Low Resolution celebrates the end of the Double-Oh Decade with an inventory of my 100 favorite songs of the last ten years. As ever, take these rankings with a grain of salt and the smug knowledge that I don't know anything about music.
#100. Avril Lavigne -- "My Happy Ending"
Hey, I'm as surprised to see her here as you are. But while Avril didn't exactly move me with her faux-tough sk8er anthems, this song really surprised me with how much actual emotion she was able to muster in her vocal. This isn't her usual back-of-the-classroom pouting -- this is pained anger. It's been unexpected power-pop gems like this that have kept her afloat past her initial spark of novelty.
#99. Jay Z f/ Alicia Keys -- "Empire State of Mind"
2009 has been a banner year for Jay-Z, at least in terms of pop collaborations with female vocalists. I'd originally slotted "Run This Town" (w/ T.I. and Rihanna) here, but the mere fact that "Empire State of Mind" will endure at sporting events and in montages (and my iPod, this really was a difficult decision) shouldn't serve as snobby justification to keep from giving it its due.
#98. Tori Amos -- "Big Wheel"
For whatever reason (i.e. apathy toward her Beekepper album), I had completely ignored Tori's American Doll Posse. So I didn't encounter "Big Wheel" until I saw her at Radio City earlier this year. I gather this song took a bit of flack from her fans for its mainstream leanings, and particularly for the part where she declares herself a "M.I.L.F." It's too bad for them, because this is the most fun I've had with a Tori record in a long while. From the honky-tonk piano to her warning not to throw shade on her to, yes, that M-I-L-F bridge, her weirdo sense of humor is in the driver's seat and she wants you up off your ass.
#97. The Hold Steady -- "Constructive Summer"
Holding it down for no-frills rock in the summer of '08, this song barrels through the door with a driving guitar/piano combo and gets right to the heart of the idea that a summer well spent doesn't have to involve much beyond beers and tunes and the odd impulse to improve oneself. The low stakes in the lyrics ("we're gonna lean this ladder up against the water tower / climb up to the top and drink and talk") take me back in a very real way, and the tune itself is the perfect example of a fresh-sounding throwback.
#96. Kylie Minogue -- "Can't Get You Out of My Head"
With visions of the Locomotion having faded from our heads, Kylie emerged from the import bin (and from Baz Luhrman's bottle of absinthe) to deliver the most hypnotic dance jam I ever conga-danced at my Senior Ball to.
Click below for #s 95-81...
#95. T.I. f/ Rihanna -- "Live Your Life"
If you're the kind that gets annoyed at people who only like the poppiest offerings by otherwise legit hip-hoppers, this list may not be for you. This song steamrolled through the latter half of 2008, and its charms are still the same -- that "Hey! Ho!" chorus just begging for a room full of drunk shouting, T.I. somewhat hilarious smooth-voiced lecturing, the improbably functional "Numa Numa" sample, and especially that Rhianna breakdown. I'm still not sure whether or not we should be chasin' that paper, but I'm fine with the mystery.
#94. Britney Spears -- "Toxic"
It would have been dishonest not to have included Britney on my list given the part her songs played on the musical landscape of my decade. If you're not afraid to wallow in the mainstream, Britney was kind of everywhere -- often for her music! So it was down to "Stronger" or this song, which I preferred both because it feels closer to a sonic accomplishment than anything she's done, and also because it got Tori Amos talking about how much she loves her twat.
#93. MGMT -- "Kids"
MGMT's "Oracular Spectacular" came at exactly the right time, when the divide between popular music and the bearded indie downers felt wider than ever. With MGMT, I felt like there was a bridge between something artistically rich and interesting with music that was delightfully catchy and danceable. Plus, the break at 3:50, when the kid cries and just before the drums kick back in, practically has me sitting up and begging for a treat.
#92. Daft Punk -- "One More Time"
Purely electronic music like this isn't always the safest bet with me, but Daft Punk always seemed to do it right, often by going so far towards dehumanized robot sounds that you couldn't help but see the artistry behind it.
#91. Destiny's Child -- "Bootylicious"
Rest assured, this isn't the last you've heard of Beyonce on this list. But as the Destiny's Child rep, this Stevie Nicks-sampling ass-shaker just edged out the imperiousness of "Say My Name." Three and a half minutes of liquid rump-rattling is what this song'll give you, without fail. Just reading the words "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" is making your hips twitch, right?
