August 2013

#26 – Jack Johnson – “Good People” – (2005)

This has been kind of a chill week, song-wise, hasn’t it? Jason Mraz, Michael Franti and now Jack Johnson? Well chill was in during the oughts. There are other really good songs from Jack Johnson from this decade, but this one kind of stands above the rest for its combination of awesomeness and radio-friendliness (I’ve never heard “Banana Pancakes” on the radio). This song is actually a “protest song” about television violence – but that kind of gets lost among the acoustic guitar and relaxed nature of Johnson’s singing. It’s a great song, whatever it’s about.

#27 – Michael Bublé – “Everything” – (2007)

Up front: I think all of Michael Bublé‘s current songs sound exactly the same. He was interesting when he first popped onto the scene. Now he’s kind of passé. That makes me sound awfully haughty, but whatever. “Home” is my favorite song by him, but I’ve already featured it – but this is a good #2. This is more of a pop – or adult contemporary – song than most of the “standards” that he covered almost exclusively prior to this. If I had to describe this song in three words (which is two words longer than the title), I’d say “Wedding Dinner Playlist.”

#28 – Ray LaMontagne – “You Are the Best Thing” – (2008)

Gravely-voiced Ray LaMontagne sounds like something from a different era. That era could be, perhaps, 1971. Vocals like this don’t generally exist anymore. And the folksy soul feel of this song make it outstanding. It even has Motown-sounding backup singers. Prediction for 10 years down the road: Mr. LaMontagne will appear on our Top 100 Songs of the 2010s.

#29 – Michael Franti & Spearhead feat. Cherine Anderson – “Say Hey (I Love You)” – (2008)

I have mixed feelings about Michael Franti – look at the cover and title of that album (All Rebel Rockers). It makes him look like he’s some kind of militant Rastafarian reggae artist. But watch his videos and listen to his songs. He sounds like a really nice, gentle guy. Anyway, I guess it doesn’t matter because he finally broke through to the mainstream with this super upbeat, happy track. It was his first Hot 100 entry and the song peaked in the top 20. The first time I heard it was on Weeds and shortly thereafter it was popping up everywhere. You won’t find a happier tune anywhere.

#30 – Jason Mraz – “I’m Yours” – (2008)

This was (and still is) a really popular song. It wasn’t Jason Mraz’s first hit, but I it’s definitely been his biggest, charting at #6 on the Hot 100. It also broke a Billboard Hot 100 record: it stayed on the chart (in the top 100) for an incredible 76 weeks – almost two months longer than the last record holder. It has a pop rock/reggae feel and lyrics fired off at a quick pace. It’s a fun, summery song – and the video (which is the first place I heard this, on VH1 on some weekday morning) takes place in Hawaii, cementing the feel of the music with images. Few songs deserve to be on this list more.

#31 – 3 Doors Down – “Kryptonite” – (2000)

Depending on what kind of radio you listened to from February 2000 through mid-to-late 2001, 3 Doors Down mined this album for every single it could. Sure, I heard some of the tracks on the radio that weren’t technically released as singles – but my point is I heard about ¾ of this album on the radio. Which is ridiculous. But this song stands above all others (from this album or others of theirs). 3 Doors Down has always reminded me of a harder version of Matchbox Twenty… sort of the “poor man’s version.” This song was a huge smash and still lingers around from time to time over the air. It hit #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Modern Rock, Mainstream Rock, and Mainstream Top 40 charts. This is the band’s defining song, whether they like it or not.

#32 – BBMak – “Back Here” – (2000)

Remember this one? A pop hit from the 1999/2000 New Millennium era. BBMak was a mega-one-hit-wonder. It was three dudes from Great Britain who played their own instruments and looked good enough (and strangely, all the same) to make girls of the era squeal (that equals success in the TRL generation). The video got airplay on TRL (I distinctly remember it). The group disbanded a few years after this, their first hit. It remains a good song – especially to those of us who where the target audience for such music when it was released.

#33 – Franz Ferdinand – “Take Me Out” – (2004)

Remember when Franz Ferdinand blasted onto the scene with this single? It was all over the radio and used in a lot of other things (movies, commercials, video games). Listen to that guitar – it’s impossible not to be able to pick it out above all other things (and it’s the part people instantly recognize). This was a top five hit in the U.K. and in the U.S. on the Modern Rock chart. It wasn’t their last hit either, but they certainly haven’t found this level of mainstream success again.

