Monday, November 30, 2009


I don't really do goodbye. It's never been my thing. I love hello, but for me, goodbye has always been awkward and uncomfortable. In college and in New York, I used to throw house parties, and after a few hours, I'd always sneak out with a select one or two friends just to avoid having to bid adieu to all of my guests.

Hey, at least I'm not as bad as Cher. I once read somewhere that she would throw house parties and never even bother to come downstairs to make a courtesy appearance at her own festivities. Don't think I haven't considered doing the same thing. And have you ever noticed how on TV shows, particularly daytime soap operas, people will have telephone conversations and hang up without saying goodbye? I'd never go there. That would be flirting with rudeness. Besides, telephone goodbyes come easy for me. It's the face-to-face ones I could do without.

I don't know where I picked up this strange malady. I'm always getting messages the morning after a night out from friends complaining that they lost me at the end of the night. Usually, with the alcohol flowing, where I'll end up is anybody's guess. But maybe subconsciously, I purposely get lost just so I don't have to do the whole see-you-later thing, and all that it entails (staring into each others' eyes, making fake promises to get together other again really soon).

I've known people, both in Argentina and the United States, who can't get enough of goodbye. They begin celebrating their impending departure about a month before the actual fact, and every few days there seems to be another dinner or party where everyone they've ever met gets to say goodbye. Again. I'll pass.

A week before I left New York to move to Argentina, my friends threw me a very nice going-away bash at a bar in the West Village called Shag. It was the second time in my life that my friends had thrown me a goodbye party. The other time was when I graduated from college, and I was about to move to North Carolina for a summer internship. My memory of that first party doesn't serve me too well, but I'm pretty sure that my friend Maureen drove me home that night, and I said all of my proper goodbyes.

As for my adios to New York, a bunch of us went out to another bar afterwards, so I didn't sneak out of that particular party. But I'm 99.9% sure that I somehow managed to escape the second bar unscathed by a single goodbye. I have no idea how I'm going to handle it the first time I have to say goodbye to someone who is terminally ill. Up to now, all of the deaths in my life have been sudden, so I haven't had the opportunity to say goodbye. Obviously, I would have liked to have been able to say goodbye. Leaving the earth is infinitely more serious than leaving a city, a party or a nightclub. It's also a one-way trip.

I knew a guy who used to leave Buenos Aires every few months and before each departure he seemed to have several goodbye dinners. Everyone appeared to be oblivious to his attention-getting ploy but me. But after seeing him in action, I've decided that if everything goes according to plan, and I bolt from BA early next year for a few months (possibly more) in Australia, I will steal away like a thief in the night. Now you see me, now you won't.

Start waving goodbye now, folks!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Last night I had a scintillating conversation with Xavier, a friend from the United States whom I hadn't seen in a little more than a year. Over multiple whiscolas we talked about our respective romantic states, his love life and mine -- and more specifically, my lack of one at the moment.

Somehow the conversation turned to physical deal breakers. I don't have many. I've never been someone to fall over and over for a specific type. And I'm generally not drawn to Don Juan or the sexiest man alive. Physically, the various guys I've dated have nothing in common, and for the most part, they aren't necessarily people who would stop traffic on the street, although, I, for my own reasons, found them all attractive and sexy.

But back to those deal breakers. I only have two: bad (or missing) teeth and bad breath. The former I could possibly live with. The latter is simply unacceptable. For me, bad breath is the biggest turn-off imaginable. I have gone out with guys who were perfect in almost every way, but when they got too close, I had to hold my breath until I was blue in the face. Others have lasted way past their expiration date for the opposite reason. Why? Because fresh breath is so hard to find. This is something my last boyfriend, unexpectedly, had in his favor. I don't know how he did it. He was a smoker, but in the five times I saw him, I never once had to hold my breath.

Sometimes I think my hang up on this is a bit unnatural. In fact, the minute I meet someone, and they lean in for the cheek kiss, I get butterflies, for fear that I may get a whiff of something other than cologne or perfume. And I'm not just hard on other people. In college, my friends used to make fun of me because I spent at least 15 minutes brushing my teeth several times a day. Over the years, this has been the one constant ritual in my life.

And another thing: I'm not big on breath mints and other methods of masking odor (although non-alcoholic mouth wash -- Thera Breath, which, unfortunately, is not available outside of the U.S., is my favorite -- is perfectly acceptable, recommended even). I like my breath naturally fresh, the way God intended it to be.

Xavier somehow spun my good breath/teeth obsession into my being too hung up on physical beauty and even suggested that it would be shallow of me to dismiss a guy for falling short in the dental hygiene department.

Utter nonsense, I say.

Let us now consider taste, likes and dislikes. There are certain foods that we won't eat. There are certain movies that we'd prefer not to see. There are certain songs we don't want to listen to. There are certain places we don't want to go to. There are even certain people whom we don't want to be around. So why is it that the minute we start weeding out potential romantic matches based on undesirable physical traits, we are deemed shallow or too hung up on looks?

When I think of the perfect guy, he's not short, or fat, with thin lips, beady eyes and bad hair. But I can certainly imagine dating a guy with any of these individual qualities. Even a missing tooth can slip by me. But if I have to hold my breath every time he opens his mouth to speak -- or to kiss me...

Game over!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Before I moved to Buenos Aires, my life was never dull, but for the most part, my emails, phone messages and text messages from guys were borderline snoozefests. (This was, at least for me, before instant messaging, online dating and the virtual obsolescence of voice mail.) Nowadays, they provide some of my greatest entertainment -- and not just for the grammatical slip ups that I recently wrote about in WRITE AND WRONG. Porteños will say just about anything -- and they often do!

In New York, after a one-night stand or after meeting someone in a bar or club, they usually take several days to contact you. (The Rules! The Rules!) And when they finally do, you get the basics: Hey. What's up? Great meeting you last night. Want to grab a drink this weekend?" Case closed.

In BA, where calling or texting hours after the first meeting is not uncommon or considered too eager, every "hola" is followed by "lindo" or "hermoso" or "bonito" or "belleza." My friend Rob recently got one that was followed by "lindura." Is that even a word?!?! In the United States, the only time you hear "Hello, gorgeous" is when you rent the DVD of Funny Girl.

