These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
YMMV: Steely Dan
Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Their cover of Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-oo", both in terms of its parent album (1974's Pretzel Logic) and the Dan's career as a whole.
"Dirty Work" is a very Beatlesque pop tune amid the jazz-rock songs on Can't Buy A Thrill, and is even among the few Steely Dan songs not sung by Fagen (David Palmer sings it. In live shows they have their backing singers do the vocal).
Critical Dissonance: The Royal Scam is especially loved by fans, but its often rated by professional music critics as among their lesser albums.
Despite its troubled production, Gaucho contains some of the band's best music, such as "Third World Man" and the title track.
Epic Riff: "Reelin' In The Years", "Hey Nineteen", and a non-guitar example, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number".
The opening "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" riff is lifted directly from the Horace Silver Quintet's "Song for My Father." Well, they are a jazz fusion duo, after all...
"Black Friday" is also a good example, with the riff being played by a combination of two electric pianos and a guitar.
"Aja" has several, most notably the two-chord riff that begins the instrumental break.
Face of the Band: Started with a full band, but ended up being whittled down to just Fagen and Becker with a bunch of studio musicians.
Subverted, in that they simultaneously retired from public performance, so they essentially became a faceless band.
Fagen and Becker being the Faces of the Band was not their intention to start with. The duo felt more at home as songwriters and instrumentalists. Fagen volunteered to be the band's lead singer for Can't Buy A Thrill, but was not prepared to combat his crippling stage fright to sing in front of an audience. This is how David Palmer became the band's "lead singer" (even though he only sings two and a half songs on Can't Buy A Thrill) and it was planned that he would draw attention away from Fagen and Becker and become the de facto Face of the Band. By 1973, Fagen and Becker had decided that performing live simply wasn't for them and decided to phase out the other members of the band, starting with Palmer (who sang the songs live in a completely different key than Fagen did on the album), who is almost completely absent from Countdown to Ecstasy (relegated to backing vocals and removed the from official band lineup listing in the liner notes, appearing instead in a list of backing vocalists) and gone completely by Pretzel Logic.
Genius Bonus: There's at least one website dedicated to explaining some of the obscure references in their songs.
Some of the band's references may be so oblique or obscure, that they might often be mistaken as a Lyrical Shoehorn. An example is the chorus for "Deacon Blues". The lyrics, in general, are very dark and melancholy, until it gets to:
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues!
To some, that just seems like a Lyrical Shoehorn, but the part of the chorus just beforehand is "they got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose". The University of Alabama is chosen as an example of a "winner" and were well known as a dominant force in college football under legendary coach Bear Bryant. The "Deacon Blues" part? It refers to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, a college football team that were particularly lousy during the seventies.
Growing the Beard: Many fans agree, The Royal Scam was when they grew the beard. Pretzel Logic is also popular.
The Hall of Fame writings from their website include a fictional letter in which a woman pleads for their induction so that she can meet them, and find out which one is her father. Her belief is based on a dream in which she is sitting in their lap, while they sing "Tequila Sunrise".
"Ride Captain Ride"note Actually by Blues Image or "Year of The Cat"note Al Stewart
Sampled Up: The "you know they don't give a fuck about anybody else" line from "Show Biz Kids" is used as the refrain for "The Man Don't Give A Fuck", a 1996 single by Welsh psychedelic band Super Furry Animals. This sample is repeated fifty times in the five minute song.
The opening riff from "Black Cow" is sampled for "Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)" by Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz.
Fagen himself jokingly referenced it in a VH-1 special detailing the making of Aja.
"Peg"'s guitar riff and a part of the lyrics is sampled in De La Soul's "Eye Know".
The song "Champion" by Kanye West extensively samples Kid Charlemagne. Interesting, they initially denied his request to use the sample, but after he wrote them an emotional letter explaining how important the song was to him, they obliged.
Tear Jerker: A number of songs, including "Charlie Freak", "Doctor Wu", "Any World That I'm Welcome To", and "Third World Man".