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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zach's 20 Favorite Songs of the Year

i wrote a lot

Part 1: Songs 60-51
Part 2: Songs 50-41
Part 3: Songs 40-31
Part 4: Songs 30-21

20. John Legend – It's Over
John Legend – It's Over

A man more discerning than I would probably call this song over-produced. And that man would deserve a butt-whupping.

I don't even know how I know this song. It's not a single and I haven't heard any of the other songs from Evolver. It's just in my iTunes for some reason, and it's worthy of the 20-spot. (I'm not even sure what's going on with the lyrics here: in the chorus, he asks "what do you keep calling for," followed by the first verse line of "In the back of my mind I question why I keep calling." Is John playing the part of both man and woman in this piece? And if so, where does Kanye fit in?)

Like Pamela Anderson's career
Except without the titties

Give Kanye a Pulitzer. That's up there with the "blond dyke" line in "Stronger." Man.

(h8 u kanye)

19. Q-Tip – Won't Trade
Q-Tip – Won't Trade

Now that I know what it is, boy
I wouldn't trade him for nothin'

It's amazing how, over the span of three years, Kanye went from being a pretty good writer/rapper to a complete piece of rapping shit… while Q-Tip, over the span of TWENTY YEARS has remained consistently incredible. My favorite Kanye song, in terms of writing, is "Home"—which didn't make the College Dropout cut in 2k4, but was adapted into "Homecoming" last year—a song that follows the wonderful hip-hop tradition of The Really Big Metaphor That Lasts Throughout The Entire Song. In "Home," Kanye used a woman to represent Chicago; in "Won't Trade," Q-Tip uses SPORTS (all of them) to represent a woman. I love these songs.

I also used the same metaphor throughout eleventh grade, so this song resonates.

Oh yeah, the sample is SPLENDID.

(h8 u kanye)

18. The Metro Stations – Shake It

Do you watch The "N"? The "Degrassi?" DO YOU? Shit, I do. Degrassi, like Kanye West (this is now a Kanye West blog) is now utterly terrible at everything, but christ if I could ever stop watching it, and thus, listening to this song constantly in every commercial for Degrassi, which is now just a big commercial for "Shake It," a song by popular pop-pop band MetroStations.

I'll never get sick of it. Shit, I probably stuck with Degrassi's horrible stories (about hot, controversial teen issues like planned marriage and stem cell research) just so I could keep hearing this song in the commercials (and thereby avoiding all that annoying questioning I get from people who don't understand how I could love a song by Miley Cyrus's kid brother or something OUR LOVE IS NATURAL).

SHIT this song is so good. It's constant build-up. The verses are completely unimportant build-up. The bridge is 100% build-up. The first eighty percent of the damn CHORUS is build-up, all leading towards


The rest of the song is an amalgam of complex, layered electro-pop with all sorts of everything going all over the place, and I can't say it doesn't have a really nice result… but that climax at the end of the chorus, where all the layering falls away and Billy Ray Cyrus Jr. just yelps his ass off with a single guitar and some fake drums… that gets The Metro Stations in the top twenty.

Cyrus is a guitarist and vocalist in the electropop band, Metro Station.[4] He started the band with Mason Musso in early 2006 when their mothers set them up to do a jam together,[4]

17. Wale – The Crazy
Wale – The Crazy

17b. Wale – The Freestyle (Roc Boys)
Wale – The Freestyle (Roc Boys)
Wale is from the District of Columbia, which means that everyone here is required to love him. It sure is a good thing that he's GREAT AT EVERYTHING. Wale's seriously the most relevant performer to come out of DC since Chuck Brown (take that Ian MacKaye, the one other dude!).

So here I include two songs, but in reality I want the 17 spot to go to the entirety of The Mixtape About Nothing (actually just wanted to use both those pics), which is a concept mixtape about Seinfeld. The fact that it's about Seinfeld has basically endeared Wale to the entire hipster community. Entry suggestion for the guy who does StuffWhitePeopleLike: "When Black People Enjoy Traditionally White Entertainment." Or most "white" things, really.

