Who else loves fast songs? I don’t mean fast music necessarily since there are quite a few guitar solos that are anything but slow; I’m talking about lyrics that roll off a singer’s tongue faster than the Flash after an espresso. I always marvel at the practice it must have taken to learn such lyrics by heart, and I often take it as a challenge to see how well I can memorize those musical tongue twisters.
So here are my picks for the top twelve songs sung fast, based on both the relative speed at which they exit the singer’s mouth and how well I enjoy the song. (Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” for example, may be fun to learn and one of my favorites, but it’s not really that fast. “Sam” by the Meat Puppets, on the other hand, might be the fastest song I’ve heard, but its catchiness suffers.) Let’s see how fast I can list these speed demons off.
- “Got the Time” – Joe Jackson
Fans may prefer the Anthrax cover version, which is even more sped up, but Joe Jackson’s original is fast enough for me.
- “Sold” – John Michael Montgomery
Drawing inspiration from the auctioneer’s chatter that goes “a mile a minute,” this country single is just pure fun to sing along to and isn’t too hard to keep up with.
- “I Really Don’t Hate Christmas” – Phineas and Ferb
Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb had a song in every episode, and quite a few had a breakneck pace. These were the ones I most enjoyed memorizing, like “I’m Me,” “Mom, Look,” and “The History of the Tri-State Area.” The swiftest tongue-twister, though, came from the Christmas special where the evil scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz complains about not despising Christmas. I know this song is hard to sing, and I’m impressed the voice actor kept up even with that annoying accent.
- “One Week” – Barenaked Ladies
Any number of rap songs could be faster than the ones on my list, but as a non-rap fan, this awesome, rambling song is as close as I get, thanks to the catchy tune surrounding the verbal gymnastics. By the way, I always try to incorporate a movie tie into these lists, and “One Week” has lyrics mentioning Harrison Ford in Frantic and Kurosawa’s samurai films.
- “Cloudburst” – Barry Manilow’s version
This speedy jazz favorite was also performed by Miles Davis and the Pointer Sisters, but I prefer Barry Manilow’s version, especially for how he ends the breathless tune with “I don’t believe I really sang this song!”
- “Nations of the World” – Animaniacs / “The New Periodic Table Song” – AsapSCIENCE
Remember what I said about fast songs being almost like a dare to learn them? Well, some took that idea and wrote educational songs that were made fun for kids with their zippy lyrics and familiar tunes. Animaniacs was a favorite show of mine as a kid and helped me learn the state capitals, U.S. Presidents, and nations of the world, while AsapSCIENCE is a science-focused YouTube Channel with an especially fast-paced way to learn the Periodic Table of Elements.
- “Getting Married Today” from Company – Stephen Sondheim
I cannot imagine the stress on the poor actresses who have had to perform this rapid-fire song from the musical Company live on stage over and over. I’ve barely been able to learn the lyrics myself, but it’s a true challenge that’s strangely satisfying when it all blurts out correctly. Sondheim, you rascal!
- “Goin’ Down” – The Monkees
This upbeat, mumbly rocker showing off Micky Dolenz’s talented tongue is probably the hastiest single from the Monkees, a dreamboat group for my mom back in the day.
- “Life Is a Rock” – Reunion
Just as “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was like a musical overview of the ‘50s through the ‘80s, Reunion’s “Life Is a Rock” is a blistering recap of pop music history, even incorporating other famous songs like Three Dog Night’s “Celebrate” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher.” For the record, this is my VC’s favorite fast song.
- “Get Out of Denver” – Bob Seger
One of my favorite classic rock songs, this pell-mell earworm is among Bob Seger’s very best.
- “The End of the World As We Know It” – R.E.M.
I couldn’t possibly leave this song out. R.E.M.’s oddly feel-good anthem is a go-to soundtrack for alien invasions, Mayan apocalypses, and presidential elections.
- “Hardware Store” – “Weird Al” Yankovic
You want a fast song? Well, this is it. In addition to his hilarious parodies, “Weird Al” writes some of his own songs too, including this ridiculously fast-paced paean to the local hardware store. I’m proud to say I know it by heart, except for the absurdly long list of hardware items that seems impossible to sing in one go. Supposedly this is the only song “Weird Al” refuses to sing live, and I see why.
Here are some runners-up as well. What other fast songs do you like?
“Subterranean Homesick Blues” – Bob Dylan
“Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry
“Johnny McEldoo” – The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem
“A Story Told” – The Count of Monte Cristo musical
“Turn to Stone” – ELO (one fast part toward the end)
“Ain’t Going Down” – Garth Brooks
“I’ve Been Everywhere” – Hank Snow
“Just Leave Everything to Me” – Hello, Dolly! (another movie reference)
“Thank God I’m a Country Boy” – John Denver
“The Auctioneer Song” – Leroy Van Dyke
“Once Was a Time I Thought” – The Mamas and the Papas
“Airegin” – Manhattan Transfer
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – Mary Poppins (and another)
“Sam” – Meat Puppets
“Again” – Yui
Here’s a final shout-out to the original super-fast patter song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, the hard-to-sing “Major-General’s Song.” (It’s performed by the late, great George Rose, and yes, that’s also Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt in the 1983 film adaptation.)