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The Crossroads of Pop and Classical: A Playlist


When I was growing up, my younger sister would spend every car trip begging my mom to change the radio station from KUSC – our local classical station in Southern California – to something a little more modern, with thumping beats and a chorus she could sing along to. In her eyes, it was like there were two different worlds of music – the good stuff, and the boring stuff (in my mind, those categories were swapped). She almost had me convinced, too: how could I possibly reconcile my Bruch violin concerto or my Mozart symphony with the drums and the synthesizers on the radio?

Then two videos came into my life – the Pachelbel Rant and the Four Chord Song – and my world was changed. Suddenly, those separate musical worlds were not so separate after all, and I was finding classical in everything I heard, from pop tunes to classic rock hits to sleepy indie ballads. Classical music, I found, is all around us. All you have to do is listen.

Here’s a playlist I’ve compiled of popular songs based on classical music:

  1. Procol Harum – Whiter Shade of Pale (Bach’s Air from Orchestral Suite No.3)


  2. Bright Eyes – Road to Joy (Beethoven's Ode to Joy)

  3. Lady Gaga – Alejandro (Monti's Czardas)

  4. Eric Carmen – All By Myself (Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor)

  5. Xzibit – Symphony in X Major (Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3)

  6. Beyonce – Ave Maria (Bach/Gonoud's Ave Maria)

  7. Nas – I Can (Beethoven’s Fur Elise)

  8. Jem – They (Bach's Prelude in F minor from Well-Tempered Clavier)

  9. Janelle Monae – Say You’ll Go (Debussy's Clair de Lune)

  10. Vitamin C – Graduation (Friends Forever) (Pachelbel's Canon in D)

  11. Janet Jackson – Someone to Call my Lover (Satie's Gymnopedie No.1)

  12. Little Mix – Little Me (Fauré’s Pavane)

Also, just for fun:

Got more? Let us know on facebookor twitter!

Kendall Todd is the Content Manager for GBH Music.