Friday, January 1, 2010

My 20 Favorite Songs of the Decade

I found this nearly impossible.

Albums are one thing. But songs? Even if you mainly stick to pop and rock (as I do), that's still a ton of material to go through. Initially, I was trying to reign myself in and hold to just 10 songs. However, there were a bunch that I just couldn't stomach leaving out. Then it occurred to me: Why am I torturing myself? It's my blog, ain't it? I make the rules here. So you, constant readers, get 2X the list and 2X the music. Happy New Year!

The same disclaimer applies as it did for this blog on my 10 favorite albums. I'm not saying these are the 20 "best" songs of the decade. I don't know how you'd do that, anyway; musical tastes are so subjective. These are just my 20 favorites as of today. If you asked me to make this same list tomorrow, I'll bet there would be five or six different entries, and the order would be all switched around. Thus, the numerous honorable mentions that follow (and I guarantee I'll be kicking myself for not including tunes on there, as well).

A couple thoughts, before I get on with the main attraction. First, I welcome all criticisms and comments. Half the fun of making lists is the discussion they generate. I would just remind you that it's pretty easy to trash the work of others (and these blogs have taken me several hours) when you yourself put nothing on the line. These are my choices. If you don't like them, suggest some of your own or debate the wisdom of certain picks with thoughtful critique. Simply indignantly spluttering that I have terrible taste in music, with nothing insightful nor intelligent to back up your assertions, kind of makes you an asshole.

One last thing. When writing about one's favorite music, you can take three different tacts:

1. Mention critically-acclaimed and respected acts (Radiohead, The Arcade Fire, etc.) in order to have your assertions immediately backed. Very safe.
2. Name a bunch of esoteric, relatively unknown bands, along with the fact that you don't listen to the radio and hate MTV. This will give you instant indie cred, although few will care about what you have to say, because most have never heard of these artists.
3. Be honest and acknowledge what you love, no matter how it makes you look. The bravest choice.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that by making these lists with a pure heart and putting them out for public consumption (and evisceration), I'm pretty courageous. Not as brave as William Wallace or Martin Luther King, maybe, but probably right around Ghandi's level.

The honorable mentions, in no discernible order:
Coldplay: "In My Place" and "A Rush of Blood to the Head," Jimmy Eat World: "Kill" and "Big Casino," Bouncing Souls: "Lean on Sheena," Augustana: "Boston," Pearl Jam: "Come Back," "Unthought Known" and "Force of Nature," Outkast: "Hey Ya," Muse: "Hysteria," Social Distortion: "Don't Take Me for Granted," Taking Back Sunday: "Cute Without the 'E'," Taylor Swift: "You Belong With Me," My Chemical Romance: "Helena" and "Famous Last Words," Frightened Rabbit: "Head Rolls Off," Katy Perry: "Hot and Cold" and "Thinking of You," Fountains of Wayne: "Mexican Wine," Regina Spektor: "On the Radio," All-American Rejects: "Swing, Swing" Alicia Keys: "No One," The Strokes: "Sometimes" and "Reptilia," Rhianna: "Umbrella," Liz Phair: "Why Can't I?" and "Red Light Fever," Dashboard Confessional: "Vindicated," Hilary Duff: "So Yesterday," New Found Glory: "My Friends Over You," Interpol: "Evil," MXPX: "Heard That Sound" and "Quit Your Life," (my first-dance wedding song) Death Cab for Cutie: "I Will Follow You Into the Dark," Jack's Mannequin: "The Mixed Tape," Yellowcard: "Empty Apartment," Mary J. Blige featuring U2: "One," The Killers: "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," "All These Things That I've Done," and "Spaceman," Bloc Party: "Helicopter," Silversun Pickups: "Well Thought-Out Twinkles" and "Panic Switch," Against Me!: "Thrash Unreal," Paramore: "Crushcrushcrush," Kate Nash: "Foundations," MGMT: "Time to Pretend," The Ting-Tings: "That's Not My Name," Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: "Falling Slowly," M.I.A.: "Paper Planes," T.I. featuring Rhianna: "Live Your Life," The Sounds: "No One Sleeps When I'm Awake," Avril Lavigne: "Don't Tell Me" and "How Does it Feel?," Enrique Iglesias: "Escape," Lady Gaga: "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance," The White Stripes: "Blue Orchid" and "Icky Thump," Pink: "Don't Let Me Get Me" and "So What?," Blink-182: "Always," "Feeling This," and "I Miss You," Green Day: "Waiting," "Minority," "Church on Sunday," "Holiday," "Letterbomb," and "Whatsername," Rhett Miller: "Our Love," The Shins: "New Slang" and "Phantom Limb," The Fray: "How to Save a Life," Britney Spears: "Oops, I Did it Again."

