Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 50 Best Singles Of 2010: 30-21

[Welcome back to my yearly countdown of the finest individual tracks of the year. As always, the rules and regulations: This list is limited to commercial singles and/or videos released in 2010. Album tracks and fan-made clips, good as they might be, don't count. Official YouTube links are included when possible to avoid unwelcome deletions. Thanks and happy listening!]

30. Kanye West featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver & Nicki Minaj – Monster

Hard to think of a more appropriate title for one of the best posse cuts in ages: Bon Iver gets sinister, Jay-Z raps about zombies and vampires (and love), while Nicki Minaj basically destroys everyone in her path, fulfilling a year of hype with a guest verse miles beyond anything on her own album proper.

29. Broken Bells – The Ghost Inside

Here’s the best reason yet for breaking up the Shins, as James Mercer uses his new project to unleash a hidden soul streak (not to mention a mean falsetto) atop Danger Mouse’s gleaming beats.

28. The National – Terrible Love (Alternate Version)

Revisiting High Violet’s leadoff number for a deluxe re-release, The National swap the original’s murky build for a Technicolor explosion that takes an already classic song to even greater heights.

27. Maximum Balloon featuring Aku – Tiger

David Sitek (AKA TV On The Radio’s secret weapon) stretches his production muscles via assistance from Aku Orraca-Tetteh, resulting in a sprightly mix of modern electronica and Fela Kuti Afrobeat.

26. Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs – Beg Steal Or Borrow

LaMontagne wraps his still-astonishing pipes around gorgeous pedal-steeled country; improbable (but welcome) Grammy nominations quickly follow.

25. Janelle Monaé featuring Big Boi – Tightrope

“Retro” doesn’t have to mean “reserved,” especially when it’s Janelle Monaé complimenting her futuristic R&B with organic beats, daredevil horns, and one monstrous earworm of a chorus.

24. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change

It says a lot about the greatness of This Is Happening when its acclaimed single—a desperate tale of love and bad poetry married to percolating Eighties synths—is only the fifth best song on the album itself. Saving something for 2011, Mr. Murphy?

23. Eminem featuring Rihanna – Love The Way You Lie

Superstars attach their personas to everything they touch, and nowhere was this better illustrated than on Em’s #1 summertime single, an unflinching look at domestic abuse given additional weight via the backstories of all involved parties.

22. The Black Keys – Tighten Up

Nine years into their career and the Keys finally get their first true breakout single, thanks to a skittering beat and a fantastic riff—plus the best whistling since “Young Folks.”

21. Kanye West featuring Dwele – POWER

The first glimpse of just how wonderfully, weirdly unhinged Kanye’s new record would be: that African stomp from “Jesus Walks” fused to a left-field King Crimson sample as ‘Ye takes down his own 21st century schizoid celebrity.

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