The Essential Heart: Ranking Their Top 20 Songs

Ann Wilson is one of the greatest vocalists (male or female) in the history of rock music, and she and sister Nancy tore down barriers and shattered expectations with their group Heart.

Since their 1976 debut Dreamboat Annie and it’s classic Top Ten single “Magic Man,” they defied the rules about women in rock, and became an inspiration for a generation of female musicians.

Today is Ann’s 64th birthday, so let’s pay tribute by counting down Heart’s 20 greatest songs (including a couple of Ann’s solo releases).

Note – Compiling this list, I was shocked by how few songs from Heart’s “Bustier Era” (1985 – 1990) I decided to include. There are only three (and only one in the Top Ten). And their first #1 song “These Dreams?” It didn’t even come close.

20. CITY’S BURNING

YEAR: 1982
ALBUM: Private Audition
CHART PEAK: N/A

The early 80’s were rough for the group, as their 82 and 83 releases Private Audition and Passionworks both flopped on the chart, and they left Epic records under less-than-ideal circumstances. Inevitably, those are two of my favorite Heart albums, even though they were torn apart by critics. Private Audition starts off with the ferocious “City’s Burning,” which features Ann at full throttle.

19. ALLIES

YEAR: 1983
ALBUM: Passionworks
CHART PEAK: #83

The second single from Passionworks, it was their lowest-charting single to hit the Hot 100. Written by Journey’s Jonathan Cain (who also wrote THE GREATEST LOST HIT OF THE 80’S), it was a power ballad that would foreshadow the next Heart era.

18. THE BEST MAN IN THE WORLD

YEAR: 1986
ALBUM: The Golden Child
CHART PEAK: #61

After the enormous success of Heart’s 1985 album, the band took a break before recording the follow-up, and Ann recorded this one-off for the soundtrack of the Eddie Murphy film The Golden Child. Although it had a harder edge than the hits from the comeback album, it’s still curious that it flopped on the chart.

17. WTF

YEAR: 2010
ALBUM: Red Velvet Car
CHART PEAK: N/A

2010’s Red Velvet Car became the group’s first top ten release in twenty years (since Brigade), and the album (and especially the single “WTF”) showed they could rock just as hard as ever.

16. TELL IT LIKE IT IS

YEAR: 1980
ALBUM: Greatest Hits/Live
CHART PEAK: #8

The band released their Greatest Hits collection in 1980, and it included a cover of the Aaron Neville classic “Tell It Like It Is,” which became their first top ten song since “Magic Man.”

15. NEVER

YEAR: 1985
ALBUM: Heart
CHART PEAK: #4

“What About Love” brought them back to the top ten, and it was “Never” that cemented one of the great comebacks in rock music.

14. DREAMBOAT ANNIE

YEAR: 1976
ALBUM: Dreamboat Annie
CHART PEAK: #42

There are three versions of this song on Heart’s debut album, and they’re all delicate and gorgeous.

13. STRAIGHT ON

YEAR: 1979
ALBUM: Dog & Butterfly
CHART PEAK: #15

The first single from Dog & Butterfly, it became their third Top 20 single. It’s a straightforward rock nugget, with Ann at her most feisty.

12. EVEN IT UP

YEAR: 1980
ALBUM: Bebe La Strange
CHART PEAK: #33

1980’s Bebe La Strange was a mixed bag, with the group experimenting with new sounds, but it was the classic rock cockiness of “Even It Up” that was the highlight. Ann’s not taking your shit anymore, ya bastard.

11. ALONE

YEAR: 1987
ALBUM: Bad Animals
CHART PEAK: #1

Spending three weeks at #1, it was the biggest hit of their career, and has been covered by the likes of Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, and the Glee cast.

10. HOW CAN I REFUSE

YEAR: 1983
ALBUM: Passionworks
CHART PEAK: #44

The first single from Passionworks, it’s their most underrated single, and a true buried treasure.

9. THIS MAN IS MINE

YEAR: 1982
ALBUM: Private Audition
CHART PEAK: #33

The first single (and only charting song) from Private Audition, Ann vamps it up to high heaven in this homage to The Supremes. It was a different sound for the group (especially compared to the album’s lead track “City’s Burning”), and they pulled it off admirably. It would be their final Top 40 hit until the makeover.

8. WHAT ABOUT LOVE

YEAR: 1985
ALBUM: Heart
CHART PEAK: #10

The song that launched one of the most remarkable comebacks in rock music history, “What About Love” remains Heart’s greatest song from the Bustier Era. And I do try mightily not to think about Swiffer when I hear it.

7. DOG & BUTTERFLY

YEAR: 1979
ALBUM: Dog & Butterfly
CHART PEAK: #34

The second single and title track from their fourth album, it’s gorgeous and wistful.

6. ALMOST PARADISE

YEAR: 1984
ALBUM: Footloose
CHART PEAK: #7

Before Heart recorded its comeback album, Ann recorded this duet with Loverboy’s Mike Reno for the Footloose soundtrack. It soared into the top ten, and became one of the decade’s classic power ballads.

5. MISTRAL WIND

YEAR: 1979
ALBUM: Dog & Butterfly
CHART PEAK: N/A

The closing track on Dog & Butterfly, it’s a seven-minute slow-building epic that showcases Ann’s voice.

4. BARRACUDA

YEAR: 1977
ALBUM: Little Queen
CHART PEAK: #11

The first single from their second album is a certified rock classic and an anthem for a certain Alaskan airhead.

3. MAGIC MAN

YEAR: 1976
ALBUM: Dreamboat Annie
CHART PEAK: #9

Mini-Moog! Speaking of rock classics, Heart’s first Top Ten song is still a giddy delight almost 40 years later.

2. CRAZY ON YOU

YEAR: 1976
ALBUM: Dreamboat Annie
CHART PEAK: #35

Heart’s first single in the U.S. barely scratched the Top 40, but remains a rock station staple to this day, and represents everything that makes Heart spectacular. But there’s one song that does it even better …

1. LOVE ALIVE

YEAR: 1977
ALBUM: Little Queen
CHART PEAK: N/A

“Love Alive” was the second track on Little Queen, and for me is the ultimate “Heart” song, with its folksy ballad beginning giving way to an explosive rock finish, and Ann’s voice, as always, is the brilliant guide through the hills and valleys.

Barely missing the Top 20 Cut: “Heartless,” “Back To Avalon,” “Stranded,” and yes … “All I Wanna Do is Make Love To You,” even with its giggle-inducing baby-daddy twist.

Okay, your turn! What would be in your Essential Heart Collection?

80's Pop Culture Expert, Shooting At The Walls Of Heartache.
@therealsnicks