10 Years, 100 Songs: #120 – #101
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on May 29, 2009
#120. Trick Daddy – “I’m a Thug” The most irrepressible of the many smile-inducing statements of intent from Southern Rap’s most gregarious figure. You can’t even hate on the kiddie chorus in this one, really, and how many hip-hop songs can you say that about? (And I like Nas’s “I Can,” for the record).
#119. The Arcade Fire – “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” The Great White Hope of 00s indie rock is lagging a little behind schedule if they really were destined to be one of the biggest bands in the world (you know, if they cared about that sort of thing), and whether they were ever worthy of that distinction in the first place is somewhat up for debate. Less arguable, however, is that songs like this (as well as the relatively underrated “Wake Up“) were righteous and electric enough to prove that they could chest-beat and flag-wave with the best of them. And hey, it took U2 nearly a decade to get to The Joshua Tree. Hell of a video, too.
#118. Rich Boy – “Throw Some D’s“ That hook.That sample. Ten seconds into the first listen and you would have bet your life savings on it being a smash, even before you got to the “Every freak should have a picture of my dick on they wall” line. Never grated, never wore out its welcome. Usually you can spot hip-hop one-hit wonders miles away, but I’m still not sure what the hell happened here.
#117. Afroman – “Because I Got High“ …and this one was slightly more predictable, but no less captivating. Like all great stoners throughout various media in pop culture history, Afroman possessed a sort of gravitas-laden awareness and resignation to his ambition-thwarted, blazed-out fate (although most of them have at least avoided becoming homeless and paralyzed in the process), but responded to the tragedy of his stituation by smiling and taking another hit, making his misadventures imminently relatable. Gets a run for its drug money from Styles P’s “Good Times (I Get High),” but has the edge for containing the best rawkus in-the-studio crowd noise since the Swingin’ Medallions’ “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)“.
#116. N Sync – “It’s Gonna Be Me” Along with “Bye Bye Bye,” put so much distance in the race between them and the Backstreet Boys that there wasn’t even a debate anymore. Of course, a mere 18 months later, that argument couldn’t have been less relevant anyway, but this was crucial in at least ensuring that one of the great pop talents of the decade could still be taken at least somewhat seriously once he went solo.
#115. Johnny Cash – “Hurt” A recording and video of such unbelievable weight–with or without the circumstances of Cash’s actual death surrounding it–that the rest of the pop world seemed to temporarily be put on pause for it. Lost to “Cry Me a River” for Best Male Video at the 2003 VMAs, and JT was properly apologetic.
#114. Junior Boys – “Birthday“ The first dozen times I heard it, I kept waiting for it the song to break out into a soaring disco number, and got frustrated more each time that it didn’t. I’m not sure when I realized that it was that very frustration that made the song’s nocturnaler-than-nocturnal loneliness so powerful–more so maybe than any band since New Order–but I’m pretty sure it was shortly thereafter that I also realized that Last Exit was one of the best albums of the decade. Interestingly, they would let us know on the next album what it would sound like if one of their songs did go the floor-scorching distance, and that was pretty cool too.
#113. U2 – “Beautiful Day“ In which U2 looked back on a long, turbulent decade of experimentation with pop-art, Eno-produced soundscapes, high-concept stage shows and European genre-hopping, and decided that being the biggest band in the world had been much more fun. To their credit, it takes a very good, instantly memorable song to make the general public forget about the “Discotheque” video so quickly and completely.
#112. Ciara f/ Petey Pablo – “Goodies“ Weird how much this video feels like a history lesson now, but back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, there was nothing cooler than an unassuming whistle-and-synth hook, a Petey Pablo guest verse (at both the beginning and the end of the song–and both great), Matrix-inspired breakdown choreography, and Jazzy Phe showing up to mime the “goodies stay in the jar” motion. I never understood why CC’s (CiCi’s?) sleeves-only-shirt look in this video never really caught on with the general public, by the way, I always thought that was kind of a hot look.
#111. Linkin Park vs. Jay-Z – “Numb / Encore“ In terms of far-reaching cultural cachet, it might not have exactly been Run D.M.C. and Aerosmith breaking down the walls, but man did it make 2004 a whole lot more fun (not only did I buy the album, I watched the bonus DVD–multiple times!) Might not have legitimized the mashup in the mainstream world as much as it killed it forever in the underground, but c’mon–this shit was awesome! Plus, nothing better demonstrated the divergent paths that rock and rap stars had taken in terms of cool since 1991 than that clip of Chester Bennington joking about wanting a frappucino while Jay-Z chuckled politely and pretended not to be embarrassed.
#110. Vampire Weekend – “A-Punk“ Sweaters, Peter Gabriel, Ivy League, Africa, whatever. This song was the most skankable thing to hit MTV in decades.
