of Mine"! 
Some surprises... "Shackler's Revenge" did a lot better than "Catcher in the Rye"; "This I Love" is at the bottom of the list, well behind "Scraped". It should have been the other way around...
 

As for other GN'R classics, "Paradise City" didn't do as well as "Get in the Ring"... 




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