Monday, December 28, 2009

1. Outkast: Hey Ya!

Found on: Speakerboxx / The Love Below (2003)
Picked by: RN, MT, TF, SL, KT, WA, PA

Why would you want to read about Hey Ya! when you could be dancing to it instead?

Watch this:

2. Gorillaz: Feel Good, Inc.

Found on: Demon Days (2005)
Picked by: RN, BG, MT, SL, PA, WA

Gorillaz weren't a real band as much as a chance for Blur frontman Damon Albarn to mess around in hip hop and electronica and for cartoonist Jamie Hewlett to draw apes playing instruments. However, De La Soul are the real stars here, stealing the show a full 16 years after their last list appearance.

3. Missy Elliot: Get Ur Freak On

Found on: Miss E...So Addictive (2001)
Picked by: RN, MT, TF, SL, KT, WA

For four straight albums, Missy and Timbaland were the Captain and Tennielle of hip-hop, a perfectly complimentary music-making team. Tim provided the minimalist, otherworldly beats, and Missy did her thing all over the top of them. The, well, addictive Get Ur Freak On is the apex of their partnership.

4. Gnarls Barkley: Crazy

Found on: St. Elsewhere (2006)
Picked by: MT, TF, SL, KT, WA, PA

Lovely neo gospel pop from Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse. Oh, and if you have the faculties to worry whether or not you're crazy, doesn't that mean you're really not? Rest easy, Cee-Lo.

5. *NSYNC: Bye Bye Bye

Found on: No Strings Attached (2000)
Picked by: KT, RN, SL, SVH, WA, PA

As loathe as I am to do it, let's just go ahead and crown Justin Timberlake the king of the Aughts. Despite a "one song per artist" rule he managed to make appearances at numbers 71, 45, 23, and 5, narrowly edging out Jay-Z (numbers 69, 60, and 6). Now watch this:

6. Nelly: Hot In Herrre

Found on: Nellyville (2002)
Picked by: RN, MT, TF, WA, SL, PA

Anytime a song becomes a part of everyday vernacular, you know it's a big deal. In this case, you couldn't say any variation of "it's hot" without someone responding, "so take off all your clothes." Or was that just me?

7. Beyonce (feat. Jay-Z): Crazy In Love

Found on: Dangerously In Love (2003)
Picked by: RN, MT, TF, WA, PA

I've listened to this song literally dozens of times, and I just finally realized how disjointed it is. One one hand you've got Beyonce singing about how great her man is and how she's so head over heels in love that her sanity is actually in question. Then Jay-Z, the object of her obsession, comes in for a rap, and instead of returning the favor by lavishing her with praise he spends 40 seconds bragging about himself. Not cool, Jay. You're lucky she married you anyway.

8. Kelly Clarkson: Since U Been Gone

Found on: Breakaway (2004)
Picked by: RN, BG, SL, WA, PA

The I Will Survive of the Aughts, sung by a talented young woman who rose to prominence by winning a televised singing competition and written by a team of professional Swedish songsmiths. What's not to like?

9. Dixie Chicks: Not Ready To Make Nice

Found on: Taking the Long Way (2006)
Picked by: RN, TF, MT, WA, PA

Okay, so this one may not make much sense when taken out of historical context. But with the context, it's a killer. The context, you ask. In 2003, lead singer Natalie Maines expressed her dissatisfaction the war in Iraq with a throwaway comment between songs at a concert. Conservative country folks lost their shit, vilifying, black-listing, and threatening the band out of a misguided, hysterical sense of "patriotism." In Not Ready To Make Nice Maines makes her point by keeping it personal, revealing the toll whole sequence of events has taken on her, but never apologizing for her initial dissent.

10. Alicia Keys: Fallin'

Found on: Songs In A Minor (2001)
Picked by: KT, TF, SL, WA, PA

Fallin' is a great song and one that will outlive all of us, but did you know it's not really in the key of A minor? Nope, it's in G major. And on that note, if you're playing on her name (A=Alicia) why not go the next step and call the album "Songs In the Key of A"? This is why a record label should hire me as a consultant.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

11. Modest Mouse: Float On

Found on: Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Picked by: RN, MT, TF, SL, PA

Is it me or is Isaac Brock's idea of bad luck a little extreme and off kilter? Here's a list of things that happen to him: He accidentally hits a police car, he and his significant other get fired from their jobs on the same day, and a guy impersonating a Jamaican scams him (wha-huh?!). Good song, nevertheless.

