I’ve always been a fan of listening to entire discographies. This, of course, means I’m unable to get through as many artists as I’d like. But on the flip side, I’m able to better understand bands’ evolutions. But the bigger plus: I find some gems that go beyond the Spotify top 10. After all, everyone’s tastes are different — one person’s filler is another person’s masterpiece.
I’ve often wanted to make a list of my favourite underrated tracks, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. I mean, how do you quantify underrated? Finally, I settled on the answer — and honestly, it was just an excuse to use Excel (❤). I just use YouTube views and make a simple ratio.
Underrated Ratio = (YT views of most popular song) / (YT views of track I thought was underrated)
So, for example, if a band’s most popular song on YT garnered 10 million views, and the track I thought was underrated got 1 million, the Ratio is 10. That’s not a lot (as you’ll see below): I try to keep the par at 100, but have broken it in some exceptional cases. I also disregarded whether either video I was picking was unofficial or official — I just took the highest-viewed one in both cases. This was a great way to normalize and compare bands across view-sizes. That being said, I also took a personal rule that no ‘underrated track’ should have more than 5 million views, no matter how high the ratio — at that scale, it’s hardly an unknown gem.
I also picked really big bands here — no small cult indie stuff here. There are some surprises, and I hope you enjoy this selection.
Iron Maiden: Como Estais Amigos
Most popular track: The Trooper
The Ratio: 106.07
After Hallowed, Mariner & Dance, this might just be my favourite Maiden song, and I think part of that is because of the sheer oddity: It’s a ballad, it’s sung by someone who’s not Bruce Dickinson, it’s from an era Maiden fans like to pretend didn’t exist, and in every songwriting respect it’s different from other Maiden tracks. I absolutely love it, I think it’s a terrific song and I’d love to see Bruce sing it live. (That being said, Blaze has a stirring cover with nylon guitar whiz Thomas Zwijsen)
Oasis: Underneath The Sky
Most popular track: Wonderwall
The Ratio: 318.06
Oasis is one band that rewards discography-divers, with enough non-video gems and B-Sides to fill a double album. It’s a shame everyone thinks of that song when they think of these guys, I can think of at 15 songs that are better. Underneath The Sky is one such: Noel’s genius songwriting + Liam’s unique pleading-meets-swagger delivery is an unmatched combination in modern pop, shown in full force here. For the record, my favourite Oasis song is Gas Panic — also criminally underrated — but that would have given me a ratio of only 102.94. What’s the fun in that? Gosh, I love Oasis.
Aerosmith: Out Go The Lights
Most popular track: Crazy
The Ratio: 6,450.00 (!)
I’m not even that much of an Aerosmith fan, but this ratio (and that riff) were too much to ignore. This is off one of their newer albums.
Pink Floyd: Arnold Layne
Most popular track: Another Brick In The Wall
The Ratio: 1,346.03
It’s tough to do this exercise for Pink Floyd — most of their tracks has over a million views (even the idiotic Seamus — essentially two minutes of a dog barking — has 920k). So I was quite surprised to see the low view count for Arnold Layne — well known among Floyd fans for being their first single, and even first success despite the quite bizzare lyrics (“A song about an underwear-stealing transvestite. Not an obvious subject for a chart topper” — BBC). An important Floyd track — historically, if not musically — clearly showed the early Syd Barrett influence and it’s arguable that if it weren’t for oddballs like this track and See Emily Play, we wouldn’t have Money and Comfortably Numb later: Indeed, a video for the latter has the top comment as “Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, The Spirit of Syd Barret”.
The Beatles: Your Mother Should Know
Most popular track: Don’t Let Me Down
The Ratio: 148.38
Firstly, we must address the odd top-viewed song, far from their best or even cited as their most popular. Perhaps it was the novelty of the video being from the famous final ‘rooftop’ performance that propelled it to the level of 275M views, still a criminally low number, when you consider that a mediocre track of the same name by The Chainsmokers has 1.5 billion. Anyway.
Your Mother Should Know is quintessential Beatles, bang in the middle of their most creative era, off the album that had the impossible task of following up the seminal Sgt. Peppers. It’s an odd but fun track, and definitely ranks as underrated in my book.
Pearl Jam: Nothing As It Seems
Most popular track: Black
The Ratio: 107.45
Pearl Jam was an ideal candidate for this series — given the enduring popularity of anthems from their first album Ten, housing most of the crowd favourites (enough for tr00 PJ fans to draw up lists that exclude that LP). I was right: Lovely ratios were provided by Indifference (34), Drifting (3382!!), Rearviewmirror (42), All Or None (597) — but my pick is one of PJ’s darkest songs, something that brings out the outstanding vocal delivery of Eddie Vedder.
Porcupine Tree: The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase 2)
Most popular track: Trains
The Ratio: 106.43
This is one of my favourites and I wanted to end this post with this. This was the track that really ‘did’ it for me with respect to P. Tree — as mentioned, I listen to bands chronologically so long before Anesthetize and Arriving, I got to this, during the band’s still-formative years. Till then, the band seemed like it had some nice ideas. The final track on their third album did it for me. It’s so underrated that it didn’t even warrant a mention on this epic post of someone’s favourite 75 PT songs, with Arriving getting a 29-page Google Doc (not kidding). Anyway, I’ve found it for you so please take a nice long drag, turn down the lights and enjoy.
Another massively underrated PT song from that era is Cloud Zero, a masterpiece of solo guitar playing by Wilson.
Do consider diving deep into a band that you’ve heard just a few great tracks of — you never know what lurks underneath. I often shudder thinking if I’d given up on Oasis after listening to just Wonderwall :-)