10 Years, 100 Songs: #140 – #121
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 26, 2009
#140. The National – “Mistaken for Strangers” The kind of song that dozens of dolorous, dislocated indie bands this decade would’ve killed to have the songwriting chops to pull off. Being kind of old helps, I suppose, as does originating from outside of New York.
#139. Alicia Keys – “Fallin’” At first it had that classic, timeless ballad feel to it–the kind of song that you never really get sick of. Then, American Idol. Still, almost infinitely preferable to the myriad leser torch songs that followed in its wake, which always seem to be getting worse. By the way, if you’ve never heard the reggae remix of “You Don’t Know My Name,” you owe yourself the experience of hearing what Alicia sounds like freed from the cruel imprisonment of her box of wood and ivory.
#138. Ricardo Villalobos – “Dexter“ So distant, fascinating and strangely disquieting that it’s amazing it was composed years before (and presumably has nothing to do with) the TV show. Points to Villalobos as well for his stunning remix of Beck’s “Cellphone’s Dead,” which shreds not only the original, but the totality of Mr. Hansen’s hugely disappointing artistic output for the entire decade.
#137. At the Drive-In – “One-Armed Scissor“ Maybe the most enigmatic hard rock song of the decade–I know ATDI has a gigantic cult and all, but I can’t imagine who belongs to it. Anyway, its energy is incredible, and I kind of hope that I never know all the words. (You know what was seriously underrated, by the way? Sparta’s “Breaking the Broken.” Miles above those execrable Mars Volta semi-hits.)
#136. Bloodhound Gang – “The Bad Touch“. You and your guidance counselor probably don’t want to admit it (and neither did I, at first), but this song is actually pretty clever–two years later and it could’ve easily been a (slightly nerdier) Ludacris smash. Inspiration for more cringe-worthy fratboy karaoke performances than any song since “Baby Got Back,” but we can’t very well hold the Gang accountable for that, can we?
#135. Hot Chip – “Ready for the Floor” You’d be hard pressed to find a dance song with a better opening half-minute than this all decade. The lack of a real chorus (“why don’t you open up, we talk”? ) is the only thing I can think of preventing this song from turning Hot Chip into the Information Society of the 00s.
#134. Puddle of Mudd – “She Hates Me“ Displayed the one quality that no other nu-metal besides Limp Bizkit dared to fuck around with–an actual sense of humor. Truth told, the song has far more in common with 90s quirkfests like “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “I Got a Girl” or “Hobo Humpin’ Slobo Babe” than any of their significantly more dowry contemporaries (or than with any of their hits for that matter, which were all terrible with the possible exception of “Blurry.”)
#133. Nelly – “Country Grammar (Hot Shit!)” Nelly was maybe the first truly new superstar of the 21st century, and watching the video now seems almost prophetic in its prediction of 00s hip-hop trends, from the super-regional focus to the preponderance of shiny rims to the use of a children’s song as the musical basis (on which fellow St. Louis native Jibbs apparently took careful notes). Nelly would go on to give us enough memories throughout the decade (“Hot in Herre,” “Over and Over,” “Grillz,” his cameo in The Longest Yard) to last a lifetime, and appropriately, he’ll never make it into the 2010s.
#132. Hoobastank – “The Reason“ The 80s had “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” the 90s had “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” and the 00s had “The Reason”–shame that Hoobastank weren’t Canadian, I guess. I still have no fucking clue what’s going on in the video.
#131. Freeway f/ Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel – “What We Do“ Such a perfect musical encapsulation of everything that made The Wire such a visceral and emotional TV show that it positively kills me that I never realized how much of the show’s cast is in this song’s video.
#130. Ratatat – “Seventeen Years” I still have no idea where this song comes from, or how to even begin to describe it. Daft Punk covering Iced Earth? DJ Shadow remixing Mogwai? Kevin Shields trying to make a blues record? Of course, the fact that almost every other song on the first Ratatat album sounded like a lesser version of it kind of dulled the thrill a little bit, but still..how many other songs this decade could you say you’d never heard anything like before?