But anyway, most other lists pick "The Kramer" in their songs lists because I suppose it's the most "hot controversial issue"-ish or whatnot, but is it more deserving than anything else on the record? Nah. "The Crazy" is a powerful, heavy beat, and features another Big Musical Moment, and this one's actually a moment: in the first line of every verse, when the beat kicks in. It's just so utterly massive.

But I felt that including a song primarily for its beat wouldn't be, in any way, an accurate representation of the greatness of Wale, so I'm including "The Freestyle" in order to show you all how great Wale is at freestyling. And even with that, we're still skipping over his best quality, which is his writing. Regardless of the beats and the freestyling, when it comes down to it, and I say this without any regional bias (hopefully), Wale is the best lyricist in hip-hop right now.

16. Yelle – Je Veux te Voir
Yelle – Je Veux te Voir
1. I love Je Veux te Voir.
2. Je Veux te Voir wasn’t released in 2008. It wasn’t released in 2007. It was released in 2006, which is about 40 blog years ago.
3. It was included on the album Pop-Up, which was recorded and released, in France, in 2007.
4. Pop-Up was released digitally in the UK in 2007, and physically in 2008. It has yet to be released in America. I think.
5. Je Veux te Voir was re-released as a single in 2008. It was a French #1 hit in 2006. I first heard it about a month ago.
6. Amerie’s album, Because I Love It, was released internationally in 2007. It wasn’t released in America until 2008.
7. We decided not to include Because I Love It in our 2008 lists. If it were included, it would be LYM’s collective #1 record because we love the shit out of that album, and this singles list would be populated with 13 Amerie songs.
8. I really love Je Veux te Voir.
9. Yelle was included in this song:

10. lol

I know you all worry a lot about this controversy. I'm sorry for any confusion, and I hope I don't get tons and tons of emails about this, but jeez, I'm sure I will, what with our devoted readership. The point is, I don't give a shit when this song was recorded, I want it to be here.

I love this song. I've listened to it about a kabzillion times. INTENSE. I love Yelle's voice. I love Yelle, but especially her voice. And I love how, with foreign music, the voice is allowed to be acknowledged purely as an instrument, which is exactly how Yelle uses her voice.

But really, the reason I love this song most is the breakdown. It kind of slogs for the first 2 minutes, but at 2:20 about, the breakdown begins, and it's beautiful. The climax, beginning, at 3:23, is just plain fantastic noise. It's extremely grimy, but it always sounds clean. <3 u yelle.

15. Alphabeat – What is Happening
Alphabeat – What Is Happening
Alphabeat is like a younger version of ABBA. Or an older version of S Club 7?

And they write great choruses. Amazing choruses. Much like the Britannia High song, it's often the only real high point in the songs. I've found myself trudging through the verses in "What Is Happening"—mostly because, for some weird reason, they decide to repeat everything twice. But the chorus is worth the wait.

Sames with "Fascination," but I first heard that song in 2k7 so it isn't eligible.

14. Fleet Foxes – Ragged Wood
Fleet Foxes – Ragged Wood
"Ragged Wood" is a sandwich, but you like the bread the best. "Ragged Wood" is an Oreo cookie, but you only like chocolate and not white stuff. "Ragged Wood" is an apple that is delicious until you find a worm in the middle, but then the worm falls out and you use the apple seeds to plant apple trees and the core can be used for other arts and crafts. "Ragged Wood" is like when a song starts out really great, and then gets really boring in the middle, and then ends really great. Metaphors!

Lie to me, if you will
At the top of Beringer Hill
Tell me anything you want
Any old lie will do
Call me back to, back to you

This is a great song.

13. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
Passion Pit - Sleepyhead
Passion Pit has pretty much appeared on every single "Hot Bands to Watch Out For in 2k9" list, even though "Sleepyhead" is already on a bunch of songs lists, etc whatever. I'm guessing this song is gonna make a lot "Best Songs of 2009" lists too (next year's "Skinny Love").

I'm also guessing that this song is their peak and they'll never live up to it again. I hope I'm wrong… but it's the only song they've released so far that hasn't collapsed under its own cuteness (granted, we've only heard like, four songs).

The kids could be contenders though. Sleepyhead is so great because that thumping bass drum is so damn PWRFL, something that shouldn't be so rare in indie/electro-pop. Passion Pit has the balls to go for it. Balls that are too cute.

