The Decade: A Retrospective The Best Songs 10-1


"Clocks"
Coldplay
A Rush of Blood To The Head (2002)

In early 2008 Coldplay was voted The Band Most Likely to Put You to Sleep in the United Kingdom, seemingly a slap in the face. Although they’ve learned to “rock out” a little more than they used to, Coldplay has always had a knack for atmospheric dreamy music, and it’s not a bad thing.

"Clocks" is lighter than air. The gently tumbling piano is beautiful and its the kind of melody that's an instant classic. Our children and our children's children will recognize it their entire lives, even before they're old enough to know who Coldplay is. Despite the simplicity of the track, it feels larger than life. Chris Martin takes lyrics about clocks, tigers, and shooting apples of your head, and sells them more than he's ever sold a song before or since. "Am I apart of the cure or am I part of the disease?" Don't worry Coldplay, you're part of the cure.

"Banquet"
Bloc Party
Silent Alarm (2005)

With syncopated guitars, unyielding drums, and Kele Okereke’s desperate and cathartic vocals “Banquet” is like a kick to the face. The snappy single is like a template for the band’s later hits, exploring themes of alienation, paranoia, and coming of age while mixing post punk with indie and dance rock. The song broke the band internationally and continues to be a must use track for MTV montages and extreme sports video games.

"Banquet" hits you like a machine gun with its lyrics about our disheartened generation and feelings of being underratted and suffocated. "I'm on fire so stomp me out," Okereke sings. The only deliverance comes from Bloc Party’s crisp and energetic performance. A perfect stick-it-to-the-man anthem and the best indie rock the decade had to offer.

"Run"
Snow Patrol
Final Straw (2003)
In America at least, Snow Patrol will always be known for “Chasing Cars” thanks to its placement in the popular television show Grey’s Anatomy. For all the beauty and lovey-dovey feelings that song evokes, “Run” does it even better. Starting out as dark and moody rock and haunted by the protagonist’s love interest being “the only thing that’s right in all I’ve done”, the song is lifted by a sense of hope by the time the chorus comes around.
“Run” reaches hymn-like status as the strings kick in and singer Gary Lightbody proclaims “Light up, light up, as if you have a choice” and all of a sudden, running away from all this mess to a better place sounds like the answer to all of life’s problems. Leona Lewis covered the song in 2008, a version which Lightbody himself described as “phenomenal”.

"Since U Been Gone"
Kelly Clarkson
Breakaway (2004)

Reality show pop stars have gained a notorious reputation for putting out crap, and in all honesty, they deserve that reputation. Inaugural idol Kelly Clarkson however, is one of the few exceptions. “Since U Been Gone” is perfect pop. Its as if it were crafted in a laboratory in Sweden bent on total domination of the world’s radio waves (which it was). Luckily, Clarkson decided the pop ditty needed a little edge and insisted on rocking out as much as Clive Davis would let her.

Released during a time when hip-hop ruled the charts, the song only managed to go No. 2, but it is arguably the most ubiquitous No. 2 hit of all-time. Destined for heavy rotation at karaoke bars for generations to come, "Since U Gone" struck a chord with listeners. It wasn't just a bitter break up song, it was empowering. She wasn't going to mourn the loss of her lover, she was going to move on, and be better than ever. If this was the only good thing to come out of American Idol, it was all worth it.

"Somebody Told Me"
The Killers
Hot Fuss (2004)

It’s no surprise that “Somebody Told Me” would end up in the upper echelons of this list, after all, this blog gets its name from it (“17 tracks and I’ve had it with this game”). Blog names aside, this song stands on its own merits as one of the decade’s best tracks. It oozes Las Vegas glam more than any other song the band has done thanks to the dirty buzz of the synth lines that share space with good old fashioned rock and roll guitar and drums.

The lyrics hint at either bisexuality, sex changes, androgyny, or all three (“Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend that looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year”) and the sexual energy in Brandon Flower’s voice is palpable. Released as the Killer’s debut single, it failed to initially get any traction but took off as soon as the British music press got ahold of it.

"Toxic"
Britney Spears
In The Zone (2003)
Mid-decade Britney Spears was a pop star in transition. She had shed every vestige of her former Mickey Mouse Club wholesomeness and traded her Max Martin produced teen pop in for cutting edge electronica. Her evolution might have been necessary but, it hurt her sales and popularity. Not even a symbolic passing of the baton in the form of a televised kiss with her icon Madonna seemed to be enough to get Spears back on top. She needed nothing less than one of the most inventive pop songs of the modern age.

