Sunday, September 27, 2009


Since this list is all about the best singles of the past decade, it doesn't recognize some of my favorite albums of the '00s from which either no singles were released or from which the wrong ones were released. Or in the case of Robyn and Keane, the albums soar more as complete works than on the strength of individual songs. Let us take a moment to give props where they are due. A few honorable mentions:

  • Shelby Lynne I Am Shelby Lynne (2000)
  • Sade Lovers Rock (2000)
  • Terence Trent D'Arby/Sananda Maitreya Wildcard (2002)
  • Shania Twain Up (2002)
  • Pink Try This (2003)
  • George Michael Patience (2004)
  • Brandy Afrodisiac (2004)
  • Robyn Robyn (2005)
  • Fiona Apple Extraordinary Machine (2005)
  • Cat Power The Greatest (2006)
  • Keane Under The Iron Sea (2006)

80. Fused "Saving Mary" (Robbie Rivera Mix)
Poor Mary. Here she is, this woman on the verge of a nervous meltdown, and all we want to do is dance. Thank you, Robbie Rivera. Standard issue quiet-storm dance soul in it's original version, the track was transformed by Robbie into a dramatic crescendo, a dancefloor filler that succeeds on all counts: As the strobelight turns, we forget all about Mary's troubles -- and our own.

79. Loretta Lynn Ft. Jack White "Portland, Oregon" (2004)
Rick Rubin worked magic with old farts Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond in the '00s, but neither collaboration produced a single moment quite as stunning as this mash up between the White Stripe and the Queen of Country (though Johnny Cash's requiem treatment of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" came close). Considering this and Jack's excellent duet with Alicia Keys on "Another Way To Die," last year's James Bond theme, you'd think more fierce ruling divas would have him on speed dial. Madonna, Kylie, Shania, I'm talking to you.

78. Alison Moyet "A Guy Like You" (2007)
Alison Moyet was always way ahead of her time. As a member of Yaz in her early 20s, her husky, knowing vocals made her sound like a woman twice her age. So what a joy it was to hear Alison, at age 46, release the funnest, most youthful record of her career. And boy, have I been there -- in lust with a boy who was way too hot to hang on to. "How'm I gonna keep my eye on a guy like you?" she asks Mr. Popular. ("Everybody plays your music on the stereo," she sings at another point. Hmm. Wonder if she was inspired by an actual celebrity. Justin Timberlake perhaps?) As frisky and sexy as Alison sounds on this, her best single since "Getting Into Something" from 1993's Essex, I'd say he should be the one asking the burning question.

77. Darren Hayes "Unlovable" (2004)
A love song for the underdog. I never cared much for Savage Garden, but with his second solo album, The Tension And The Spark, Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes realized his unsuspected potential, crafting one of the best records of the decade. Predictably, the masses didn't get it. Personal and uncompromising, it sounded the death knell of his commercial era.

Darren once made a bet with me over dinner that I'd one day fall truly, madly, deeply in love, just like the protagonist of Savage Garden's best-known song. Truly, madly, deeply, I'm still waiting on. But yes, love has come, and love has gone. Still, to this day, I relate less to Darren's romantic pap with Savage Garden than to this song's simple message: Love is a battlefield, and sometimes the people who claim to love you can be the cruelest of all.

76. The Strokes "Last Nite" (2001)
On my birthday last year, I danced to this song at my favorite neighborhood pub with two of my girlfriends and was reminded of how floored I was by this NYC band when they first hit the scene. Their 2002 concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC remains one of my best live-music experiences to date. For me, the Strokes were everything you could want in a rock & roll band. They had swagger, sex appeal and songs to remember. They've lost me a bit since then, but this one, which still plays in Buenos Aires's hippest bars eight years later, remains one of neo-punk crowning achievements.

75. No Doubt "Hella Good" (2002)
I'll admit it: Part of my love of this song stemmed from the shock of hearing No Doubt stepping out of their ska-rock comfort zone and giving in to the beat. In a sense, the Nellie Hooper production was a preview of Gwen Stefani's solo career, which, uneven as it has been, has produced far more exciting music than No Doubt ever did.

74. Lil' Kim Ft. 50 Cent "Magic Stick" (2003)
By most accounts, Lil' Kim and 50 Cent hated each other. Apparently, there's a thin line between love, hate and excellent chemistry. I've never been much of a 50 fan, but for his part of the song, I finally found him likable, if still not exactly lovable. Lil' Kim is clearly the star here -- as she is everywhere. It's her world; her collaborators just live in it.

73. Truth Hurts Ft. Rakim "Addictive" (2002)
"He breaks, me down, he builds, me up
He fills, my cup, I like, it rough
We fuss, we brawl, we rise, we fall
He comes, in late, but it's, ok"

Whoa, girl! Now that's what I call a grand entrance. In 2002, this DJ Quick-produced blend of hip hop and an Arabian snake dance back beat was the most inventive thing on R&B radio. Sunshine Anderson and Tweet aside (more on them later), it made Truth Hurts the one-hit R&B wonder of the decade.

72. David Gray "Dead In The Water" (2002)
Silly love songs rarely move me, and as I make my way through this list, one thing is becoming crystal clear: I like my music irresistibly sexy or unbelievably sad. Like the best of David Gray (which would also include "December," also from A New Day At Midnight), this falls squarely into the latter category. Listen and weep.

71. Billie Ray Martin Ft. Ann Peebles "18 Carat Garbage" (2002)
She's the voice behind some of the most thrilling dance music of the past decade (with her detached, zombie-like delivery somehow, magically, managing to convey sweet, deep emotion): "You're Driving, I'm Bored," "Undisco Me," "Oprah's Book," and the beats go on. But Anyone who has listened to either of Billie Ray Martin's two full-length solo CDs, Deadline For My Memories and 18 Carat Garbage, knows that there is a lot more to her than hot electronic beats.

A couple of years ago, she told me a story about how she once met Siouxsie Sioux in a London club and Siouxsie raved about how she was her favorite soul singer. BRM couldn't believe the high priestess of punk even knew who she was, but why not? As a dance diva, Billie Ray smolders, but on this duet with Ann "I Can't Stand The Rain" Peebles, the title cut from her 2002 opus, she matches the R&B legend note for soulful note. And there's nothing trashy about that. Below is the original album version of the song followed by a thrilling, mysterious remix that I stumbled upon online years ago.

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