this is part of an ongoing series called 25 in the 2000s. if you want a bit of information about the series, you can find the introduction here.
picking 25 songs from an entire decade is akin to putting 25 needles in a colossal haystack and saying, “find them.” so, undoubtedly, my list is incomplete and flawed, at best. one point of clarification, though, for this list is that this—more than any of my lists—is a combination of a few factors. a good 60% of this list is purely what i like. so, there’s some of these songs that i’ve not seen on anyone’s list, but i just love them (i.e. roll to the middle by sara groves). another 30% consists of songs that had a significant impact. in others words, whereas i like every single song on here, there are songs that, even on the same album, i liked another song personally better, but the chosen song’s impact was too significant to leave off (i.e. rehab by amy winehouse). the other 10% are songs that i haven’t found myself putting into particularly heavy rotation, but they’re just good, so i was compelled to include them (i.e. since u been gone by kelly clarkson).
[you can listen to all the tracks in the embedded player here or, if you’d like to fill your ipod up with a playlist of awesome, you can download a zipped file with all the tracks at the bottom.]
25. rehab. amy winehouse. back to black.
24. burn. ray lamontagne. trouble.
23. rabbit fur coat. jenny lewis with the watson twins. rabbit fur coat.
22. seven nation army. the white stripes. elephant.
21. roll to the middle. sara groves. the other side of something.
20. wedding dress. derek webb. she must and shall go free.
19. extraordinary machine. fiona apple. extraordinary machine.
18. falling slowly. the swell season. once soundtrack.
17. fix you. coldplay. x&y.
16. since u been gone. kelly clarkson. breakaway.
15. chicago. sufjan stevens. illinois.
14. jesus walks. kanye west. college dropout.
13. acid tongue. jenny lewis. acid tongue.
12. paper planes. m.i.a. kala.
11. the blower’s daughter. damien rice. o.
10. sexy back. justin timberlake. future sex/love sounds. to some this may seem like an overstated or out-of-place pick, but when you create a level music playing field, this song’s place as the best pure pop song of the decade easily puts it in the top 10 songs of the decade. inventive, unsuspecting and provocative, justin timberlake’s partnership with timbaland proved to make for a unforgettable track.
09. 99 problems. jay-z. the black album. this is easily one of the best raps since the dawn of hip hop. but more than that, rick rubin—the track’s producer and mastermind—created a beat that ranks in the top few of all time. the beat’s so good that jay-z even takes a moment to call out rubin for his extraordinary achievement.
08. untitled (how does it feel). d’angelo. voodoo. bar none, this is the best r&b track of the decade. sadly, d’angelo could never repeat his effort, but untitled remains one of the most smooth and soulful tracks in a very, very long time. throw in one of the most engaging and beautiful videos and you’ve got a great offering to the last decade in music.
07. typical. mute math. mute math. this is just a flat-out great hook and melody. mute math came onto the scene several years ago and this was the track that put them on the map. typical shines because it maintains the balance between the creative force that they became known for and the perfect formula for a radio-friendly hit.
06. all falls down. kanye west. college dropout. you can say a lot of things about kanye west. yes, he’s arrogant. yes, he loves himself. but yes, he’s a musical genius. when kanye hits his stride, there are very few rappers who can do what he does. this track shows kanye’s ability to paint a picture with clever rhymes and a catchy hook.
05. b.o.b. (bombs over baghdad). outkast. stankonia. this track begins with a countdown that offers a brief moment of peaceful tranquility until the hinges fall off and the track erupts. i cannot think of a single song that packs this kind of energy. it’s frenetic, it’s never-ceasing and it’s a brilliant song. outkast’s stankonia is easily one of the greatest rap albums of all time and this track is head and shoulders above the rest of the record.
04. clocks. coldplay. a rush of blood to the head. i truly don’t understand the hate wagon that has formed toward coldplay over the last couple years. the fact is that they’ve consistently made inventive, beautiful, accessible music for the better part of the decade. no track shows these achievements better than clocks. it shines as an equally catchy and beautiful song that somewhat defines their portfolio.
03. crazy. gnarls barkley. st. elsewhere. gnarls barkley came out of nowhere with what is likely the catchiest track of the entire decade. radio couldn’t get enough of this track and every artist under the sun capitalized on its success by covering it. but the beautiful thing about the track is that is was just plain good. it didn’t sell out or water down the depth of the song to just be a radio-friendly pop hit. lyrically and musically, it’s a great track.
02. my enemies are men like me. derek webb. mockingbird. derek webb’s mockingbird was literally a life-changing album for me (which i’ll get to more in my best albums list) and this track, for me, was the most deeply shaping. webb confronts the topic of a consistent ethic of life, calling out those who affirm war, the death penalty and any form of killing. oh, and, musically, it’s just beautiful.
01. downpour. brandi carlile. the story. if you want me to love a track, the formula is fairly straight forward: beautifully unique voice, straight forward instrumentation and then throw in the strings. the truth is, that formula seems somewhat easy, but the reality is that not many artists achieve this balance. brandi carlile does. on her incredible album, the story, carlile’s downpour is a track that, as many hundred times as i’ve heard it, i can still get a little teary when listening. it’s simply that good.
so there you have it. there’s the list. what do you think? i’ve certainly missed some big stories. what are they? i’ve, no doubt, ranked some things too high or too low. what are they? help me to flesh out and “correct” my list.
next list on the docket: albums.