Song recording of the year
1) Get Over It – OK Go
The underlying song has an outstanding power pop melody. The lyrical viewpoint of the song is bracing rather than saccharine or whiny. This may be the best song that Ray Davies never wrote.
2) We Are Going to Be Friends – White Stripes
They dropped a clean, pretty, quiet schoolyard love story in the middle of all the alternative rock. It’s a tender and catchy tune. The lyrics are pure but direct and simple poetry. And unlike many modern pop records, this song is entirely appropriate for even very young children.
3) Makes You Feel That Way – Blackalicious
There’s actually some songwriting under this deal. It may be the most uplifting rap record you’ll ever hear. One funny thing about most rap: despite being so overwhelmingly about words, the big majority of rap lyrics are exceedingly redundant and stupid. Besides having a tune, these words are actually imaginative and poetic. They even read good on the page.
4) Hate to Say I Told You So – The Hives
This recording gives you the best of a couple of worlds: the shrieking abandon of good old fashioned punk rock- along with the skillfully sculpted songwriting very few punk acts ever achieved.
5) When I Was Cruel No. 2 – Elvis Costello
Long, slow trip hop electronic groovery in the classic title song of his latest album sets up long and twisted but memorable melodic phrases. The whole thing throbs with an involuntary empathy for just the type of petty scheming entertainment industry jackasses whom he has classically regarded as his most hated enemies throughout his career. “Things were so much easier when I was cruel.”
6) Hot in Herre – Nelly
Doggone, but there’s a smooth, catchy tune running under this dance floor monster. Those spare guitar chords cast some nice harmonic accents into the rhythm. Also, he sets up a really classic image leading to the best lyrical hook of his career, describing the girl dancing in front of her mirror at home, talking to her girlfriend on the phone, declaring “I think my butt’s getting big.”
7) Stairway to Heaven – Dolly Parton
This recording is not as unlikely an idea as you might imagine. “Stairway to Heaven” by rights was really a folk song guilded in fancy Led Zeppelin guitar work. Dolly brings out the more pastoral aspects of the song. The arrangement is intricate and flawless, her voice as good or better than ever.
8) Without Me – Eminem
The guy’s getting substantially overexposed and overrated. Geez, he’s probably already sold more records than James Brown. Nonetheless, this is one of the top good time jams of the year. It’s got a real song underneath the rhythmic elements, strong hooks, and probably his best ever lyrical celebration of the pure joy of bad-boyism. Note the distinctly celebratory natue of this song versus the free floating anti-social anger of, say, “The Real Slim Shady.” It also has an exceptional video.
9) Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground – White Stripes
Real rock and roll romance, a strong tune, and some harsh guitar for that extra dramatic edge.
10) John Walker’s Blues – Steve Earle
Personally, I think John Walker Lyndh deserved to be shot. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Despite me being really unsympathetic to the idea, the actual song is probably the best thing Earle’s written in a dozen years or more.
Honorable mention also to “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash; “My Ride’s Here” by Warren Zevon; “Lose Yourself” by Eminem; “The Last DJ” by Tom Petty; “Tear Off Your Own Head”, “Alibi”, and “Episode of Blonde” by Elvis Costello; “None of Us Are Free” by Solomon Burke; and “Lord Franklin” by Sinead O’Connor