Music History

Waffle House’s Top 10 Songs of 2020: The True Slow Jam Waffle Experience

Say what you will about Waffle House ... Actually, no. We're prepared to fight for its honor.
Say what you will about Waffle House ... Actually, no. We're prepared to fight for its honor. Unsplash/Simon Daoudi
There are many reasons Waffle House should be revered as a national icon and not just because it’s a cross-section of breakfast food and culture. Also, because of FEMA’s Waffle House Index and the fact that they’re open on Christmas Day because “some people don’t have a family, so they come here to be with us.”

Their grill cooks work from memory, using a unique code system to keep track of orders. Anthony Bourdain said it best with this ode: “[Waffle House is] an irony-free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts, where everybody regardless of race, creed, color or degree of inebriation is welcome.”

On top of all that is music. Every Waffle House restaurant has the app-based jukebox TouchTunes, which allows diners to pick from a huge catalog of music, setting or changing the mood of the place literally within seconds.

And like your uncle who wears the same sweater every holiday, another reason to love Waffle House is they take themselves seriously in all the wrong ways. Case in point: the chain recently released the top 10 songs played at Waffle House on TouchTunes over the past year. They even hosted an actual awards show, Waffle House Tunie Awards, including an after-party to support the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which provides assistance to anyone in the music industry who has been financially harmed by COVID-19.

So, we delved deep into the top 10 songs to see what they say about the yellow-hued warm beacon of the night and the customers within. As a lot of these songs demonstrate, the Waffle House is a slow jam vibe.

We’ll start at the bottom, which is a bit ironic since No. 10 is Drake’s 2013 hit, “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Because you are a good girl and you know it. Speaking of… No. 9 makes me really miss dining inside restaurants because you know this song jams over a smothered and covered hash browns: Rihanna’s 2016 “Love on the Brain,” where doo-wop slams into sultry. And you can dance in a Waffle House. Ask around.

“[Waffle House is] an irony-free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts, where everybody regardless of race, creed, color or degree of inebriation is welcome.” – Anthony Bourdain

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No. 8 is where things get weird. Completely out of left field is The Eagles’ 1977 time-warp hit, “Hotel California.” Perhaps this is 2020 singing here because we are all just prisoners of our own device. Ouch. Feels like a slap in the face for some reason.

Kane Brown’s “Heaven” (2016) is seventh. Even for non-fans of country music, after a quick listen it’s not on the level that’d you’d walk out of the restaurant if you hated that genre. Billboard calls it a “romantic slow jam." With a side of twang.

Miguel’s “Sure Thing,” is No. 6 on the list. This song spent 23 weeks on the charts in 2011. That summer Frannie Kelly at NPR wrote, “But even when you strip away all the accouterment, the rusty slink of Miguel's voice has that languor. He hangs on to each phrase as long as he can before letting it all the way out of his mouth [...] It's a song that makes dropping your shoulders and moving a step slower perfectly acceptable.”

“Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd from 2015 sits at No.5 on the list. “But at least we'll both be beautiful and stay forever young/This I know, yeah, this I know.”

From the '90s R&B nostalgia catalog, “Can We Talk” by Tevin Campbell, who is actually from North Texas, is No. 4. This 1993 ballad peaked hit No. 1 on the R&B charts and earned Campbell a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It’s a classic, needless to say. Through a Twitter search, you'll find the song is constantly on someone's mind.

You bet your hot waffle that Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” is third on the list. Because obviously. The Biebs' recent genuine and transparent performances on Saturday Night Live definitely showed some guts. Maybe it is lonely at the top. But not at Waffle House.

The No. 2 song is Khalid’s 2017 debut single “Location.” Evocative with a low-key vibe, it is a great stool-sittin’ song to nod along to.

Finally, the most played song in 2020, which was also the most played in 2019, is Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey.” Originally recorded by David Allen Coe, then George Jones, Stapleton’s cross-genre touch gave this song massive broad appeal. Even if you dislike country music, you’ll find this sexy serenade circling through your brain and you won’t mind it.

Stay healthy, kids, so we can get back to crowding the stools at the counter, to listening to music over hot coffee and warm waffles and watching the world pass by.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.