13 Beats: Songs Over 8 Minutes

13 Beats: Songs Over 8 Minutes

1. Pyramids by Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean muses both about the past and the present in this two-part, ten-minute R&B epic. Dream-like imagery depicting the legendary betrayal of Cleopatra opens the song. With the recognition of a beat shift, the song’s focus cuts to another hopeless relationship between the protagonist and his strip club employee turned-lover, whom he refers to as Cleopatra. She works at The Pyramid nightclub and lives in one of the backrooms. At the song’s conclusion, the lead character has a startling realization: Cleopatra’s “Love ain’t free no more.” Though Frank Ocean sings of two contrasting realities, he ties them together with parallel motifs, keeping the listener engaged for the whole song. 

RIYL: Mac Miller, Childish Gambino, Kevin Abstract, The Internet


2. Giorgio by Moroder by Daft Punk

This beat, playing just over nine minutes long, begins with a monologue from the internationally renowned Italian producer and pioneer of dance music, Giorgio Moroder. Moroder speaks about his childhood dream to become a musician, his experience traveling to discotheques and curating sounds of the future. He reminisces on his fear as a child that “it was almost impossible because—it was—the dream was so big,” a struggle that many aspiring artists must overcome in order to follow their passions professionally. Daft Punk’s beat synchronizes perfectly with Moroder’s monologue, which adds layers to their creative process as a duo, as well as the origins, development and present state of dance music.

RIYL: Giorgia Moroder, Air, Cassius, Solidisco


3. Green Eyes by Erykah Badu

The closing track of Erykah Badu’s sophomore album, “Mama’s Gun,”plays for just over ten minutes, and is titled “Green Eyes,” taking the listener on a three-part emotional journey of processing the loss of a romantic interest. The first of the three steps involves overcoming the “green-eyed monster” of envy and denial. The second involves understanding that the relationship is lost and the final stage, for Badu, represents making an effort to reignite a lost love. The song begins as a sorrowful melody that transitions into a blues-derived beat, reminiscent of one of her inspirations, Billie Holiday, before closing with a more uplifting verse. 

RIYL: Outkast, Lauryn Hill, The Roots, Mary J. Blige


4. Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd

With one of the most recognizable guitar solos of all time, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” is included in the band’s debut album and clocks in at just over nine minutes. The song’s lyrics describe a man who leaves a woman because he cannot bring himself to marry her. He says that although there are a lot of things he wants to accomplish before committing to a relationship, he does not want to hurt her. The band’s songwriter, Allen Collins, writes: “For I must be traveling on now ‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see,” to express this feeling. Ironically enough, Collins eventually married the woman he wrote this song about.

RIYL: Allman Brothers Band, The Outlaws, The Grateful Dead, Widespread Panic


5. Siberian Breaks by MGMT

After the duo MGMT gained extreme success following their college years, “Siberian Breaks” is the first reflection on their accomplishments as a band, totaling twelve minutes long. “Siberian Breaks” is a subliminal examination of the musician’s inner monologue, filled with countless abstract reflections on fame and the life of a touring musician. They consider how stardom, touring and other experiences have personally affected them. “Wide open arms can feel so cold”  and “I’d rather die before I get sold” are two lines that express the unexpected regrets of excelling in the music business as well as emotions of loneliness following sudden recognition.

RIYL: Empire of the Sun, Passion Pit, Foster the People, Phoenix


6. Alone/EA6 by 6LACK

“Alone/EA6” is a two-part, nine-minute closing track to 6LACK’s debut album, entitled “FREE 6LACK.” In the spoken introduction, the Atlanta native rapper provides insight into his previous struggles with record labels not allowing him to produce his desired songs. His introspective flow morphs into self-reflection: “I want people to know what I stand for,” and his desire to build an authentic relationship with his fanbase. The second half of the song, EA6, features periods of 6LACK reflecting on life in Atlanta and how it influenced his career. “I found the answer ridin’ down Candler/ I’m late for court ’cause traffic on Moreland,” references two east Atlanta streets. Overall, the song encompasses a feeling of maturation and expresses the artist’s drive and uncompromising morality, as the powerful verses blend into a hypnotic beat.