#89. Coldplay -- "Fix You"
The letdown of Coldplay's 2005 album X&Y was all but assured after the breakaway success of A Rush of Blood to the Head. But we all need to go back and listen to "Fix You" a couple thousand more times and appreciate it for the absolute gem that it is. Chris Martin's relentless falsetto has never been put to better, more painful use.
#88. Band of Horses -- "The Funeral"
This one got kinda driven into the ground by its use in advertisements (not that I am at all against music in ads -- I have to find out what the new Snow Patrol single is somehow), but it definitely holds up. It starts off as this haunting, distant thing before the driving guitars kick in, then it pulls back and does it all again, only with an ever more reckless structure.
#87. The Tragically Hip -- "Vaccination Scar"
I rang in this decade -- this millennium, in fact -- to the sounds of the Hip on CBC blasting "Poets" for all of Canada to hear. Gordon Downie and crew weren't able to produce anything matching that song (or the album it came from, Phantom Power) in the ensuing ten years, but "Vaccination Scar" felt like the right kind of throwback, propulsive and esoteric and a lil' bit indecipherable.
#86. Garbage -- "Cherry Lips"
The '00s represented the vapor trail behind Garbage's first two albums in the 1990s. Which isn't to say there wasn't some hotness in there. My favorite was the go-baby-go propulsion of "Cherry Lips," where Shirley Manson couched her voice in the machinery but emerged as the dominant force regardless.
#85. O.A.R. -- "Love and Memories"
The natural successors to the college rock mantle, O.A.R. split the difference between the Tragically Hip's lyrical quirkiness and Dave Matthews Band's unassuming folk. "Love and Memories" hit the hard stuff more straightforwardly than more jam-friendly hits like "Crazy Game of Poker," but I doubt the baseball-cap-and-cargo-shorts set minded much. For me, it hit right in the sweet spot of what I want a mainstream dude-rock song to do. Build, release, build, release, bridge, biiig release, bring it on home. I can be a simple man with simple tastes sometimes.
#84. P. Diddy f/ Ginuwine, Loon, and Mario Winans -- "I Need a Girl" Pt. 2
I'd probably gone three years without even thinking about this song until it somehow came up during one of Rommate Mark and my trips into the Billboard songbook. The second it triggered my memory I nearly leapt to my feet in glee. For all of Diddy's preferred bombast, this slowed-down jam features one of the greatest hooks of the decade plus Diddy laying down his "potential wife credentials." Take notes, ladies.
#83. Vampire Weekend -- "Oxford Comma"
These guys too Brooklyn hipster for your tastes? Congratulations, you managed to steer clear of some of the most effortless smarty-pants rock of the decade AND the best Lil' John shout-out to boot (sorry, Sandra Bullock in The Proposal).
#82. Ciara -- "One Two Step"
I tried, you guys. Oh, how I tried to hate this song. If you found yourself in a bar that even thought about clearing space for a dance floor in 2005, there was no way to avoid the initial crush of Missy Elliot's protégée. I managed to burn out on it before even giving it a chance, but there's only so much you can do to resist jumping in on that "This! Beat! Is!" prompt.
#81. Usher f/ Ludacris -- "Yeah"
How much credit can one song get for a featured breakdown? Because while it would be foolish to deny the synthy hook of Usher's biggest, danciest hit -- or even Lil' John's parody-worthy exhortations that are as infuriating as they are catchy -- this song made my list on the back of Ludacris's brilliant guest verse (it won't be the last time Luda pulls that feat on this list either). I defy you to play this song in a crowded room and not smile as every one of them sings along to "birthday sooooot!" (Though good luck to whoever can rat-rat-rat their way through the ensuing "So gimmie the rhythm and it'll be off with their clothes" line.) All that and Luda still manages to give credit to Ursher for having the voice to make your booty go smack.
#81. Mary J. Blige -- "No More Drama"
Okay, can we all agree: best Young & the Restless theme song sample of the decade, yes? Mary went and created a theme song for herself with this title track, and much like a Mary of several decades before her, this Mary made sure we all knew she'd make it after all.