2:42 … the perfect song length?

I’ve been really intrigued by this piece at The Morning News that argues – maybe somewhat facetiously – that 2:42 is the perfect length for a song (via).

Clearly, this is an arbitrary matter. However, I’ve long been a proponent of the 3-minute song. Get me in and get me out. My daily commute is no more than 15 minutes one way; let’s maximize that time, shall we?

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a longer song (check Ear Farm’s 8+ feature if you do). But I’m not sure I understand this thinking that favoring shorter songs somehow makes the music (and the listener) less pure or less authentic, that a song under 3 minutes isn’t as genuine as one that is 6 minutes. (Witness the first comment: “The decay continues.”) Look at Buddy Holly, a rock pioneer. I don’t own a song by him that’s longer than 2:36. (Could be that had something to do with the 45 format, too.) Also consider Guided By Voices, a band whose songs traditionally hover at the 2-minute mark.

Like anything in music, it’s purely subjective. But, as it’s often said in my line of work at newspapers: Everyone needs an editor.

Out of curiosity, I sorted my iTunes library by time. I was surprised at how many songs (41, to be exact) I had that clocked in at 2:42. (I didn’t count any vinyl or live radio rips, excluding my own audio editing as a factor.) Nothing really stands out, other than there being two Jimmy Eat World demos from the band’s Futures album and two songs apiece by Matthew Dear and Pete Yorn.

Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein also weighs in on the issue at Monitor Mix.

The Morning News article author, Joshua Allen, created a Muxtape of 2:42 songs.

My list of 2:42 songs from my iTunes library after the jump with a few mp3s:

Perfect Disguise, Modest Mouse.
Stand Before, Awol One.
Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948, Source Victoria (mp3).
My Finger, Elbow (mp3).
Sectorize, DJ Radar presents Four Hand Stroke.
B. Sc., Buck 65.
Streets of Fire, The New Pornographers.
AquaCity Boy, k-os.
6, Joshua English.
Oceans, Pearl Jam.
Take One For The Team, Rival Schools/Onelinedrawing.
K, The Clientele.
Will Gravity Win Tonight?, Matthew Dear.
The Tigers Have Spoken, Neko Case.
Goner w/ Souvenir, Richard Buckner.
Work (demo), Jimmy Eat World.
What Is It Now?, Badly Drawn Boy.
Give Me More, Matthew Dear.
St. Augustine, Band of Horses.
Act Nice And Gentle, The Black Keys.
Canyon Girl, Fruit Bats (mp3).
FF=66, Jawbox.
Reckless Driving, J Dilla (mp3).
Don’t Mean Nothing, Pete Yorn (with Dixie Chicks).
Pitchers Of Silence, Sage Francis.
American Gigolo, Weezer.
Man In Uniform, Pete Yorn.
Shunned + Falsified, Mike Doughty.
We’re Waking Up Kings, Reubens Accomplice.
The President is Dead, Okkervil River (mp3).
Lonesome Warrior, Eric Bachmann.
Pain (demo), Jimmy Eat World.
Rockstar, Sebadoh.
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come), Bruce Springsteen.
Full On (reprise), Soundgarden.
Slow West Vultures, The Mountain Goats.
Mouthful Of Air, Catherine Wheel.
Michelle, The Beatles.
Song To Woody, Bob Dylan.
Ext. Leslie Park, Benoit Pioulard.
Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, Neko Case.

3 thoughts on “2:42 … the perfect song length?”

  1. My 2:42 artists would make a great festival (given everyone was still alive):

    The Beatles
    Radiohead
    Bob Dylan
    Johnny Cash
    Nine Inch Nails
    Chuck Berry
    Willie Nelson
    Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
    The Ramones
    Sublime
    Dr. Dre
    My Morning Jacket
    Snow Patrol
    Mos Def
    Damien Rice
    Caribou
    Gogol Bordello
    Jackie Mittoo
    Band Of Horses
    Yonder Mountain String Band
    Lily Allen
    MF Doom
    Explosions in the Sky
    The Unicorns
    Midlake
    Mitch Hedberg (MC)

  2. If you’re a band and you read this blog, please remember that the under 3 minute song is by far the best way to go when composing songs for your next album. It would also help if your under 3 minutes song kicked ass too, but look at it this way, under 3 minutes and it kicks ass=greatness. Under 3 minutes and the song sucks a pile of dog doo=all the quicker I can get to that under 3 minute great song.

    Think about the logic, it’s sound.

  3. Man, I loved that article! The standout from my own 2:42 tracks? The Jackson 5, “How Funky Is Your Chicken.” Jesus Christ. There goes any shred of cool I ever had.

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