Top 25 Foo Fighters Songs
Released July 4, 1995, Foo Fighters self-titled debut LP launched one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of its era.
Creating rock’s next great act was not Dave Grohl’s plan. The drummer was still reeling from the death of Kurt Cobain and immediate disbandment of Nirvana, coinciding events which took place on April 4, 1994. Like anyone who has lost a friend, Grohl was confused, emotional and resentful. Unlike most people, he had to deal with these feelings in the public eye.
"It made me so fucking angry. It made me so angry that nothing was sacred anymore. No one could just stop, not even for a day or a year or the rest of our lives, and just shut the fuck up,” the musician explained to Rolling Stone. “So I decided that I was just going to be the person to shut the fuck up."
Grohl retreated from the public eye, occasionally connecting with Nirvana bassist Krist Novocelic, but for the most part staying quiet.
His initial return to music came behind the kit, playing with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Though he declined an offer to join the group full time, the experience reignited a creative fire within Grohl.
The rocker had always been writing songs, even while playing in Nirvana. As a result, Grohl had amassed a back catalog of ideas, riffs and lyrics. After recruiting friend and producer Barrett Jones to get involved, the duo holed away in a Seattle studio and began tearing through tracks.
"It was just something I decided to go in and do because it was time to finally do something," Groh declared. "I didn't make a big deal out of it. I just felt like it was what I should do because, as always, I saw it as an exercise or a release to see what I can accomplish on my own."
What he accomplished was Foo Fighters, a debut that somehow surpassed the lofty expectations placed upon it. Through 12 tracks, Grohl delivered all the angst, aggression and catharses that made his previous band grunge’s biggest act. Yet this was not "Nirvana Part 2." Now center stage, Grohl’s compositions displayed their own unique dimensions, with influences ranging from hardcore punk to early Beatles. The rocker played every instrument on the LP, making it a true labor of love.
The album was initially limited to 100 cassette tapes. Inspired by the Police drummer Stewart Copeland, who released his 1980 LP under the pseudonym Klark Kent, Grohl chose to keep his name absent from the labeling. Instead, he chose the moniker Foo Fighters.
“I mean, the sense of accomplishment just in picking up those cassettes…” Grohl recalled in a 2020 conversation with Mojo magazine. “I was so fucking excited. I was, like, 15 years old again. I’d sequenced it and picked the font for the cover and everything. I literally had them in the back of my truck and handed them to people at gas stations that I had conversations with. I was like, ‘Yeah, I got this new thing I did. Here, check it out,’ and I would give ’em a cassette.”
Buzz quickly grew. The tape begat a bidding war among record labels, with Capitol ultimately becoming Foo Fighters’ home. Grohl recruited a band, bringing guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith into the fold.
Foo Fighters would go on to sell more than a million copies, effectively welcoming Grohl into the world of rock’s greatest leading men. The band has since released an additional nine studio albums, combining to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. Notable lineup changes have included Taylor Hawkins replacing Goldsmith on drums, along with Chris Shifflet’s arrival on guitar.
As Foo Fighters turns 25 years old, we ranked the 25 greatest songs of the band's career (thus far).
Released as one of two new songs on Foo Fighters’ 2009 Greatest Hits compilation, “Wheels” has been a polarizing track among the band’s die-hard fans. Some praise the track for its catchy hook and jubilant tone. Others claim it’s missing the band’s trademark edge, straying too far into “dad rock” territory. “Wheels” also bears a stark similarity to Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” - a fact which endears some listeners and enrages others. For his part, Grohl insisted to MTV that he liked the fact his band had “songs that lots of different people either enjoy or dislike." We’ll phrase it a different way: If a track as strong as “Wheels” is 25th on your list of best songs, you’re doing something right.
24. "The One"
Actor Colin Hanks reached out to Foo Fighters directly, requesting a song for his 2002 film Orange County. The flick, which also starred Jack Black, Leslie Mann and John Lithgow, was a modest success at the box office and earned added attention when “The One” garnered significant radio airplay. The song’s lyrics focussed on love that, for one reason or another, never worked out. Meanwhile, frenzied drums and powerful guitar riffs gave the track a sense of freeing release.
