Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Run" Fun

Two visual interpretations of Gnarls Barkley's "Run" I prefer to the actual video. One from the band, and one from a fan.

(The 2nd chorus is clumsily lengthened to no positive effect in this clip, but I still enjoy it a lot)

Friday, December 26, 2008

You’ve been lied to, it’s already inside you

My Top 50 Singles Of 2008

#1) Gnarls Barkley, "Run"
Between an inevitable backlash (something I would have been happy to join in after the excessive accolades for St. Elsewhere) and a video that played the track off like "Hey Ya!, pt. II," my favorite single of 2008 by a country mile never really had a chance. Andre hid the fact that he was turning off his heart with a nonsense chorus and some cute come-ons in the coda. Cee-Lo sweats out images of global and self destruction while Dangermouse sucks all the complacency out of Mark Ronson's breakbeat-soul, placing a ball of confusion behind Cee-Lo like the boulder from Raiders Of The Lost Ark.

It's closer in spirit to Electric Six's "Rock'n'Roll Evacuation" than any pop smash, even if it sounds like an easy one. Too propulsive for dancing, but it's not meant to make you move from side to side. In 1968, it was "people...come together!" Today, it's an attack, it's falling from the sky, it's a bomb, it's a hurricane, it's a virus, it's an addiction, it's airborne, it's an economic meltdown, it's calling from inside the house, it's "people...RUN!"

#2) Fall Out Boy feat. John Mayer, "Beat It!"
Am I saying that emo boys can't do better than commit to trashy pop-metal and apply their melismatic passion to an '80s camp classic? Probably. Am I saying that singles don't come any greater? In 2008 - almost. I even love when the band slows down to watch John Mayer fuck a donkey.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

If you don't know I'll make it very clear

#3) The Hives, "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S."
Despite appearing in more than its fair share of ads, the 2007 jock-jam "Tick Tick Boom" failed to make a dent on any chart - maybe the video should have been set in a sports arena instead of an art museum. Corporate enthusiasm apparently waned to the point that I only know "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S." was a single because Wikipedia told me. This is a crime - Pharrell and the Swedes crafted a crossover theme song that could have been their "Miss You," their "Rapture," their real one-hit. Maybe some charitable trailer producer will overlook the self-aggrandizement and exploit the beat.

#4) Julian Casablancas, Santogold & Pharrell Williams, "My Drive-Thru"
Not sure the Strokes or Santogold gave Converse any noticeable cachet, but this sure was worthwhile for the artists. Whether it was the guarantee of moolah or the novelty of working with a Neptune, Casablancas reaches for unprecedented effects as a singer, his energy almost startling after the decay suggested by First Impressions Of Earth's sluggish howling. Santogold has never sounded more assuredly pop, with her "we all want to dance" beating Nelly Furtado at her own game.

Pharrell keeps the groove eccentric without succumbing to his NERDish insularity, and assumes a supporting role more graciously than I knew he could. He says making the jingle was "completely refreshing" and it sounds like it. When I say I hope it's a sign of things to come, I'm not talking about an increase in corporate commissions for hipsters.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

She screamed so loud, until she was laughing

#5) CSS, "Rat Is Dead (Rage)"
Kim-rock lives, or at least unexpectedly redeemed what was otherwise the most disappointing sophomore slump in indie-dance history. I'm still waiting on an explanation for why the band of 2006 now only sounds inspired when they ape 1994, but I'll settle for a follow-up that expands on the idea.

#6) Coldplay, "Viva La Vida"
Imagining what it's like to be George W. Bush, pretending to be the Arcade Fire. With so many bands sounding like (and fantasizing about being) Coldplay, this is a remarkable evolution.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Look what I can do with my feet

#7) Chris Brown, "Forever"
This song is not a Doublemint ad. Brown was recording one when Polow Da Don's Wonder-esque keyb-harmonica inspired him to free associate visionary gibberish about love, dancing and "moving at the speed of light into eternity" on the corporate dollar (I refuse to believe that even Chris Brown could write "We've only got one night...to dance forever" on paper...or I dunno, his Blackberry). Proof positive that these zombie children of the damned don't see commercial considerations as any kind of artistic impediment.