My top 20:

20. The Killers:
"When You Were Young" (Sam's Town, 2006)
The mark of any truly great song is that you never tire of hearing it. I'm not sick of this one yet, despite its ubiquitous presence.

19. U2: "Walk On" (All That You Can't Leave Behind, 2000)
Back from when U2 "reapplied for the position of biggest band in the world." Mission accomplished, at least for the first part of the decade. Then they made No Line on the Horizon and ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
18. All-American Rejects: "Move Along" (Move Along, 2005)
A real pick-me-upper, this one. Yeah, it's relentlessly earnest, but I'm about as cynical as they come, and this song inspires me.

17. Taking Back Sunday: "Makedamnsure" (Louder Now, 2006)
Hardcore TBS fans will castigate me for choosing the band's mainstream hit, but there's a reason it's their biggest song: It's awesome. I even made this the ringtone on my phone for when Eileen called. "I just wanna break you down so badly..." Completely ironic, of course.

16. Beyonce: "Irreplaceable" (B'day, 2006)
"To the left, to the left." Beyonce's fierce kiss off to a cheating spouse is irresistible, no matter one's gender.

15. Grandaddy: "Now It's On" (Sumday, 2003)
A melodic, quirky little tune whose greatness sneaks up on you. Had this video saved on my tivo for a year because my former roommate "British" Sam Dean would request me to play it by saying, "Mate, give me my click" (watch the beginning of the clip, and you'll get it).

14. Jimmy Eat World: "A Praise Chorus" (Bleed American, 2001)
Driven and sentimental, this is the song that made me fall madly in love with Jimmy Eat World. Contains several allusions to other rock songs, the most obvious being "Crimson and Clover," but there are more subtle references to acts as widely disparate as Motley Crue and They Might Be Giants. Clever, hopeful songwriting.

13. Weezer: "Perfect Situation" (Make Believe, 2005)
I love the way the opening guitar builds in intensity and then explodes into a sweet solo, leading into River's plaintive lyrics. It's also one of my favorite videos of the decade; it captures Elisha Cuthbert (24's Kim Bauer) at the apex of her hotness.

12. My Chemical Romance: "Welcome to the Black Parade" (The Black Parade, 2006)
Epic, bombastic, impassioned...right up my alley.

11. Dashboard Confessional: "Hands Down" (MTV Unplugged, 2002)
Despite the annoying sing-a-long crowd, I prefer this version to the electric one. Based on this song's inclusion, you'd think I was a hopeless romantic. I'm not, but whatever romantic bone I have in me is tickled by this charming little ditty.

10. The Dixie Chicks: "Not Ready to Make Nice" (Taking the Long Way, 2006)
I despise most country music. But this song isn't country. It's punk. It's a big, angry F.U. to the ignorant masses who turned on the Chicks for having the gall to suggest the Iraq war wasn't such a good idea. Boy, the egg's really on their faces, huh? The best part is the the violin solo after Natalie Mains' incredulous wail about dealing with death threats from moronic rednecks. Chills.