I'm not complaining. I'm alternately frustrated and fascinated by these particular porteño rules of attraction, and after three years, I've learned how to respond to them -- if I respond. And I'm just glad that no one seems to be asking about the size of my penis anymore. I don't know who sent out the memo, but thank you!

Of course, one of the most popular porteño lines is "¿Cuando nos vemos?" (Translation: When am I going to see you?) I must get that one a thousand times a day. The problem with it is if you have to ask, in English or in Spanish, it usually means never. Some guys have been asking me for months now. Someone assertive with a burning desire to see you makes a date suggestion out of the box. Fire and desire gets me every time.

Here is a sampling of some of the wildest messages I've received in the past 24 hours (via text, email, Facebook, IM, and online meet/meat markets). I'll skip the ones earlier in the week from Enzo, an 18-year-old kid I stumbled across last weekend while out with friends. He never met a word he wouldn't misspell, and sentence structure means nothing to him. His three-day attraction to me grew so fatal-seeming that after he invited me to his home, Rob warned me, "If you go, he will either rob you or kill you." I stopped responding to Enzo. Eventually, he got the message -- or rather, not getting a message sent him the message.

Note: In the messages below, listed in the order or ridiculousness (least to most), I've cleaned up the grammar and spelling, for the sake of clarity, because few porteños that I've met use punctuation.

  • "Quiero hacer el amor contigo. ¿Te animas?... Me gustaste mucho." This one, whom I met last night in a club, is telling me how much he likes me and how he wants to make love to me. Straightforward and direct. Alas, he's never gonna get it (my lovin').

  • "Tengo ganas de ver sus piernas. ¿Tenes una foto en slips? Es lo que mas me gusta de un hombre." This one wants to see my legs because it's his favorite part of the male form. Unfortunately for him, they are not the best part of my male form.

  • "Mas temprano o mas tarde voy a chupar la pija." Sooner or later, he declares, he is going to suck my dick. Charming.

  • ¿Cuando puedo lamer tus axilas?" When can he lick my underarms? Does he kiss his mother with that mouth?
Where do they come up with this stuff? As I said before, at least it's entertaining -- and off the tried-and-not-so-true porteño script!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Honk if you wouldn't have pegged me as a Bob Seger fan.

But I am. Big time. We almost share a birthday. His is May 6, one day before mine.

Yesterday, I stumbled across the Bob Seger section of my iPod and decided to indulge in some sweet memories. The first thing that surprised me was how many great songs he recorded, many more than I had remembered: "Against The Wind," "In Your Time," "Mainstreet," "Turn The Page," "American Storm," and the list goes on and on and on... Twenty-plus years on, his blend of country, R&B and old time rock & roll holds up surprisingly well.

After I did a bit of online research, the second surprise was how huge Bob Seger (with and without the Silver Bullet Band) was in his late-'70s/early '80s heyday. I'd never even realized that he'd been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, along with Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Prince, Traffic and ZZ Top. This post is just in time for the release of Early Seger Vol. 1, a compilation of out-of-print and previously unreleased music that came out yesterday. Since Bob is reaching back, I will, too. Here are my five favorite Bob Seger singles.

5. "Understanding" (from the Teachers soundtrack, 1984) "Now suddenly I look around/And everything looks new/I don't know why, but I think I'm startin' to learn" The first song in the Bob Seger section of my iPod. Listening to it, I realized that more than any other artist I can think of at the moment, his discography provides the perfect soundtrack for the lives of men of a certain age (my age).

4. "Shakedown" (from the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack, 1987) "It's ok to want to shine/But once you step across that line/No matter where you hide I'm comin' after you" Unique in so many ways. His only No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, it's the only non-ballad on my list and the most straightforward pop single Bob ever released. Fun fact. It was originally intended for Glenn Frey, who suggested Bob as a replacement when Glenn lost his voice and couldn't make the recording session.

3. "Fire Lake" (from Against the Wind, 1980) "Who wants to take that long shot gamble/And head out to fire lake?" I do! Probably the least well-known of B0b's seven Top 10 singles. Essential.

2. "Shame On The Moon" (from The Distance, 1982) "Some men go crazy/Some men go slow/Some men go just where they want/Some men never go" An elegant contemplation on being alone with everybody -- or something -- written by the great Rodney Crowell.

1. "Still The Same" (from Stranger In Town, 1978) "You always said/The cards would never do you wrong/The trick you said/Was never play the game too long" Probably the first Bob Seger song I ever heard and the finest amalgam of his three musical reference points: rock, country and red-hot rhythm & blues.

Bob Seger "Still The Same" (Live 1978)


Ladies and gentlemen, save the date: February 8, 2010. Just in time for Valentine's Day, Sade will finally make her return with Soldier Of Love, the first album from the band that bears her name since 2000's Lovers Rock. It better be good. It's got to be good, right?

Lovers Rock was playing in the background during much of the Milan leg of my great 2000 romance with Paolo. (Unfortunately, the New York City leg, in the summer of 2000, preceded the album's release.) I already know that Soldier Of Love will be playing in the background for much of 2010. I wonder what will be happening in the foreground.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


What's a lady like Gaga doing in a place like this? I have no idea why Lady Gaga is in the new Beyonce video. Aside from both being 2009 MTV VMA winners, the two performers have absolutely nothing in common, musically or visually. But there Gaga is, popping up almost exactly halfway through the new remix of "Video Phone," which appears on the repackaged version of I Am... Sasha Fierce, out today. The song is neither ruined nor improved by Gaga's involvement, although I'm sure their combined starpower will make it yet another hit single from the album.

The most noteworthy thing about the video is that for perhaps the first time in her career, Gaga looks -- dare I say it? -- normal. In fact, she looks sort of beautiful. I suppose if you are going to appear in a video with one of the most gorgeous women in pop, you've gotta put aside the freakish clown thing or risk looking like a complete idiot. Plus I'm sure Beyonce wasn't having any fake blood in her video!

It's still a long long way to Shakira (Beyonce's partner in her last diva summit, "Beautiful Liar"), but nothing about Gaga's cameo makes me cringe. I do wonder, however, whose idea it was to have Gaga soften her quirky vocal edge. It kind of defeats the purpose of having her guest on your record. No doubt it won't matter to Gaga fans, who probably would eat it up even if she were just whistlin' "Dixie" on the bridge.

