Friday, December 4, 2009
The 100 Singles Of The Decade: 20-11
Don't Save Us From The Flames
More than almost any other song this decade, “Flames” is truly cinematic, wide open. The murmured, almost unnecessary lyrics (car crash? fiery explosion?) are just a respite, with those wordless choruses—all epic drum rolls and ghostly choirs—conveying every sentiment necessary. Years later, Kings Of Leon would rip the entire thing wholesale for “Use Somebody.” Guess what? It still soared.
19. Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
[Def Jam, 2007]
The inescapable song of 2007, with ice-queen Rihanna responding to those futuristic synths by actually under-singing, making her romantic promises all the more plausible. Listen to it now, in light of her troubled recent events, and that victory sounds all the more hard-won.
Is it drum-and-bass? Is it anti-war? Is it even hip-hop? André 3000 and Big Boi were smashing boundaries everywhere in the early ‘aughts, and radio’s (tentative) embrace of “B.O.B.” felt positively revolutionary at the time. Hell, in this era of “Boom Boom Pow,” it seems near impossible.
17. Foo Fighters
Best Of You
Never count out Dave Grohl. Just when the Foo Fighters were turning predictable, he came roaring back with this monster of a single, all anguished vocal and flying hair and drums that pound you back into the wall. And Prince covered it at the Super Bowl. How f-n’ cool is that?
16. The Postal Service
Such Great Heights
[Sub Pop, 2003]
Hindsight makes it seem obvious: weld Ben Gibbard’s sad-indie-boy voice to Dntel’s percolating electronics, and create a sweet-and-sour mix that works on the crowded dance floor and inside a solitary bedroom (a point rammed home by the Iron & Wine cover). On an album filled with peaks, small wonder how this one became ubiquitous; it’s a single private confession that sounds like everyone’s diary.
15. Daft Punk
One More Time
Having mastered the art of the perfect dance-floor peak, Daft Punk welcomed the new decade by raising the stakes: creating perfect pop music. “One More Time,” then, is so roboticized and AutoTuned it actually becomes human, so ridiculously tongue-in-cheek it winds up more genuine than a thousand “serious” songs. A perfect pop moment? Mission accomplished.
14. The Killers
Grand statements don’t suit the Killers. For all their arena-filling pretensions, their best stuff is sleazy, hyper, disco-fied nonsense, and that’s meant as high praise: at closing time, there’s no better poetry than “She takes off her dress now,” and that’s why “Mr. Brightside” has become the defacto Saturday night soundtrack since its mid-decade chart run. It’ll probably be your kids’ guilty pleasure too.
13. Gnarls Barkley
[Downtown/Warner Bros., 2006]
If you’d placed a bet back in 2003 on the big guy from Goodie Mob and the Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up DJ writing a modern-day pop standard, you’d be rolling in cash right now. But you didn’t, and so you’re not. So sit back and enjoy a song so perfectly written it launched a thousand covers, and so perfectly executed none of them could hope to top the original.
12. LCD Soundsystem
All My Friends
Not just the best song on LCD’s best album, “Friends” is also the moment when we realized James Murphy, in addition to being a fine assimilator of influences, could also, ya know, write. The narrator knows he’s growing old, knows he’s fighting it, knows how futile that fight will become. And behind him, the music keeps driving, a seven-minute uphill build that doesn’t so much climax as simply collapse, the latest long night in a life filled with them.
[Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2004]
S. Carter celebrates his (short-lived) retirement by crushing every pretender in his path, with a little help from Rick Rubin and “The Big Beat.” The resulting track was gigantic in every sense of the word: instant catch phrase, instant exclamation point, instant highlight of a career filled with them.