By Chris Nguyen
In the current December of The Sidekick, I listed my picks for the top five songs of the decade. Of course, the last ten years has been filled with thousands of songs that it was heartbreaking to narrow down the list to merely five (sorry, Britney!), so I am here to give numbers 6 to 10.
For the best of the best, pick up a copy for The Sidekick.
6. “Last Nite” The Strokes
In retrospect the idea that The Strokes were the saviors of rock seems a bit silly. But I cannot blame MTV or Rolling Stone for fawning over them when listening to “Last Nite.” The song was a breathe of fresh air when rock became cool again. None of that angsty, alienation stuff bogging it down. The bass line melody caught the ear immediately. Lead singer Julian Casablanca’s vocals had a smokiness that recalled the sultriness of Mick Jagger or Lou Reed. The lyrics were simple, nonsensical and catchy.
It just oozed pure rock n’roll. Unfortunately, just as the band members proved to be trust fund babies dressing up as rock stars, the song just had great sense of superficial style with no real substance. But can you blame a person for wanting to jam out for three minutes with no worries?
7. “Crazy in Love” Beyonce
There will never be big music blockbuster superstars slash pop geniuses in the likes of Tina Turner and Janet Jackson. But in 2003, when Beyonce had her coming-out, free from the two deadweights of two of Destiny’s Chliddren, with “Crazy in Love” it seemed that maybe there may just be another one. The horns were unrelenting. Jay-Z’s flow was smooth as ever, with a witty little verse to go along with it.
However, Beyonce owned it all, going “uh-oh” all over the song. Her voice went high and low, mad with the power of love. The song may have been a false premonition of the next true musical genius, but who cared with this sassy little jam.
8. “Rebellion (Lies)” Arcade Fire
Inciting the music blogosphere in 2004, Arcade Fire injected something that was beginning to wane in rock music: pure, unfiltered emotion. No gimmicks. No crazy electronics. No posturing. They played to this strength on their anthem “Rebellion (Lies)” from Funeral. The song was comfort blanket against the hardships and corruption that lines the world (Every time you close your eyes/Lies, lies!). However, what set the song apart were lead singer Winston’s quivering vocals that sounded on the brink of tears and the clashing strings and drumming.
It’s not “Don’t Stop Believin’” but it has hundred times more of the impact and just as much sing-along value.
9. “Try Again” Aaliyah
All hubbub about the “revolutionary” pop between Justin Timberlake and Timbaland seems to ignore that the producer maestro reached even higher peaks earlier in the decade with the late singer Aaliyah, with the song “Try Again” as their crowning achievement.
Aayliah was not a great singer capable of octave jumping like Mariah Carey, but that very fact worked in favor of the song. She needed only to present her cold coo and sultry vocals and let Timbaland’s machine-cold electronic beats take control. It was the beginning of a new age of R&B and pop music that was unfortunately cut short by the sudden death of Aaliyah in a plane crash.
10. “Jesus Walks” Kanye West
With his previous singles, Kanye West established himself as the smartest rapper on the block. He took on social issues, like poverty, elitist education and human connection, topics that peolple talked about in private but no .
On “Jesus Walks” off his debut album The College Dropout, he made everyone fall on their knees and praise Jesus. The song was a chant of the power of accepting spirituality that never felt trite or cheesy. Instead, it was strength-building and soulful, two things people do not associate with rap. He would later make bigger hits and become more ostentatious in his music, but nothing matched the ferocity that he possesses here.
And here’s the rest:
1. “Idioteque” Radiohead (2000)
The year 2000 came and the world did not spiral into a Y2K apocalypse, but then Radiohead planted a bomb in the form of “Idioteque” off its masterpiece Kid A. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood crafted unrelenting electronic beats no other rock band would ever come close to as lead singer Thom Yorke wailed a warning of a vague, impending doom about the rise of oppressive governments, greedy businessmen and hateful terrorists in the coming years. “Idioteque” is prophetic, scary, just plain brilliant.
Radiohead’s track remains a record of a society in which all the worst fears come true and the impossible ways to cope with them.
2. “Hey Ya!” Outkast (2004)
In 2004, “Hey Ya!” was the song. Go anywhere and you were bound to hear it, whether it was from your grandmother’s car or your best friend’s stereo. It was pervasive, but unlike, say, “Boom Boom Pow,” “Hey Ya!” was actually good.
With this song, Outkast broke entirely from the group’s rap roots to walk into an undefined, brave new world of music. It is funk. It is pop. It is New Wave. It is soul. It is hip-hop.
Whatever it is, the song electrifies with the acoustic guitar strumming, jaunty beats and perfectly timed handclaps while Andre 3000 provides an instantly catchy hook with such cool and ease. No other song had the preps, jocks, nerds, hipsters, oldies and toddlers “shaking it like a Polaroid picture.”
3. “Get Ur Freak On” Missy Elliott (2001)
Rather than worry about the future of the new century, Missy Elliott cared about getting her freak on. With her partner in crime, producer Timbaland, Missy Elliott gives the world one heck of a headbanger with “Get Ur Freak On.”
Missy’s playful rhymes (Ain’t no stoppin me/Copywritten so, don’t copy me/Y’all do it, sloppily) and Timbaland’s adventurous hip-hop beats that riff on Middle Eastern sounds combined to form one of those in-the-moment songs that cab never be matched and, as Missy Elliott predicted, those that tried to copy it, did it sloppily.
4. “Paper Planes” M.I.A. (2007)
In the rubble of globalization, pirated music, terrorism and excess materialism, Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. burst out onto the music scene as a child of the times.
On 2007’s Diplo-produced “Paper Planes,” she loops a classic punk rock song (The Clash’s “Straight to Hell”), adds perfectly timed cash register rings and gun shots and makes a whip-smart indictment about prejudice against immigrants (If you catch me on the border/I got visas on my name/I get one in a second if you wait).
The single redefined world music, not as cheesy strings and flutes, but music, which truly crosses and connects boundaries.
5. “Maps” Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2004)
“Maps” is the precious diamond in the dirty, loud rough of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ debut album Fever to Tell. At first, it sounds like a mistake on the album. Too cliché. Too tame. But then lead singer Karen O achingly sings “wait/they don’t love you like I love you” and you fall into pieces. The song finishes with an explosion of swirling guitar notes and heavy, heart-pounding drumbeats, which would make any cynic believe in a thing called love.
What could have been cloying turned out to be into the best romantic song of the decade, reaching far beyond the indie-hipster base.
For those of need of even more Best-of lists, check out Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.