Passion Pit toured with Yelle! Oh Ye(lle)ah!

12. Rihanna – Don't Stop the Music


There might not have been a more addicting, ambient, SOUL-EMCOMPASSING dance beat. It wraps around you and strangles you (in a good way).

11. Empire of the Sun – We Are the People
Empire of the Sun – We Are the People
The best songs make you wait. I can't explain exactly why… maybe it's because you get to spend that much more time in anticipation, with the hook being dangled in front of you like a carrot on a stick. And if the payoff is good enough, the build-up is more than worth it.

Empire of the Sun makes you wait. Not til the end of the song, or even close… they make you wait a minute and a half, through some really boring stuff, to get to the chorus. According to a Korn music video or something, 99% of all songs get to the "hook" in the first four seconds. "We Are the People" waits a long minute and a half and then beats you with it over and over and over again, because the band knows what you want to hear, and they know exactly how to make me come back to this song over and over and over again.

10. Q-Tip – Life is Better (ft. Norah Jones)
Q-Tip – Life is Better (ft. Norah Jones)
The best songs make you wait.

In this installment, we wait a bit longer. The beat's nice, but it's not Top-Ten-Song-of-the-Year-worthy. So we slog through it, and we slog through like an hour of Norah Jones being boring and entirely unnoticeable.

And then Kamaal the Abstract gets in his one and only verse, and good god, it is worth it. It lasts exactly a minute, and it's largely monotone. Like the chorus of "Womanizer," except Q-Tip's voice is good enough to be expressed in monotone. I'll say it again: Q-Tip has the best voice in hip-hop. This song doesn't need words. It can just be a really long groan. It'd sound like baseball cards in the spokes of a bike. It's a sound I could fall asleep to, it belongs in one of those "ocean sounds" things they used to sell at Brookstone, it can soundtrack entire films.

It's not like the verse is anything to sneeze at either, even if it's just your typical "shouting out every single person in hip-hop" deal. But he breaks the laundry list two times to ask "Where my nigga Dilla at?" There have been a lot of tributes to J Dilla since he died, but none of them hit so hard as that line, because it's just thrown in the middle of everything and Dilla probably worked with Tip more than anyone else. I remember another blogger comparing it to Pimp C unexpectedly throwing "I really miss Robert Davis" in the middle of a verse. Stuff White People Like: rappers being really earnest and heartbreaking.

9. Late of the Pier – The Bears Are Coming
Late of the Pier – The Bears Are Coming
The first minute and thirty-four seconds of this song is great, the next thirty seconds is AMAZING, and the rest of the song I've never heard because I always restart the song at that point and listen to those two minutes on repeat.

Actually that's a lie, the rest of the song is great, too. There's the humorous little call-and-response between the fuzzy synth and maracas/triangle? And then there's the breakdown in the last thirty seconds, which is holds its own next to the other high points. It's just a great song duders.

8. Beyonce – Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)

Oh god.

Single Ladies is the one song that is on every single blog's year-end list, kind of the official "pop inclusion to show everyone that we don’t discriminate" pick of the year. That song is always real deserving, though (last year was Umbrella!).

When I first heard Single Ladies leaked into Hypey (i get scoops, you see), I honestly didn't think it'd be a big hit. It doesn't sound radio-friendly. I didn't pay attention to the lyrics, really. I knew that "If you liked it then you should've put a ring on it" is an awesome, embraceable line… but the beat, man. It's WEIRD. It's just a weird beat. That's the best word to describe it. It's anything but compact, it's like if you took apart a motorcycle and dropped all the pieces into a swimming pool (i'm auditioning for pitchfork, you see). There are goofy little blips and whistles scattered throughout, with not much of a pattern, especially that little synth-curl that doesn't fit into the beat anywhere.

And then there's the fact that the whole thing ends up sounding, of all things, sinister. In the tail-end of the chorus, when the DARK AS SHIT synth just waltzes into the song and towers over everything else, it sounds strictly villainous. And then there's the final thirty seconds, which introduces the turntable scratch which actually makes it sound like the songs falling into little black holes.

