While for movies and TV, I did the “best of”, for songs, I’m going to do “greatest of.” These are not necessarily my favorite songs (although my tastes and preferences definitely shine through) but rather the songs which for one reason or another I consider to be the greatest. Hopefully, my explanation for each song will make the distinction more clear.
I could have tried to rank them in order, but instead, I’ll just list them alphabetically by title.
Crazy in Love – Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
Beyonce was possibly the biggest star of the decade. Basically, if you heard a new pop song with a female singer, there was a 50-50 chance it featured Beyonce or Destiny’s Child. This song may have been her best work, and even utilized Jay-Z well for his rap verse. Jay was also a big star this decade, but yet I didn’t include any of his solo work, because I don’t feel he’s as good as he thinks he is. And I really hate “Empire State of Mind.” So screw Jay-Z. He only makes it on Beyonce’s coattails.
Gold Digger by Kanye West
2009 was not a great year for Kanye with the whole Taylor Swift thing (and the fact that he thinks he can sing), but the decade as a whole was pretty solid for him. He had already made himself into a big name, but in 2005 when Gold Digger came out, he became a mega star. Between the clever lyrics, and the backing by Jamie Foxx, the song is catchy as hell, and might be the best rap song of the decade. It was also involved in one of my favorite moments of the decade when BGR, the Blondness and I started doing a surprisingly good freestyle of it one night.
Hey Ya! by Outkast
I debated back and forth whether I should go with Hey Ya! or Ms. Jackson. I much prefer Ms. Jackson, but according to my criteria, Hey Ya! was the “greater” song. For whatever reason, mainstream America fell in love with this song. Evidence of this was when SportsCenter anchors started using the song in their references. I believe that part of the reason for its success is that many people who wouldn’t normally listen to rap songs want to talk about a rap song they enjoy so as to appear diverse or worldly. That’s fine, except that Hey Ya! isn’t really a rap song. It’s an energetic pop song by a rapper, but it’s hard to call it an actual rap song. Regardless, it became a huge hit. Still, Ms. Jackson was definitely the group’s best work of the decade.
In Da Club – 50 Cent
The top of the list has been a bit rap-centric (even though Hey Ya! isn’t really a rap song) but it would be hard for me to exclude this song. Sure, 50 Cent might not be the most talented guy alive. Sure, his songs may be the result of great production by Dr. Dre. But man, this song has such a great beat. A decade from now, when the next generation of musical artists sample modern songs, I’m sure this one will be used quite often. And who among us hasn’t gotten “Go shorty, it’s ya birthday” stuck in our heads at one point or another?
Last Resort – Papa Roach
As the decade began, the genre referred to as rap rock was hugely popular, and as a result, we had a lot of “angry white boy music.” Last Resort was probably the best of the bunch. I remember that because of this song, everyone was ready to declare Papa Roach the next big thing. That was until people listened to the rest of the album which really kind of sucked. They’ve had a few moderate hits since then, but nothing compared to the hype they were getting. As for this song, it’s got some badass guitar, and the video had cool morphing effects, so it makes the list.
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Eminem has been one of the best selling artists of the decade which is a bit shocking really. Not that he isn’t talented, but I’m just surprised he’s appealed to mainstream America that much. He’s had a lot of hits this decade (and a lot of misses too – we get it, you don’t like your mother and ex-wife, you can stop rapping about it) and this song from the 8 Mile soundtrack was probably his best work.
Speaking of 8 Mile, everyone is shocked when I tell them that I didn’t like it. I’m sorry, but it just wasn’t a good movie. Are we supposed to feel happy because he wins a rap battle at the end? Guess what, his life still sucks!
Rock Your Body – Justin Timberlake
JT had a great decade. He went from being “the gay one” in N’Sync to perhaps the biggest pop star in the country. Even more impressive is that he was able to get men to openly admit that they were fans of his. Most guys would normally hate someone with this profile: A metrosexual former boy band member, who consistently gets hot women. Yet, JT still won everyone over by doing the following:
He got revenge on Britney Spears by writing a great “F You” song in “Cry Me a River.” He consistently put out catchy hits that had guys saying: “This is pretty good, who sings this? Justin Timberlake? Really?” He brought us one of the funniest videos of the decade in “D*** in a Box.” (Side note: I was considering putting either that song or Lazy Sunday on this list, but ultimately decided that since they were more parodies, and need the accompanying videos for their full effect they fell a bit short of qualifying) And finally, he provided us with one of the most memorable moments of the decade.
The first TV broadcast I ever watched in high def was the 2005 Super Bowl. (It may have had a great second half, but the first half of that game sucked by the way) As halftime approach there was a debate whether we should watch the official halftime show or switch to something else. We stuck with the official halftime show, and were rewarded by seeing JT and Janet Jackson perform “Rock Your Body” which concluded with the infamous wardrobe malfunction.
Sadly, this incident changed TV for the worse, since there’s now more censorship on TV and they can only get over-the-hill acts to do the Super Bowl halftime (The Who? Really???) Regardless, this song had a huge impact on America, and because of that, it makes the list.
This Love – Maroon 5
I heard someone once describe this song as “the perfect radio song.” It’s hard to argue with that. If someone had been in a coma for the past ten years, and I played them a sample of 100 songs from the decade, and asked them to choose the one that they thought was a big radio hit, I think that “This Love” would probably be their choice. (By the way, if anyone knows somebody who just woke up from a ten year coma, can you try this out, because honestly, I’m a bit curious) Sure, M5 may have gone on to make some hideous songs since then, but they somehow achevied greatness with “This Love.”
Umbrella – Rihanna
Remember how I said there was a 50-50 chance that any pop song from this decade with a female singer had Beyonce on it? Well, in the second half of the decade, if it wasn’t Beyonce, it was definitely Rihanna. Umbrella absolutely owned 2007. It was playing everywhere, and everyone was singing it. Even to this day whenever it’s raining and you grab your umbrella, doesn’t this song go through your head? Or if anyone ever says the word umbrella, don’t you find it difficult not to echo “ella-ella” after it? And crap, this song features Jay-Z too. Guess he kind of makes the list twice then.
Yeah! – Usher
In 2004, I think a law was passed somewhere that radio stations or DJs couldn’t go more than three songs without playing this song. When I went on a post-college Spring Break in 2004, this song was everywhere. And yet, any time it played, people still went nuts. This song of course gave Lil’ Jon his fifteen minutes of fame with his screams of “Yeah!” and “Okay!”
One word of warning: Never try to sing this song at karaoke with Squinty. He won’t perform it very well.
So that wraps up my Best of the Decade series. Looking back, I’m not sure what I thought of the decade as a whole. After graduating from college in 2000, I did not handle the transition into post-college life particularly well, so the early years were a bit rough.
But the decade improved as it went on, and there were definitely some good moments. My wedding day was easily the best day of the decade (We got to go to the Action Figure Super Store!) and after years of my teams disappointing me, I finally got to watch the Phillies win a championship. Sadly, despite a couple of flip cup wins, I haven’t been able to win a championship in anything myself. Hopefully, I can do something about that soon, but unfortunately, I think I’m running out of opportunities. Maybe one of my winter kickball teams can finally win it all.
Coincidentally, once again as the decade turns, my life has reached a major changing point. 1990 pretty much marked the onset of adolesence, and 2000 marked the beginning of adulthood. Now, as the decade ends, I’m married, have a good job, and own a condo. It shows just how much things can change on you, and I can be pretty sure that 2010 is going to be a huge paradigm shift for me as well.
At some point in the next few days, I suppose I’ll do a year in review post and even hand out the 2009 Cutter Awards. Until then, happy new year and happy new decade!