20 Best Styx Songs

Styx - Babe record cover

Finding the 20 best Styx songs proved to be a little difficult. It’s like eating crab: It’s good and worth it, but it takes a great deal of effort and is time consuming. Going through Styx’s 13 studio albums with original lead singer Dennis DeYoung took a great deal of effort — I ran into a lot of shell — but usually once or twice per album, I found the juicy meat.

Styx really stopped being Styx after DeYoung was unceremoniously expunged from the band in 1999, so I stopped my search there. And I found 20 golden songs — many of them hits — that stood out from all the others. The only surprises are what order I put them in:

#20 — ‘Superstars’

Album: The Grand Illusion (1977)
“Superstars” is vintage Styx: over-the-top vocals singing an unforgettable melody. It’s one of many cuts on what many believe is Styx’s creative peak, The Grand Illusion.

#19 — ‘Boat on the River’

Album: Cornerstone (1979)

An overlooked acoustic ballad by Tommy Shaw, “Boat on the River” shows Shaw’s songwriting chops and his guitarwork. It didn’t make the charts but is different from most songs in Styx’s catalog.

#18 — ‘I’m O.K.’

Album: Pieces of Eight (1978)

“I’m O.K.” is vintage Dennis DeYoung, doing everything that James Young and Tommy Shaw hated. And I love it.

#17 — ‘Queen of Spades’

Album: Pieces of Eight (1978)
I was drawn to this song as a 10-year-old, believing that it was hard rocking. Listening to it 40 years later, I see that it’s a bit schmaltzy and dramatic, but it brings back good memories.

#16 — ‘Lorelei’

Album: Equinox (1975)
Chart position: #27

DeYoung could fool you with his sparse and sometimes slow beginnings, but would often turn a song on a dime. Their first hit, “Lorelei” hinted of things to come for the group.

#15 — ‘Crystal Ball’

Album: Crystal Ball (1977)
Chart position: #109
“Crystal Ball” shows that guitarist Tommy Shaw is a gifted songwriter but also a little hypocritical. It’s a ballad — something he criticized DeYoung heavily for when the band released megahits such as “Babe” and “Don’t Let It End.”
#14 — ‘Babe’

Album: Cornerstone (1979)
Chart position: #1

Perhaps the most recognizable song on this list, “Babe” deserves some of Shaw’s wrath: It’s schmaltzy and syrupy, but it works. It transformed Styx from AOR heroes into pop superstars.

#13 — ‘Rockin’ the Paradise’

Album: Paradise Theatre (1981)
DeYoung made Shaw eat his words with this fun, back-to-the-basics rock song that fit in perfectly with the theme of the concept album, which was changing times in America.

#12 — ‘Suite Madame Blue’

Album: Equinox (1975)

“Suite Madame Blue” has a familiar motif among Styx songs, repeated in songs such as “Queen of Spades” and to a lesser extent, “Lady” and “Lorelei”: A slow, quiet beginning that simmers for a while and then explodes into a rock anthem. And it worked well for them, as we’ll see later.

#11 — ‘Too Much Time on My Hands’

Album: Paradise Theatre (1981)
Chart position: #6
“Too Much Time on My Hands” deserved better. Styx tried hard on this Shaw-penned number, adding a fierce synthesizer riff to this hard-rock tune. It only managed to get to No. 6.

#10 — ‘Lady’

Album: Styx II (1973)
Chart position: #6
Another one of the slow boil/hard rock songs, “Lady” was the first hit for the band. WLS DJ Jim Smith discovered the song on a jukebox and played the song incessantly until it became a hit. One could say Styx owes their entire career to Smith.

#9 — ‘Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)’

Album: Pieces of Eight (1978)
Chart position: #21
This would have been Styx’s greatest album cut had they not released it as a single. Instead, it struggled to find an audience and floundered at No. 21. It was another Shaw tune that didn’t live up to expectations.

#8 — ‘Show Me the Way’

Album: Edge of the Century (1990)
Chart position: #3
Styx’s swan song — the last Top 10 hit for the band and their eighth overall. It really is a remarkable song and shouldn’t be dismissed as a syrupy DeYoung ballad. It was an anachronism: a power ballad from a washed-up AOR band in the middle of the hip-hop and New Jack Swing renaissance. It’s also in 6/8 time — another oddity — but it still managed to hit No. 3.

#7 — ‘Renegade’

Album: Pieces of Eight (1978)
Chart position: #16
One more Shaw song that underperformed. This is one of the best, though, with its a capella intro, its loud yell into a raucous romp and its paranoid theme. And Shaw couldn’t have done it without DeYoung’s sparkling harmonies.

#6 — ‘The Best of Times’

Album: Paradise Theatre (1981)
Chart position: #3
This is probably the most respected of DeYoung’s ballads since it came from the highly acclaimed Paradise Theatre. It’s also featured at the beginning and end of that album as sort of a prologue/epilogue to the concept album.

#5 — ‘Mr. Roboto’

Album: Kilroy Was Here (1983)
Chart position: #3
I probably just lost half my readers. Seriously? Yes. Well, not serious. You can’t take this song as seriously as DeYoung did. “Mr. Roboto” is kitschy, it’s campy, it’s fun to do at karaoke night. It’s an AOR band trying to stay relevant in a new-wave world. What could be more fun than that?

#4 — ‘Don’t Let It End’

Album: Kilroy Was Here (1983)
Chart position: #6
This single oddly doesn’t fit on a concept album about music censorship and robots. But it does its job nicely — a mid-tempo ballad that lets James Young and Shaw exercise their guitar chops a little.

#3 — ‘The Grand Illusion’

Album: The Grand Illusion (1977)
Sounding at times like a prog-rock track, “The Grand Illusion” is full of marvelous 70s fluff — synthesizers, organs, time changes — and it’s quite a journey to take. It certainly made this 9-year-old sit up and take notice.

#2 — ‘Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)’

Album: The Grand Illusion (1977)
Chart position: #29
Shaw’s masterpiece, and it still got no respect. It begins with DeYoung’s pompous organ-playing, and you think it’s “The Grand Illusion II.” But then Shaw’s acoustic guitar comes in, and he sings a wonderful melody with changing chords over the same bass note.

#1 — ‘Come Sail Away’

Album: The Grand Illusion (1977)
Chart position: #8
It’s fitting that the top 3 Styx songs all come from the same album. The Grand Illusion was my first introduction to the group, and “Come Sail Away” was the first song I heard. Another example of the ballad-meets-rocker genre Styx was known for, it hasn’t aged well but will always keep me entranced.

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