December 21, 2009
Note: For Part 1, see here.
Who would have predicted that Justin Timberlake would not only be relevant by the end of the first decade of the 2000s, but would have released some of the best pure pop music of the last 10 years?Â SexyBack, from Timberlake’s second solo release, marked JT’s best chart performance to date, spending 7 weeks atop the Billboard Top 100.Â More importantly, this Timberland-produced track was just pop gold: you couldn’t escape the song for nigh two years, and somehow, everybody was still OK with that.
Rarely does a NY Times review of something stick with me for so long, but I remember reading the review for Hot Chip’s The Warning, which came complete with praise for “Ready for the Floor”.Â I cannot find the link/article (ugh), but it was something like “It’s so catchy, it’s so confident, it’s so gay, and it’s your new favorite song” (The “Gay” comment comes from the fact that one of the most prominent lines in the song is “You’re my number one guy”).Â And that’s really what this track is all about: the perfect combination of clever and memorable lyrics and a catchy and unflappable beat to which you can’t help but nod your head.
Before starting this list, I decided that I would only choose one song per artist (this will come up again later); otherwise, I could have a number of Radiohead songs on this list.Â They put out four albums this decade, culminating with In Rainbows in late 2007.Â But the decade started with Kid A (Which claimed the number 1 spot on many a list for album of this decade), with it’s spacey electric sound.Â Idioteque, easily the most energetic song off of that album, also marks perhaps the high point of that album.Â The song itself seems like an urgent plea from Thom Yorke, for action on some sort of crisis (“We’re not scaremongering/This is really happening”).Â Â It marks one of the most ambitious (and ultimately successful) songs for a remarkably ambitious band (Musically, Radiohead is probably the most ambitious mainstream act out there).Â Idioteque is the kind of song that creates that all-too-rare convergence of music snobs and mainstream rock fans.
Aside from spawning one of the best rap songs of the latter part of this decade (“Swagga Like Us”, by T.I. F/ Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne), Paper Planes is just a brilliant and bold piece of pop music.Â Need proof? The song builds itself a successful chorus by somehow making a combination of gunshots, a cash register, and children singing and actually makes it work.Â That alone is worth recognition.Â This song truly feels like a product of the world (not least because M.I.A. is an ethnic Tamil from London) and therefore deserves some recognition as product of the globalized era.
One of the hardest decisions for this list was which Kanye West song to put on here.Â Say what you will about the guy as a person, but the guy has put out more hits this decade than just about anyone else.Â “Diamonds Are From Sierra Leone”, to me, is just pure, vintage Kanye West.Â The beat is one of the coolest of any rap songs of the decade and Kanye is on point with his lyrics for the entire song.Â This song feels like Kanye’s realization of his own weight in the music industry: from the opener (“And I’ve realized that I’ve arrived, cos/It take more than a magazine to kill my vibe”)Â to the closing line (“R-r-r-right here stands a man,/With the power to make a diamond with his bare hands”), the song brilliantly captures the meteoric rise of Mr. West.Â Oh, and need further proof of Kanye’s cockiness? The dude has the balls to go with a 90-second 2nd verse and the flow to pull it off without flinching.