In the end, "Video Phone" remains a lesser Sasha Fierce track, and after watching the video several times, all I can hope for is an extended break from both artists for a year or two. Make me miss you, girls. I've officially had my fill.

Robyn, where are you?

Update (November 25) During the Nottingham stop of her I Am... tour, Beyonce told the crowd, "This is my last show for this tour in the UK, so hopefully, I'll see you all in a year with a new album." According to Billboard, she's already working on new tracks with producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins. No rest for the wicked!

Beyonce Ft. Lady Gaga "Video Phone"

Monday, November 23, 2009


A perfect storm of gloom, despair and agony. When Marie, a beautiful mess, giving a measured, nuanced video performance worthy of a film star, finally starts to let go with a soulful outburst at around 4:11, it crushes me. I feel her pain.

On the plus side, if you're going to wallow in misery, you might as well do it in a killer pad.

Roxette "Spending My Time"

Sunday, November 22, 2009


When I'm right, I'm right.

Remember Alejandro? I wrote about him exactly two months ago in MORE FUN AND GAMES WITH THOSE CRAZY PORTEÑOS. He was the guy who, after begging me for weeks to go out with him, stood me up on our first date without so much as a phone call, a text message or an IM. I knew I hadn't heard the last from him because guys in Buenos Aires oh-so-predictably always come back.

What was it that I said is their favorite re-opening line? Ah, yes. "Tanto tiempo"! Long time! They all work from the same adapted screenplay. For a city with so many creative people that inspires so much creativity, they are alarmingly unoriginal when it comes to verbal expression.

Well, surprise suprise! Today I received the following text message (the punctuation has been left in tact to ridicule the not so innocent): "Hola como estas? Todo bien? Tanto tiempo... Yo haciendo la funcion del fantasma .. Y después a bailar..." I hadn't thought about Alejandro since around the time I wrote that post, because there have been so many clones since then, but I immediately knew it was him because I remembered that he had been performing in a production of Phantom Of The Opera.

Of course, there was no mention of standing me up, because, with the majority of porteños, there seems to be no sense of right and wrong unless something affects them. Or perhaps that's just guys everywhere -- self-centered to the core. For those who don't read Spanish, here's a translation: Hello. I'm horny. No other guy will have me, so I'm praying that I still have a chance with you. I'm hoping your memory is as short as mine. A dance?

Not today.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I'm bewitched, bothered and bewildered, with a very strong emphasis on bewildered. I feel so out of the loop. I'm looking at Billboard's new Hot 100 and wondering, where did the superstars go? Suddenly, the charts are dominated by total strangers? Most of the Top 10 songs are by acts no one had heard of a few months ago: Owl City (above, second, No. 2), Jason DeRulo (above, top, No. 3), Iyaz (No. 4), Jay Sean (No. 7) and Ke$ha (above, third, No. 10). Lady Gaga (No. 9), Lady Antebellum (No. 5, no relation) and Miley Cyrus (No. 8), who only have been charting for the last couple years, are practically fossils by comparison.

I have to admit, I haven't bothered to check out most of these upstarts. When I listened to "Tik Tok" by the ridiculously monikered Ke$ha (that dollar sign is a presumably unintentional sad commentary on what music making, for the most part, has come to) a week or so ago, it was so awful, it scared me off newcomers for a while. I still haven't been able to bring myself to check out the new singles by Kris Allen and Adam Lambert.

Thank God, for Jay Z and Alicia Keys at No. 1, an album chart ruled by virtual dinosaurs Bon Jovi, and a Reba McEntire resurgence over on the country list. But you know we are in the middle of strange days indeed when the first singles from new albums by Rihanna, Chris Brown, Usher, Alicia Keys (solo) and Leona Lewis are flopping or struggling.

Outside of the Top 10, Drake, a rapper nobody knew anything about a year ago who has yet to even release his debut album, is featured on 5 songs on the Hot 100 and has already charted four others. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber (above, bottom) -- a 15-year-old singer I had never heard of until today when a Facebook friend commented that she was in an elevator with him, and he "was maybe the size of my right leg, maybe" -- recently charted four singles in the Top 40. And his album didn't even come out until Tuesday!

But there's good news for old chart farts like Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas and Jay-Z: The hits keep coming. Poor Madonna and Whitney Houston must be so green with envy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Today, I was rudely awakened.

The alarm for my wake-up call was set the week before last when, on a whim, I entered a contest on the gay online-dating website Manhunt. It was a search for 12 models -- three from Argentina, three from Colombia, three from Mexico, three from Spain -- for the 2010 Manhunt calendar. I don't know why I entered. I was bored, or looking for something. Validation, maybe.

I never expected anything to come of it. I entered and forgot about it. On Sunday or Monday of last week, they sent me an email telling me that I had made it past the preliminary round, and I needed to send five to 10 photos and provide all of my personal data. I did as I was told, not taking much precious time in selecting the photos or filling out the information form because, you know, why would they choose me? I'm so obviously not even from Argentina!

On Wednesday -- surprise! -- I received an email saying that I had been chosen as one of the 10 finalists in Argentina. Over the next five days, people would cast votes on the website, and the Top 3 would make it to the calendar. After another round of voting, the winner would be named the Top Model of Manhunt.

Now, I started to take it more seriously. I had no desire to be the Top Model of Manhunt, but I wanted to get into that calendar. I started off my campaign slowly, but before long, it was approaching Barack Obama proportions. On Thursday, I sent an email to all of my MSN contacts, some of whom I hadn't spoken to in years, all of my Facebook friends, most of whom I've never spoken to, urging them get out the vote -- for me! I sent personal messages and even went so far as to post the link to the voting page as my Facebook status update. I spent the five voting days on pins and needles, not daring to check out the website for updates on who was winning lest I be sorely disappointed.

In the end, I didn't make it to the Top 3. Despite my grand effort, I'm not at all surprised, but I am more bummed out than I thought I would be. Not so much because I didn't get enough votes -- the voting process was more flawed than American Idol's, with anyone anywhere, including my mother and my dead grandmother eligible to cast theirs. It would have been more of an honor had Manhunt's powers that be selected me, as opposed to a vast voting public of who knows who -- or what.