Does anyone actually need to be convinced that this song is great? I should be saving this energy for the Jesse McCartney song.

7. Sons and Daughters - Chains
Sons and Daughters - Chains
The first thirty or so seconds of "Chains" includes just about everything I normally can't stand about indie music, but when I get to the chorus, I just lose my shit. Adele Bethel's belting of There's a river running through me! almost kills me (that's an allusion ;) )

I found this song while searching for covers of the classic King/Goffin track of the same name. That one's still better than this. But it was a pleasant surprise.

6. Lil Wayne – Mrs. Officer

In which Lil Wayne spends an entire song making puns about having sex with a cop.

And all she want me to do is fuck the police

The embarrassing thing is, when I first heard this on the radio, I didn't know it was a Lil Wayne song (Lil Wayne being in a song this summer meant it probably wasn't a Lil Wayne song), and I couldn't remember much, so I had to search:


5. Jesse McCartney – Leavin'


(beat is incredible, was produced by tricky stewart and the-dream, DEAL WITH IT)
also mashes up perfectly w. sexy can i, the other song on this list that needs to be defended the most

4. of Montreal – Nonpareil of Favor
of Montreal – Nonpareil of Favor
The first of Montreal song I heard was "Tim I Wish You Were Born a Girl". I listen to that now and then listen to "Nonpareil of Favor" and wonder just what the hell could've happened in between the writing of both of these songs. They went from cute little acoustic indie pop to this. And apparently the new album was a big disaster or something, I dunno cause this is the only song I've heard. And I've heard it over and over and over again.

There's nothing wrong with the first minute and a half of Nonpareil of Favor. Except the lyrics, but whatever. It all sounds really nice as it goes through its eight or nine shifts and whatnot.

What matters is what happens after the 1:44 mark. You should know that I like noise, a lot. I love bass drums. A whole lot. I LOVE the next two minutes of this song. It's the most beautiful white noise you will ever hear in your life. It's not really possible to describe why I like something so completely aesthetic, so all I can really say is that it's beautiful. It sounds great in my car speakers, somehow, and it makes driving feel like I'm being escorted by a giant vibrating sound box of noise.

I love how there are three legitimate points in this song where you can honestly say to yourself, "this HAS to be the high point, there's no way it gets bigger than this" and you'd be wrong each time.

I love how when it's all over, the sound all dies away and leaves this airy, milky melody that sounds like things sound when you've just left a concert after spending the whole night next to the speakers (like you got cottonballs in your earholes!). I have no idea if it's actually produced to sound like that or if it's just a result of the really loud noise, and I'll never find out, cause for the life of me I'm unable to skip over those two minutes.

3. T.I. – Whatever You Like

Okay, so this is the other "song every blog includes in their year-end lists," even though Pitchfork left it off entirely for some incredibly stupid reason that makes me lose any respect I had left for them (i am dramatic about whatever you like).

Fantasticdan300: best parts are
Fantasticdan300: 1. The joke about the girl that gives such good brain he can tell she went to college
Fantasticdan300: 2. THE BEAT (this should obviously be #1)
Fantasticdan300: 3. THE BEAT
Fantasticdan300: 4. the fact htat TI is offering this girl bentleys and private jets just so he can have sex with her
Lt Mou: the beat is like the most inconsequential and generic part of the song, BITHC
Lt Mou: the best part of whatever you like is the manner in which t.i. raps
Lt Mou: and the fact that he's actually rapping in a full southern drawl
Lt Mou: and all the words lean on each other and it's the most melodious rapping ever
Lt Mou: most singalongable rappin evr
Lt Mou: he literally sings the entire song

what follows is a lot of arguing about a t.i. song. (i won)

2. Lykke Li – Little Bit
Lykke Li – Little Bit
We love Lykke Li around these parts, but really, everyone seems to like Lykke Li… a little bit! Wink! Really though, that's an accurate description of the general indie opinion of Lykke Li. Everyone liked the album a whole lot and she's a female/foreign/cute/not like Uffie, so she automatically appeals to everyone. But you won't find her at any #1 spots, and the album still never got the amount of respect it deserved. So it's kind of poetical that I pick "Little Bit" for the number two song of the year. I didn't catch that when I first made the list.