RIYL: PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bryson Tiller, Isaiah Rashad, JID


7. American Pie by Don McLean

McLean’s “American Pie” is an eight-minute song with timeless cultural impact. The entire song is an ode to his late musical hero, Buddy Holly, and a critique of how rock and roll has evolved in the years following his passing. McLean appears to be denouncing the lack of “danceable” rock & roll music and, in part, blaming this shortage on Buddy Holly’s passing. The moon landings, Bob Dylan’s ascent and collapse, the domination of The Beatles and the passing of Janis Joplin are just a few of the significant 1960s events McLean explores in his clever references and cryptic pop culture-filled lyrics.

RIYL: Jim Croce, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, Bread


8. Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands by Bob Dylan

The song, which is 11 minutes and 22 seconds long and spans side four of Dylan’s 1966 double album Blonde on Blonde, was first made publicly available as the album’s final track. His wife at the time, Sara Lownds, is exalted in the ballad, “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” which honors her beauty with majesty and passion. Dylan’s descriptions are undeniably sentimental: “​​With your silhouette when the sunlight dims/ Into your eyes where the moonlight swims.” The artist’s metaphorical songwriting sends the listener into a realm of poetry and possibility.

RIYL: Paul Simon, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Van Morrison


9. 4 Your Eyes Only by J. Cole

The message on the album’s nine-minute title track, “4 Your Eyez Only,” is addressed to J. Cole’s newborn son as well as Nina, the daughter of a late childhood friend named James McMillian Jr. James’s life is tragically cut short, as Cole explains on the song “Change,” and through creating this album, Cole realizes his wish to tell his daughter about his friend’s legacy. Thus, the record is actually created for James’ daughter, or as he puts it, “for your eyes only,” rather than to be genuinely absorbed by his followers and critics.

RIYL: Kid Cudi, Pusha T, Wale, Freddie Gibbs


10. WILSHIRE by Tyler, the Creator

Tyler, The Creator’s knack for organic storytelling shines through on the eight-and-a-half minute track “Wilshire.” Recorded in one take, the stream-of-consciousness freestyle rapping allows the listener to be transported to a world of raw emotion as Tyler tells the story of a failed relationship from the beginning to its eventual demise. Expanding on the theme of traveling seen in “Call Me if You Get Lost,” the story follows the couple throughout the world as they travel, fight and decide to part for the sake of their mental health. The vulnerable lyricism throughout the track serves as a reflection on love and travel, providing an introspective meditation on emotion. The mixing of the track allows listeners to hear background sounds such as drum kicks— a complement to the urgency of needing to release built-up emotions.

RIYL: Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino


11. Third Eye Sh*t by Joey Bada$$

“Third Eye Sh*t” is the concluding song of the Joey Bada$$ debut album 1999,” released in 2012. In collaboration with the former members of Brooklyn-based rap collective, Pro Era Capital Steez, T’nah Apex, and Dyemond Lewis, the twelve-minute song takes its main inspiration and samples from the song “Suspect” by Nas off his sophomore album “It Was Written.” The verses are raw, spiritual and free-flowing: the song showcases the potential of the collective. On the 10th and final verse of the song, Joey Bada$$ raps “See God made three Bigs, two Pacs, but he only made one error, The Era.” Here, the rapper pays homage to his inspirations The Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher, Big L, 2Pac and the collective featured on the song, The Era. 

RIYL: Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, Slum Village


12. You Wanted A Hit by LCD Soundsystem

“You Wanted A Hit” offers nine minutes of the electronic rock band’s satirical views on music production and the demanding nature of record labels. The bandmates are known for their fearless experimentation as they stray from commercialized songs, and the title of the song nods to their refusal to make music purely for monetary gain but rather for artistic value. They address the audience, saying “And so you wanted a hit/ Well this is how we do hits.” LCD Soundsystem is claiming that they make hits; however, industry officials who are more in search of money than independently artistic music disagree. So, as fans and officials ask for “hits,” they respond by defending their style of influential art.

RIYL: The Avalanches, Caribou, Animal Collective


13. Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” is an 8-and-a-half-minute song written by Pete Townshend and made available by The Who in June 1971. It’s surprising that the story mentions technology that wouldn’t be created until much later. The grid, for instance, evokes the creation of the internet, and the experiences people have while wearing ‘experience suits’ essentially depict a type of virtual reality. The lyrics touch on topics like evolution, change and the inescapable repetition of political cycles.

RIYL: Cream, The Kinks, Steve Miller Band, The Yardbirds