So why should I care? Because I even cared in the first place. Three years ago, I never would have considered entering such a contest. For most of my adult life, I've been told that I should model, been mistaken for a model, and, on occasion, even been model scouted on the street and once, recently, in the gym. I never took any of it seriously until I moved to Buenos Aires, and an ex-boyfriend encouraged me to have professional photos made. I always thought modelling was beneath me. I wanted to be recognized primarily for my mind, my work, my personality. The rest was just gravy.

I never knew the extent to which my career propped up my ego until today. Suddenly, I realized that in Buenos Aires, without a full-time career to round out my personality and help others define me, I'm stripped to the bare essentials -- mind, body and soul -- as semi-naked as I was in some of those contest photos.

With straight guys and women, this works out perfectly. If they want to be around me, I know it's not because of what they can get out of me. But with gay men in BA placing such a high premium on physical beauty (in New York, quirky is at least rewarded), what they see is what they want to get -- nothing more, nothing less. Mind and soul are thrown out the window, and it's all about the body. When I get attention from guys, it never seems to be for anything other than the way I look. Somewhere along the way, I began to believe the hype, and I think I began to depend on it, too.

I was talking to someone recently whose brother is a model in New York City. He's had a successful run, but at 28, he's pretty much washed up. Luckily for him, he has a career in finance to fall back on, because in modelling, he's as out of favor as an actress over 40 in Hollywood. Considering that, I suppose I should consider it a huge compliment that at 40, I was able to compete with guys half my age. That said, it's time to let go of the hype.

If you said I had a beautiful body would I hold it against you? Not a chance. But tell me, "I love your mind," and I'm yours to keep.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I started to compile a list of my all-time favorite videos, and then I thought: Too soon. I'm still recovering from counting down my favorite singles of the '00s, so instead I'll post regular individual tributes to videos I have loved over the years. First up, "Still A Thrill," by Jody Watley. Remember how huge she was supposed to be after she released her self-titled solo debut in 1987? So major that she won the Best New Artist Grammy in 1988, despite having spent seven years as a member of the hit-making R&B trio Shalamar.

Jody was the most exciting black female solo singer to come along since Janet Jackson. And the innovation and high quality of her early videos -- from "Looking For A New Love" to "Real Love," which was directed by an upstart director named David Fincher and was nominated for seven 1989 MTV VMAs, to "Friends" -- made her a sort of black Madonna.

Like the Material Girl, she was a uniquely beautiful star who loved to play dress up. Both incorporated dance in their videos without turning them into generic group dance-offs a la Michael and Janet Jackson and, later, Britney Spears and her fellow former Mickey Mouse club costars. And unlike Lady Gaga and even, at times, Madonna herself, you never saw the strain of effort in Jody's videos. If she was trying too hard, she never let you see her sweat. I'm not sure what happened with her once-so-promising career, but somewhere along the way -- I'd say about halfway through her third solo album, 1991's Affairs Of The Heart (her peek-a-boo power suit on the cover suggested a battle of creative sensibilities) -- she lost her edge.

The "Still A Thrill" video was the high point of Jody's days of thunder, ahead of its time, or more accurately, out of its time. Yes, the fashion, even the dancing, is very much of the late 1980s. But the black and white cinematography, the Vogue-ready art direction, the gorgeous baroque mansion, the minimalism of it all is simultaneously of a more classic era and one that had yet to come. I love the use of shadows, the dances a deux, the way the black and white turns to color in the final frame. It's all so classy, so very European. And it doesn't hurt that the song is beyond fantastic.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


My friend Rob and I ought to be ashamed of ourselves. If certain people knew what we sometimes do in our spare time, they'd probably never send us another email, text message or IM. Maybe they'd stop talking to us altogether.

What are we up to now? On slow days, we spend hours chatting on MSN, poking fun of the comedy of manners that is dating in Buenos Aires and cracking up over some of the messages sent to us by our Argentine suitors. I know it's not a very nice thing to do, but when someone sends me a message extolling the physical virtues of black men and their private parts, and offering a blow job in English and in Spanish, he deserves what he gets.

Not everything is so X-rated. Yesterday, I received a text message from a guy I met on Saturday morning in McDonald's, of all places. I had a hard time understanding what he was trying to say until I realized that throughout the message, he had used the letter "l" as a substitute for "i." l'm not sure what thls guy was thlnking! I used to do the same thing when I was in kindergarten because, to me, an "l" looked just like an "i," only taller and without a period on top, but there's really no excuse for a guy in his 20s. I thought that perhaps there was a problem with the keypad on his phone. Or was it even a mistake? Maybe lt was some lntentlonal deslgn thlng. Could he posslbly just thlnk lt looks klnd of cool? Whatever his reason for doing it, it was good for a chuckle. I hope he's as entertaining when we go out.

Then there are the ones who commit the cardinal elementary-school-English-class sin: the run-on sentence. I've received lengthy emails, text messages and IMs with not one punctuation mark in sight. No periods! No commas! Not even question marks! Just words delivered in a stream-of-consciousness style that, amazingly, my Spanish is good enough to figure out. Others use "B" when they really should use "V," or "LL" when a "Y" would do. I know that the letters in each pair are pronounced more or less identically in Spanish, but is spelling not a skill that's picked up in school? Rob was tempted to fire his maid the other day because she sent him a text message in which she spelled "hacer" A-S-E-R! Clueless or lazy? I'd say probably a mix.

The other night, a guy sent Rob an IM in which he capitalized "Trabajo" (work, in Spanish) throughout the entire run-on sentence. Rob, being far more bold and blunt when dealing with porteños than I am, asked him to reveal the method behind his semantic madness. Though the explanation only served to further confuse, I'm thinking of picking a random word or even a letter to start capitalizing in all forms of written communication. I kInd of lIke the way It looks. I've got to draw the lIne at run-on sentences though for me gettIng my poInt across clearly and eloquently wIthout causIng confusIon or comIng across lIke a grade-school dropout Is paramount.

But I am rethinking my placement of question marks. I was reading an en español email chain between my friend Cara and this guy on Facebook and noticed that when asking a question, he puts a space between the last letter of the sentence and the question mark. What do you think ? How cool does it look ? There were a couple of other punctuation quirks in what were otherwise flawlessly executed messages, but I was so focused on and fascinated by the space before the question marks that I didn't file away the other quirks. I can't even remember if he used accent marks.