#8) Nine Inch Nails, "Discipline"
Ironies abound as Trent drops his most commercial jam yet after saying goodbye to the majors. Lyrical message: he can't survive without your stern guidance. Musical message: Trent didn't become an INXS fan for Jimmy Iovine's sake. Only question: is he saying "I need your discipline...Jewwww!" in the coda? Is this alt-rock's "They Don't Care About Us" or is he reaching out (returning?) to the faith?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I won't let you let me down so easily

#9) Hot Chip, "Ready For The Floor"
Any well-crafted homage to "Batdance" and Philippe Decouflé is going to enamor me to the song it promotes, but this was my favorite Hot Chip track before I saw the video. Equally playful and sentimental, a dash of clarity away from irresistible.

#10) Death Cab For Cutie, "I Will Possess Your Heart"
It took a long time for me to stop calling him Ben Gelding, but increasing exposure to their increasing hookcraft got me to overcome my fear of an emo Garfunkel. Now I credit his poise and sanity for helping them avoid REM's gigantism as they energize for arenas and Radiohead's abstraction as they expand their sound. This eight-minute career high makes similar feats like "Moby Octopad" and "Paranoid Android" sound respectively schleppy and obtuse. Too assured for indie - call it "post-pop-rock," maybe.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dirty like sex that's on the ground

#11) Kevin Rudolf feat. Lil' Wayne, "Let It Rock"
Timbaland Presents: Shock Value + Dick Valentine ("Because when I arrive, I, I bring the fire!") = OMFG. Lil' Wayne sounds as excited by this as I am; if you know of a recent track on which he's this bouncy (no slurring at all! even gives an encore!), please alert me immediately. If you need a reason to get the past radio cheese (snob), read the verses as anti-Christianist protest ("I see your dirty face hide behind your collar...now the son's disgraced"). Timely!

#12) Hercules & Love Affair, "Blind"
In which disco redeems a diva. Antony, please don't return to the darkness. Remain in light.

Friday, December 19, 2008

One look in the mirror and I'm tickled pink

#13) Weezer, "Pork And Beans"
The A&R man said "I don't hear a single," so River bitches about it over Blue Album overdrive just to prove he can hit the mark whenever he wants to. Too bad the A&R man didn't say "I don't hear an album." Did I say Beyonce made the best video? Sorry, Weezer made the best video.

#14) Miley Cyrus, "See You Again"
The first Disney-pop track I know of to hang around the Top 20, and it's easy to see why. '80s melodrama made more human and no less bombastic by a teen too quirky to be consumed by the factory. "My best friend Leslie said 'Oh, she's just being Miley'" is a fillip equal to the "Thank you" on Prince's "Take Me With U." Not that she's Prince - who made four singles from his soundtrack score even higher. Then again, her adolescent work may well be better than that of Champagne.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yeah, I'll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone

#15) MGMT, "Time To Pretend"
Caveat: only recently realized I've been listening to the version on their self-released EP, where the scenester will-to-power is made ironic by soft vocals and a tinny beat. The obnoxiousness of the remake dulls the effect, so I linked to the '05 track instead of the '08 single (this may explain why I Just Don't Get "Electric Feel" or anything else off their album). Had I noticed earlier, I would have pulled this song from this list, but whatevs - I caveated it.

#16) Gnarls Barkley, "Going On"
Girl, Cee-Lo is a free bird. If you want to roll with him you're going to have to give up all worldly possessions, meditate, build a spaceship, move to LA, kill yourself, get crazy high, whatever heaven he's advocating. They sure make it sound like the place to be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Change my number, switch my cards up

#17) Trina, "I'm Single Again"
Angry, defiant, hurt, cynical, dismissive, confused, contemptuous, flip, nostalgic, frank, hysterical, resentful, so over it. Moments as withering and humiliatingly self-aware as the rebuke "You fell in love with my ass, King Magazine, you fell in love with my ass" are reminscent of the best Kanye West and shame the "vulnerability" of his worst. Almost makes me wish this was an answer track.

#18) Pitbull feat. Lil' Jon, "Krazy"
Instead of the usual salacious (and always welcome) come-ons, Pitbull uses this stereotypical (and always welcome) Lil Jon crowd-filler to ponder the unponderables. "Kanye no style, J Lo no ass, Fifty no beef, Jay Z no cash...Iraq no war, U.S no Bush, Cuba no Castro, Atlanta no cush..." Having provided this mental gristle, he invites women of all races to go batshit on the dancefloor. Krazy like a fox.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You mean to me what I mean to you

#19) Chris Brown, "With You"
It's going to be a sad day when Chris Brown's voice doesn't exude innocence - try to imagine a thirtysomething climaxing a campfire ballad with "baby, you're the best part of my day!" A love letter that rolls out every cliche imaginable and gets away with it, because it sounds like his first.