9. All-American Rejects: "The Last Song" (The All-American Rejects, 2003)
I want this song played at my funeral. There won't be a dry eye in the place.

8. Snow Patrol: "Run" (Final Straw, 2003)
I can remember hearing this for the first time on the radio and thinking "Who is THAT?" I'm a sucker for a soaring guitar solo, and this song's got a great one.

7. Sum 41: "Walking Disaster" (Underclass Hero, 2007)
I still can't figure out why this song never took off on alternative radio. Whatever; it pushes my foot to the gas pedal, the mark of any great rock tune.

6. Fall Out Boy: "Sugar, We're Going Down" (From Under the Cork Tree, 2005)
I dig the way the song starts, with the drum beat then the guitar crash. Even better are the lyrics: "I'm just a notch in your bed post, but you're just a line in a song" just edges out "Wishing to be the friction in your jeans." Classic.

5. My Chemical Romance: "Disenchanted" (The Black Parade, 2006)
Sometimes you can like a song because you haven't heard it a ton of times. This one never became a single, which makes me overvalue it, perhaps. All I know is that it's my favorite song on one of my favorite albums.

4. Kelly Clarkson: "Since U Been Gone" (Breakaway, 2004)
The odds of this song being this high are astronomical once you factor in that I have a petition to ban American Idol posted in my classroom. Before I heard this, I was willing to hate on anything that was spawned by that mind-sucking show. Such is the power of this incredibly singalong-able tune. The quintessential pop song of the decade.

3. The Killers: "Mr. Brightside" (Hot Fuss, 2004)
Who doesn't love a good "My heart has been ripped out of my chest and stomped on" song? The tune's got just the right pinch of optimism to go with Brandon Flowers' repeated lament after the bridge: "I never..." Never what? I don't know, but I never tire of listening to his pain.

2. Green Day: "Jesus of Suburbia" (American Idiot, 2004)
By all rights, this song shouldn't work. It's a nine-minute magnum opus by a band known for poppy three-minute chordfests. It has five distinct movements. It's incredibly thematic and ambitious, bordering on pretentious. To get any radio airplay at all, it would have to be magnificent. Done and done. This anthem will be remembered in the same way something like "Won't Get Fooled Again" is.

1. Jimmy Eat World: "23" (Futures, 2004)
No matter where else I turned, this one kept coming back to me. I believe it's the song I listened to the most this decade, and since it clocks in at over seven minutes, that's a lot of time we spent together. I have an intensely personal connection to it, despite being 28 when it came out, not 23 (I'm probably at least five years immature, anyway). The song simply speaks to me, especially regarding my relationship with my wife (who wasn't my wife then). It's about coming to terms with adulthood, with waking up one day and realizing it's about time to get your shit together and grow up. If it weren't so long, we probably would've used it for our first dance at our wedding. Musically, I'm enthralled by its slow build and epic climax, followed by the gentle fade out. Achingly beautiful.


paul said...

the majority of this list including the honorable mentions rock but although i hate to say it at least one back street boys nsync or brittany spears song should have made the top 20. i mean im a product of the 21st century and where would i be without hit me baby one more time? no where, exactly my point. a tip of the hat to you sir. - your 39th favorite student, Paul

Nolan said...

I couldn't agree more re: "Hit Me Baby, One More Time." However, it came out in 1999. I will be adding "Oops, I Did it Again," though.

As for NSync or Backstreet, I don't like boy pop, although I clearly have a soft spot for girl pop.

Michael Tucker said...

Good preface, Nolan. I think adding the context in which the list should be taken was a good move.

And you have a very interesting and eclectic taste in music, which I appreciate and relate to.

And I was surprised to see 23 as the number one, but that's pretty awesome. Mostly cause I love that song too. And at least a Death Cab song (though one of my least favorites cause i'm a d-cab elitist) made it in honorable mention.

Well done, Nolan. Movies next?