Speaking of which, some guys are so anal with the accent marks that I become a little nervous when talking to them -- orally and online -- afraid that they will pick apart every error I make. I once had a friend in Los Angeles tell me that he was terrified to send me emails because he was sure I would rip them to shreds with my editor and writer colleagues. Actually, I never did anything like that until my recent rampage with Rob (and now only because since I am the non-native Spanish speaker, they really should know better), but that wouldn't have been such a bad way to perk up a slow afternoon at work.

And who knows? Maybe someone somewhere in Buenos Aires right now is reading one of my messages and having a hearty laugh at my expense.

Monday, November 16, 2009


As I mentioned at the start of the countdown 10 weeks ago, the list has included only singles and one lead performance per artist. Before concluding, allow me to give props to 10 two-hit (or more) wonders who may have placed multiple singles on the list had I bent the rules.

  • Amy Winehouse "Rehab" "Tears Dry On Their Own"
  • Billie Ray Martin "Undisco Me"
  • Destiny's Child "Lose My Breath"
  • Kylie "Can't Get You Out Of My Head"
  • Madonna "Music"
  • Nelly Furtado "Maneater"
  • Rachel Stevens "Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex"
  • Sugababes "Red Dress"
  • Texas "Getaway"
  • Zero 7 "Destiny" (Photex Remix)

And now, the best for last...

10. Patty Loveless "On Your Way Home" (2003)
The best country single of the decade from the best female country artist of the last 20 years. I always cock an eyebrow whenever people deride country and dismiss it as hick music. Done right, it's actually just soul music sung predominantly by white people with a twang, and when Patty Loveless is really on, Aretha Franklin doesn't have anything on her. Just listen to the way she delivers the line "Where'd you get that alibi? Did it fall out of a midnight sky?" her voice dripping with bitterness and contempt. Anyone who's ever been saddled with faithless love will know exactly where she's coming from, which makes the sting even harder.

9. Mary J. Blige & U2 "One" (2006)
I have a confession to make. When U2 released this as the third single from their 1991 album, Achtung Baby, I didn't care for it at all. For 15 years, it bored me. But when Mary and Bono (backed by the rest of U2) sang it as a duet in 2005 on the post-Hurricane Katrina TV telethon Shelter From The Storm: A Concert For The Gulf Coast (a studio recording appeared later that year on Mary's 2005 The Breakthrough), I finally got it. It's not a song about brotherhood or human rights. It's about a relationship that's chipped, cracked, shattered, possibly beyond repair. Mary sang it like she wrote it, and every time I listen to it, I can't help but think it's personal, that she is singing directly to a specific person. This is not a silly love song. Yes, it's about love, but it's fully of fury and recrimination. Thanks to Mary, U2 at last got their message across.

8. Muse "Supermassive Black Hole" (2006)
Who knew Muse and funk would sound so good together? Stange but perfect musical bedfellows. Until I heard this song, I never had the slightest interest in Muse and their operatic pop-rock, but "Supermassive Black Hole" presented the trio as an entirely different band without making them sound like they were trying too hard to out-Prince Prince (which, by the way, they practically did). They caught my attention a second time with "Uprising," their Top 10 UK single from this year, which found them breaking out the test tubes once again. Without "Uprising," this might be a little farther down my list, but in the end, the newer song led to my revisiting my first Muse love and falling in love all over again.

7. Shakira Ft. Alejandro Sanz "La Tortura" (2005)
My native Spanish-speaking friends laugh at me while embracing Shakira's tacky schlocky pop-rock. Sorry, chicos, this is the only Shakira song I've ever been able to listen to all the way through without cringing at her billy-goat vibrato as my mind starts to wander. It's hot and sweaty, dripping with sex and passion. Maybe I'm just a voyeur/sadomasochist, getting off on la tortura (the torture) of others. For my first six months in Buenos Aires, I couldn't leave a bar without requesting that the DJ play it at least once. It's torture, baby, and it hurts so good.

6. Bodyrox Ft. Luciana "Yeah Yeah" (2006)
Only in the UK, where music fans aren't as obsessed with categorization and the status quo, could such an offbeat single make it all the way to No. 2 on the charts. Backed by a chainsaw techno beat that's more Prodigy rock than David Guetta disco, Luciana comes off like the ultimate badass chick, M.I.A. with a major attitude. If the song has one flaw, it's that it's way too short, at only 2:37. But then again, it always leaves me wanting much much more. Repeat.

5. Royksopp Ft. Robyn "The Girl And The Robot" (2009)
Sweden's Robyn has spent the decade releasing stellar albums and singles that were popular everywhere in the world but the United States. Her best moment of the century so far, though, didn't even appear on a Robyn album. It's this collaboration with the Norwegian duo Royksopp where she bemoans being emotionally attached to a workaholic. The subject matter sounds quotidian and maybe just a little hokey on paper, but there is nothing ordinary about Robyn's performance. She is so vocally invested that you feel her pain, suffering, crying right along with her. And if you've ever wanted someone you couldn't have -- physically, emotionally or both -- it will rip you to shreds. You've been warned.

4. Amy Winehouse "You Know I'm No Good" (2007)
Every Amy Winehouse fan has a song on her Back To Black album that is so them, and for me, this one is it. Similar in anti-heroine spirit to Fiona Apple's "Fast As You Can," the lyrics are pure poetry and reward repeated listens. That Amy can sing about being with one guy but, um, climaxing only when thinking of another without coming off as vulgar or slutty says a lot about her way with words and phrasing. Toward the end when her voice cracks ever so slightly when singing the line "I cheated my myself, like I knew I would," the emotional effect is heartbreaking. "Rehab" may have been her big worldwide hit, but for me, this will always be her -- and my -- signature song.

3. Air "Radio #1 (2001)
The best song you've may never have heard. Nothing this decade -- or any decade -- sounded quite like it. Ethereal, psychedelic, mind and mood enhancing. It's post modern enough to keep you on the cutting edge of your seat -- if not on your feet. If more music on the radio sounded like this (and despite the title, this is not exactly radio-ready pop), I'd tune in more regularly. In a decade in which Gallic musicians, from Daft Punk to Modjo to David Guetta to Alan Braxe, ruled, this is French electronica at its most mesmerizing. It's like the soundtrack to a dream in which you're floating on little fluffy clouds. Eight years later I still don't want to wake up.

