Monday, September 14, 2009

The Best 100 Songs of 2000-2009: Part 1/10

Bro’s (Panda Bear): while comparisons to Brian Wilson’s Beach Boy days are easy to make, most Animal Collective fans also looked beyond that to speculate the true meaning behind this stunning, ten minute electronic mash-up track by member, Noah Lennox. Lyrically, the track is a soliloquy that runs dangerously close to a fight for independence. Is this for the band or for his long-standing and complicated friendship with fellow AC songwriter Avery Tare? We may never know but we can take comfort into the sum of its achievement because this was the moment in the band’s evolutionary process where we first evinced their electronic cohesion and was better for it. ()

Fell in love with a Girl (The White Stripes): in less than two minutes Jack Black re-invigorates two-chord rock. Nothing more than his flinty vocals over Meg’s unrelenting back up guitar and a complicated tale of modern relationships. Quite a slapdash introduction. ()

PDA (Interpol): despite Paul Bank’s detached vocals cutting through superb guitar riffs, PDA achieves a weird type of rollicking sexiness and groove. Maybe it’s the cool comfort found in technology or the eyeliner that smudges just under the eye that betrays his emotion. ()

Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand): it may not have ushered in hard rock again but here was the celebratory single of 2004. Franz Ferdinand gleefully wreaks tasty bloodshed over bleeding guitars and catchy lyrics. ()

Cry Me a River (Justin Timberlake): the first collaboration between Timberlake and Timbaland came on the back of the most famous break-up in teeny bop history. The creepy video aside, Timbaland transforms Timberlake from pop poster-boy to adolescent working on serious traumatic stress. Relationships are messy when they end and the period of dissection here are geared towards a little spite yet deliciously stated. Timbaland doesn’t obstruct the flow but merely enhances it with so many pop flourishes that one realizes that Timberlake gets caught up into a flow that the reigning king of pop, Michael Jackson, would have killed for. ()

Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio): The search for the decade’s Prince has led us to the path of Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of TV on the Radio, the critically-acclaimed pop/rock band. The lead track from their sophomore, Return to Cookie Mountain, the track opens to thunderous guitars with Adebimpe in a perfect refrain. Literally an ode to lycanthropy, the song’s meaning can also hearken to that clannish and fierce feeling Prince fans had in the 1980s…the recognition of a musical leader emerging, one who will lead the way forward. This was one such glittering moment. ()

Morris Brown (Outkast feat. Scar & Sleepy Brown): we have grown so accustomed to Outkast broadening the scope of hip/hop with other genres that we forget how devastating they are when they play within confines. Morris Brown is an insanely, catchy piece of bragging rights, a kind of turf being reclaimed while throwing out some new tentacles from their ever growing influence. ()

Umbrella (Rihanna): In one infectious instance, Rihanna moved from a Caribbean exotic to the undisputed queen of teen pop with this synth-driven mash up of electro-claps and punishing bass-lines. The writers, Christopher “Tricky” Stewart, Kurt Harrell and Terius “The Dream” Nash wrote the track with Britney Spears in mind then it passed on to Mary J. Blige who had to pass on it due to Grammy consideration stipulation. But for L.A. Reid, the track may still be languishing somewhere in the ether because there was still reservation even after Rihanna laid down the first demo. Enter Jay-Z and his altering rap verse and the rest is history. Its success grew slowly but once radio caught on then the song moved from #42 straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. A part of the success is the video, which features Rihanna dipped in metallic liquid and a cutesy dance number with an umbrella. With all of that geared and manufactured towards a ‘hit’, the song is a triumph of so much commercialism yet also artistic value. ()

Bamboo Banga (MIA): After the breakout success of her debut, MIA came up against a brick wall trying to get into America to record Kala, her sophomore. Thus, the tale goes, she ended by-passing the North and we’re all the better for it. Of course, with the critics sharpening their collective pens for any letdown, the album needed a strong opening track and that is exactly what Bamboo Banga is. MIA coming back with power, power, goes the mantra and we’re hooked. For nearly five minutes we’re treated to an astonishing mixtape of heavy-hitting pop, MIA’s own steely idealism, Hindi-inspired choruses juxtaposed with a sample of Jonathan Richman’s Road Runner. Though some would easily pigeon-hole it as ‘world music’, the genius of MIA and the track is to identify a clear boundary overstep….why, as MIA must surely posit, should one be content to rule towns when there’s an entire world to conquer? ()

What You Waiting For (Gwen Stefani): Everyone loves Gwen Stefani so when word was that she would finally go solo from No Doubt, the fan excitement grew. Of course fans never see past their own expectations but artists have to because there are investors, music execs and their own fears to deal with. The Alice in Wonderland-inspired music video expertly tracks the aforementioned process but even it pales in comparison to the fantastic groove of the track. Not that Stefani conceived the idea herself. Linda Perry, whom Stefani was initially reluctant to work with, added her usual electro-pop flourishes as well as the title, by accident. The song is thus a confessional dubbed into the New wave style that she enjoys dabbling in (You're still a super hot female/You’ve got your million dollar contract/And they're all waiting for your hot track). ()