12. Jason Mraz: The Remedy (I Won't Worry)

Found on: Waiting For My Rocket To Come (2003)
Picked by: MT, WA, TF, SL, PA

It's cheesy, but there's something to songs as sources of comfort and confidence. When this song came out, I had just started student teaching, and I was basically terrified every morning. Often, on my way to school this song would come on the radio and give me a boost with its uplifting, "I won't worry my life away" chorus.

13. The Postal Service: Such Great Heights

Found on: Give Up (2003)
Picked by: RN, MT, WA, TF, PA

I gave the voters a choice between this and the Iron and Wine version, and The Postal Service delivered a decisive smack-down. I was not-so-secretly pleased. While the Iron and Wine version has a simple beauty, it doesn't match the majesty of the original.

14. U2: Beautiful Day

Found on: All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
Picked by: RN, MT, WA, TF, PA

Artists better known for their work in the '80s and '90s didn't make the list unless they truly created a new cultural moment for themselves. And by that I mean, people who didn't know U2 from UB40 could hear their new song and dig it for what it was. That's what happened with Beatiful Day.

15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Maps

Found on: Fever to Tell (2003)
Picked by: RN, MT, WA, TF, PA

Maps are inanimate objects incapable of human emotion, therefore the statement, "Maps, they don't love you like I do" is kind of belaboring the obvious. Even as a metphor, it's kind of awkward. Why then, is it so darn affecting?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

16. Feist: 1 2 3 4

Found on: The Reminder (2007)
Picked by: RN, MT, SL, PA

Her Grammy performance of the song was nothing short of terrible, but let's forget about that and enjoy the banjo, trumpet, and honkey tonk piano; the alternatively girlish and soulful vocals, and the way the song builds to a satisfying climax.

17. Keane: Somewhere Only We Know

Found on: Hopes and Fears (2004)
Picked by: RN, BG, MT, SVH

Your run-of-the-mill epic romantic ballad.

18. The Killers: Somebody Told Me

Found on: Hot Fuss (2004)
Picked by: RN, TF, PA, SL

Unnecessarily intriguing chorus on this song. The obvious interpretation of "you had a boyfriend that looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year" is that the person in question had a female-to-male sex change. But it's also possible s/he was always a man and was just pulling the wool over Brandon's eyes back in February. Is that why they broke up after just a month? And is the "you" in the song a man or a woman? I'm assuming it's a man, because the person just changed genders, not the way s/he swings.

19. Kylie Minogue: I Can't Get You Out of My Head

Found on: Fever (2001)
Picked by: RN, MT, WA, SL

If you get bored sometime, listen to this song and count the number of hooks, both instrumental and vocal. I always lose track around 15.

20. Ok Go: Here It Goes Again

Found on: Oh No (2005)
Picked by: RN, BG, TF, SVH

Watch this:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

21. Katy Perry: I Kissed a Girl

Found on: One of the Boys (2008)
Picked by: RN, BG, TF, MT

It's not hard to tell what formula led to this song's success: Hot singer, arena ready music, suggested lesbianism. The only drawback is what this has done to poor Jill Sobule. She was only known for one song, and then Katy Perry stole that away. It's the equivalent of someone coming along with a huge hit called Somebody's Watching Me, and sending poor Rockwell into complete obscurity.

22. Snow Patrol: Chocolate

Found on: Final Straw (2003)
Picked by: TF, SL, WA, PA

What's chocolate have to do with this song? The word is never mentioned anywhere in the lyrics, but I suppose both are beloved by the ladies (Steph excluded).

23. Regina Spektor: Fidelity

Found on: Begin to Hope (2006)
Picked by: BG, TF, MT, PA

Some artists' voices are their strongest musical instrument, and Regina Spektor is one of those. What separates her from every other broken-hearted girl in front of a piano is her wide vocal range, her hip hop syncopation, and her odd phrasing. Fidelity displays them all proudly.

