At a minute and 53 seconds, “Old Town Road” made headlines for being the shortest song to hit No. 1 since 1965. Still, that’s a spiraling prog symphony compared to these songs: 50 of them, all 7 seconds or less.
The idea of tiny microsongs gestated for about 25 years before reaching full flower. The “event scores” of the ’60s Fluxus movement turned quixotic, whimsical actions into bursts of music and art. From the ’70s into the ’80s, punk rock got speedier and speedier. In 1981, D.C. hardcore band Youth Brigade released “No Song II,” a second-or-so-long blurt whose sole lyric was “No.” Humorous, punk-adjacent thrash-metal bands like Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.) and Wehrmacht jumped into the fray in 1985.
The big bang, as it were, for tiny songs was Napalm Death’s notorious “You Suffer,” the U.K. grindcore band closing the arms race of speedy songs in 1987 with a 1.316-second micro-rant (full lyrics: “You suffer, but why?”) that made the Guinness Book of World Records. Teeny songs quickly became a staple of grindcore bands and their scruffier counterparts in American “powerviolence” bands. Powerviolence label Slap-a-Ham even crammed 84 songs onto a 7-inch in 1998. Here are 50 tunes in less than five minutes, spanning hardcore, grindcore, powerviolence, cybergrind, experimental electronic music, alternative pop and more.