That was a hard assignment: go through all of my favorite songs from the past decade and come up with the top 20. Some of the songs are on the list because they’re filled with compelling lyrics and music; others because of the moment that the song is attached with, and the best have both.
I made a playlist of them on 8tracks.com
so you can (legally) listen to them and let me know what you think:
Here is the list in reverse order:
Why would I like a song from the mid-2000’s that says “it’s time to get away, it’s time to get away from you” and “I thought you were low man, but the truth is I was shocked”? Must be the great beats and bass.
Still not really sure what this song is all about (various theories found here
), but a few great lyrics stick out like:
Assuming that all things are equal
Who’d want to be men of the people
When there’s people like you?
Nonetheless, its extremely catchy and lead singer Alex Turner’s compelling voice make this a top song for me.
Mostly I like up-beat, happy songs. and The Funeral clearly isn’t one, but its a beautiful song that does a great job shifting and transitioning between different sounds.
Acoustic and electronic, this was the summer song of 2005. I love the way even on Beck’s website the lyrics to the chorus are listed as “Hey, my —— girl” (or at least they were in 2005.)
For me this was the classic anti-Bush, anti-war-in-Iraq song with eventually a full orchestra backing The Decemberists.
If you thought The Funeral was a downer, how about a song of a teen-age girl who dies of ‘cancer of the bone’? It always kills me when Sufjan sings “and He takes and takes and takes” referring to the death and Job 1:21
. In my book this song is one of the saddest of all time, but extremely beautiful.
“All I wanna do is [bang-bang-bang] take your money!” Simple, repetitive, including the sample of a old fashioned cash register closing and so so good.
Two parts Elton John, one part George Michael this song triggers a ‘get up and dance’ imperative even in straight people. This was the summer song of 2004, but never fails to please.
Now I ain’t sayin’ she a gold digger
But she ain’t messin’ wit no broke Niggaz
Do I need to say more? Get down girl, go ‘head, get down.
One of the things I really like about the Kaiser Chiefs is the noises they make between lyrics. This song features a long “aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhggggggggg” right before the final chorus. One of the best versions I heard was performed by 4 Eyes
Perhaps you have never considered a move to L.A., but I seem to have every year right around the first real snow storm. I think Art Brut is hilarious, and even though this song isn’t one of their singles, I think is very catchy and funny. It will always remind me of the aughts.
I still remember hearing this song for the first time on MTV Europe when I was in Amsterdam, and thinking “what is this?” It was my first exposure to the White Stripes and I was blown away. From there they became one of my (and many other people’s) top bands of the decade. Fell in Love With a Girl
, Hotel Yorba
, The Denial Twist
, Take Take Take
and My Doorbell
would be in the Top 100 Songs of the 00’s list if I made one.
Besides being my introduction to the White Stripes, Seven Nation Army is a top ten song because of its kick ass opening guitar riff, thumping beat and Jack White’s mysterious but compelling lyrics.
While Is This It
has so many great songs ( including “Hard to Explain
”, “Last Nite”, and “Someday
”), Barely Legal has always been my favorite track on the album.
I didn’t take no shortcuts
I spent the money that I saved up
Oh, Momma running out of luck
Like my sister, don’t give a fuck
Perhaps it’s the simple lyrics, the simple but catchy guitar, the pace of the song… or perhaps just the use of the ‘f-word’.
7. Australia by The Shins from Wincing the Night Away
Besides being one of the best songs on one of the best albums of the decade, the opening lines to this song were buzzing in my mind the whole time we were waiting for M’bar
Born to multiply
Born to gaze into night skies
Before he became addicted to WPTTMAOG (see below) this was M’bar’s song, and I think we played it for him moments after he arrived.
Some have called this song misogynistic
and I can see why as Jay-Z does seem to say “I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” quite a lot in this song. To me he’s just saying that having women in his life isn’t an issue — but almost everything else is.
Anyhow, I’m not really a Jay-Z fan — most of his Black Album
sounds to me like he’s rapping over the beats produced by some 16 year old on an old Casio keyboard. But put the sound of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter
behind him and you have some kick-ass track. The mix of the “aaahhh” and the thumping bass from the song are ingenious — ‘as loud as a motor bike’ — make Jay-Z’s problems sound real.
If you haven’t heard the opening 30 seconds of this song you are missing one of the best bass lines in 20th century music. It’s arresting. When M’bar crying full throttle (as little kids are wont to do from time to time) we put on this song and he immediately blinks, looks around, stops crying and smiles. It’s like magic. It was a good song before we discovered its magical powers, but now it’s the #5 song of the decade and probably the most listened to song in our collection.
Let’s pretend we don’t exist
Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica
Let’s pretend we don’t exist
Let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica
We’ve played this song so many times that Nol
said, “that’s a lot of pretending you don’t exist. May not be good for the kid.”
Like Is This It
, Hissing Fauna is an album that almost every song is an amazing track and for me may be the top album of the decade. It was hard to pick which one was my absolute favorite track, but She’s A Rejecter
jumped out at me for the great bouncy energy of the opening and subsequent verses. When I’ve seen Of Montreal play this song live the whole audience turns into a crowd of Tiggers
hopping with the beat.
And then the refrain which slows things down
oh no she’s a rejecter
i must protect myself
there’s the girl that left me bitter
want to pay some other girl
to just walk up to her and hit her
but i can’t i can’t i can’t i can’t i can’t
before the band lets loose with the bounce again.
And who hasn’t wanted to “pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her”? I sure have. For quite some time whenever some asked me “if I wanted to …” there was only one answer.
On the surface this is such a happy song, jangling guitars, sweet words about a boy and a girl but then wait “The loving is a mess what happened to all of the feeling?” Turns out it crumbled apart. But that’s not really the point of the song in my opinion. The point was about embracing life, grabbing the sunny day and going forward. That’s what kept it in heavy rotation since its release.
While driving through Boston in traffic a woman in the adjacent car heard Another Sunny Day coming out of my Mini. She found it ‘so beguiling’ that she asked me what it was. I gave her the CD and drove off.
2. Help by Lil’ Wayne from The Carter 3 Mixtape
I first heard of Lil Wayne from my source of all things Hip-Hop, The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones
. Jones’ article on Lil Wayne was about his dominating the rap world by releasing free “mix-tapes” of his work on the Internet all while building anticipation for his next album. And we weren’t talking one or two tracks; Lil Wayne was releasing three or four a day. Now here was a marketing strategy worth investigating.
Of the freely released songs, Lil Wayne created a very unique version of The Beatles’ Help
. Something about Lil Wayne’s sampling of the classic and his gravely delivery made Veronica and I crazed to learn all the lyrics and quote them often. Here’s the opening lyrics of this short song:
So sick need a doc, yes
A creature, monster like the lockness
I gets hotter by the toc, when I sizzle to death
I just tell the clock give me a sec
Some people will tell you that anyone can rap over The Beatles (see Jay-Z) and sound great; I say let’s see their demo. Until then, this is one of my top tracks.
So if you’re lonely
You know I’m here waiting for you
I’m just a cross-hair
I’m just a shot away from you
These opening lines were the lyric of liberation for me when it was released in 2004 and they were attached to an amazing song that broke out in so many directions: fast, slow, major and minor key, multiple (different choruses), etc. The overall album was fantastic and Franz Ferdinand were launched on a hype machine of unbelievable proportions.
Listening to the song at the end of the decade shows that it still sounds amazing and fills me with an optimistic energy.