Some of the most iconic pop and rock songs ever created have featured the piano as their lead instrument. The piano has remained one of the most important instruments in popular music for generations, with some of the biggest-selling piano-led songs in history having been produced in the past twenty years or so. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular piano-based songs in pop and rock right now.
Adele: Someone Like You
Someone Like You was the second single from Adele’s hugely-successful second album, 21. The song was inspired by a break-up and features a piano as its sole instrumentation. The song went straight to #1 in the UK charts after it was performed at the 2011 Brit Awards, also heading to the top of the charts in the US and several other countries. Having now sold over 10 million copies, Someone Like You is one of the biggest-selling songs ever. The song was co-written with US songwriter Dan Wilson and was penned after she discovered the man she had split from had become engaged to another woman.
Coldplay: The Scientist
Released in late 2002, The Scientist is a melancholic indie-rock ballad backed by an award-winning video with a reverse theme. The song was partially-inspired by All Things Must Pass by George Harrison and was penned in Liverpool after frontman Chris Martin stumbled across an old out-of-tune piano. Although Martin has said the song is about unrequited love, the band have also said the titular ‘scientist’ is Dan Keeling, who signed Coldplay to their record label. The song is somewhat typical of the many string-tinged, mournful piano-led rock ballads that emerged in the early 2000s.
Elton John: Your Song
Sir Elton John is regarded as one of rock’s most talented piano players and recently announced a three-year farewell tour, after which he will retire from live performance. His version of Your Song first featured on his second album, Elton John, and was originally released as a b-side in the US. It was actually first recorded in 1970 by US rockers Three Dog Night but not released as a single as the band wished to see John find success with it, which he did the following year. The song has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and was covered by Ellie Goulding in 2010, reaching #2 on the UK charts. The song features piano work inspired by Leon Russell and lyrics from John’s regular collaborator, Bernie Taupin. It was favourably compared to the work of Paul McCartney and was the first of the singer’s 66 UK Top 40 hits.
The Beatles: Hey Jude
Hey Jude was penned solely by Paul McCartney despite being credited to Lennon-McCartney and was whilst Lennon’s son Julian was attempting to cope with his parents’ divorce. The song lasts for over seven minutes and was the first to be released on the Fab Four’s own record label, Apple Records. It was the longest song to top the UK charts ever at one point and remained at the summit of the US charts for nine weeks. It has sold around eight million copies to date. Although it was seemingly aimed at comforting his son, John Lennon said he always heard it as a song for himself, interpreting it as McCartney giving his blessing to his then-new relationship with Yoko Ono.
Queen: Bohemian Rhapsody
Almost certainly the most well-known progressive rock song of all-time, Bohemian Rhapsody is the only single to be Christmas #1 in the UK on two separate occasions and was taken from the band’s 1975 album, A Night at the Opera. The six-minute track, which fused operatic music, pop and hard rock, features a number of different sections, including a piano ballad segment and is rumoured to have been the most expensive song ever produced at the time of its release. The single sold over a million copies within the first couple of months of its release and is also known for its pioneering video, which is said to have paved the way for MTV. The late Freddie Mercury’s vocal performance was voted as the greatest in rock history by Rolling Stone magazine readers. The song returned to #1 in the UK and #2 in the US in the week’s following Mercury’s 1991 death at the age of 45.