(I also apologize for not including "Dance Dance Dance," I have no idea why I left it off.)

I don't have much to really say about "Little Bit." I just plum love it. Best moment, besides the chorus, is the second verse: there's a little dramatic beat/cymbal hit after half the lines (I would do it/push a button/pull a trigger/climb a mountain), kind of like she's catching her breath, until the end, where she just gets so flustered that she ends the line halfway through with a "Ha hm!"

love u a lil bit lykke li

1. Pink – So What
Pink – So What

I feel like everyone's gonna give me shit for this. But that's okay. Well, it isn't. This is a list of my personal favorites, I won't try to argue that So What was the GREATEST SONG OF 2008 (you can't do that with music anyway, silly!), I can only say that it's the one song I came back to the most, the one song I looked forward to listening to the most when my time was occupied by something else, the song that sent my heart all a-flutter when I listened to it for the first twenty-or-so times.

I love the HOLY BALLS out of So What.

If you've read the rest of this list up until now, you've probably realized that I have a nasty tendency to tear apart songs into different aspects and just concentrate on the good stuff. I don't think it's a bad thing. I try to treat people the same way: love the good parts and forgive the bad parts. With music, if you ever want to get really get an appreciation for pop music, you've got to learn to forgive, babies.

But if you have to forgive a song for anything, you can still have trouble treating that song as your favorite of the year, right?

Not in the case of So What. I'll admit, the hook in the beginning, the na-na-na's, they're pretty annoying—and without the fantastic percussion that backs it up, it'd be unbearable. I'd still give that part, I guess, a 70%. I'd give the verses a 90%, just because the beat is still so great. And I'll give the chorus as high a rating as you can possibly get. On a Pitchfork scale of 0.0-10.0, the chorus gets A ZILLION. It is undeniably infectious, ejaculatory, orgasmic, other words that can relate it to sex. The guitars in the beginning of the chorus, that's enough. That'd still get it to a 10.0. But when the synth comes in? Oh, holy shit. I first heard this song on a radio station that was far away and filled with static, and through all of that, the chorus still sounded incredible. It was love at first radio.

And the thing is, I don't like Pink! I've never enjoyed her songs, she has a personality that gets in the way of any quality the song might have. Even the fact that she calls herself a "rock star" when she's the very definition of a pop star, it's pretty silly. But I still have an appreciation for these lyrics, especially.

It isn't often that a pop star is willing to write lyrics in the first person. Even if it's just a song about a breakup or a new crush, the "I" will never be the pop star, because the pop star will never admit to being a pop star. It isn't relatable. If the pop star DOES write a song from the perspective of his or her rich self, it'll be in the extremely annoying "I'm so sick of the paparazzi ruining my lunch!" mode.

Here's a song in which Pink admits to being filthy rich and famous, and indulging in it. "So what, I'm a rock star" takes on a double meaning: in a standard pop song, this is the anthem, this is what teenage girls are supposed to sing along to after they break up with their boyfriends. But it's also meta-pop, in which a girl has the gall to admit to being a star in an obsessive American society that feeds on the insecurities of its rich female icons. This, in itself, is much more feministic than any of the "I hate girls with breast implants!" songs Pink has written in the past.

That's not even it, either. You can still sense the insecurity in this song: it's in the tail end of the chorus, when she's just SCREAMING, "I'M ALL RIGHT/I'M JUST FINE!" There's such an earnest sense of pure insincerity here, and the song suddenly shifts from a half-serious breakup anthem to a multi-dimensional emotional outburst which, compared to the rest of the Top 40 canon, is as confessional and authentic and true as I've ever heard. She sets out to write a song about getting over her ex, and shares with the world the fact that it's killing her. The song could've been a ballad about her pain, and it would've been terrible.

At this point you should realize that I'm not joking about this being my favorite song of the year.


That's it. Here's what we've learned (because what I say matters): give in to pop music. Sweden is great. Rest in peace Stylus Magazine, my popspiration. Eat more trans fat.


J e f f r e y G e o f f r e y said...

love "Chains" - thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

Pop-Up is now available in the US. I saw it at Other Music on friday. although it could have been a UK import. but if you really wanna buy it here you can, i'm sure.