Monday, October 5, 2009


We interrupt this celebration of the tip-top singles of the current millennium for this brief message...

  • Faith Hill "Breathe" (2000) That this was Billboard's No. 1 song of the year says something truly scary about popular taste in the U.S. at the turn of the century.
  • Sisqo "Thong Song" (2000) Have you listened to this one lately? As timeless as the singer's platinum-blond coif, huh?
  • Nelly "Hot In Herre" (2002) It's as annoying and boneheaded as his spelling.
  • Outkast "Hey Ya!" (2003) A supposedly hard-core rap duo produces a wedding-/office-party staple for the ages.
  • Pussycat Dolls Ft. Busta Rhymes "Don't Cha" (2005) This tacky striptease of a song kills my libido every time.
  • Rihanna "Don't Stop The Music" (2007) It's not that the song is so terrible. It's just that the color-by-numbers groove doesn't come close to accounting for its enduring popularity on dancefloors.
  • The Killers "Human" (2008) Critics acted like the Killers had pushed the creative bar heavenward, while posing the existential question of the decade. Are we human or are we dancers? Simply. Not. Deep.
  • Lady GaGa "Just Dance" (2008) It just goes to show that first impressions aren't always right.
  • The Black Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling" (2009) The quartet has spent 26 straight weeks -- half a year! -- at the top of Billboard's Hot 100, 12 with the spectacular "Boom Boom Pow," 14 with this mindless drivel, which is probably destined to be the No. 1 song of 2009. Bottom line: The decade started off on a bum note (the aforementioned "Breathe") and ended on an even worse one. Who would have thought it possible?
  • Anything by Ne-Yo I know he's supposed to be the classy, gentlemanly, romantic future of R&B, a post-millennial Babyface, but he only puts me in the mood to sleep.
  • Anything by Eminem Everybody (except for, perhaps, Mariah Carey) loves Eminem. He's got commercial clout (currently waning) and critical credibility (with a Best Original Song Oscar to prove it). But his music leaves me personally unimpressed. Maybe it's his nasally rap style, which lacks the authority of a Jay-Z, the pure charisma of a Ludacris, the sex appeal of a T.I., or the entertainment value of a Busta Rhymes. Or maybe it's that so many of his biggest hits are dis songs designed to date upon release. In a nutshell, he comes across as an angry, cranky, violent young man (well, at 37, not so young anymore) with a sorely limited point of view.
Now, on with the countdown...

70. *NSYNC "Girlfriend" (2002)
The lyrics are totally high school. But here it's all about musical and vocal execution. Along with "Gone," the elegant ballad from Celebrity, the last of *NSYNC's three studio albums, this, the group's final single and the only Top 10 hit from that swan-song CD, was a rare track that placed the boy band in a musical setting that wasn't cheesy, dated and overproduced. (For the record, I'm talking about the original album version, not the mess of a remix featuring Nelly.) The song actually has two choruses, and it's the first one -- where the boys' voices, perfectly in unison and on the beat, sound like they're slowly climbing a flight of stairs -- that puts "Girlfriend" on my '00s hot list. The quintet sold truckloads of records with far inferior material, but sometimes the last impression is even more important than the first, and the one that really counts.

69. Meck Ft. Leo Sayer "Thunder In My Heart Again" (2006)
For a few years there in the mid '00s, it seemed like every few weeks another DJ was climbing the UK singles chart with a radical dance reworking of an old hit from a vintage pop act: Eric Prydz Vs. Steve Winwood's "Valerie," Royal Gigolos Vs. The Mamas & The Papas "California Dreamin'," Junior Jack Vs. The Pointer Sister's "Dare Me," Audio Bullys Vs. Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang [My Baby Shot Me Down]," Deep Dish Vs. Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," Laurel Canyon Vs. Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger." But this reconstruction for optimal under-the-strobelight enjoyment of a modest Leo Sayer hit from 1977 was one of the few to actually improve on its source material. It's sort of hate-it-or-love-it, but then so is a solid majority of the best music.

68. The Ting Tings "That's Not My Name" (2008)
I've never actually listened to this song while riding shotgun in a convertible, but I imagine it must be the best drive-time single since TLC's "No Scrubs." It took a little while to grow on me, but one night on a dancefloor in Bogota, Colombia, as it played on full blast, I finally got it. It's a little bit '80s, a little bit rock & roll and the kind of song that's guaranteed to get any party started. The Ting Tings had a few more musical tricks up their sleeves (most notably "The Last DJ," which is nearly as good), but it's a shame about their name, which, unlike their music, doesn't exactly scream career longevity.