23. "Skin and Bones"
In 2006, Foo Fighters decided to venture out of their comfort zone, recording a live acoustic album and DVD at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. The group expanded their lineup, adding violinist/singer Petra Haden, percussionist Drew Hester and keyboardist Rami Jaffee, the latter of whom would go on to become a permanent member. The performances delivered new, intimate arrangements to many of Foo Fighters’ classic hits, while also shining a light on several deeper gems. One such example was the album’s title track, “Skin and Bones,” a song addressing human insecurities, with just enough anxiety to make it rock.
Though never released as a single in the U.S., “Generator” was one of several standout tracks from Foo Fighters’ 1999 LP There is Nothing Left to Lose. In a surprise stylistic choice, Grohl incorporated the talk box into the song, a nod to rocker Peter Frampton who helped popularize the device.
21. "White Limo"
Arguably the most metal song in the Foo Fighters’ catalog, “White Limo” is a blitzkrieg of guitar, drums and shrieking vocals. Grohl harkened back to his early hardcore punk influences on the tune, delivering an aggressive, loud and abrasive track. “White Limo” would earn Foo Fighters a Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance at the 2012 Grammys. It also gave Grohl and excuse to feature his friend and idol, Lemmy of Motorhead, in its music video.
20. "Walking After You"
Grohl’s divorce from his first wife, Jennifer Youngblood, inspired several of the tracks on 1997’s The Colour and the Shape. Among them was “Walking After You,” an introspective tune about lost love. The album version was sparse, with all instruments played by Grohl. The re-recorded version, featuring all of the band members and a broader arrangement, would appear on the 1998 soundtrack for The X-Files film.
If the formula for a great Foo Fighters song is high energy and an ear-worm chorus, then “Breakout” is the prototypical example. Grohl was so excited while recording the track, he had to be reined in by his bandmates. “When we were recording 'Breakout' the band had to tell me to tone down, because the neighbors were giving dirty looks and threatening to complain that someone was getting murdered,” the rocker recalled. “My throat was gone after that, man."
18. "Big Me"
Foo Fighters’ 1994 hit “Big Me” followed a simple rock structure, reminiscent of early Beatles tunes like “From Me to You.” The track’s light-hearted ways allowed it to crossover to pop radio, where it peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Top 40 chart. Still, “Big Me” is perhaps best remembered for its music video, which earned heavy rotation on MTV. The clip was a parody of the cheesy Mentos commercials of the time, and featured Foo Fighters members getting into awkward situations, only to smile and show the camera their “Footos” candy. The video set the tone for future Foo Fighters efforts, as a large majority of the group’s clips have featured humorous, tongue-in-cheek concepts.
17. "Learn to Fly"
“Learn to Fly” was an unquestionable hit for Foo Fighters in 1999, reaching No. 1 on the Alternative Songs chart, No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart and No. 19 on the Hot 100. The music video, featuring Tenacious D, continued the band’s run of fun and memorable clips, eventually winning a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video. Despite this, “Learn to Fly” has suffered from presumably being too mainstream. Even Grohl himself referred to the track as “one of my least favorite songs” on 1999’s There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Still, there’s no denying the song’s continued popularity, earning it a well-deserved place on our list of Foo Fighters greatest songs.
16. "February Stars"
A deep album cut from The Colour and the Shape, “February Stars” foreshadowed Foo Fighters' future rock grandeur. The song starts in minimalistic fashion, with Grohl singing barely above a whisper as a soft guitar strums in the background. From there, the track steadily builds, eventually erupting in a crescendo of sound roughly three minutes into the track. An unheralded gem in the Foos catalog, “February Stars” has not been played in concert since 2006.
15. "I'll Stick Around"
In one of the most defiant moments of Foo Fighters’ self-titled debut album, Grohl repeats the phrase “I don’t owe you anything” with growing intensity on the track “I’ll Stick Around.” It should come as no surprise that the rocker’s smoldering indignation was directed at Courtney Love. "I don't think it's any secret that 'I'll Stick Around' is about Courtney,” Grohl admitted in the biography titled This Is a Call. “I'm finally coming out and saying it. Just read the fucking words!"
