Friday, October 9, 2009

The 100 best songs of the first decade of the 2000s (100-91)

Whatever you want to call the decade spanning 2000 to 2009 (the '00s, the aughts, the naughts), we're reaching the end of it. So it's time to take stock of the past 10 years by answering the question: What were the 100 best songs?

(Click here for the whole list.)

First, some notes:

1. I've used a general rule of one-song-per-artist, with a few particularly worthy exceptions.

2. The original version of the song must have been released in 2000 or later. No covers of pre-2000 songs.

3. As far as this list is concerned, a "song" is, by definition, sung. Instrumentals by Amon Tobin, Four Tet, Kaki King, the Bad Plus, Mouse on Mars, Ratatat, and the Octopus Project might deserve to be mentioned in a discussion of the best music of the 2000s, but they won't be on my list because they're not songs.

4. Here are some other people's lists:

- Pitchfork's top 500 (This seems to be the most high-profile list so far. To scan the whole list at once, without audio or Pitchfork's commentary, click here.)

- Summer Anne's top 125 (A highly personal list with an emphasis on the heart-breaking. Still in progress, with about one new song a day.)

- Jonathan Bogart's top 100 (A list with a pop/radio focus.)

- The Factual Opinion's top 100 + 100 runners-up (Plenty of drum machines and subtle analysis.)

- Telegraph's top 100 (These aren't intended to be the best songs released in the past 10 years; they're the songs that "defined" the decade, dating as early as 1981.)

- 50 Songs, 10 Years (Telling the stories of how these songs changed the blogger's life.)

- NME's top 100 (Possibly the least idiosyncratic of all these lists.)

- Largehearted Boy is keeping a huge meta-list of "best of the decade" music lists. (As well as song lists, there are also lists of the best albums, the best music videos, etc.)
5. Here we go!

100. The Shins - Kissing the Lipless

Possibly the silliest song title of the decade.

99. Psapp - Hi

98. The Killers - Read My Mind

97. Bon Iver - Skinny Love

This song, along with the rest of the album it's on, emerged accidentally from a state of illness and hibernation in northern Wisconsin. (Wikipedia has the details.)

96. Sara Bareilles - Love Song

Some might find this a surprising choice, so I'm going to take this opportunity to list a few of the main questions I've asked myself in selecting the songs:

1) Is it capable of giving me chills? (Or: does it emotionally affect me?)

2) Is it capable of getting stuck in my head?

3) Do I enjoy listening to the singer's voice?

4) Does the music have some sort of dramatic arc or development? (A bridge or other deviation from "verse/chorus/verse/chorus" is especially helpful.)

5) Is there a sense of "inevitability" — that is, does each note seem to lead naturally to the next?

A song where I'd answer "Yes" to all those questions is going to be a good candidate for the list. A song where I'd answer "No" to at least a couple of those questions is unlikely to be on the list.

So, if I have to choose between (1) a sappy, top-40-ish song that might not be too well respected, where the answer to all those questions is "Yes," or (2) a song with all the indie cred and critical acclaim in the world where the answer to some of the questions is "No," the first song will easily win out.

This song — which has a nonchalantly effervescent quality that reminds me of Paul McCartney — gets a "Yes" answer to all 5 questions.

95. The Knife - Silent Shout

On the list mostly for the instrumentation rather than the vocals.

94. The New Pornographers - My Rights Versus Yours

The truth in one free afternoon...

93. Edith Frost - Cars and Parties

Here's a video of her lip-synching the song on a cable-access show (her words).

92. Animal Collective - Leaf House

91. Beyonce - Crazy in Love

Credit is also due to the Chi-Lites; the brass-section hook is sampled from their 1971 song "Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)."


Summer Anne said...


John Althouse Cohen said...


I'm looking forward to seeing how much overlap there is between our lists.