#20) Metro Station, "Shake It"
The elder siblings of two Hannah Montana stars conflate soaring flocks of seagulls with knicker-dropping knackness for a space age fuck song worthy of the young, sensitive and sexually active. Destined for hipster rediscovery on a flashback comp, assuming they still have those things fifteen years from now.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sometimes I think what I need is a you intervention, yeah

#21) Madonna feat. Timbaland & Justin Timberlake, "4 Minutes"
Imagine the Bee Gees singing back-up on "D'Ya Think I'm Sexy?" Sure, it would have detracted from the song's novelty ("4 Minutes"' lack of clarity - brand or otherwise - is probably why "Obaaama, uh!" having four years to save the world didn't become a meme), but the aural excess would have been too too too.

#22) MIA, "Paper Planes"
Yes, I heard it last year. And I knew it was a single, too. But 2008 is when it became a single for most, including me. Pitchfork praise couldn't get me past that KGB ref, a stereotypically stiff Letterman performance or rhyming "wireless" and "gas." Pineapple Express, that drunk guy on the subway quoting more than TI would and MIA getting her sandwich cart on a giant screen in Times Square did the trick.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I like the way you take advantage of every man you love

#23) Lil' Mama feat. Chris Brown & T-Pain, "Shawty Get Loose (Remix)"
Her album spent too much time arguing why she should be Voice Of The Young People instead of earning the title with more tracks as fresh as "Lip Gloss" and this, the only reason the album actually got released. Only wish the remix included both her excised verse full of hair advice ("you wash, set, blow and then you wash, set, blow") and the T-Pain rap that replaced it (a gregarious glimpse of what he'll do after autotune). She's young enough that I hope she'll learn how to make her anguish as striking as her confidence. When she does, I'm sure the world will under-appreciate her as much as it does MC Lyte.

#24) Colby O'Donis feat. Akon, "What You Got"
Don't get me wrong, Kanye fans! I'm not saying unchecked misogyny doesn't have a place in pop music. I love to hear this douche tell cutie to stfu on this underappreciated teen pop jam. I even dig it when Akon advises him that, yes, women are selfish vipers and that Colby is wise to keep them at arm's length. I just think being a clueless jerkface benefits an "Under My Thumb" more than a Blood On The Tracks. Big points for casting Colby as a sales assistant at a women's clothing store in the video.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Let's both get undressed right here

#25) Usher feat. Young Jeezy, "Love In This Club"
I regret not checking out Here I Stand until recently; it's as overbaked and overlong as I feared, but not boring. Where Kells overstates for amusement, Usher sounds like he doesn't realize his grandiosity has become surreal. The album holds up thanks to the tunes and pathology, but the highlight remains the sole megahit, whose final verse obliterates any assumption of metaphor in the chorus. Rather than downscale, I hope his next album takes Usher to Vegas.

#26) M83, "Graveyard Girl"
Laying on the adolescent identification after realizing there's no points for subtlety, shoegaze-synth auteur Anthony Gonzales might be my favorite panderer since Sugar Ray traded Cali metal clowning for Beach B-Boys. If Diablo Cody had John Hughes' work ethic, she'd already have written the teen romance whose soundtrack would take this b(r)and to #1 - this being the title track.

Friday, December 12, 2008

But I don't need a cent, 'cause shorty priceless

#27) Lloyd feat. Lil' Wayne, "Girls All Around The World"
Apparently too effervescent for anyone to bother purchasing, or maybe there was one too many Wayne tracks around the month it was pushed. "For What It's Worth" was another airy summer jam that underwhelmed the marketplace - maybe this track will have the shelf life it deserves.

#28) Danity Kane, "Damaged"
I always think I'm overrating this track, that maybe it should switch places with Beyonce - something with a little more meat to it. So I'll just steal a slice of Frank Kogan's: "I'm genuinely thrilled by the way the Danitys' baroquely show-offy harmonies and polyphonies work in the supposedly slutty context. Quite beautiful, the harmony floating in blobs and then voices adding intricate little cries on the side." Tasty!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I wanna be with the one I know

#29) Flo-Rida feat. Timbaland, "Elevator"
So is the elevator his penis? His heart? I have listened to this song so many times (Timbaland disco is the best autopilot ever) and I still haven't cracked this metaphor. I have a hard time believing he'll be able to pull off energetic pap-rap of such a high grade for more than one album, so enjoy it while it lasts or wait a few months for it to end.