“Toxic” sounded like the theme song to an anime James Bond movie from space. The bollywood strings were so good it was hard to believe they weren’t sampled, and alongside the surf guitar, synthesizers, and the stop and go beat, it was clear that producers Bloodshy and Avant had struck gold. The video featuring Spears wearing nothing but diamonds was a natural choice, and her tantalizing delivery brought us so high that we couldn’t come down.
"Disintigration"
Jimmy Eat World
Stay On My Side Tonight (2005)
Jimmy Eat World did not peak in 2001. Their crowning achievement is this seven minute and forty four second epic released on their Stay On My Side Tonight EP in 2005. The percussion alone is capable of sending chills down the spine of a grown man as Jim Adkins asks, “I wonder why I’m so caught off guard when we kiss/I’d rather live my life in regret than do this.” Adkins portrays the emotions of grappling with a love once so real and sweet being lost and destroyed. The sleepless nights, the endless fights, the back and forth debating that goes on in the mind of someone trying to decide if all is lost or there is still hope is all captured in the song.

In the end, the band that spends most albums convincing listeners that everything is going to be alright comes to the conclusion that everything is not alright. The love that two people once knew can be destroyed beyond repair. “Hanging on a cigarette, you need me, you burn me” Adkins points out. The song reaches its crescendo as the refrain “lie, lie better next time, stay on my side tonight” is chanted amid building and dizzying guitar and drums before fading out and leaving the listener hopeless.

"Lose Yourself"
Eminem
8 Mile (2002)
“Lose Yourself” justifies Eminem’s entire existence. You’d be hard pressed to find a song that can psyche you up as much as this one does. Eminem gives the best rap performance of his career over a building rock beat asking, “If you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or let it slip?” His description of the protagonist who dreams of fame only to get booed off stage and return to his trailer park is so graphic and vivid that there was no need for a movie to tell the story.

The song’s strength comes from it’s overarching theme of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Sure, it’s about a rapper, but the intensity and energy in Eminem's go-for-broke performance translate to any situation where you are the defeated underdog who refuses to be beaten again. Eminem never sounded as raw and believable as his did in "Lose Yourself".

"Umbrella"
Rihanna
Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)
The first time you heard it you thought it was weird. The second time you heard it, you thought it might be kind of catchy. By the third time, you loved it. “Umbrella” isn’t so much weird as it is brilliant and ahead of its time. Built, around a slick drum and high-hat loop, Rihanna sings about umbrellas as a metaphor for friendship, the kind that you “take and oath and stick it out to the end”, a topic not routinely covered in pop music. Its not about lust, and not even necessarily about romance, its about offering shelter from the storms of life, a modern day “Stand By Me”.

Originally offered to Britney Spears, and Mary J. Blige, it’s hard to imagine either doing a better job than the Barbados-born pop star. Her vocal delivery, while not technically superior to her peers, is unique and unmistakable as she glides along to the mother of all hooks, “ella ella ella eh eh eh”. Her Alanis-like pronunciation of the word umbrella gives it more syllables than previously thought possible.

"Hey Ya"
OutKast
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
Once every decade, a song comes around that defies genre placement. It transcends gender, age, and racial barriers to receive critical acclaim, commercial success, and be crowned an instant classic. “Hey Ya!” is such a song and it couldn’t have gotten there in a more non-traditional way. A pop song performed by one half of a hip-hop duo combining two of the most commonly used words in the English language that name checks Beyonce and Lucy Liu. It seemed like every lyric became a catch phrase (“What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold! Shake it like a Polaroid picture!”). To this day, whenever “Hey Ya!” comes on, everyone, and I mean everyone from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, from Mick Jagger to your grandma, everyone within hearing distance will begin to tap their feet and I don’t think we’ll ever get sick of it. It’s that good.

It’s secret was sounding like everything in the history of rock and roll while sounding like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It’s an electrifying funk-dipped, pop-drenched, soul-infested three minutes and fifty-five seconds that sounds like a mash-up of the Beatles, Prince, and the Supremes from the future. The smooth acoustic guitar glides alongside the funky synth before crashing into handclaps and Andre 3000’s back up singing and one of the most poignant questions of the decade: “If what they say is “nothing is forever”, then what makes love the exception?”

5 comments:

AmyLovesYou!! said...

Very good list-I am happy to see Outkast at number one-I was afraid you were going to put Kanye.

100 great songs of this decade :)
And Eminem is so not done yet! Love him!!

Nathan said...

I'm really glad that Kelly Clarkson was finally put on this list. However, I don't understand how Pink, The Black Eyed Peas, Regina Spektor, Christina Aguilera, James Blunt, 3 doors down, Nelly, Ciara, Jack's Mannequin, and a lot of others missed the boat.....I think there is some songs that very well deserved to be in the top 100 of the decade from many artists. Just a thought...

hun*ter said...

How could any song besides "Hey Ya!" be No. 1?

Anonymous said...

This list = Garbage

AmyLovesYou!! said...

totally agree hunter! Hey Ya is awesome. And the list was good. had all my top on there well besides josh turner. lol!

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