Sunday, October 11, 2009

THE TOP 100 SWINGING SINGLES OF THE AUGHTS: #60-51

Since this swinging singles countdown is all about, well, singles, it omits some very important songs that have been crucial to my post-millennium listening pleasure. For example, U2's "When I Look At The World," from the band's 2000 album, All That You Can't Leave Behind. I was introduced to Bono in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles around the time of the album's release, and when I told him that this was my favorite song on the CD, he was shocked. "The unsung hero!" he said, shaking my hand as if he was congratulating me for having the good taste to notice it. I was thrilled that I had won Bono's seal of approval. I wonder what he'd think of some of my other favorite non-singles of the aughts.

Now, on with the countdown...


60. Alan Braxe With Fred Falke "Intro" (2000)
The first time I heard this song, I was browsing with my friend Julia at Virgin Megastore in London. From the sparse percussive intro that sounds like it's approaching from down the hall, I just knew that something good was about to happen. A bargain-basement 99p later, I left the store with a brand new single. Along with Daft Punk's "One More Time," Modjo's "Lady (Hear Me Tonight)" and Madonna's Music CD (produced by Frenchie Mirwais), this made 2000 a banner year for Gallic electronica, nearly a full decade before David Guetta pushed it to it's commercial, if not exactly creative, peak, with a lot of help from superstar collaborators. Unlike most immaculately manicured electronica, "Intro" has something of a live feel, which enhances the overall aural effect. It's like under-the-disco-ball nirvana captured in the precise moment of strobelight bliss.


59. Ultra Nate "Love's The Only Drug" (2006)
Throughout the history of recorded music, love and/or lust plus obsession and/or an altered state of consciousness have made for a winning combination -- at least metaphorically speaking: "Love Is The Drug" by Roxy Music (one of my favorite songs of any decade), "Addicted To Love" by Robert Palmer, "Addictive Love" by BeBe & CeCe Winans, "Drunk On Love" by Basia, "Addictive" by Truth Hurths Ft. Rakim, "Like A Drug" by Kylie Minogue, and this, Ultra Nate's contribution to the under-the-influence-of-love canon. Though she had a few UK hits in the late '90s (most notably the 1997 Top 10 club classic "Free"), it troubles me that Ultra Nate was never able to crawl out from the disco underground in the U.S. Wearing shades of Donna Summer's electro-pioneering "I Feel Love" and Billie Ray Martin's "Undisco Me," "Love's The Only Drug" is dark, lovely and addictive as hell. Indulge.


58. Goldtrix Ft. Andrea Brown "It's Love (Trippin')" (2002)
The soundtrack to my first trip to Milan in 2002. This is what happens when you toss hip hop, neo-soul (it's a Jill Scott cover), house and electronica into the blender and see what pops out. Goldtrix never released another single, and God knows what happened to Andrea Brown, but together they created a little night music that I'm still trippin' over more than seven years later. It's love, baby, love.


57. Cyndi Lauper "Into The Nightlife" (2008)
Nothing Cyndi Lauper had done in her nearly 30-year recording career prepared me for the electro-dance-pop magic that was her 2008 opus, Bring Ya To The Brink. To give you an idea of just how brilliant it was to be brought to the Brink, this, the second single, isn't even the best it has to offer. There are at least four better songs: "High And Mighty," "Rocking Chair," "Echo" and the show-stopping "Lay Me Down." But to give credit where it's due, amid a wash of exuberant synths, Cyndi makes the prospect of a New York City all-nighter sound so enticing that every time I hear this song, I'm thisclose to booking a one-way flight back to the Big Apple of my glorious misspent youth. (Side note: The video was shot in Splash Bar New York, one of my first NYC gay clubs, which is only three blocks from my apartment there.)


56. Snow Patrol "Chasing Cars" (2006)
Katherine Heigl wasn't the only big star to be spawned by TV's young-doctors-in-love medical drama Grey's Anatomy. Had it not been for this song's prominent placement in an episode of the show, Snow Patrol might still be considered little more than a poor man's Keane, and "Chasing Cars" just another forgotten single from the band's fourth album, Eyes Open. Dramatic balladry doesn't get any more urgent, any more intense. Dedicated to -- obsessed with -- the romantic hunt, it's like a four-minute crescendo that keeps threatening to burst but just manages to stay on the right side of over the top. "Those three words/Are said too much/And not enough." A classic that we'll probably be hearing in both its original form and in cover versions for the rest of our lives.


55. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Universally Speaking" (2003)
I never thought much of Red Hot Chili Peppers until "Under The Bridge" -- which, by the way, I never particularly loved -- hinted at a level of lyrical depth and musical maturity that I didn't think they possessed. Then the acoustic, slide guitar-accented "Scar Tissue," their best song and the first single from their 1999 album, Californification, changed everything, introducing a more introspective Chili Peppers with an appetite for psychedelics (of the musical, not hallucinogenic, kind). In the '00s, the kinder, gentler era of Red Hot Chilip Peppers peaked creatively with "Midnight" and this single, both from By The Way. The devastatingly gorgeous and uplifting harmonies on the chorus, culminating with the line "Simply put, I saw your love stream flow," gets me kind of teary-eyed every single time.


54. Jay-Z "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" (2001)
Remember when Jay-Z was hard core? That was then, way back in the day, before he settled down into romantic bliss with Beyonce and became one of the richest rappers on the planet. This hit single from his milestone Blueprint album (which was released on September 11, 2001, the same day as Mariah Carey's bomb of a Giltter soundtrack) offers a grim reminder, referencing a 1998 incident in which Jay was accused of stabbing a music industry executive. "Not guilty, ya'll got to feel me," he raps. I haven't a clue what actually went down that night in the New York City club, but as for crafting some of the most ingenious and memorable hip hop of the early '00s (from "I Just Wanna Love U" to "Change Clothes" to "Dirt Off Your Shoulder"), Jay-Z is guilty as charged.


53. M.I.A. "Paper Planes" (2008)
Enough said here.


52. R. Kelly "Ignition" (Remix) (2003)
As a singer and songwriter, R. Kelly has always been at his best when he skips earnest and inspirational and simply lets the music play. He did just that to maximum effect on his best single of the '00s and, perhaps, his entire career. Forget the original "Ignition," dull baby-making music that also appears on the Chocolate Factory album. This is what it's all about. There is not an ounce of sense or sensibility in lyrics like "Sippin' on coke and rum/I'm like so what I'm drunk/It's the freakin' weekend/Baby, I'm about to have me some fun," and the song is so much better for it.


51. Keane "Somewhere Only We Know" (2004)
Hearing it over and over ad nauseam three years ago in the trailer for the Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock drama, The Lake House, didn't do the song any favors (otherwise, it might have ranked considerably higher), but there's no denying the romantic grandeur and jangly, ethereal beauty of Keane's first and greatest hit. That the band is incredibly popular here in Argentina only goes to show that excellent music knows no language barriers.

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