24. Train: Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)

Found on: Drops of Jupiter (2001)
Picked by: RN, MT, WA, PA

Honestly, this one has just been drilled into my head so many times that I can't resist it. It is a pretty catchy melody. Even so I could do without the Tae-Bo and soy latte references.

25. KT Tunstall: Black Horse and the Cherry Tree

Found on: Eye to the Telescope (2004)
Picked by: RN, MT, SL, PA

I didn't fully appreciate KT until I saw her live. She didn't blow me away with her performance necessarily (the songs sounded basically the same as they do on record) but she was surprisingly funny and quite cute on top of that. That's really all I need.

26. Kanye West: Jesus Walks

Found on: The College Dropout (2004)
Picked by: MT, TF, SL, PA

I have issues with Kanye, not because he frightens Taylor Swift or has a big ego, but because he's just not that great of a rapper. But as a writer, producer, and as a critic of George Bush? He's got it goin' on there. On Jesus Walks he puts it all together (though could you imagine how much better it would have been if Jay-Z had taken the mic?).

27. Lily Allen: Smile

Found on: Alright, Still (2006)
Picked by: BG, WA, MT

My sister is not someone you want to piss off.

28. Black Eyed Peas: Where Is the Love

Found on: Elephunk (2003)
Picked by: KT, PA, WA

Let's remember back to a time when Black Eyed Peas weren't ubiquitous, annoying, and vapid. Before anyone had a feelin' that tonight was going to be a good night, and before anyone knew what lovely lady lumps were (I still don't, personally), the Peas recruited Justin Timberlake to record an ode to peace.

29. Mary J. Blige: Family Affair

Found on: No More Drama (2002)
Picked by: MT, TF, PA

A bumpin' Dre track and some Mary J. preachin' will help you get it crunk. Bonus points to Blige for her word creation skills, even if "dancery", "hateration", and "holleration" never really did catch on.

30. Death Cab For Cutie: I Will Follow You Into the Dark

Found on: Plans (2005)
Picked by: TF, WA, PA

I didn't like this song all that much when it came out, but I wasn't in love then either. Now whenever I hear it the room gets inexplicably dry and water forms in the corners of my eyes. It's a pretty weird phenomenon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

31. Eminem: Lose Yourself

Found on: 8 Mile: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture (2002)
Picked by: MT, WA, PA

Lose Yourself is a great song, but it's basically the last time Eminem was truly impactful in any way. And to think, back in 2002, I came dangerously close to declaring him the game-changer of the Aughts (a game-changer is an artist who revolutionizes the music industry; there are only five, roughly one-per decade: Elvis Presley, Beatles, Ramones, Michael Jackson, Nirvana). In retrospect, I don't think your game-changer can be someone who picked fights with the likes of Chris Kirkpatrick, Christina Aguilara, and Moby.

32. Fountains of Wayne: Stacey's Mom

Found on: Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)
Picked by: TF, RN, PA

For me the best part of Stacey's Mom was not the Cars-esque music, the Rachel Hunter-starring video, or the fact that it finally gave Fountains of Wayne the attention they deserved. No, it's the poor deluded narrator who really truly believes he's got a shot with his friend's mom.

33. David Gray: Babylon

Found on: White Ladder (2000)
Picked by: SL, RN, PA

Why is it that pop songs almost always have an all-or-nothing take on romance? They're either over the moon or under the wheels. Babylon is an exception, actually following its narrator from despair to hope, all in the course of a single weekend!

34. Green Day: Wake Me Up When September Ends

Found on: American Idiot (2004)
Picked by: MT, SVH, TF

No one could have predicted that Green Day would be more relevant and beloved in the '00s than they were in the '90s, but those kinds of surprises are what makes following pop music so fun. Any number of American Idiot songs would have been suitable for this list, but Wake Me Up When September Ends has the 9/11 advantage going for it (you could call it the Rudy Guliani effect).

35. Guster: Careful

Found on: Keep It Together (2003)
Picked by: BG, SVH, PA

Proving that strong melodies and sweet harmonies will never go out of style.