2. Rihanna Ft. Jay-Z "Umbrella" (2007)
The song that made Rihanna a star. Without it, she might still be merely a hit maker. It's one of the few times when a guest rap (courtesy of Rihanna's mentor, Jay-Z) serves the song well, and I love that it introduces the song, preparing us for Rihanna's grand entrace, rather than being tacked on as a bridge near the end like an afterthought. Then there are Rihanna's vocals, the way her voice climbs upward on the chorus and descends downward on the verses. It's already inspired tons of cover versions, but there's no topping Rihanna's original, which wisely doesn't sugarcoat an already-cavity-inducing sentiment with a too-reverent musical backdrop. Move over, Carole King. "You're Got A Friend" served us well for 40 years. But from now on, this will be the ultimate song of faith and devotion.

1. Kylie Minogue "Slow" (2003)
"Kids." "Can't Get You Out Of My Head." "Chocolate." "I Believe In You." No other artist this decade has thrilled me, killed me with more excellent singles than Kylie Minogue. But nothing she'd ever done before prepared me for "Slow." I'll never forget the first time I heard it. I woke up at St. Martin's Lane in London, turned on the TV, and there she was, on her back, twisting and turning poolside with a cast of hardbodies in a tight slinky Pucci-esque get-up, singing in a sexy-robotic tone to a burping Kraftwerk-inspired beat. She took me straight to heaven, and she never left the ground -- figuratively and, in the video, literally. I couldn't -- and still can't -- get it out of my head.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


"Go away/Round the world/Talk to all kinds of girls/But it's me you won't find/And you're mine. Close your eyes/Count to ten/Turn around/Back again/Hit the floor/Then once more/I'm still here" -- Tracey Thorn, "It's All True"

How's that for romantic security and supreme confidence? And Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn has every reason to be so self-assured. She's an apparently happily married wife, mother and one of the best singers on the planet. (Interesting tidbit: She once told me that her favorite singer is Patti Smith, and she'd love to sound like that, but her voice just won't go there.) My soundtrack of the last two days has been her way-underappreciated 2007 solo album, Out Of The Woods. It's probably one of my Top 10 favorite CDs of the '00s (that list: coming soon), and I can't understand why it wasn't a much bigger hit.

"Boy, you’ve been on the wrong road/Wearing someone else’s shoes/Who told you you were not what you were meant to be?/And got you paying someone else’s dues?" -- Tracey Thorn, "Grand Canyon"

I was never really into Everything But The Girl until Tracey and her husband/musical partner Ben Watt began incorporating electronic sounds like drum 'n' bass and trip hop into their music with 1996's Walking Wounded, another near-pop masterpiece. The beauty of Out Of The Woods is the way it merges both sides of EBTG, the acoustic coffee-house pop of their early work and their later chilled-out electro-pop experiments, without really sounding anything like EBTG.

"Do you ever wonder where love goes?/Up there in the ether I suppose/Sometimes it burns enough to leave a trace in the air/The ghost of me and you in a parallel world somewhere" -- Tracey Thorn, "By Picadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept"

She gets the balance perfectly right. Songs like "Here It Goes Again," "Hands Up To The Ceiling," "Nowhere Near" (a touching exploration of what it feels like for a girl who's suddenly middle aged) and "By Picadilly Station I Sat Down And Wept" are soft and delicate, with Tracey baring her wounded soul alternately over stately strings, acoustic guitars or sad piano melodies. "A-Z," "Easy" and "Falling Off A Log" are breathtakingly lovely, majestic and atmospheric, slow-building crescendos of flawless singing, while "It's All True," "Get Around To It," "Grand Canyon" (one of my Top 100 Swinging Singles of the Aughts: #25) and "Raise The Roof" pick up the tempo for maximum under-the-strobelight enjoyment. There is not a single dud in the bunch, which is a pop-album rarity indeed.

"Why did I wait?/Why did I wait?/Don't tell me it's too late/Don't tell me it's too late" -- Tracey Thorn, "Raise The Roof"

Why did she wait? No clue. Coming eight years after EBTG's last studio album, Temperamental, and 25 years after A Distant Shore, Tracey's solo debut, Out Of The Woods is late, yes. But better late than never.

Tracey Thorn "It's All True"

Friday, November 13, 2009


Wow! Sting is so not amused! The man who's collaborated with everyone from P. Diddy to Toby Keith because, he once told me, he doesn't know how to say no, is no long playing Mr. Congeniality. Considering that he's promoting a new holiday album, If On A Winter's Night..., he's sure not spreading Christmas cheer. In a recent interview, he lashed out at TV talent shows like American Idol and the UK's The X Factor, calling them "televised karaoke" and "a soap opera which has nothing to do with music."

I understand where he is coming from, but in my opinion, true talent can be discovered anywhere, from a street corner to a local dive to a prime-time star search where the popular vote is the one that counts.

Yes, creatively speaking, the various contests have spawned far more misses than hits, but can we dismiss the talent of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson because they were discovered on a TV pageant? And although I would agree with him that these Idol and X Factor kids "are not encouraged to create any real unique signature or fingerprint" (exhibit A: Clive Davis vs. Kelly Clarkson, after she tried to go her own creative way on her third album, My December), I wouldn't call any of the above Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston clones.

Sting also disses the talent show judges as having "no recognisable talent apart from self-promotion, advising [contestants] what to wear and how to look." He has a point, but isn't that also the job of label executives who pluck fresh talent -- like Sting's old band, the Police, back in the day -- off the street?

Where Sting really stumbles, though, is when he underestimates The X Factor's star- and money-making potential: "The music industry has been hugely important to England, bringing in millions. If anyone thinks The X Factor is going to do that, they are wrong."

I think Sting may have had his head stuck in the sand for most of this century. The last three UK No. 1 singles all have been by acts (Alexandra Burke, Cheryl Cole and JLS) who were discovered on a TV star search. In fact, the fastest-selling UK single of 2009 so far is "Fight For This Love" by Cheryl Cole, a member of Girls Aloud, a group created on Popstars: The Rivals that has amassed a multimillion-pound fortune over the last half-decade. Meanwhile, on this week's UK singles chart, the U.S. rock band Journey scores it's biggest ever UK single with "Don't Stop Believin'," which shoots to No. 19 (making it, incredibly, the group's first Top 40 UK hit) after being performed by a contestant on The X Factor.

