Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Retrospecticus: 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade, #80-61

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.

[Previously: #100-81]

#80. M.I.A. -- "Paper Planes"
As trendy as she got, I can't not give it up to M.I.A. for taking third-world survivalism and, while not glamorizing it, certainly making us feel it at a level far more elemental than easy sympathy.

#79. Lady Gaga -- "Poker Face"
I'm so glad we've all given up the ghost that Lady Gaga is here and will not return to outer space for a good long time. I also hope we're gonna stop trying not to like this Sherman's march of hits she's got going. Lack of perspective on this run made it hard to pick which song to include -- or where on the list to place it -- but I figure "Poker Face" is the safe bet, and certainly the song with which she placed her stamp on the waning months of the decade.

#78. Andrew WK -- "Party Hard"
The Truth in Advertising winner of the decade, for sure. There's not much to figure out here, just a runaway train of hard-charging determination to get fucked up and have the most fun you've ever dared yourself to have in 200 seconds.

#77. 112 -- "Dance With Me"
Another reminder that coming up with songs worthy of this list doesn't have to be so complicated. If you can find five songs in my entire lifetime that get the core of me involuntarily grooving like this one does, I'd be impressed. It's songs like "Dance with Me" that make me wonder about things like biorhythms, because if everybody on Earth reacted to this song the way I do, it'd be pumped out over the airspace every morning and we wouldn't need caffeine anymore.

#76. Johnny Cash -- "The Man Comes Around"
I can't in good conscience put the Cash cover of "Hurt" on here, because I so fiercely believe that's a Nine Inch Nails song, and now that both versions have passed into history, it's Trent Reznor's again (I know Trent disagrees with me; I don't care). Good news, though -- Cash's voice on this title track sounds every bit as much like he's on his way to meet his maker. The diversion into Revelations-style Christian literalism is both surprising and operatic. Then again, here's a man who'd been falling into a burning ring of fire his whole career. Preparing to meet "alpha and omega's kingdom come" this way seems about right.

Click below for #s 75-61...

#75. Lil' Kim -- "How Many Licks?"
Sweet Jesus, what incredible filth Kim spews in just under four minutes. But you try wagging your finger at all the asses she got to shakin'. You should also try getting caught humming along to this one from beneath your headphones at work. It's particularly interesting if you've gotten to the black dude she calls King Kong.

#74. Evanescence -- "Bring Me to Life"
You know, if America cared about big-voiced, dark-haired, goth-tinged girls the way they do about squinty-eyed, blonde, country warblers, Amy Lee might have had a very different career throughout the '90s. The first victims of a Kanye West awards-show stage-rushing still managed to deliver one of my favorite guilty pleasures of the decade, all driving guitars and Lee's proto-emo wailing against the darkness. Hey, Elektra had to set her training montage to something -- why not this perfectly bombastic bit of business?

#73. Kanye West -- "Stronger"
The decade's second-hardest working sample (#1 shows up in the 11-20 range on this countdown) sees Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" set up the circuitry inside Kanye's self-aggrandizing verses and weirdly compulsory misogyny (that line about the blonde dyke just doesn't work, 'Ye) and lights the whole thing up like Vegas on a Friday night.

#72. Rihanna -- "Don't Stop the Music"
Yes, Rihanna's third time on this list, but it's her first as the star attraction (and it won't be her last appearance here either, FYI). Here, she presents her most straightforwardly dancey hit, an invitation you can't possibly turn down, especially when the ghost of Michael Jackson (before he was even dead, no less) is urging you on with all that "mama-se mama-sa mama-coo-sah" business.

#71. Poe -- "Hey Pretty"
Looking for a song that'll make you feel like you just clawed your way out of a haunted forest, caked in black mud, shivering from the wind whipping through leaf-less trees, your mind half-gone from the voices you've been hearing, and now all you can see is a pale girl in a tattered dress who will let you pass if you'll only have this dance? That's this one.

