40. The New Pornographers “Crash Years”
Let no man say that the New Pornographers do not write a great pop song. Every album the group has released has produced at least one “single of the year” worthy track; it just so happens Together produced “Crash Years.” Neko Case’s vocals stand in stark contrast with the song’s low cello hits but my favorite moment is the song’s bridge which features whistling in lieu of vocals, a nice throwback to 50s pop music.
39. Vampire Weekend “Giving Up the Gun”
Apparently “Giving Up the Gun” was once a hip hop track for Vampire Weekend’s side project L’Homme Run. The track was adapted into the best single from Vampire Weekend’s sophomore album, Contra. The track is believable as a hip hop track; it starts off with a keyboard line that could surely be samples El-P and is followed by a spastic electrofunk beat that I’m surprised Big Boi has not tried to rap over yet.
38. Pernice Brothers “Jacquline Susann”
Sometimes interviewing an artist can make you partial to their work but I do not think my conversation earlier this year with Joe Pernice effected my opinion of “Jacquline Susann.” Perhaps it is the English major in me, but the song’s literary references tickle my fancy as do the track’s brash guitar line and pump organ backing.
37. T.I. “I’m Back”
There was no album this year that disappointed me more than No Mercy. The album was originally called King Uncaged and looked to be a brash return to form but instead ended up being a mediocre sob story. The album’s best moments came from tracks that did not even make the actual album but rather came from the album’s bonus disc which were mostly unused King Uncaged tracks. “I’m Back” is the best of the group. It is the swaggerific return that shows the kind of joy that should be exuded by someone who was just released from jail. It is a shame that No Mercy could not be more like “I’m Back” and just to hammer that point home, the track was nominated for a Grammy.
36. My Chemical Romance “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
I think My Chemical Romance gets a bad wrap. Sure they’re flair for the dramatic and gothic themes have made them an obvious favorite for Hot Topic dwellers but they actually write really good songs. Take “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” for example. The song’s title might be inane but the lyrically, Gerard Way stumbles over increasingly paranoid and urgent lyrics. My favorite stanza has to be “You want the company/That fuckin’ Kennedy/I think we’d rather be Burning your information.” Paranoia at its best.
35. Arcade Fire “We Used to Wait”
It’s hard to take any one song from the Arcade Fire’s album, The Suburbs, and make it a single. One of the few that really works on its own is “We Used to Wait.” The track hearkens memories of ABBA with its frantic piano but it is that piano line that adds to the singles urgent lyrics about a society quickly changing. It is the chorus’ falsetto vocals that makes the song a great single.
34. The Knocks “Dancing With the DJ”
The Knocks made some of best dance music of the year and their single proves it. Since they released the track back in October, it has been endlessly played on my iPod. If we’re being honest, the track is pretty much an amalgamy of the best qualities of dance music of the past decade. The track’s instruments are reminiscent of Daft Punk and the beat sounds like Basement Jaxx production while the child-like female vocals evoke memories of Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” The combination makes for something strikingly familiar while being fiercely catchy.
33. Kanye West featuring Beyonce and Charlie Wilson “See Me Now”
When you have pissed off a nation and alienated fans and music insiders alike, what do you do? You vow to take some time off to reassess your life. That is exactly what Kanye West did, but then instead he took to twitter to rant and released a song called “See Me Now” for free on his website. There is something ironic about the world’s most public artist singing “I know you can see me now, right now” as if we have not been seeing Kanye on a regular basis for the past decade but the real truth in the song is during the song’s outro when Kanye speaks “I know what y’all thinkin, ‘this is the Yeezy we all love.’”
32. Usher featuring Pitbull “DJ Got Us Falling in Love”
It is easy to forgot how long Usher has been in the game. His debut single came out way back in 1993 but over the past decade Usher has reinvented himself from a silky smooth R&B singer to the king of dance pop. As part of his club series that began with “Yeah!” and continued with “Love in This Club,” Usher completes the trilogy with “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love.” The track is almost too easy; the Europop beat serves as a lob over the plate for Usher to hit a home run by adding his smooth vocals and Pitbull adds a hip hop flare with his verse.
31. Yolanda Be Cool & Dcup “We No Speak Americano”
“We No Speak Americano” took a really odd trajectory this year. I originally posted the track in February to little fanfare. The track was re-released in July with a new promotional strategy and blew up drawing the attention of the entire blogosphere. The attention was well deserved. The track’s vintage horns and sampled Italian vocals created a unique moment in dance music for this year.