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The Sounds of Silence

Last week, a new Taylor Swift track containing eight seconds of white noise (her John Cage homage, perhaps?) was accidentally released on iTunes — and hit No. 1 in Canada; it inspired us to rate other mute masterpieces

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1969: John Denver, ”The Ballad of Richard Nixon”
After recording this protest track, Denver cleansed his palate by writing a verse about fresh air and rainbows.

1969: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, ”Two Minutes Silence”
A contemplative piece that actually was inspired by Cage’s 4’33”; many consider it to be Yoko’s best vocal work.

1971: Sly & the Family Stone, ”There’s a Riot Goin’ On”
Though this groove is only a few seconds long, it’s been sampled in nine different rap songs since its release.

1978: Crass, ”The Sound of Free Speech”
Depending on your feelings about the furious, anarchist U.K. punk band, these two minutes are either an outrage or an aural blessing.

1986: Afrika Bambaataa, ”Beware (The Funk Is Everywhere)”
The godfather of hip-hop gave his TR-808 a break when he created this funkless yet somehow danceable anthem.

1999: Wilco, ”23 Seconds of Silence”
A brief, late-in-the-album breather; Pitchfork declared this moody composition the song of the summer.

1999: Bloodhound Gang, ”The Ten Coolest Things About New Jersey”
Hip-hop hoodlums (and Pennsylvania natives) dis the Garden State and start a blood feud with Bon Jovi.

2005: Télépopmusik, ”15 Minutes”
The French dance-pop maestros’ deceptively titled opus kicks off with 45 seconds of druggy mumbling, synthesizer beeps, and animal noises before dead air begins — we want our money back.

2014: Taylor Swift, ”Track 3”
In a rare miss for T-Swizzle, these charm-free moments of pop static fail to resonate emotionally, and the melody and lyrics are equally unmemorable. It’s not clear who the chorus is about, but Harry Styles’ rep has refused to comment.