Friday, December 18, 2009

36. Jimmy Eat World: The Middle

Found on: Bleed American (aka Jimmy Eat World) (2001)
Picked by: RN, WA, TF

Jimmy Eat World recorded Bleed American (renamed after 9/11) with their own money after being dropped from Capital records. Dreamworks recognized a winner and the album became a hit, thanks mostly to The Middle, the aural equivalent to a hug from your mom.

37. Leona Lewis: Bleeding Love

Found on: Spirit (2008)
Picked by: RN, TF, BG

Let's get this sorted out. American Idol is based on a British show called Pop Idol, which also featured Simon Cowell. Pop Idol ceased production in 2003 and was replaced by a nearly identical show called The X Factor, which also features Simon Cowell. Leona Lewis won the third season of it, and then had this hit song.

38. Maroon 5: Makes Me Wonder

Found on: It Won't Be Soon Before Long (2007)
Picked by: BG, TF, MT

Adam Levine doesn't have good luck with the ladies. His whole first album, Songs About Jane (which featured list-worthy songs like Harder To Breathe, This Love, and She Will Be Loved), was dedicated to an ex. Superstardom didn't make things better, as the muscular rock soul of Makes Me Wonder demonstrates.

39. John Mayer: No Such Thing

Found on: Room For Squares (2001)
Picked by: TF, WA, PA

Before he became a tatted-up GQ cover model who goes through starlets like Kleenex John Mayer was a fresh-faced singer-songwriter trying to deal with becoming an adult.

40. MGMT: Electric Feel

Found on: Oracular Spectacular (2008)
Picked by: MT, PA, WA

The instrumental hook of this song always reminds me of Down Under by Men At Work, which is of course a good thing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

41. Peter Bjorn and John: Young Folks

Found on: Writer's Block (2006)
Picked by: RN, BG, WA

If I'm not mistaken, Young Folks is the the first song since Billy Joel's The Stranger to successfully incorporate whistling. Oh, and I just noticed that the band's name can be shortened with the acronym PB & J.

42. Gwen Stefani: Hollaback Girl

Found on: Love Angel Music Baby (2005)
Picked by: SL, MT, PA

Gwen Stefani as a solo star was a no brainer, but that it happened on the strength of a minimalist R & B track with nonsense lyrics? That shit was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

43. The Strokes: Last Nite

Found on: Is This It? (2001)
Picked by: TF, SL, WA

The Strokes ushered in a thrilling (if brief) rock revival and made us realize that "garage band" doesn't have to mean "untalented" or "hard to listen to." Though Julian Casablancas sings "Your grandsons / They won't understand," I think that he just might be wrong.

44. Glen Hansard & Marketa Iglova: Falling Slowly

Found on: Once (2008)
Picked by: SVH, WA, PA

For legal reasons I can't post the scene from Once where Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova perform this song in a music store, but that says more about it than I ever could. Go seek it out yourself.

45. Justin Timberlake: SexyBack

Found on: FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)
Picked by: KT, SL, WA

46. Rufus Wainwright: Want

Found on: Want One (2003)
Picked by: RN, WA, PA

Like many artists, Rufus could have placed several songs on the list. But the title song from his best Aughts album is as good as any, if only for the killer line: "I don't want, no I really don't want / To be John Lennon or Leonard Cohen / I just want to be my Dad / With a slight sprinkling of my mother."

47. Amy Winehouse: Rehab

Found on: Back To Black (2006)
Picked by: RN, WA, BG

Before Amy Winehouse entered our lives we always wondered what it would be like if Elvira and Skeletor had a daughter who could sing like Etta James. Rehab has a retro-soul musical thrill with a very modern lyrical twist, and rarely do singer and song fit so snugly together (in many ways).

48. 50 Cent: In Da Club

Found on: Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003)
Picked by: WA, KT

If you don't, at some point during your birthday, sing the opening few lines of this song to yourself, then you just aren't trying hard enough. Have some Bacardi and loosen up. Maybe get a hug from 50 if you don't mind getting rubbed.

49. Ryan Adams: New York, New York

Found on: Gold (2001)
Picked by: RN, PA

I need more songs about New York about as much a I need more canker sores, but New York, New York endures because it's not just a rote celebration of the "capital of the world," it's a goodbye. As Adams mourns a "busted up and broken up" relationship he also gives a fond farewell to the city where it took place.