Sunday, November 8, 2009


On with the countdown...

20. Ciara Ft. Ludacris "Oh" (2005)
The first artist since, well, perhaps ever to score a perfect 3 for 3 with singles 1, 2 and 3, Ciara saved the best for last. They call her style of music "crunk," and I'm not sure what that means exactly, but trying to tag a label on such a fresh, unique track seems pretty pointless. Caressing a groove that's slow, sultry and just a little bit spooky, Ciara makes less (her vocals barely rise above a breathy whisper) more more more. Ludacris's rap bridge may not be essential, but it does add a few layers of smoke to Ciara's out of control raging fire.

19. The Cardigans "I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer" (2005)
If you know the Cardigans strictly from "Lovefool," their sole U.S. hit, you are missing out big time. They were just getting warmed up. The Swedish band may never revisit that success nor scale the artistic trip-hoppin' heights of Gran Turismo, their much-misunderstood 1998 album, and to their creative credit, they aren't even trying to. What makes this muscular rock single from the Super Extra Gravity album so special, is how unlike the Cardigans -- in any of their stylistic incarnations -- it sounds. And that they manage to make such an unlikely song title musical only improves the already-excellent impression.

18. Carolina Marquez "The Killer's Song" (2005)
I'll never forget the first time I heard this song on the dancefloor at Glam during my second trip to Buenos Aires in December 2005. I got lost in the music and had one of those rare out-of-body under-the-strobelight experiences. The next day I listened to at least half a dozen dance-music compilations at the listening station in Musimundo on la calle Florida, trying to find the song that had so rocked my world the night before. Once I tracked it down, it became the de facto soundtrack of my entire Christmas vacation. Simply put, this is Buenos Aires. Simply. Killer.

17. Busta Rhymes "Touch It" (2006)
Kanye, this is how you do it (sample Daft Punk -- in this case "Technologic"). From "Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check" to "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See" to "What's It Gonna Be?!" to "Party Is Goin' On Over Here," Busta has probably produced more great singles than any solo rapper aside from Jay-Z and MC Lyte. But those highlights were all from the '90s. This decade he was mostly stuck in brain-dead collaborations (yes, Virgina, that would include "Don't Cha," with Pussycat Dolls), but when he went it alone -- backed by that Daft Punk sample and the minimalist beats of producer Swizz Beats, also the architect of Eve's "Tambourine" (No. 26) -- the result was the best rap single of the decade.

16. Amerie "1 Thing" (2005)
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sound of true-blue passion. Na, na, na, na, na, oh!

15. Christina Aguilera "Candyman" (2007)
When it came to the "Britney or Christina?" debate in the early '00s, I was always on Xtina's side because I like to root for the underdog. But truth be told, it was always more about her voice than her music. Although there were a few earlier flashes of musical brilliance ("Fighter" and "Get Mine, Get Yours" from Stripped come immediately to mind), it took Christina five albums to finally offer a song that trumped all things Britney. I don't know whose idea it was to merge the Andrew Sisters pre-doo wop "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" style with contemporary hip hop, but the end result was one of the most inventive singles of the decade and the hottest musical moment of Christina's entire career.

14. Portishead "Machine Gun" (2008)
Talk about turning the beat around. When Portishead returned after a 10-year hiatus, they came back wth "Machine Gun" blazing. Backed by what sounds like the title weapon of mass destruction, Beth Gibbons sounds as forlorn and soulful as ever. The dichotomy between weary voice and aggressive music creates a sort of off-the-charts tension that moves this beyond the realm of trip hop into a musical space that's indescribable and undefinable. Wow!

13. Róisín Murphy "Overpowered" (2007)
Two years ago, one of my best friends from New York came to visit me in Buenos Aires. The city didn't impress him much, except for one thing: this solo single from the former Moloko singer, which we heard in every club we went to. You know you're hot stuff when you're upstaging Argentine beef, wine, tango and boys, as well as working words and phrases like "chromosomes," "cognitive state" and "oxytoxins" into a pop song without sounding the least bit pretentious. Overpowering indeed.

12. Texas "Inner Smile" (2000)
The '00s weren't as good to Texas as the '90s, but they began the decade on a musical high with one of the catchiest songs in their entire canon. It's straightforward pop that could be released next month and still sound totally of its time. The vocal intro alone is hands down the best sing-along moment of the century so far. Sharleen Spiteri and the boys should consider a rematch with co-writer, co-producer and former New Radical Gregg Alexander of "You Get What You Give" fame.

11. Brandy "What About Us?" (2002)
To all the boys I've loved before. For Brandy, it was a long long way from "I Wanna Be Down" in 1994 to here. Her masterpiece album, Afrodisiac, wouldn't come until a few years later, but Brandy gave us an early preview into the depth of her soul. Someone was working our girl's last nerve, and she wasn't having it. Boy, you've been told! It's still one of the edgiest Top 10 hits ever -- and sadly and apparently, Brandy's final trip there. From her furious vocals to Rodney Jerkins' jerky, staccato aural backdrop, nothing is sugarcoated. Girl!

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