With Rock Band 4 being released on Tuesday, the plastic instrument revolution has begun once again. It’s time to get the band back together. One of the big draws of the latest iteration of the series is that all the DLC songs from the past years have been upgraded and released in conjunction with the game. If you are on the same company’s system as a previous version of the game that you had (for example, you had Rock Band 2 on XBox 360 and purchased Rock Band 4 on XBox One), then any songs you purchased for the old games will not have to be repurchased; you just need to search for it and download it. The on-disc song selection in Rock Band 4 is a little slim, and definitely lacking those iconic, “anthem” songs that we most need for parties, especially with casual gamers dropping in and out. At the same time, the DLC store is a little overwhelming because there are literally hundreds of songs to comb through to find the ones you want. To ease the burden, I have compiled a list of my top 10 Rock Band 4 DLC songs. These are not necessarily the most challenging tracks or the “best songs to listen to.” These are iconic, well-known songs that tend to allow anyone to have fun with the game, whether they are plastic instrument aficionados or they are holding the drumsticks for the very first time.
10. Buddy Holly – Weezer
It’s not the best Weezer song, but it is the one everyone knows. Everyone in the band can sing along, there are some great harmonies if you have more than one mic, and it is not difficult on any instrument. Buddy Holly is an easy pickup and play song, and it is doubtful that anyone around does not at least know the chorus. Even though it is not a difficult song, it has a short, iconic guitar solo with a great section where the entire band drops out so you can wail away on the high notes in style. This song is usually one of the first picked songs whenever Rock Band 4 gets booted up.
9. Talk Dirty to Me – Poison
Probably the best guilty pleasure song by the best guilty pleasure band available for Rock Band 4 DLC. Many people avoid this one because they don’t want to be the dork who chooses the Poison track, so when the mic gets to my hands I like to fire this one up. It is much more difficult on all instruments than Buddy Holly, with a long, fun, in-your-face guitar solo and a catchy chorus that nearly everyone will be compelled to sing along with. Hair metal is perfectly suited for Rock Band 4 gatherings since it is so goofy, fun, and over the top. Talk Dirty to Me perfectly exemplifies that, especially when you can sub out the name “C.C.” for whatever the name of your guitar player is right before they launch into the solo. “Katie, pick up that guitar and talk to me.”
8. To Be With You – Mr. Big
This song is a vocal anthem, with fun and somewhat cheesy lyrics, great harmonies, and a chorus that literally everyone knows. It has a cool little acoustic guitar solo thrown in there as well. This song is mainly a hit because everyone sings when the chorus comes in, and is especially a blast with more than one microphone so someone can do the backup vocals. The only reason it is not higher on the list is because there is not a lot to it other than the singing.
7. War Pigs – Black Sabbath
Buckle up when you pick this one; you’re going to be here for awhile. It clocks in at over seven minutes long and has great featured parts for all instruments (even the under-appreciated bass). The drums get to lay down some appropriately apocalyptic hits, the guitar gets some huge solos, the bass gets long runs of hammer-ons and pull-offs, and the singer gets to be Ozzy. A great song for a final performance or right before taking a break. The only problem with this track is that it is a cover. Not a huge issue, however, since it is well done and you and your friends are doing your own cover of it anyway.
6. Lightning Crashes – Live
To this day, the only song I’ve ever seen someone sprint from another room as soon as they hear the song so they can join in the vocals. One of the classic staples of 90s radio, Lightning Crashes has a memorable chorus, just the right amount of difficulty, and has an excellent build. The song starts remarkably quiet and builds steam throughout, allowing it to build to an epic and emotional ending that makes it a blast to pick. This one always draws more hesitant people into the spotlight, with great guitar riffs, a fun drum beat, and awesome vocals.
5. Kickstart My Heart – Motley Crue
Basically the same story as Talk Dirty to Me, but done better. Motley Crue has several iconic songs in Rock Band 4, although this one it probably the one that transitioned the best to the plastic instruments. The guitar and bass get to do some really fun, driving rhythms, the drummer can rock out as hard as they want, and the singer gets to belt out some vocal gymnastics. The chorus lets everyone yell “Whoa… Yeah!” as well, so that’s always a bonus. Finally, Kickstart My Heart ends with an awesome guitar solo that should feature at least one powerslide and an entire band synchronized jump at the end.
4. Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
You could really put any of the Queen library available for Rock Band 4 here, as channeling your inner Brian May and Freddy Mercury usually lends itself to a good experience. The reason Don’t Stop Me Now takes it is for a few reasons. The first is this: if you’re the type of people getting together to play Rock Band 4, you’ve probably seen Shaun of the Dead. Just a wild guess there. The phrase I hear most often when newcomers see this song on the track list is “No way, Don’t Stop Me Now? Have you ever seen Shaun of the Dead?” before selecting it. Other than the sheer fond memories of a great movie, this song features the other things we’ve seen from the songs on the list: a blistering guitar solo, a fun and driving drum part, and wildly fun vocals. The beginning of the song is such a great setup, starting slow and building to a great finale. Meanwhile, multiple talented singers can nail some great harmonies throughout the song. Always a crowd-pleaser.
3. More than a Feeling – Boston
For some reason, all the tracks by Boston in Rock Band 4 have insanely fun drum parts. They aren’t remarkably complex, and they do not change a lot. However, you do just enough when playing them that you feel like a real drummer when it is all said and done. Isn’t that what Rock Band 4 is all about? On top of the drum part, More than a Feeling has a catchy guitar part, great solos, and iconic vocals. There are great opportunities for backup vocals in this song, and Boston also usually has interesting bass lines. Even though everything else is interesting, you pick up Boston tracks for that trademarked guitar sound. This is one of the most recognizable songs available for the game, and it is fun for whatever instrument you’re playing it on.
2. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
This song misses the keyboard controller that was discontinued from Rock Band 3, but it still stands tall at #2 on the list. The guitar part is often overlooked, but it has some fun and tricky sections to keep you busy. The drums also fit that category and get to introduce some of the great tempo and dynamic changes that this song contains. The huge winner here is to give someone to belt out Ms. Tyler’s vocal line, possibly substituting in a few choice words inspired by the Dan Band. The backups are a blast as well, allowing everyone to creepily sing/whisper the phrase “turn around” over and over. Finally, I think this song wins the award for “Best and Most 80s Album Art.” This one gets picked at least once every single time the game is loaded.
1. Paradise by the Dashboard Light – Meat Loaf
Where to even begin with this song? It is almost like four songs in one. It clocks in at just under ten minutes long and has several complete style/tempo changes throughout. There is tons of variety, no matter what instrument you are rocking. There are two distinct vocal parts (one male, one female), extremely difficult sections on every instrument, and you get to call a baseball game that is innuendo for people hooking up in the backseat of a car. Meat Loaf’s most recognizable song has it all. Even without a true guitar solo, Paradise by the Dashboard Light has enough style change to make it feel different throughout. It’s a bit of a marathon, but this song always seems to be the biggest hit when it gets going. I don’t know if Rock Band 4 has a song that is more fun than this one.
There you have it. These are the best songs to have in your library if you are going to have a group over and Rock Band 4 is on the menu. These songs can be fun even if the song is not known or liked by the participants because they fit so perfectly into the style and philosophy of the game. They make you feel like you are rocking out in a band instead of being goofy in front of your TV, and that’s ultimately what Rock Band 4 is all about.
Feel like I missed any? Don’t worry, I’ll probably do another list of DLC songs at some point. Meanwhile, sound off with your best Rock Band 4 moments and what songs are the biggest hits during your get-togethers.