The Decade: A Retrospective The Best Songs 70-56


"Stronger"
Kanye West
Graduation (2007)

"Stronger" was the moment that Kanye West changed his goal from being the biggest rapper in the world to being the biggest pop star in the world. Appropriating Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger", West reinvents the adage that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger into a drunken, boastful anthem that was written for the express purpose of being a No. 1 single (which it was).

"Biology"
Girls Aloud
Chemistry (2005)

"Biology" is a classic Girls Aloud track, refusing to conform to the traditional songwriting structure. Instead, the song veers from a cabaret intro to an art rock verse and then to one of its two explosive choruses. Named "best pop single of the last decade" by the Guardian, "Biology" pushed the boundaries of what pop music was supposed to be. Popjustice said, "it is pop music which makes people who don't like pop music think that they like pop music".

"Stroke of Genius"
Freelance Hellraiser
Not commercially released (2001)

Although mash-ups have their origins with the likes of the "Stars on 45" Medley in 1981, it is perhaps the twenty-first century's only totally unique genre. "A Stroke of Genius" was one of the first mash-ups to gain major exposure and it remains one of the best. Freelance Hellraiser combined two wildly divergent songs, the teen-pop of Christina Aguilera's "Genie In A Bottle" and the indie rock of the Stroke's "Hard To Explain". Purists would turn their noses to mixing the two tracks, but their union underscored the decade's trend of tearing down musical barriers.

"Box N Locks"
MPHO
Pop Art (2009)

MPHO's failure to make any major impact on British radio was a massive pop injustice. "Box N Locks" is a masterful, life affirming, and genre-defying debut. Borrowing heavily from Cars-inspired pop, South African born MPHO rages against critics who say she's supposed to make "urban music" because of her skin as she proclaims, "Sorry that I didn't know that I fit in the box and all the locks that's supposed to be unbreakable".

"Blinded By The Lights"
The Streets
A Grand Don't Come For Free (2004)

The Streets' "Blinded By The Lights" is the closest you can come to getting high without puffing a thing. Mike Skinner transports the listener to a club completely stoned as a haunting female voice repeats "lights are blinding my eyes" and the off kilter synth beat drowns the senses. The lyrics are paranoid and schizophrenic making something as simple as finding friends a trippy experience. "Everything in room is spinning, I think I'm gonna fall down, I wonder if they got in..." Skinner wonders before the track ends and he blacks out.

"All These Things That I've Done"
The Killers
Hot Fuss (2004)

"All These Things That I've Done" is an anthem. It begins quiet and solemn with Brandon Flowers pleading, "if you can't hold on, hold on," as a church organ sounds before the swelling guitars and the song's memorable riff take it from there. "Don't you put me on the backburner," Flowers demands. But that's not even the iconic part. The track takes off with the immortal line, "I got soul but I'm not a soldier". The gospel choir joins in, you roll down your windows and sing with them, and everything is right in the world. Everything.

"Work It"
Missy Elliott
Under Construction (2002)

During the 1960s and 70s, backmasking was a major concern for parents worried that their children's rock music was subliminally making their kids want to smoke marijuana. Missy Elliott never went that far, but she told the world to put their things down, flip it, and reverse it both forwards and backwards in her 2002 hit. The song spent a record ten weeks at No. 2 without reaching the top spot, a travesty for the old-school sampling, elephant-tail-yanking, sci-fi thriller.

"Stan"
Eminem
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

The word fan is derived from fanatic. Sampling Dido's "Thank You" to a haunting effect, Eminem tells the chilling fictional tale of his "biggest fan", Stan. Stan is tragically misguided and writes several letters to Eminem, each more desperate, drunk, and deranged than the one before, and each goes unanswered. Slim Shady finally responds, but not before his biggest fan ends his life driving his car off a bridge. Eminem never signed up to be an idol, but wife-beater wearing disenfranchised youth across America didn't care.

"Some Girls"
Rachel Stevens
Come and Get It (2005)

"Dreams of number one last forever," Rachel Stevens ironically sang in her No. 2 hit "Some Girls". The song, allegedly about a desperate pop star providing her "services" to a record executive in exchange for fame, was sought by Stevens as well as former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. Stevens team pitched it as the 2004 Sports Relief charity single although it had nothing to do with sports or charity, and she got it. The track was written and produced by Richard X who used glam rock percussion with Adam Ant influenced synth to make a critic charming smash.

"Izzo (H.O.V.A.)"
Jay-Z
The Blueprint (2001)

At the end of the decade, Jay-Z declared the death of auto-tune because it had become a parody of itself. Almost ten years before however, Jay was responsible for taking a different trend and packaging it for the masses so it could quickly "jump the shark". The Kanye West produced "Izzo" brought the -izzle phenomenon into the public consciousness and soon enough, even your grandmizzle was using it. Hova tackles one of his favorite topics in this track, himself, which samples the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back".

"Paper Planes"
M.I.A.
Kala (2007)

M.I.A. had gained the respect of indie critics and the blogosphere, but it wasn't until her song about being "high like planes" was featured in the marijuana film Pineapple Express that she broke into the mainstream. Stuffed with gunshot noises, a choir of third world children chanting about taking your money, and a Clash sample, "Paper Planes" was an unlikely hit. Peaking at No. 4, it resonated at a time of worldwide economic meltdown and unending global conflict and war.

"I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor"
The Arctic Monkeys
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)

The Arctic Monkeys rode the wave of pre-album release buzz to the top of the charts and Whatever People I Say I Am, That's What I'm Not became the fastest selling debut in British history. The week it was released, it was dubbed the fifth greatest Brit album ever. The British press can be a bit hyperbolic, but luckily the Monkeys lived up to their hype. "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor", the album's lead single, is an airtight, wordy, raw, and explosive song that anyone looks good dancing to.

"Knights of Cydonia"
Muse
Black Holes and Revelations (2006)

Closing out their breakthrough album Black Holes and Revelations was Muse's "Knights of Cydonia". Clocking in at just over six minutes, "Knights" combined Queen-like grandiosity and falsetto, stampeding horses, and electro-opera synth to create an epic track. The song impressively churns on for two minutes before any vocals are needed. "How can we win when fools can be kings?" asks Matthew Bellamy.


"Feel Good Inc."
Gorillaz
Demon Days (2005)

Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc." is hands down the best song by a fake band ever. Better than the Archie's "Sugar Sugar"? Yes. Featuring a catchy as hell bassline, a crazy manic laugh, and the zombie-like woo-hoo, the virtual group's signature song is unmistakable. Gorillaz was put together by Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, with assistance from DJ Dangermouse. Gorillaz went on to be recognized by Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful virtual band of all time.

"Like Eating Glass"
Bloc Party
Silent Alarm (2005)

Bloc Party opened their award winning Silent Alarm with "Like Eating Glass", a hard hitting, visceral jam that plays like an emotional heartbroken bloke too stubborn and angry to admit it. "It's so cold in this house," a lonely Kele Okereke sings. He describes his pain like "drinking poison" and "eating glass" with propulsive guitar and syncopated percussion as a soundtrack to his hurt. It was one of their first hand banging, fist pumping, danceable art-punk-rock songs, but it wouldn't be their last.

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