The Counting Crows are an American, Grammy and Academy Award-nominated rock band that was formed in 1991. So in this article, I will be ranking the best Counting Crows songs, starting with the song that I think is the “worst” of this great collection of songs, all the way up to my #1 favorite track.
The Best Counting Crows Songs You Will Love
Let’s begin by throwing it all the way back to 2003 with this older jam.
15) She Don’t Want Nobody Near (2003)
This song portrays an emotion I personally know very well—not wanting to be around people, but also not wanting to be alone. And, on top of that, not knowing how to deal with those two conflicting emotions. The melodic, grungy-but-soft guitar that underlies the lyrics does well to compliment that point.
The rhythm of this song and the lyrics themselves are undeniably catchy. I tap my foot the entire way through. I discovered this song a little later in my love for the band, but it quickly became one I couldn’t get out of my head. It’s quirky and fun and I just enjoy it immensely.
14) Anna Begins (1993)
This is a song about reluctant relationships. You don’t think that what you’re in is truly “a relationship,” but rather something much less serious, yet here we are. In the truest sense of the word, it’s a relationship. And you realize that it’s not actually being in a relationship that you’re scared of, but losing that person.
This song has a lot of layers. It’s not what it first looks like on top, and that’s what I like about it. It’s truly a story the entire way through. I really love the twangy, attention-catching guitar in the song, as well as the simple-but-effective drumbeat that pulls the song together. This is honestly exactly the kind of song I would expect to come from lead singer Adam Duritz.
13) Daylight Fading (1996)
Adam Duritz wrote this song about a girl that broke up with him once the band got big and started going on tours, because she thought he was cheating on her. This song, in a way, was his method of helping himself get over that.
Duritz makes his frustrations clear; fame isn’t what he wanted, and he’s getting older by the day and has no one to settle down with. I think this is a realistic fear that many of us have. We are worried we’ll never find our “special someone”, and time feels like it’s running out as we get older. This is one of the Counting Crows’ sadder songs, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by the surprisingly upbeat and very on-brand sound of the song, between the guitars and, of course, Duritz’s voice. Though maybe not as renowned as some of the band’s other songs, I feel it relates to us the most, and more people need to hear that.
12) I Wish I Was a Girl (1999)
This song is actually about the same girl that Adam Duritz mentions in Daylight Fading. Except in this song, he wishes he was a girl and that the two of them were good friends so that he would be able to assure her of his faithfulness. Though the title of the track seems humorous, it has a heartfelt meaning behind it. It is clear, in these last two songs on this list, that this girl had a big effect on Duritz.
I appreciate the buildup in the first few seconds of the song, starting out soft and taking off with the electric guitars. The emotion is clear in Duritz’s voice; he really wants this girl to trust his faithfulness. This song is honestly hard-hitting for me, and tugs at the heartstrings. The desperation, almost begging this girl to believe him.
This is another song that is very real for a lot of people, who may have been in similar situations (minus, you know, the world famous band part). I don’t think this song gets talked about enough for what it is.
11) You Can’t Count on Me (2008)
Duritz himself said this is a song that, “pulls you in and then punches you in the face”. It’s a painfully honest look at leaving someone, the reality of that loss, and the pain it caused that other person. It’s blunt, it’s empathetic, it’s real.
The gentle, rhythmic guitar picking really pushes the emotion behind the song, building up into the chords that accentuate the chorus. The drums, as always, do a beautiful job of adding that extra punch to the instrumentals.
I appreciate songs like this where the singer is incredibly real about his own shortcomings. It makes him that much more relatable to his audience. A song like this one is uncommon in modern rock, and I think it just helps set Counting Crows apart a little more from the others.
10) Big Yellow Taxi (2002)
This song highlights some of the key issues with human beings when it comes to us (typically) disregarding the world around us. We care so much about material things and making life easier for ourselves, and we don’t care about what that does to the Earth we live on.
I adore Vanessa Carlton’s voice blending with Duritz’s vocals here. Their harmonization adds a further depth to the song that truly pushes the message. The instrumentals are unrelenting, and hold you in from the very beginning. It is a song that pleases the ear, but does still hold a serious tone about it. It says something that needs to be said, and I admire the band that much more for advocating for the Earth’s health.
9) Omaha (1993)
This song (Omaha) came off of the album, August and Everything After, which was a landmark for launching the band’s career, and this track was one of the big hits from it. It’s a song about how cyclical life is. We don’t get to choose where we’re born, or when, or the family we’re born into. This song goes deep below the surface and really makes you think. Honestly, it makes me a little existential.
Something about this track is unexplainably elegant. The lyrics feel like Duritz is just speaking what’s on his mind, rather than writing a song. The reality of life can be sad, and even a little disappointing at times, and this song emphasizes that.
It’s another of the band’s masterpieces that’s just very real, and raw, with nothing holding them back from saying what they want to say. It’s another song I admire from them, because it shows how fearless they are to talk about what they want, even if it isn’t pretty.
8) A Murder of One (1993)
This song is about how, when we’re kids, we think we have so many possibilities for what happens when we grow up and we’re super excited about it… but then we grow up and it’s not at all what we were expecting. Like Omaha, and Daylight Fading, and, honestly, many of the band’s other songs, this one relates to the audience. This is something we have all felt.
I feel like I relate especially hard to this song. When I was younger, I wanted to be an actress, as many of us did. I wanted to be in movies, and see my name in lights and have screaming fans. But then I grew up and realized just how unreasonable that was (I think I saw somewhere once that those actors and actresses we see in movies and on TV make up maybe 1% of all of the other working actors and actresses in the world).
