Pop Life

The End Is Near: 11 Great Second-To-Last Songs

I'm not a linguist but I'll confess that I'm fascinated by jargon. Ever heard the phrase the 11 O'Clock Number? It's theatrical shorthand for the big show stopping musical number late in act two. If your musical starts at 8:30 p.m. and you want the crowd awake for the finale then you better have a great song hit at 11:00 p.m. If you do a really good job they'll be singing that song as they leave the theater.

Most albums do not have an 11 o'clock number. Music writers will talk all day about their favorite opening and closing tracks but rarely does anyone give the penultimate track its due. It's a track that has to be different enough from the closing track to stand out without being jarring in the process. They might serve as the emotional highpoint of the album or may just be an interesting sonic experiment, but it's important that they lead in to the next song just right. Put the wrong song here and you could blow the landing to a great album completely.

It's a thankless job, but fortunately for us there are a few brave tracks that rise above simply being just another track on the album. Take a look at this list of tracks that put the ultimate in penultimate.

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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia