Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Best Songs of the Decade: 25-1

See also:

The Best Songs of the Decade: 100-76
The Best Songs of the Decade: 75-51
The Best Songs of the Decade: 50-26

The 10 Best Albums of the Decade

25. "Run" - Gnarls Barkley
My favorite Gnarls Barkley song. Almost impossible not to throw up my arms at the background 'wah!'s.

24. "Rehab" - Amy Winehouse
The most bitterly ironic song of the decade. Although I don't think all of Amy Winehouse's stuff is as fantastic as some do, songs like this show that she can be something special. So get off the crack and into the recording studio, lady!

23. "Entertain" - Sleater-Kinney
Sleater-Kinney's breakup wasn't all that surprising, especially as their later albums added more and more songs like this one, dealing with the perils of fame. With its thudding drums and intense riffs, this song may have been the best combo of the fuzzed-out classic rock of their final album and the anthemic punk of their earlier work.

22. "How To Disappear Completely" - Radiohead
If it's not clear from the songs on the list, I'll say it straight-out: I like fast songs more than slow songs, anthems more than ballads, rockers more than love songs, etc., etc. So it takes a damn fine slow song for me to grasp a hold of it. The primary attribute I'm interested in is lyrical evocation - does it make me feel a certain specific way? "How To Disappear Completely" reminds me of being on my college campus as one of a handful of people over Thanksgiving break, listening to Kid A, reading Watchmen, and dealing with a massive fog bank that made everything ethereal. It's a great song for anything along those lines.

21. "Mass Romantic" - The New Pornographers
Not to get all High Fidelity on y'all, but when they talk about the top five side 1/track 1 combinations? This would be my first pick, and also my pick for the best opening ten seconds of a song.

20. "Love Lockdown" - Kanye West
Although Kanye's shift away from more conventional rapping/producing is a bit disappointing considering the quality he brings to those, his auto-tuned breakup album 808's and Heartbreaks was still good enough that I can't complain too much. "Love Lockdown" is easily the standout track thanks to its complex rhythms and intense vocals.

19. "Seven Nation Army" - The White Stripes
To call this song "anthemic" would be something of an insult both to the song and the term. This was the biggest and best rock anthem since "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

18. "B.O.B." - Outkast
Do I have too much Outkast on this list? Given that there are more Outkast songs to come, after three so far (and two more I just barely left off), that seems like it might be a worthwhile argument. But while Andre 3000 and Big Boi are most often compared to Lennon and McCartney, no doubt due to their somewhat fractured personal relationship, a better comparison might be to The Rolling Stones: would you complain about having too many Rolling Stones songs in a Best of the 60's list? Cause I'm not taking "Sympathy for the Devil," "Paint It Black," "Gimme Shelter," or "Satisfaction" out of the top 20 of THAT list.

17. "All For Swinging You Around" - The New Pornographers
Picking favorite New Pornographers songs is like picking children. This is my favorite child, then. Pity the poor cat in my lap when this song plays, cause they're getting swung around.

16. "5 Million Ways To Kill A C.E.O." - The Coup
15. "Laugh, Love, Fuck" - The Coup
Funky beats, radical politics, and wicked humor: it's like The Coup are aimed directly at the heart of my musical aesthetics. The only real surprise is how many people with similar tastes haven't even heard of them.

14. "Portions for Foxes" - Rilo Kiley
Is this song happy? Sad? Pro-relationship-with-bad-girls? It's kind of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind of rock songs, in that it can be interpreted as meaning a variety of different things, but it's excellent on the surface.

13. "You Know I'm No Good" - Ghostface Killah ft. Amy Winehouse
One of my few criticisms of Ghostface is that his intensity can be a little bit overwhelming, especially over and over. One of my criticisms of Amy Winehouse is that while she has a beautiful voice, her songs often seem to lack, well, intensity. So put Ghostface together with Winehouse, and the gestalt is incredible.

12. "Furnace Room Lullaby" - Neko Case
The last slow song on the list. If I want evocative and ethereal, I really can't do better than Neko Case's stellar voice. She's great doing power pop with The New Pornographers, but songs like this are simply transcendent.

11. "My Favorite Mutiny" - The Coup ft. Black Thought & Talib Kweli
There is a specific subgenre of hip-hop song that I don't know the name for, but I'm mesmerized by. Its attributes are: 1) a medium-to-slow, simple, rhythmic beat; 2) a wide range of guest stars; and 3) aggressive, usually self-referential and -aggrandizing lyrics. "My Favorite Mutiny" fits this subgenre almost perfectly, although with its "who's who" of "socially conscious" rappers, it's much more political in nature than others of the sort.

10. "Prisstina" - Sleater-Kinney
Sleater-Kinney is ofter heralded for their politics, a somewhat overrated trait having more to do with the historical context of the band's creation than the radical nature of their lyrics. They do have an amazing faith in music, which shows up clearly in this magnificently catchy tale of a good girl going bad for rock'n'roll.
(I'm really sorry about the video, non-anime fans. But it's all the internet gave me.)

9. "Get By" - Talib Kweli
You can tell a song is great when hearing it for the first time causes you to immediately go back and play it again. My jaw hit the floor at hearing "Get By" and I played it again. And as time went on, again and again and again.

8. "Everything's Just Wonderful" - Lily Allen
Another entry into the catchy-as-hell-pop-song-about-depression subgenre. Between Lily Allen and Justin Timberlake, amongst others, this decade threatened to give disposable pop a good name. Who saw that coming?

7. "Hold On, Hold On" - Neko Case
Neko Case, on the other hand, threatens to give country a good name. Good thing they haven't noticed her.

6. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" - Jay-Z
It's not only an excellent song, but it's stunning cultural impact may best be demonstrated in this clip.

5. "Flip Flop Rock" - Outkast ft. Killer Mike & Jay-Z
This may be the Platonic example of the subgenre of rap that I mentioned with "My Favorite Mutiny." Any Outkast song with Killer Mike has a great chance at being excellent. Add in a superb Jay-Z guest verse, and it's about as good as hip-hop gets.

4. "Kilo" - Ghostface Killah ft. Raekwon
I've called Fishscale my favorite album of the decade, and, with some very strong competition, I'm calling this its best track. The sample, swiped from an educational song about kilograms, starts it off right, and it's got Ghostface and Raekwon doing the cocaine-based storytelling they excel at.

3. "Hey Ya!" - Outkast
The most consistent criticism of "Hey Ya!" I hear is that it's overplayed. Yes, it's played a lot. A lot. But for it to be overplayed, don't you have to get tired of it? Ever? Cause I sure as hell don't.

2. "Breakin' Up" - Rilo Kiley
This combines two of my favorite types of songs: the breakup song, and the peppy song about depressing content. And it does it damn well, gospel, disco and all. The sheer joy and relief it conveys are refreshing in a world where pop songs are almost entirely about wanting to get into relationships or hating getting out of them. Listen now, and break up with someone close to you!

1. "The Whole World" - Outkast ft. Killer Mike
One of the big Outkast debates often centers on their first four albums vs. Speakerboxxx\The Love Below. Their earlier albums, though occasionally very experimental, still reside in the genre of southern gangster hip-hop, while the massive double album moves off the street and onto the stage, as it were, where hip-hop and pop mingle together. Both are excellent, but better yet is the bridge between the two: their 2001 greatest hits album, Big Boi and Dre present.... They recorded three new tracks for the album, including the standout "The Whole World" (another track of the three, "Funkin' Around," just barely missed this list).

"The Whole World" has Outkast at their best, with pop appeal but still some grime in the vocals, over a marvelous swinging beat. "The Whole World" is pretty much impossible not to like, and even grows on repeat listens. When I began putting this list together, I had it as my tentative #1, but was pretty certain that I'd pick something from the top 8-12 that would replace it. And yet, as the list took shape, I never really considered any other song better. "The Whole World" is the best song of the 2000's.

2 comments:

Renaissance Poet said...

There is no way I'm doing my own list, but I do have to note the most important ones you missed:

"Twentysomething" and "Frontin'" by Jamie Cullum: He's better than Harry Connick Jr., and that's saying a lot. Harry was my favorite contemporary jazz pianist until I heard Jamie's cover of the Pharrell and Jay-Z track. And "Twentysomething" is required for every liberal arts educated twentysomething.

"Echo" by Incubus: I admit it. I love Incubus. Their music is incredibly haunting and this particular piece never gets old. I feel that "Echo" is stunning every time.

"Ridiculous" by Musiq Soulchild: seriously beautiful neo-soul. He's such a genius and this is his best work.

"Are You Feelin Me?" by Aaliyah: Off the Romeo Must Die soundtrack, which was a huge phenomenon in and of itself. This track is so classic.

"If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keys: to understand the impact of this song, I can only offer this antidote- when I worked as a waitress, the daughter of one of my coworkers was helping us roll silverware at the end of the night. She was probably in elementary school, had little barrettes in her hair, and started singing this song to me.

"Lag Time" by Ani DiFranco: I do tend to prefer her earlier work (specifically Dilate), but I absolutely love this song, thanks to WPS. Fantastic!

jojo said...

This is good shit.