The 12 Songs That Define The White Stripes’ Career

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Looking back at the rock music from the turn of the century can feel a bit like looking into an empty refrigerator.

The period of time marked the rise of boy bands and pop artists like Britney Spears. Sure, there was great hip-hop and rap, great pop and indie bands like Death Cab for Cutie, but hard, distorted rock had gone largely the way of the dodo bird thanks to the death of so many greats, from Kurt Cobain to Layne Staley.

But that doesn’t mean the fridge was totally bare. Indeed, one of the standouts of the time—perhaps the standout of the time—was the Detroit-born duo, The White Stripes.

Fronted by Jack White and backed up on drums by Meg, the band was huge, as they donned their red and white candy-striper aesthetics.

Here, we will look back on the dozen songs that defined the group, from hits to lesser-known cuts.

1. “One More Cup Of Coffee”

Sultry and heavy, the song, off the band’s self-titled debut LP shakes, came out just before the new century, in 1991, and with it came this illustrious song that crystallized both rock stardom for the band and that feeling of being in a diner and wanting to keep smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. The song, of course, is a cover of the Bob Dylan track of the same name, showcasing the band’s love for the Bard.

2. “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For A Girl)”

The track, which came out on the band’s sophomore album De Stijl (2000), showed off their penchant for the cute and even kiddish while pairing that nature with rock, distorted guitars, and White’s piercing voice. This song made them stars.

3. “Apple Blossom”

Another on De Stijl, listening to this song, fans got a sense of The White Stripes’ penchant for sex and love, subtle poetry, and hard rock. The song crushes. It’s essentially an old blues tune made into something new, which was often The White Stripes’ specialty.

4. “Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground”

The song opened the band’s third LP, White Blood Cells (2001), which, after their second album, solidified them as bona fide stars. “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground” is harsh but melodic, pounding yet pleasant. It’s a formal that simply worked for the group that prized rough edges with a sentimentality that resembled two middle school friends writing notes together in class.

5. “Hotel Yorba”

A hit single from a band that liked recording records in a matter of days or a few short weeks. It can be hard to find a hit song but this one from White Blood Cells was that for sure. It killed on radio and made the band into a household name.

6. “We’re Going To Be Friends”

While The White Stripes were known for giant chords and pounding, though simplistic drums, this song showcased the softer side of the band. Again, it harkened to their kiddish sides—walking to school, passing notes, catching bugs. This song was covered by a number of artists too, due to its catchy quality, simple nature, and friendly appeal. It’s a hit, timeless.

7. “Seven Nation Army”

Has there ever been a bigger rock song? A more catchy riff? The song from the 2003 album, Elephant, speaks for itself and its hypnotic music video only provided the epic cherry on the sundae. We all know it, we all love it.

8. “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”

Another from the band’s fourth album, Elephant, the song is introspective, even confused. It’s got huge hits, buzzy guitars, and a vocal melody that makes you believe others out there in the world know what it means to be unsure. It’s a song of empathy wrapped in a presentation of personal isolation.

9. “Ball And Biscuit”

Man, does this song rock. And when it was used to open the fantastic film, The Social Network, you knew that movie was onto something. It’s just an all-time banger that will last well past the life of the band. It, too, is timeless.

10. “My Doorbell”

One of the biggest hits from the band’s 2005 album, Get Behind Me Satan, “My Doorbell” is so catchy it hurts. Many have found themselves humming the chorus for minutes on end without even realizing it. “When you gonna ring it? When you gonna ring it?!” It’s something a 4th grader might sing by accident. That’s the stuff that makes the band great.

11. “Little Ghost”

Another from Get Behind Me Satan, “Little Girl” takes advantage of acoustic guitars and showcases Jack White’s love affair with the blues. It’s more straightforward than other songs of the band’s, with less distorted guitars and more plain strumming. It’s a deviation but it’s also not.

12. “Rag And Bone”

Perhaps the best song from the band’s final (to date) LP, Icky Thump, “Rag and Bone” shakes. It’s fun, too. You can feel the joy in the band, even though they are set to part ways. Let’s all listen and remember The White Stripes fondly, below.

Do you have a favorite White Stripes song? Comment below and let us know.

Photo by Tabatha Fireman/Redferns

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