So I feel this song especially hard. I’m sure plenty of others do too. It’s a sad reminder that, unless you go out of your way to make your life something extraordinary, it just won’t happen on its own. You have to go out and make your life happen.
7) Hanginaround (1999)
Adam Duritz said the inspiration of this song was the years and years the band spent hanging around the same town, doing nothing but going to clubs, and not knowing if they were going to go anywhere with their music. Similarly to A Murder of One, for me, this song relates back to the idea that your life is only what you make of it.
The background yelling and rhythmic clapping that start out the song aren’t enough to prepare you for the rest of it. The electric guitar comes in hard, and I think it’s the best part of the song. The keyboard is catchy and upbeat, and just adds a little extra to the whole thing.
I won’t lie, I knew this song for years before I knew who it was by. I heard it a lot growing up, but I had never known it was by Counting Crows until later into my teenage years. But I’m glad I now know and can fully appreciate this song for its genius.
6) Rain King (1993)
Duritz said this song is everything he feels about writing. It’s the creativity, the emotion, the fears and doubts and everything you put into crafting something. It was inspired by the book Henderson and the Rain King, by Saul Bellow.
While still revolving around real themes, I think this song is one of the band’s more lighthearted tracks. Something about it is just very fun to me, and it’s a nice break from all of the heavier stuff that’s been on this list so far. It’s catchy, as many of the band’s other songs are, and has nice guitar chords that, in a way, are different than others they have used before. I do truly like the message behind this song, and am happy to include it on this list.
5) Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby (1999)
This song relates startlingly back to my sentiments for A Murder of One. It’s a song that deals in hope and memories. The character of Mrs. Potter is a movie actress that Adam Duritz falls in love with. Admittedly, this was the kind of admiration I wanted when I was younger.
Something about this track is just so endearing to me. I’m not sure if it’s the piano, or if it’s just the message of the song itself. It feels very happy-go-lucky. It’s one of those songs that can easily raise my mood no matter when I hear it. This is a song for dreamers, as I was. I think it will always hold a special place in my mind, always leading me to wonder what could have been if I had actually pursued acting.
4) Mr. Jones (1993)
This is one of the band’s most well-known songs, which is ironic, considering it is a testament to fame. It’s about wanting to be famous. Duritz actually grew to hate this song after the band got famous and he realized fame wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
This was actually another song I heard when I was a kid and didn’t know it was from Counting Crows until years later. Everyone recognizes that iconic intro, that “sha-la-la” that repeats throughout the song. This is another of the band’s more lighthearted tracks, with a twangy guitar and lyrics that only Duritz’s voice would fit.
Thankfully, Duritz and company haven’t gotten tired of playing the song after all of these years. I (and many other fans) still love it to this day and think it will always be an important part of the band’s history.
3) Round Here (1993)
This song is about a guy (Duritz himself, as he claims) that has gotten so used to leaving people behind, but finds that as he is fading from their lives, he feels as though he is disappearing more and more from his own. I think this is something a lot of us may feel, not quite feeling like ourselves.
The song feels very melancholy. From the guitar picking, to the soft drumbeats, something about this song is very gentle, not as loud or electric as the band’s other songs. That’s pretty fitting, considering the message. The lyrics feel very thought out, and it is clear that Duritz has felt what he is singing about. It’s a slow song for the band, but one that I feel was necessary for their discography.
This is another one, like You Can’t Count on Me, that seems to highlight Duritz’s shortcomings and makes him that much more of a real person.
2) Accidentally in Love (2004)
When I was a kid, Shrek was one of my favorite movies. Don’t ask me why; I couldn’t tell you. But because of that, I have a special emotional connection to this song that I don’t have to any other Counting Crows songs. I was really very close to putting this at the top of this list, but I think technically, the song I chose for number one just barely beats it out by a hair.
This song makes me happy. It brings back fond memories. I can sing every lyric without missing a beat, and have a lot of friends who feel similarly about it because of Shrek. I think it’s objectively impossible to not like this song. It’s upbeat, it makes you want to dance, and it’s one you can listen to over and over again and never get bored. The guitar is amazing, the drums are perfect. I could have probably written this entire list just about this song, but instead, I gave it its rightful place as second.
1) A Long December (1996)
This track is a melancholic, bittersweet, cautiously optimistic masterpiece. It’s about looking back on your life to appreciate all the things that have changed as you have grown, any regrets that you might have, while still optimistically looking toward the future that you life will continue to get better.
When I first heard this song in high school, it pretty much exactly hit the nail on the head of what I was feeling. I had all these friends that were traveling all the time, whose families were rich, who were getting to do everything I wanted to do but couldn’t. I was constantly looking toward the future, in hopes of getting a good job that would get me the money to do all the things all these other kids were already doing. I was sad about not being able to do these things as a teenager, but optimistic I would be able to do them in years to come.
The piano and accordion set this song apart from much of the other discography of this band. The track is somber, and melodic, and thoughtful. I truly can’t say enough good things about it. As much as I love Accidentally in Love, this song will always edge that one out just a little bit because of the message behind it.
Counting Crows has released their fair share of amazing songs over the course of their career. I think they will always be a familiar name in the genre of alternative rock, even if the only reason a lot of people my age know about them is because of an animated ogre. With that being said, this was my list of the best Counting Crows songs. I am excited for the years to come to see what else this band will continue to bring to the table.
This article was written by Angela and edited by Michael.
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