#30) Miley Cyrus, "7 Things"
Synth string festooned punk pop - you'd think it was 2002 or something! Her inability to count only underscores the nutty enthusiasm (what is that accent? Hillbilly Avril?) that separates her from the Disney pack. Makes me wanna pull out The Young & The Hopeless and remember the dream.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How does it feel to be the shit and the urine?

#31) T.I. feat. Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne & Kanye West, "Swagga Like Us"
Four probably past-prime rappers dominating the charts by default reaffirm their bragging rights over wheedly synths - I shouldn't even be able to remember this track. But the synths pay slightly slack tribute to early DMX, and the competition inspires West to rap with energy while Jay and Weezy briefly express casual confidence - all good looks. T.I. overprepares, remains the workaday hustler of bromides while doing so. Love the hook.

#32) Ne-Yo, "Closer"
I may have sickened on his Smokey-meets-Lloyd Dobler, but there's plenty of fun to be gained from his Michael Jackson. Not that his exclamations of fear don't sound like a genre exercise. Unless commercial considerations keep him from chasing his muse, I'm worried this gentleman will soon be defined by his masochistic concept of romantic respect.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Sitting in restaurants, thought we were so grown up

#33) Lil' Wayne, "Lollipop"
I can't imagine why "A Milli" is the official Great Lil' Wayne Song Of 2008. I'd happily trade its - I dunno, purity? - for the licks and giggles on the most slavering slice of autotune I heard this year. And for those who think it's short on stream-of-consciousness puns, notice that "that pussy in my mouth got me lost for words" is a variation on "cat got your tongue." The chorus references two of Robert Christgau's favorite singles of 2005, which were probably two of your least. I was pretty into one of them.

#34) Kate Nash, "Merry Happy"
Plunking on her piano and multi-tracking her voice into absurdity until she's ok with being single again. Nash is of those faux-cockney, possibly upper-class female (it's always female) singers I hear I should be offended by on principle, but I'm not. I'd hate to have to toss every '90s alt-rock album from California for the same reason.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Feeling clumsy, about to fall

#35) Hot Chip, "One Pure Thought"
Thought they were a clowny Beta Band at first, but they've evolved into a clowny New Order, which is a lot more rewarding. Once the groove gets underway, I'm nowhere as bothered by their received wisdom as they claim to be.

#36) Heidi Montag, "One More Drink"
Finally, a song that celebrates getting drunk enough to fuck! Can't say much for her other leaks (though I'll take "Fashion" over "Labels Or Love"), but this is the best unintentional Randy Newman song since John Mayer spoke for the trustafarians on "Waiting On The World To Change." And this one you can dance to.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What I deserve is a man that makes me, then takes me and delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyond

#37) Beyonce, "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"
Webbie's worst nightmare. And yes, music video is now at the point where a simple Fosse tribute is unquestionably the finest thing created all year.

#38) Hinder, "Use Me"
"She says she loves me, but I know she's a liar." "I bet she's wonderin' if I'm worth her while...But I ain't sweatin' cause I'm first on the speed dial." "I won't be a fool and fight it, she's gonna use me but I like it." This is a wise perspective for these whores to take on corporate sponsorship, and I appreciate the relish with which they've accepted their lot. Not up to "Whole Lotta Love" or "Any Way You Want It," but arguably equal to "Finish What You Started."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Don't ask for silverware, don't ask for nothing

#39) Scarlett Johannsen, "Falling Down"
The thinking man's Pamela Anderson doesn't project or interpret as a singer any more than she does as an actress, which also means she can't kill a Tom Waits cover with thespian reverence. If I hear anything in the vocal, it's a bemused disbelief that she's singing drunk tank schmaltz over 4AD twinkle and the Dave Sitek Gospel Choir. But even if she's tabula rasa, the track's infinitely prettier than the original, on which an elderly Rowlf tries to pass a kidney stone.

#40) 2 Pistols feat. T-Pain, "She Got It"
Promises of sex and merchandise hooked around a T-Pain koan ("I know she got it cause she looking at me like she want it"). I prefer the Polow mix, which trades routine bombast for day spa swank.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Like your sex, but more love what you do

#41) Plies feat. Ne-Yo, "Bust It Baby Part 2"
Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube fill their albums with tired gangsta bullshit so they can cred their way through AOL ads and PG movies. Plies must don a ski-mask and flash guns on his album cover so he can get away with sending skeezy valentine after skeezy valentine to radio. Between the brazenness of his details ("My favorite panties of yours...") and backdrops (Janet's "Come Back To Me"), they almost make me curious to hear his tired gangsta bullshit.