Sorry, Sting. I love you to bits. But when you're wrong, you're dead wrong.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


God knows I have my issues with Facebook, but here is what I don't understand: If you're "not really into Facebook," then why use it? As far as I know, there is no law that says everyone has to have an account. Email still works just fine. So does the telephone. And leading a Facebook-free life means avoiding awkward friendship invitations from former high-school classmates whom you don't remember and others whom you'd like to forget.

Why is everyone (at least those who are into Facebook) so up in arms over Taylor Swift's Entertainer of the Year win last night at the Country Music Association awards? I know it's super-early in her career, but no other star has done more for country in the last year. And I don't recall any of the other nominees hosting Saturday Night Live to such unanimous acclaim (or hosting it at all) -- although, granted, Taylor's SNL gig last weekend was after the CMA voting was a done deal. I feel a Taylor Swift backlash coming on strong.

When will the powers that be in Hollywood realize that no one really cares about Cameron Diaz? Like Demi Moore and Meg Ryan before her, and unlike Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon, Cameron Diaz has earned a rep as a box-office draw without ever carrying a big hit on her own bare shoulders. (She may have been alphabetically top-billed in There's Something About Mary, but Ben Stiller was really the star of that show.) Boosted by the right costar (Ashton Kutcher, Drew Barrymore), she does alright, but without another big name to help carry to load, she stumbles. Case in point: The Box, her first attempt at toplining solo, opened at No. 6 last weekend, with a meager $7.5 million. Looks like she will fail where Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kate Hudson, Laura Linney, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler and even Jennifer Connelly have succeeded in recent years: scoring a moderate to major box-office success toplining a thriller/horror film.

What's up with Steven Tyler? Is he in Aerosmith or out? And does Joe Perry really think that the show can go on with a new lead singer? That would be like the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger. U2 without Bono. R.E.M. without Michael Stipe. Not to understate Joe's contribution, but to many fans, Steven Tyler is Aerosmith.

Will Precious: Based On A Novel By Sapphire ever make it to Argentina, like so many other major U.S. films? I'm not saying that Argentines are racist -- although some of them are -- but I can't imagine a drama about the plight of a poor, fat black girl playing to South American audiences who mainly perceive black people in the U.S. as being sports stars, sexual studs or Beyonce. I guess I'll have to wait until I'm in New York, hopefully in January, to see it.

Speaking of Beyonce, why can't pop stars just put out an album, enjoy the hits and be done with it? Now every release that spawns hit single No. 4 gets repackaged and re-released, as I Am... Sasha Fierce will on November 24 (following the lead of Lady Gaga's The Fame the day before and Taylor Swift's Fearless two weeks ago). The trillionth single, the standout "Broken-Hearted Girl," is now climbing the UK charts, and next up is a remix of the original album cut "Video Phone," featuring -- you guessed it -- Lady Gaga!

Who's ready for another round of American Idol in January? I know that he's supposed to be the next Dick Clark and all that jazz, but does anyone actually love Ryan Seacrest? He gets paid a small fortune for showing up each season, but would his departure from Idol be as disastrous as Simon Cowell's -- or as press-worthy as Paula Abdul's was? I've never heard anyone utter these four words: "I love Ryan Seacrest!" If you ask me, they should have given Ellen Degeneres his job instead of Paula's.

Okay, that's enough bitching for one day!


In ascending (top to bottom) order of drop-dead accuracy...

10. "Barbarism Begins At Home" The Smiths
Nature or nurture? I'm giving nurture the slightest edge, because that's the one we can control.

9. "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)" Joe Jackson
It sure helps if you're not really looking for it -- or if you don't really want it.

8. "Ain't No California" Mel Tillis
And while you're busy getting, remember, the perfect life, like the American dream, is just that: a dream.

7. "Enjoy The Silence" Depeche Mode
Words are useless. Especially sentences.

6. "Pretty Girls Make Graves" The Smiths
As do pretty boys. Deadly indeed.

5. "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" Sade
If it's really love.

4. "What's Love Got To Do With It?" Tina Turner
What's love but a second-hand emotion?

3. "Easy Come, Easy Go" George Strait
Cynical as hell, but apparently, true.

2. "Everybody Plays The Fool" Aaron Neville
Been there, done that.

1. "I'm So Stupid" Madonna
To paraphrase Oprah Winfrey (during her 1993 TV interview with Michael Jackson), What do we know for sure?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


The waiting is the hardest part. And as the first decade of the millennium comes to its conclusion, I'm still anticipating -- more eagerly and impatiently in some cases than others -- new music from several artists who have spent the majority of aughts MIA. Some of them (Sade, Shania) supposedly have new music in the works. Others may make us wait until the roaring '20s. Here's hoping the following 11 make their grand re-entrances sooner rather than later. Come back, and all will be forgiven!

The Cardigans
Most Recent Studio Album: 2005's Super Extra Gravity
Last Seen & Heard: Releasing a best-of compliation in 2008. Sorry, but vocalist Nina Persson's side project, A Camp, and her cameo on a Manic Street Preachers single don't count.

Most Recent Studio Album: 2001's Living ProofLast Seen & Heard: Like Celine Dion and Elton John before her, and Bette Midler with her, stuck in a long-term engagement at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. I guess what happens in Vegas really does stay there.

David Bowie
Most Recent Studio Album: 2003's Reality
Last Seen & Heard: After suffering a minor heart attack and undergoing heart surgery in 2004, feeding fans crumbs with occasional acting gigs, one-off live performances and inexplicable guest spots on albums by people like Scarlett Johansson.

Everything But The Girl
Most Recent Studio Album: 1999's Temperamental
Last Seen & Heard: Ten years ago. Since then, there's been one solo album from Tracey Thorn (with another due any month now) and production work and remixes from Ben Watt. Everything but Everything But The Girl!

George Michael
Most Recent Studio Album: 2004's Patience
Last Seen & Heard: Touring the world in 2007-2008 and fighting the law (the law won).

Kate Bush
Most Recent Studio Album: 2005's Aerial (the follow-up to The Red Shoes, from 1993)
Last Seen & Heard: On a new song, "Lycra," in the 2007 film The Golden Compass -- and apparently, locked in behind-the-scenes battle with Sade (see below) for the title Slowest-Working Diva Alive.

