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A Scott Pukos Pop-Ed: A Look at Jack White's Best Songs

I owe most of my illustrious air guitaring career to Jack White.

It doesn’t really matter where I am — car, apartment, job interview — when I hear the sound of White’s music, I’m jamming out on pretend instruments. There’s just no stopping it. The air will be shredded.

This is why I was particularly pumped to hear White’s recent comments on his Third Man Records website, where he hints that new material — specifically a follow-up to his solo debut, 2012’s Blunderbuss, and some new stuff from The Dead Weather — is in the works.

White is a throwback in every way — his attitude, his look, and especially his sound are all seemingly from another generation. But with each project or release, he’s brought a new element to the table. While I prefer his earlier, guitar-heavy days, his newer material — in bands that don’t have Meg White behind the drum kit — has been solid too.

In anticipation of new recordings from the former White Stripe, I started thinking about my favorite Jack White songs. Then I thought it would be a good idea to countdown my top ten. Turns out this is very hard to do — damn your awesome musical abilities, Jack White!

Because I had so much trouble narrowing down this list, here’s a long list of great Jack White tunes to check out (and I’m still missing a bunch!):

• 'You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)' (from De Stijl by the White Stripes)
• 'Carolina Drama' (from Counselors of the Lonely by The Raconteurs)
• 'I Cut Like A Buffalo' (from Horehound by The Dead Weather)
• 'Offend in Every Way' (from White Blood Cells by The White Stripes)
• 'Little Acorns' (from Elephant by The White Stripes)
• 'Girl You Have No Faith in Medicine' (from Elephant by The White Stripes)
• 'Steady As She Goes' (from Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs)
• 'Sixteen Saltines' (from Blunderbuss by Jack White)
• 'Freedom at Station 21' (from Blunderbuss by Jack White)
• 'Let’s Build a Home' (from De Stijl by the White Stripes)
• 'Counselor of the Lonely' (from Counselors of the Lonely by The Raconteurs)
• 'Hotel Yorba' (from White Blood Cells by The White Stripes)
• 'Death Letter' (White Stripes covering Son House)
• 'I Fought Piranhas' (from The White Stripes by The White Stripes)
• 'The Denial Twist' (from Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes)
• 'Red Rain' (from Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes)
• 'Hello Operator' (from De Stijl by the White Stripes)
• 'Apple Blossom' (from De Stijl by the White Stripes)
• 'I’m Slowly Turning Into You' (from Icky Thump by The White Stripes)

Now is the time to click on your own favorite Jack White song, and scroll through my preferred picks. 

10. You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told) (from Icky Thump by The White Stripes)
Easily one of the best offerings off The White Stripes final album, this one heavily features the killer line that the song is named after, and it’s all wrapped in a perfect pop-rock package. Bonus points for the classic White guitar freak-out at the end.

9. Fell in Love With A Girl (from White Blood Cells by The White Stripes) 
In a time where I listened to Limp Bizkit, Korn and Nelly, I heard my first White Stripes song. It was this perfect garage rock gem, and I’m glad to say it’s had more staying power than the others. Though, if Limp Bizkit teams with Cookie Monster for a 'Nookie' parody called 'I Did it All For the Cookie,' I’d be willing to forgive Fred Durst and company from holding me back from the rest of White Blood Cells.

8. Top Yourself (from Counselors of the Lonely by The Raconteurs) 
After the 2007 retirement of the Stripes (can’t believe it’s been that long), White tried to top himself. While The Raconteurs couldn’t quite live up to the standard of Jack and Meg, they still produced two stellar albums. This track is one of the best of the bunch.

7. Blue Blood Blues (from Sea of Cowards by The Dead Weather) 
This would make the list solely for the line “shake your hips like battleships,” but it also happens to be a thunderous rock tune. This is the sound of White, Alison Mosshart and the rest of The Dead Weather, having a ball (but no biscuit).

6. Black Math (from Elephant by The White Stripes) 
Now, you’re about to see why Elephant is one of my all-time favorite albums. The Stripes’ catalogue is filled with other classics too. White Blood Cells is the most notable, while De Stijl is a popular sleeper pick. Still, Elephant stands above the rest. 'Black Math; could be a career highlight for most bands, here’s it can’t even crack the top three off the White Stripes’ 2003 release.

5. The Hardest Button to Button (from Elephant by The White Stripes) 
I always felt like this one is a little underrated. Either way, it has a killer music video courtesy of Michel Gondry.

4. Blue Orchid (from Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes) 
Considerably different from the rest of Get Behind Me Satan, this was the first post-Elephant song released by Jack and Meg. It didn’t disappoint and meets the standards of even the best White Stripes songs.

Just as Meg is Jack’s “little sister.” 'Blue Orchid' — to me — is the little sister to 'Seven Nation Army.'

3. Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (from White Blood Cells by The White Stripes) 
Jack has always used some of his best pure rockers as album openers. 'Dead Leaves' perfectly sets the tone for White Blood Cells, and while it was perhaps overshadowed by 'Fell in Love With a Girl' and 'We Are Going To Be Friends' in popularity, it surpasses those great tracks in quality.

2. Seven Nation Army (from Elephant by The White Stripes) 
The quintessential Jack White tune. This one speaks for itself. Try to listen to it and not get pumped up — there’s a reason it’s played at nearly every sporting event.

1. Ball and Biscuit (from Elephant by The White Stripes) 
There are so many great songs, from so many genres, that I thought I would never have a favorite tune — maybe a favorite track of the moment, or a preferred song by a band I love, but never an all-time favorite. Then I listened to 'Ball and Biscuit.'

During the seven minutes of Jack White just dominating the guitar, my mind changed. This was, and is, my favorite.

This is White at his best on guitar. It also allows him to get creative while ripping through this one live. This is the best for my aforementioned air guitaring, it’s the perfect roll down the windows, blast the system in the car tune, as well. If you ever hear me say I’m sick of this song, then it’s very likely that I was victimized by some weird Twilight Zone bodysnatching mishap.

Also: Not that it needs it, but 'Ball and Biscuit' gets style points for kicking off David Fincher’s brilliant The Social Network with style.
A Scott Pukos Pop-Ed: A Look at Jack White's Best Songs Reviewed by Scott Pukos on 1/10/2014 Rating: 5

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