Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Best Songs of the Decade: 75-51

See also:

The Best Songs of the Decade: 100-76

The Best Songs of the Decade: 50-26
The Best Songs of the Decade: 25-1
The 10 Best Albums of the Decade

75. "Funeral Song" - Sleater-Kinney
Sleater-Kinney is my favorite rock band, but lead singer Corin Tucker's challenging dramatic soprano voice is off-putting for many. "Funeral Song" is one of their most accessible, with the vocal drama toned down, and the interaction of the melody and the rhythm is some of S-K's best.

74. "Surprise" - Gnarls Barkley
73. "The Jessica Numbers" - The New Pornographers
Both Gnarls Barkley and The New Pornographers exercise a disproportionate amount of influence over this list. Both groups are excellent song-crafters, while their albums may not get quite as much play. Gnarls Barkley sounds like both the past and the future of pop music, with a Zombies-like flair to the chorus of "Surprise" added to the spacey hip-hop/R&B the duo are best known for. The New Pornographers, by contrast, seem attached very much to the present, with a fairly conventional rock band setup expanding the form of the pop song.

72. "Wake Up" - The Walkmen
Here's another entry in the critically-acclaimed-bands-with-only-one-song-I-really-like category. See also: "Librarian" by My Morning Jacket.

71. "Bang!" - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' debut EP was built around this anthemic banger, but I've been mostly disappointed by their slightly-less-energetic albums ever since. So it goes.

70. "A Day Like Today" - Tom McRae
Like Springsteen's "Magic," "A Day Like Today" is a case study in how to make a haunting, beautiful, but oddly catchy gem of a song.

69. "Since We Last Spoke" - RJD2
The only instrumental track on the list. A handful of DJs built their reputations releasing primarily instrumental hip-hop mix albums this decade, although RJD2 has since began playing instruments and singing, somewhat bizarrely.

68. "Going On" - Gnarls Barkley
67. "Crazy" - Gnarls Barkley
Has there ever been a group that achieved as much success and critical acclaim, while having an absolutely horrible name, as Gnarls Barkley?

66. "For Women" - Talib Kweli
At nearly eight minutes, "For Women" clocks in as the longest song in the list. Kweli's dense, affecting homage to Nina Simone's "Four Women" specifically - and women of color in general - helped cement his reputation as one of the best "socially conscious" rappers of his generation.

65. "Toxic" - Britney Spears
I mean, I guess I could have expected Britney to have a good song or two in her, but this good? This is a great song, for anyone, let alone a singer who'd made her reputation and money on pandering to the lowest common denominator.

64. "Here's Your Future" - The Thermals
Like The New Pornographers, The Thermals are something of an indie-rock supergroup whose combined fame and effect far exceeded that of their previous groups. But where The New Pornographers deal primarily in lush power pop, The Thermals are entirely driving dirty garage rock - extra sacreligious.

63. "Don't Feel Like Dancing" - Scissor Sisters
As disco has experienced something of a critical re-evaluation in recent years, it's also experienced something of a revival with the Scissor Sisters and Junior Senior making it cool. This song is unlike "Move Your Feet" in that its title is a blatant lie, and just like "Move Your Feet" in that it's hard not to at least tap and smile along with.

62. "Take Me Out" - Franz Ferdinand
Sure, the "neo-New Wave" movement was overplayed, and allowed a lot of crap onto the airwaves. But better this than nu-metal. And better this song than most any other pop-rock of the decade.

61. "Standing In The Way Of Control" - The Gossip
The Gossip somehow transitioned from dirty blues-rock to massively popular dance-punk, without seeming like they were selling out at all. And more power to them - I can only hope that Beth Ditto becomes the Gwen Stefani of the early twenty-teens.

60. "Ghost World" - Aimee Mann
Best song based on a comic book ever? I mean, I'll make the argument that David Bowie's "Oh! You Pretty Things" is about The X-Men, but I'm still not sure that it's a better song than this.

59. "99 Problems" - Dangermouse/Jay-Z
Dangermouse's The Grey Album launched him into superstardom, and helped move the mash-up from the novelty section into the realm of potentially great music. I'd argue that most of its tracks are better than the original Jay-Z tracks, especially this driving, intense combination of "99 Problems" with "Helter Skelter."

58. "Letter From An Occupant" - The New Pornographers
Music critics like to attempt to count just how many hooks can be fit into a single song. Some say "six" for this one. Go on, try and count.

57. "Clint Eastwood" - Gorillaz
I'm not sure how, but I'm both disbelieving that this song was from this decade, and that it was almost a decade ago that it came out.

56. "One Two Three Four" - Feist
Sure, it got overexposed, but damn if this ain't a great song.

55. "Rolling With Heat" - The Roots ft. Talib Kweli
I really want to get into The Roots. They're generally lumped in with a bunch of other hip-hop acts I really like (the Dave Chappelle's Block Party crews!). But I still haven't had any of their albums click with me. That doesn't mean that they can't turn out a great song, like this superb track.

54. "Combat Baby" - Metric
I kind of adopted Metric in the early part of the decade. I was amongst the first of my friends to hear them, and converted everyone I could. I don't think they've really musically transcended their initial steps into stardom, but I don't think they've regressed and I'm happy to see them becoming a bigger name.

53. "The Champ" - Ghostface Killah
While his Pretty Toney Album may have helped keep the Wu-Tang Clan in the public eye, Ghostface's Fishscale rocketed them back into the consciousness of hip-hop fans. An almost operatic saga of street life, featuring Wu-Tang members on several tracks. "The Champ" is Ghostface at his most combative, name-checking his previous successes but describing - and demonstrating - his continued drive.

52. "Silver Lining" - Rilo Kiley
Under The Blacklight took some flack for selling out from previous indie-rock darlings Rilo Kiley, but the thin veneer of pop shine only adds to the album's immense charms. Filled with catchy songs of quiet desperation and of lives gone horribly awry, it's one of the best albums of the decade.

51. "Overnight Celebrity" - Twista ft. Kanye West
How To Identify Chicago Hip-Hop: 1. Does it feature Kanye West or Twista? 2. Was it produced by Kanye West, or have his signature sped-up soul samples? 3. Do the vocals have a playful sneer? By this logic, "Overnight Celebrity" may be the signature Chicago hip-hop song of the decade.

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