December 23, 2009
And now, for the top three songs of the decade.
The first track off of Arcade Fire’s debut album Funeral, also the first of the four part “neighborhood” saga, is a dreamy track about a snowed-in neighborhood free of parental supervision. Tunnels kicks off one of the best, if not the best, albums of the decade, starts of with a wandering piano, painting a vivid picture of a snowbound town: “And if the snow buries my/My neighborhood/And if my parents are crying/Then I’ll dig a tunnel/From my window to yours/ Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours”.Â Behind a heavy bass drum (hinting at things to come on Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) and the album closer Rebellion (Lies) later on the album) and an impressive collection of instruments (Arcade Fire is after all a band of 9-10 people), the song builds towards an impressive and frantic climax just a few seconds from the end of the song.Â The song works well as an opener (feeding later songs and setting the tone for some of the themes off the rest of the album), but it’s also remarkably successful as a single and is an exceptional piece of rock music.
Rarely does a song capture so much of both the rap and rock crowds, but “Hey Ya” did that better than just about any other track in my lifetime.Â Honestly, few songs fill a dance floor faster than this song and few songs have more memorable lines.Â Musically, the song is brilliant: it’s a unique beat, with superb lyrics and delivery.Â Â But really, it’s just that this song is just about the most original and most fun song that came out this decade (save for maybe Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad”).Â Because let’s face it: If you clicked the link and watched the video, you’re going to have this song stuck in your head all day. Whether it’s “What’s cooler than being cool” or “shake it like a Polaroid picture”, this song delivers some of the most memorable lines of the decade.Â Plus, it gave us one of this amusing acoustic cover from Scrubs.
No surprise here, if you know my tastes.Â I’ve been hooked on this song since the first time I heard it nearly three years ago.Â The wobbly piano guides a song about the pre-party build up, the party, the post-party, and dealing with growing up.Â It’s a simple beat, that basically doesn’t really change throughout the 7:21 seconds of this song.Â But this song is about the lyrics: they are clever and brilliant and they drive the song from the start to finish.Â James Murphy’s near-spoken delivery is pensive and uplifting.Â Even the throwaway lines are gold: “It comes apart/The way it does in bad films/Except in parts/When the moral kicks in”.Â But by the end of the song, you can’t help but feel better.Â “And with a face like a dad and a laughable stand,/you can sleep on the plane or review what you said./When you’re drunk and the kids look impossibly tan/you think over and over, ‘hey, I’m finally dead./Oh, if the trip and the plan come apart in your hand/you look contorted on yourself your ridiculous prop./You forgot what you meant when you read what you said/And you always knew you were tired, but then/Where are your friends tonight?”
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.