#42) Webbie feat. Lil' Boosie & Lil' Phat, "I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T."
"Man, I am so tired of gold diggers." "What I want is an independent woman that wants nothing from me but my dick." "Dude, we need to find ourselves some feminists!" "Oh shit, yeah!" "Hey, I know, let's go join NOW!" "Punch it in!"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Got me hypnotized, so mesmerized

#43) Portishead, "Machine Gun"
808s & Heartbreak stripped of its assholery (yay) and Top 40 tricks (I'll live) by Beth Gibbons' wallpaper wail, which the dudes know just how to decorate. Naming the song after the drum pattern suggests they realize the inversion of focus.

#44) David Archuleta, "Crush"
OMG HOW COULD YOU PEOPLE VOTE FOR DAVID COOK? WTF!!! Did you really need another Daughtry???!! HE DOESN'T EVEN SHAVE!!! Archuleta looks like Fievel and sings like James Ingram!!! And you went for Oatmeal Goatee!!! Well LOL on you, our boy's found a pop persona: virgin Enrique!!!! Awww!!! Meanwhile, America's Idol (you suck, America) is like "BUHHHH PHHBBBTTT EYELINER GOATEE PHBBTTT." Why is he not wearing an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat yet?? He SUUUUUCKS!!! ARCHULETA RULES!!!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I am an introvert, an excavator

#45) Akon, "Right Now (Na Na Na)"
808s & Heartbreak stripped of its assholery (yay) and grating sound (I'll live) by Akon's consummate professionalism. Admittedly, his narrative doesn't lend itself to the easy thinkpiece, so it may hold less value for some.

#46) Santogold, "L.E.S. Artistes"
Fans are right to be annoyed by the lazy MIA comparisons - comparisons her label encouraged, as indie won't buy a veteran ska-popper with a Siouxsie streak on her own merits (I doubt the former A&R rep in question minded them, either). I don't have any more use for her shouting than I did Gwen Stefani's, and I bet Gwen would have taken "Lights Out"'s hook from Bubbling Under to my top 20. Tegan & Sara wouldn't have improved on this conflicted self-coronation, though. And the second half of this video is my favorite of the year.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Plus, you need a little ventilation

#47) T-Pain feat. Lil' Wayne, "I Can't Believe It"
As Pain put it, "Teddy Riley can't do it better than Roger Troutman. I can't do it better than Teddy Riley. And can't nobody do it better than me." Which is why I can get past Lil' Wayne, who sounds like he's nodding off mid-mackdown on the subway.

#48) Katy Perry, "I Kissed A Girl"
Yes, Perry takes Jill Sobule's smug ode to self-discovery and turns it into girl-on-girl crime. I can only hope she was grossed out by Simon Rex's "then they grabbed my dick" rewrite, the chauvinist response her soulless attention-shrieking asked for. But I get a lot more pleasure out of this trashbeat burlesque ("you're my experimental game!") than the Lilith Fair woo-bait. If you think both songs suck, that's fine.

Monday, December 01, 2008

All your diction dripping with disdain

#49) Eve feat. Robin Thicke, "Fantasy"
A charismatic rapper waxes erotic over a tight beat, an r&b singer cooing consent on the chorus. Sounds like an easy hit, so I guess they got the genders wrong - the cocksman is supposed to do the objectifying. Hip-hop no longer knows what to do with a pro-sex woman who's neither Queen Bitch nor a Pussycat Doll. Bet she sings on the track that finally gets the ever-more-wryly-titled Here I Am released.

#50) Vampire Weekend, "Oxford Comma"
You should listen to indie-pop's album of the year, if:

  • You get off on the cover of Crazy Rhythms more than the music.

  • You've wanted to molest Michael Cera since he was 16.

  • You can list every Walkmen album in order of preference.

  • You have no reservations about the work of Wes Anderson.

  • You would love the Police even if they lacked chops, musical and vocal.

  • "A-Punk" would shine on the second disc of an Outlandos d'Amour reissue, but "Oxford Comma" is the track that says they just needed another year or three in the oven before serving. If we're lucky (ok, if I am), sudden fame will stoke pop ambitions, lower Ezra Koenig's voice, raise his confidence past "lol music" refs and mold him into a more literate John Mayer. Maybe he'll even fire the drummer.