#129. Wilco – “Heavy Metal Drummer“ It’s hard to tell what effect Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had, if any, in the real world, but in the rock crit community it was maybe the biggest Event Album of the decade, a maelstrom of dramatic backstory, record industry significance, and yeah, extremely high quality music. “Heavy Metal Drummer” was the centerpiece and maybe the best pure rock/pop song that Jeff Tweedy ever wrote, a gem of sighing nostalgia, summery synths and other excessively pleasant stuff that probably has a much more cynical undercurrent if you look further into it. If classic rock radio exists 25 years from now, this should be a permanent fixture on Memorial Day countdowns.
#128. Jet – “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” Jet were an almost insultingly uncreative band, but it wasn’t a coincidence that they would become practically synonymous with the iPod–like most of the other bands that would be used for the Apple commercials, they were the perfect group to exist for the sake of just one song’s worth (or hell, even just thirty seconds’ worth) of music, making them ideal fodder for the Shuffle Generation. No one cared that they were from Australia, or that they ripped off Iggy Pop, or that they named themselves after a Paul McCartney song–the thing just sounded fantastic in half-minute chunks, and why worry about the rest of the nonsense when you can just hit “Next Track” once you start to realize how stupid it all is anyway?
#127. Gorillaz – “Clint Eastwood“ When you took away all the gimmicks–the alternate identities, the ridiculous back stories, even the “Thriller”-meets-Planet of the Apes (SPIN’s description, I think, not mine) video–this was just such a cool song. Though arguably the group’s creative mastermind, the better Gorillaz songs are the ones where Damon Albarn’s contributions were kept to a minimum, so they were wise to keep him to singing the song’s hook while Don the Automator laid the spooky, drug-hazed groundwork and Del tha Funkee Homosapien tore the song up with his two verses.
#126. Mario Winans f/ P. Diddy – “I Don’t Wanna Know“ Who saw this song coming? A long-time R&B songwriter and session musician, sampling the same Enya song that The Fugees had already claimed as their own, and hobbled by a guest appearance from P Diddy? It’s proof that writing a good love song from a unique perspective–in this case, the unusually honest and un-self-consciously meek viewpoint of a man scorned, who’s OK with being scorned as long as he doesn’t have to find out about it firsthand–is enough to get some pretty improbable songs to spend eight weeks at #2 on the charts. Apparently there was even a pretty good response song we didn’t get in the States, just more proof that the Brits are still much more on the ball when it comes to building a pop music culture.
#125. Shop Boyz – “Party Like a Rock Star“ Southern rap’s endearingly awkward love letter to hard rock, complete with surreal references to Marilyn Manson and the Osbournes and a crowd-surfing and devil-horned-replete music video. Good thing they had the riff and the chorus hook to pull it off, and then some. Most notably, it got Freaknasty (of ’90s classic “Da Dip” fame) back on the charts for the first time in a decade, as listeners mistakenly paid for thousands of downloads of his “Do It Just Like a Rockstar” looking for this song–a uniquely ’00s-ian pop malfunction.
#124. Eamon – “Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)” Give Puddle of Mudd credit for cursing in the hook of their megahit, but they didn’t have the stones that Eamon had to put the word “fuck” not only in every single line of the chorus, but straight in the title as well. Of course, it wouldn’t have worked in the slightest if the rest of the song hadn’t sounded like a 1994-postmarked All-4-One ballad, and if Eamon himself hadn’t looked like a white-trashier Jimmy Fallon. Unsurprisingly, follow-up single “I Love Them Ho’s (Ho Wop)“–sampling The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You”!!!–failed to make much of an impression on anyone, as Eamon turned into the most predictable one-hit wonder since the days of Taco and Buckner & Garcia.
#123. T.I. – “Rubberband Man“ He would get much bigger from here–both in sound and stature–but in my mind TI crystalized what he was about so perfectly with this song and its exuberant production, that most of his future efforts along the same themes just sound kind of lazy to me. “Check my resume, nigga / My record’s impeccable.” True enough, at least before “Whatever You Like.”
#122. Juvenile – “Back That Azz Up“ Ended up foreshadowing nearly the whole first half of the decade in hip-hop, in terms of production, subject matter and personnel. I mean, in the outro alone, you’ve got a still-in-his-child-prodigy stage Lil’ Wayne, imploring girls to drop it like it’s hot–how’s that for a song technically written in 1998? And unlike, say, B.G.’s “Bling Bling,” it’s still actually highly listenable a decade later.
#121. Chris Brown – “Forever“ I can’t even talk about this guy anymore. Whaaaaaatta waste.