#70. Cyndi Lauper -- "Midnight Radio"
Man, I cried enough hearing John Cameron Mitchell sing this one at the end of his brilliant Hedwig and the Angry Inch. You wouldn't think another voice could have wrung one more ounce of pained emotion out of it. But that's why we have a Cyndi Lauper.

#69. Jimmy Eat World -- "The Middle"
Pop-punk at its very least pretentious, which is exactly the way I like it. In this respect, it means far heavier on the "pop" than the "punk," but it beat the shit out of your Sum 41s and Blink 182s back then. I remember these guys and Good Charlotte pretty much hitting the glare of the mainstream spotlight at the same time. We let the wrong one wither on the vine.

#68. Polyphonic Spree -- "Light and Day"
There are so many reasons I should not like the Polyphonic Spree, and about thirty of them involve the words "altar-boy robes" and "creepy sex cult." And yet, I can't deny that Tim DeLaughter's plaintive croak of a voice appeals to me, nowhere more strongly than in this convulsively joyful ode to, as far as I can tell, sunshine.

#67. k.d. lang -- "Helpless"
If there's a better pure voice on this list, I can't think of it. k.d.'s tribute to her Canadian songwriting heroes, Hymns from the 49th Parallel, gave her leave to put this impeccable Neil Young cover onto disc, and we were all the beneficiaries. I remember watching the fine (also Canadian) film Away from Her, and listening to this play over the credits until the screen went dark. She picked the right name for that CD, because this does feel like a hymn. A prayer to something we all lost and can't remember.

#66. Eve f/ Swizz Beatz -- "Tambourine"
And from a prayer to the Canadian sky to a command to shake your ass. There's a handful of songs that I wouldn't have thought to include on this list without Roommate Mark's own Top 100 list a couple months ago. This is one of them. But seriously, how could I have left out E-V-E shaking everything from the hood to Dubai? The beat drops out more times than a college stoner and every time it returns it brings something else in its bag of tricks -- drumsticks banging on steel pipes, drumline-style rat-tat-tat, sirens, and Eve acting as this decade's most under-utilized female presence.

#65. Clint Mansell -- "Death is the Road to Awe"
The only instrumental selection on this list, and maybe it's comparing apples to oranges, but Clint Mansell's movie scores were so much a part of my musical experience this decade, I couldn't leave it out. In particular, Mansell's work on The Fountain is a thing of haunting beauty. I'm a sucker for a good crescendo, and this one's got three.

#64. Pete Yorn -- "Crystal Village"
At the time Pete Yorn let this delicate bit of singer-songwriting peek its head into the mainstream, I would have expected him to have made more of an imprint on the decade before it ended. Not that recording an album with Scarlett Johansson isn't fun in its own right, but there's a streak of pop sensibility running through this beard-worthy sad folk that made me think this was a guy who could have us riveted to his melancholy.

#63. Amy Winehouse -- "You Know I'm No Good"
"Rehab" got more attention, both for the irony and because it had more of a beat you can dance (or choreograph a show-choir routine) to. But I much prefer to pour myself a glass of something strong and ease on into Amy's smooth vocals and the seductive horns that make "You Know I'm No Good" such an effective temptress.

#62. Linkin Park -- "In the End"
You'd be forgiven for being Pavlov'd into dismissing anything approaching rap/rock in 2002, but Linkin Park was one of the few bands to actually get the alchemy right -- probably because they were one of the few who cared to (the "rapping" portions of Limp Bizkit always felt like laziness more than an honest attempt at the genre). Anyway, I can't see myself getting into this song today, but it gets grandfathered onto the list as the best of what my college years had to offer.

#61. Scissor Sisters -- "Filthy Gorgeous"
Because everybody should get to feel like they're starring in their very own gay cabaret show.


beadgirl said...

Awesome, someone else prefers "You Know I'm No Good" to "Rehab." I like "Rehab," but I think "No Good" is a more complex and interesting song.

I've been looking forward to your top X songs of the decade for months!

Brook Brooks said...

I'm so shocked to see Death is the Road to Awe here, but I love the choice. It's an epic, long song that just builds and builds until that final minute.