The origins of “Rope” can be traced to the Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace world tour, which ran from 2007-08. Grohl would routinely perform the song during sound checks, gradually adding different lyrics and musical elements. As the rest of the band joined in to jam on the song, it slowly began to take shape. “Somehow it didn't make sense to me when we played it at sound checks,” Smear admitted in an interview with Guitar World magazine. “I couldn't get a handle on it until we got into the studio.” The track’s verses harkened to one of Led Zeppelin’s classic albums. “It is like something off Presence,” Grohl admitted. “Led Zeppelin are one of my favorite bands, and that may be my favorite album of theirs.”
13. "The Sky Is a Neighborhood"
“One night I was lying out looking up at stars, just imagining all of these stars as places that have life on them as well,” Grohl recalled of the inspiration behind “The Sky Is a Neighborhood”. “I decided that the sky is a neighborhood, that we need to keep our shit together in order to survive in this universe full of life. But I had no music yet. I just had the title. So every day I would walk around, kind of humming this thing in my head.” Lyrics trickled in, thanks partly to the frontman’s interest in YouTube videos by astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The result was a powerful psychedelia-tinged blues ballad, a standout track from the Foos 2017 LP Concrete and Gold.
A fan favorite that was never released as a single, “Aurora” holds special meaning to Grohl. "It is definitely one of my favorite songs that we've ever come up with," the frontman admitted to Rolling Stone. "Lyrically, it's just kind of a big question mark, but the words sound good and it's a nostalgic look back at Seattle and the life I once had. That song actually questions the meaning of life, probably. It's probably the heaviest thing I've ever written."
For 2009’s Wasting Light, Grohl was determined to take a back-to-basics approach. The album was recorded in the frontman’s garage using analog equipment and without any of the usual studio wizardry. As the LP was near completion, the rocker noticed a theme throughout the effort. “I realized that the album is about the album,” explained to L.A. Weekly. “You're surrounded by friends and family and nostalgia, and you're singing about the last 20 years of your life.” That concept led him to dust off a song idea he’d had for a few years. Inspired by his daughters learning to walk, “Walk” would become the album’s closing track and its most successful single, topping both the Alternative Songs and Mainstream Rock Songs charts while also taking home two Grammy Awards.
10. "This Is a Call"
The first single in Foo Fighters’ history, Grohl knew “This Is a Call” would be heavily scrutinized. Unlike the majority of the songs on the debut album, it was written after the disbandment of Nirvana. "It was written in my basement in Seattle just after Nirvana had finished,” the rocker recalled to Kerrang! magazine. “In that summer of 1994 I'd travelled a lot; I think I wrote 'This is a Call' in Ireland.” Though the song’s verses were deliberately obtuse, the chorus delivered an impactful message. "'This is a call to all my past resignations...' I felt like I had nothing to lose and I didn't necessarily wanna be the drummer of Nirvana for the rest of my life without Nirvana. I thought I should try something I'd never done before and I'd never stood up in front of a band and been the lead singer, which was fucking horrifying and still is!”
While most of Foo Fighters songs are designed to be cranked to 11, “Home” is the rare track from their catalog which trembles with fragility. The poignant piano ballad displays a vulnerability not seen on other tunes, as Grohl sings about friends who have passed, the acceptance of age and his own mortality. The frontman admitted the song was "hard to listen to," given its emotional weight. Perhaps that explains why the track has only been performed three times in concert, according to Setlist.fm. Beautiful in its sincerity, poetic in its delivery, “Home” remains one of the band’s most heart wrenching tracks.
8. "Monkey Wrench"
"It was a riff that turned into another riff that turned into another riff and ended up being a nice little power punk song," Grohl recalled of the creation of “Monkey Wrench.” Lyrically, the track focussed on a disintegrating relationship and the blame and finger-pointing that comes along with it. The song’s distinctive red-toned music video, which received ample airtime on MTV, was the first directed by Grohl.
7. "The Pretender"
The lead single from 2007’s Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, “The Pretender” ranks among the most successful of Foo Fighters’ songs. The track spent a then-record 18 weeks atop the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, later earning a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. It’s easy to see why “The Pretender” connected with so many people. The tune opens with haunting strings, building tension before Hawkins’ emphatic drumming catapults the tune into a hard-hitting rock affair. Meanwhile, the song’s catchy lyrics project an air defiance, making it equally appropriate for a sing-along or mosh pit.