67. Katy Perry "Hot N Cold" (2008)
Sorry, but "I Kissed A Girl" was crap. This, however, was more like it. Following up a novelty breakthrough is hard to do, but this rocked-edged tell-off was not only a bigger hit than "I Kissed A Girl" -- despite, unlike its predecessor, never reaching No. 1 -- and will probably be the one for which Katy is remembered. I like it as much for its musical merit as I do for the fact that she easily could be singing about these lovely Argentine boys who've made the last three years of my life frustrating as hell but never dull. Come to think of it, I'm just about ready to kiss a girl myself. But I digress.

66. Spiller Ft. Sophie Ellis-Bextor "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)" (2000)
Maybe it has something to do with the title, but I always felt that this song had all the pure adrenaline rush of an airplane taking off from the runway. It gets extra credit for introducing the world to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who would go on to enjoy several successful solo singles in her native UK, most notably the excellent 2001 No. 2 hit "Murder On The Dancefloor," which is just bubbling under bubbling under on this list. If you want to know what love is, it must sound a little something like this.

65. Christina Milian "Dip It Low" (2004)
Christina Milian never really caught on, and it's not hard to see why. There's something a bit standard and anonymous about her, even compared to only slightly more distinct '00s hip-hop soul divas like Ashanti and Ciara. And it didn't help that she earned the ire of her record label by turning down "S.O.S." and even refusing to perform it as a duet with Rihanna, who personally told me and several of my former Teen People colleagues about the aborted collaboration after scoring her first No.1 hit with a solo version. But for Christina, lightning struck exactly one and a half times. "Say I," her 2006 single, was a hot flash of disco soul, but its thrills were too dependent on a sample of Jackie Moore's "Clean Up Your Own Yard." "Dip It Low," on the other hand, stood on its own. It was a high point of the dizzying breathless mid-'00s mini-R&B genre that Beyonce more or less invented but that not even her own "Baby Boy" (to which this track, with its eastern musical backdrop, is close in spirit) could match.

64. Fergie Ft. Ludacris "Glamorous" (2007)
The I'm-a-rich-bitch-but-I'm-still-Fergie-from-the-block thing has been done to death (usually by J. Lo), and the bling thing was already kind of passe when this single went to No. 1. But the slow sultry groove sounds as plush and expensive as those first-class flights she sings about, and it was the first time in her solo career that Fergie didn't sound like she was trying too hard. She pushed "Glamorous" into the pop-classic zone without so much as breaking a sweat or lifting a perfectly manicured finger nail. Work!

63. Dixie Chicks "Top Of The World" (2003)
Patty Loveless once sang, "What makes you feel old is replacing hope with regret." She had an excellent point. And here, on the best song from Dixie Chicks's best album (Home), DC, with a lot of help from songwriter Patty Griffin, perfectly captured that feeling of regret tinged with hopelessness. For years, I've been meaning to dive into Patty Griffin's catalogue. She's also the writer behind my favorite musical TV moment of the aughts: Kelly Clarkson's performance of "Up To The Mountain" on American Idol in 2007 (watch it here). It was never released as a single, or it would be on this list. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, give all the props you want to "Since You've Been Gone" and all of its sound-alike follow-ups, but this is the kind of stuff Kelly should be doing full-time.

62. Moloko "The Time Is Now" (2000)
Anticipation, it's making me wait... I almost went with "Pure Pleasure Seeker" and even wrote up a review, but after revisiting Moloko's Catalogue (the duo's 2006 best-of set), I concluded that this, their biggest hit (No. 2 in the UK) is also their best song. At once acoustic and electronic, with insistent, shuffling percussion in the background, it works as both seduction suite and party starter, and when I first heard it on a dancefloor in Mykonos in June of 2000, it sounded utterly unlike anything that had come before or has arrived since, completely contemporary yet thoroughly ahead of its time. I suspect that 10 years from now, the same will still hold true.

61. Missy Elliott "Work It" (2002)
Missy Elliott is a singles lady. Her albums are more or less middling, but every year or two, she thrusts upon the world a song to remember. Usually, they're boosted by great videos that are sort of like Salvador Dali paintings come to life and set to music. But even if I didn't have visions of bees swarming around Missy's face dancing in my head, this would still be hands down the most inventive rap song of the decade -- if ever. I've never really understood what she's going on about, but nonsense lines like "Get a pedicure, get your hair did" still make me giggle with glee.

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