Lisa Stansfield
Most Recent Studio Album: 2004's The Moment
Last Seen & Heard: Taking occasional acting roles in British TV and film.

Missy Elliott
Most Recent Studio Album: 2005's The Cookbook
Last Seen & Heard: Promising a long-delayed seventh album, Block Party, in early 2010.

Most Recent Studio Album: 2000's Lovers Rock (the follow-up to Love Deluxe, from 1992)
Last Seen & Heard: Reportedly putting the finishing touches on a brand new album, which at one point was due this month. According to Maxwell, who's presumably heard tracks, it's "monolithic." After all this time, I won't accept anything less.

Shania Twain
Most Recent Studio Album: 2002's Up!
Last Seen & Heard: Promising a fifth album of new music sometime next year (will it be worth the wait without ex-husband Robert John "Mutt" Lange producing?) and serving as a guest audition judge on American Idol.

Tina Turner
Most Recent Studio Album: 1999's Twenty Four Seven
Last Seen & Heard: Contributing to soundtracks and other people's albums, releasing one or three greatest-hits compilations too many, and embarking on her umpteenth farewell/comeback tour in 2008. In exactly two weeks, she turns -- gulp! -- 70, so I'd say her album-making days might be well behind her.


I'm stuck in a conundrum. It's a moral dilemma. Or perhaps more like a social dilemma.

What is the best way to say, "I'm not interested"?

A) Do you play along casually, responding to voice mails, text messages, IMs and emails, without ever quite committing to a second date?

B) Do you just ignore all the messages, all the while being consumed by guilt (some of us, after all, do have a conscience) and fear of being visited by bad karma?

C) Do you just come out and say it: Sorry, I'm not interested?

Recently, I keep finding myself in this position, and I keep opting for responses A and B. With one or two guys, I've been doing the "vueltero" thing, as Argentines refer to type A behavior, for the better part of a year, but they don't seem to mind playing the game. As for the B list, I'm horrified by the number of unanswered messages some guys will tolerate before finally bowing out. I'm not sure why I don't take the C way out: "Sorry, I'm not interested." 1) Am I protecting their feelings? 2) Am I avoiding confrontation? (Some porteños, as I have learned the very hard way, do not take outright rejection particularly well.) 3) Do I sort of enjoy the attention?

It's mostly 1 and 2, with, I'm ashamed to admit, a little bit of 3 thrown in. Why do I even bother? I'm not really sure. I'm just not that into them, but in at least one case, it's not him, it's me. My BA track record is not encouraging, and recently, my interest in dating anyone here has been fading fast. Even Mr. Right might have a difficult time catching my attention and then gaining my confidence. Perhaps once I get my groove back -- and please, God, let it be soon -- I might actually be ready and willing to take a chance on that one guy. If he sticks around. I wouldn't blame him if he doesn't.

I'd have been outta there at least eight months ago. I've experienced life on the other side, and I've been responded to in all three ways. It's no fun, but luckily, I am a fast learner. It only takes one unanswered phone call, text message, email or IM for me to get the message. And I can tell when I'm being strung along. (Don't try it, guys. I'm on to you.) And one guy, many years ago in New York, was courageous -- or cruel -- enough to lay it on the line. He told me that he had just gotten out of a bad relationship and wasn't looking to date. Translation: "I'm not interested." I felt like shit for about 24 hours.

Do I really want to do that to someone? Frankly, I'd prefer to be strung along, or ignored, because that way I can create an ego-saving fantasy. Maybe he really is super-busy, or maybe he just hasn't had time to respond to my message, or, my favorite, maybe he died.

Ah, The Dating Game! It was always one of my favorite TV game shows. It's so much better to watch than to play.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Warning: This is not a deep post. There is absolutely no point to it. I just wanted to run a photo of the cover of Barbara Mandrell's 1982 album, In Black & White, because I've always loved it for it's stark, striking glamour. After Olivia Newton-John, Barbara was my favorite female singer when I was a kid in the late '70s and early '80. As a tween (years before "tween" became an official marketing demographic), my rock & roll heart had yet to start beating. I was about half a decade from venturing anywhere near the cutting edge: R.E.M., the Cure and the Smiths had yet to come into my life and take over my music collection.

Critics today would have a field day with Barbara's strange, unfocused career, which encompassed country, pop, R&B, No. 1 hits about sleeping single in a double bed and eating crackers in said bed, a prime-time TV variety show, a tabloid scandal (when, for insurance reasons, she was forced to sue the family of a man who died in a September 11, 1984 car accident -- spooky! -- in which she herself was seriously injured), and even a stint on the Aaron Spelling-produced daytime soap Sunset Beach.

Of course, back then, as a budding music obsessive, I didn't concern myself with such things as career analysis. I just loved Barbara's beauty, her countrypolitan style and, of course, her music. After all, as she insisted in one of her six No. 1 hits, she was country when country wasn't cool. Yes, wishful thinking indeed. Despite a brief flirtation with country early in her career (particularly on "The Midnight Oil," her first trip to the country Top 10 in 1973), she was almost as pop as Olivia. But I dug the song anyway.

My Top 5 Country-Pop Chanteuses From The Late '70s/Early '80s
(plus their three essential heyday hits)

  • Anne Murray "You Won't See Me," "Another Sleepless Night," "Somebody's Always Saying Goodbye." Anne (above, with me in New York City in the mid '90s) was Canada's first country female superstar. John Lennon once called the first hit the best Beatles cover ever.
  • Barbara Mandrell "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right," "Years," "Till You're Gone." The latter was a No. 1 single, Barbara's fifth overall, from In Black & White.
  • Crystal Gayle "You Never Miss A Real Good Thing (Till He Says Goodbye)," "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue," "The Woman In Me."
  • Dolly Parton "Here You Come Again," "Starting Over Again," "But You Know I Love You." Once, during an interview, Dolly feigned being offended when I told her the latter was my favorite of her songs. Why insulted? Because she didn't write it. Interestingly, during her late-'70s/early '80s commercial peak, country's best-ever female songwriter did not write most of her biggest hits, "9 To 5" excepted. Fun fact: "Starting Over Again" was cowritten by none other than disco queen Donna Summer. Listen closely; it could have fit right in on one of Donna's post-disco albums.
  • Dottie West "A Lesson In Leavin'," "Are You Happy Baby," "What Are We Doing In Love"

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!