6. "All My Life"
Released in 2002, Foo Fighters’ “All My Life” is a powder keg of a song. The track builds from a simmering guitar riff, to a cautious whisper, to a full-blown scream fest by the end of the song. It also happens to be about oral sex. “That song is a little dirty,” Grohl admitted in a 2003 Q&A with Q Magazine. “I'm very fond of giving oral sex to women. It's a pleasure-giving experience - giving someone something that they'll remember for the rest of their lives, and if you do it right they will.”
5. "Stacked Actors"
Grohl lambasted materialism, fame and Hollywood narcissism with this track from Foo Fighters’ 1999 LP There Is Nothing Left to Lose. The track was inspired by the frontman’s experiences living in Tinseltown. "’Stacked Actors' is a response to living in Hollywood for about a year and a half, and my disdain and disgust of everything plastic and phony, which is the foundation of that city,” Grohl explained in a 1999 interview with Sway magazine. “I just hated it. I had a lot of fun, but I had a lot of fun hating it."
4. "My Hero"
Grohl admits that he idolized bands like Kiss and the Beatles in his youth, but reserves the title of hero for those he's personally close to. “Pete Stahl who was the singer of Scream (Grohl's pre-Nirvana band) was one. I was 17 years old when we hit the road and that guy showed me the ropes, so to me he was a hero,” the rocker explained to Kerrang! magazine. “And family members ...my mom's a saint. She raised two kids with no money and we managed to be a happy family, so she seems like a hero to me." “My Hero” built upon this theme, creating an emphatic anthem for the everyday hero among us all. With thunderous drums and ferocious vocals, the epic track became one of the signature songs of the Foo Fighters sophomore LP The Colour and the Shape.
3. "Best of You"
Grohl spent part of 2004 campaigning for then-presidential candidate John Kerry. The rocker made regular rally appearances, performing acoustically and lending his celebrity clout. The experience inspired lyrics, which he put to an old instrumental track he had at home. The result would become “Best of You.” “We recorded it and we shelved it,” Grohl confessed to NME. “We didn’t think it was any good.” The band revisited the track after a guest came by the studio. “Our manager came to listen to stuff and he said ‘Where’s that song that says ‘the best of you’ a hundred times?’ Just pound it into their head!”
2. "Times Like These"
Described by Grohl as “a mid-tempo number with a really weird chording that's kinda reminiscent of Mission of Burma or Television,” “Times Like These” was the breakout track for Foo Fighters’ 2002 album One by One. “It's very emotive and passionate and universal," the frontman continued, ranking it among the best songs he’s ever written. Indeed, the track’s message of conquering adversity has resonated with generations of listeners. A notable example is the BBC One celebrity rendition recorded to help lift up spirits during the coronavirus pandemic, which became a viral sensation 18 years after the original song’s release.
With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to declare “Everlong” one of rock’s true modern classics. But the track wasn’t hailed immediately upon its arrival. “The funny thing about ‘Everlong,’ people consider that our biggest sort of hit,” noted Hawkins to NME, “but at the time, it really wasn’t that big of a hit. ‘Everlong’ wasn’t a huge hit at first.” The stats back his claim. “Everlong” failed to hit No. 1 on any of the charts, and though its video received plenty of MTV airtime, it was generally considered just another of the band’s good songs - not necessarily their best. Over time, however, “Everlong” took on a life of its own. A solo acoustic performance which Grohl performed on Howard Stern’s radio show put the song back in the spotlight a year after the original was released. The tune also started popping up in TV shows and films, notably the wedding between Monica and Chandler on Friends. However, the true secret to “Everlong”’s enduring popularity lies in its relatable emotion. “That song's about a girl that I'd fallen in love with and it was basically about being connected to someone so much, that not only do you love them physically and spiritually, but when you sing along with them you harmonize perfectly," Grohl recalled. More than 20 years after the its creation, the frontman still gets a kick out of playing the track live. “So many people connect with it that that communal energy makes it magical every fucking night.”