What, exactly, is a headphone song? The definition changes depending on who you are.
For audiophiles, a headphone song—or album, for that matter—is a work that is so exquisite that it demands you listen to each beautifully recorded note under a sonic microscope. Miles Davis’ "Kind of Blue" fits that bill, the song and the album.
For others, a great "headphone work" is one that makes an intimate album more intimate (such as Bob Dylan’s original mono recordings), or a loud album louder (Rage Against the Machine’s debut effort).
We’re an unsubtle and hyperactive bunch here at Guitar World, so our favorite headphone songs seem to be those that have a lot of activity in the stereo field. As silly as it sounds, we love it every time a guitar solo takes a shortcut through our skulls as it zooms from one ear to the other.
Anyway, with the help of the gang at Blue Microphones, we've selected 16 of our favorite headphone songs—and we're asking you to vote for your favorites of the bunch! We've even launched a quick readers' poll—a bracket of 16 as opposed to our usual bracket of 32—so the tunes can shoot it out on GuitarWorld.com.
If you don’t know what we’re talking about—or you’ve never experienced any of the great songs listed in the bracket below—we suggest you go home, put on your best set of ‘phones, turn out the lights, turn up the volume and prepare to have your mind blown sky high. And vote, of course!
Note: All song titles used in this poll refer to the stereo studio versions, unless otherwise noted.
Enjoy our Best Rock Headphone Song Ever poll, which is sponsored by Blue Microphones!
“Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” from Queen’s fourth album, Night at the Opera, is a natural for this face-off. From the song's tender beginning, to its operatic middle—climaxing with the bombastic rock section (and then heading back to ballad territory)—this Queen classic has it all, and it sounds incredible in headphones. If you cast your vote for Queen and are looking for more "headphone operatics," check out “Prophet’s Song” from the same album.
- “Down in a Hole," Alice in Chains
"Down in a Hole" is a highlight of Alice in Chains' classic Dirt album from 1992. Songwriter/guitarist Jerry Cantrell was initially hesitant to present the song to the band, feeling it was too soft, but after a positive response, they recorded it. Its written in Ab minor, utilizing Dorian mode, and is centered mainly around an Ab minor / Gb major / Db major chord progression, with Layne Staley's and Cantrell's vocal parts intricately harmonizing, something that truly stands out when listening through headphones.
The polls have closed. "Bohemian Rhapsody" has advanced to the next round.
Behold the Latest Bracket!
Here's how the bracket was—very unscientifically—compiled.
We drew the songs' names out of a hat (It was, in fact, a Quebec Nordiques baseball cap, which is called a casquette in Quebec) to help us create our bracket, which is available for your viewing pleasure below. Obviously, none of these songs are ranked or come from a previously compiled list, so we chose purely random matchups to have as little impact as possible on the final outcome.
Remember that, as with any poll, genre might occasionally clash against genre, so you'll just need to decide which song has (or has had) the most to offer within its genre.
As always, you can vote only once per matchup (once per device, that is), and we'll be posting matchups pretty much every day of the month, sometimes more than once per day, just to give you an early