109. David Banner f/ Lil’ Flip – “Like a Pimp“ A thankfully to-the-point chorus to complement one of the bluntest beats of the decade. Banner is great and all, and he probably had the better career over the course of the deacade (including last year’s criminally underrated “Get Like Me“), but for me, Lil’ Flip (back when he was chubbier than Levance Fields) blows him out of the water here with the hypnotic drawl and matter-of-fact egotism of his verses. “Me, I’m a pimp / I ain’t payin’ for no sex! / I’d rather buy a car / Or a new Rolex.” Fair enough. Subtly effective vid, as well–flashing isolated words on the screen and having the rappers mysteriously float over their appreciative crowds are always quality hip-hop vid techniques. And Banner wearing a Montreal Expos cap!
#108. Nirvana – “You Know You’re Right“ Those Nirvana boys, jumping on the nu-metal bandwagon, just as they did for industrial, ska, and even that ill-advised swing single they did back in ’99. Is there any way these dudes could possibly have left to sell out further?
#107. Modjo – “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” If Eiffel 65 hadn’t pushed a generation of potential dance music fans to the point of oblivion, pop music really could’ve gone in this direction in 2000. Would it have been such a terrible thing, I ask you? Look at how much fun they’re having in the video!
#106. Muse – “Knights of Cydonia“ Friend of the blog Lisa Berlin put it best: “At first they sounded like they wanted to be Radiohead. Now they just kind of sound like Muse.” And hey, as it turns out, that’s actually a kind of cool thing. Props as well to “Starlight” and “Supermassive Black Hole,” the other two excellent singles from Black Holes and Revelations, as well as “Hysteria,” which almost single-handedly justifies there benig a bass option for the Rock Band series.
#105. Limp Bizkit – “My Way” Arguably the biggest band in the country at the dawn of the new millennium, “My Way” was the Biz’s last and probably best true statement of defiance, crystalizing the band’s (and, at the time at least, the genre’s) Us Against the World outlook that so endeared them to so many of our nation’s easily-incited idiot youths. But Freddie was already starting to sound a little mentally shaky, a little too far gone (“Someday you’ll see things my way”–as if he already knew he was on his way out), and sure enough, not long thereafter he was making out with Thora Birch, releasing ill-advised Who covers and eventually abandoning music altogether to reinvent himself as a (supposedly not half-bad) indie filmmaker. I felt vindicated at the time, but now I wonder if pop music is truly a better place without their lovably (and occasionally not-so-lovably) puerile antics, cringeworthy (but fascinatingly self-revealing) lyrics and uniquely awful music videos. And the scratching. The scratching was cool.
#104. Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl“ Nothing about this song made sense. The beat was completely schizophrenic, the lyrics were non-sensical to the point of inanity, and Gwen appeared to have undergone the same amnesiac trauma in the video as Nadine from Twin Peaks. And I should probably say something here like “but somehow, it all worked,” except that five years later, I still have no idea whether the hell it all actually worked or not. But…#1 hit…established Gwen as a solo artist…marching band…I know all the words…B-A-N-A-N-A-S…it must have done something right, right? Maybe?
#103. Ashanti – “Foolish” / Colbie Calliat – “Bubbly“ I know, I know…nothing lamer on a best-of list than a tie entry, but I forgot “Bubbly” in my brainstorming and I couldn’t leave it off entirely, so I figured maybe I could slot it here with Ashanti under the pretense that they were both very nice young ladies that wrote two very, very, very, very, very, very nice songs. I’m not sure how “Foolish” got as forgotten as it did as quickly as it did after staying #1 for as long as it did–maybe the public consciousness only had room for one song using the DeBarge sample–but man, that was one quality heartbreaker of a song, with Ashanti’s gentle, sighing, almost naive-sighing voice making her the perfect singer for a ballad about being put upon (and the perfect star of a video that spun the cliche of the rap video recreating a mob movie by re-doing Goodfellas from Karen Hill’s perspective). And Colbie…well, her song was so sweet and likeable that even CMT tried to claim it as their own, putting her in truly rarified air as a country-approved West Coaster. That recent duet between her and Jason Mraz made a ton of sense, because you feel “Bubbly” is the song that Mraz has spent his career trying to write–so simple and irresistible, all smiles and no teeth. What else woud you expect from those Fleetwood Mac-producer genes, though?
#102. 50 Cent – “I Get Money“ The evil cackle from the closest thing 00s pop had to a Bond Villain. Sure, “In Da Club” is the one that people will remember, and likely the best example of Curtis actually possessing God-given talents as a rapper, but even that song’s once-unassailable beat now smacks to me of a lazy sort of arrogance. Fact is that Mr. Jackson did us a favor here by simplifying his true raison d’etre to an easily comprehended three-word statement of purpose. 50 Cent does not get Grammys. 50 Cent does not get five-mic ratings in The Source. 50 Cent does not even get street cred and the respect of his peers. 50 Cent Get Money. And if you don’t know, now you know.
#101. Missy Elliot – “Work It“ I know, I know, this deserves to be higher. I’m just not up for writing a whole article about it.