#34 – David Gray – “Fugitive” – (2009)

This song comes from right neat the end of our eligible period for this list. But I’m glad it made it because it’s an amazing song and my favorite David Gray tune. It wasn’t a major radio splash, but there were stations where it received a fair amount of airplay (and where I live, that’s saying something). I loved this song when it came out and listened to it constantly… while writing this, it marks the first time I’ve heard it in a little while, and I think I’ll start listening to it all the time again now. It’s so good.

#35 – Damian Marley – “Welcome To Jamrock” – (2005)

Some people don’t like Damian Marley. Either because they can’t understand what he’s saying or they don’t trust him based on his appearance (which is a load of crap, by the way). This is one of my favorite reggae songs (might actually be my favorite if I stopped to think about it) and it’s hardcore reggae – none of this pop/crossover business. It’s borderline hip-hop. Damian is Bob Marley’s youngest son and, strangely, I’m writing this post on his 35th birthday. Happy Birthday. And don’t ask why this is so high up on the list.

#36 – Michael Jackson – “You Rock My World” – (2001)

This was Michael Jackson’s final big single. It was released as a single in 2001 and it’s so good that it is hard to fathom how he didn’t have a big hit after this. Also, “Thriller,” and its video, put Michael on the map for some people. Well the video for this song is pretty impressive too. It’s a 13-minute mini-movie featuring Chris Tucker (whose career basically subsists of this and some movies with Jackie Chan), Michael Madsen, Billy Drago and Marlon flippin’ Brando. Brando! Also, the video is completely awesome, featuring a cool set, awesome suits and badass dancing from the King of Pop (which, some of it, reminds me of Jim Carrey in The Mask). None of this should take away from the song though. Michael’s career had this sort of progression that the later in it he got, the more his songs featured this little pop of his voice (sort of like a hard “dah” sound). This song has a lot of that sound. Plus, a great beat, and wonderful instrumentation. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance (Jackson’s first since 1997). And it was a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100. This stands as one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs of all time, which might seem weird, but it’s true. It reminds me of both his mid-1990s stuff (which was really good) and some stuff from the 1980s (which is high praise).

#37 – Shaggy feat. Rayvon – “Angel” – (2000)

Released as a single in the early part of 2001, “Angel” – based on the clothing worn in the music video – very easily could have come out in the late-1990s. It was Shaggy’s second #1 single. Unfortunately, we have not heard from Shaggy since. This song samples a Juice Newton song (“Angel of the Morning” – more or less where the chorus comes from here) as well as the bass line from Steve Miller’s “The Joker.” Unlike his previous #1, this song is much nicer and more acceptable to most people.

#38 – Weezer – “Island in the Sun” – (2001)

This is my favorite Weezer song – which might sound ridiculous to hard-core Weezer fans, but whatever, I don’t care. This wasn’t even supposed to be on the album. The producer (who happened to be Ric Ocasek from The Cars) fought for it and it turned into a radio-friendly single and Weezer’s biggest hit to date outside the U.S. It’s light and fun and… breezy (I guess is the word I’m searching for). And the music video is awesome for those who like “cute” – it’s full of puppies playing with baby chimps and other animals. Anyway, best Weezer song.

#39 – Barenaked Ladies – “Too Little Too Late” – (2000)

I was sitting here trying to remember why I picked this song over BNL’s other huge single from 2000’s Maroon – and then I turned it on and the music answered my question instantly. This song was sung entirely by Stephen Page – who is no longer with the band (and perhaps why they didn’t perform it at the BNL concert I was at last week). All I know is that this is one of the best bands in the world. They are super talented and their songs are super witty, catchy and well-written. Yes, being funny and have a distinct personality goes a long way to be a good band. This was a top 20 hit on the A/C chart, but still one of their better-known songs.

#40 – Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell – “Beautiful” – (2002)

I love this song. “Beautiful” is not only the title, but the best way to describe it. Watch the video – it was filmed in Rio de Janeiro and I always picture it when listening to the song. This is Snoop’s best song, I think, and Pharrell kill it every time he is featured on a song – and that’s no different here. You might not like rap music (this is more hip-hop than straight-up rap) but you can’t deny Pharrell’s calming vocals on this track. That and the gorgeous beat. This was a top 10 hit just about everywhere – and rightfully so. Definitely one of my favorites – of both the decade and the genre.

#41 – Rob Thomas – “Lonely No More” – (2005)

If you’ve been paying attention, Rob Thomas has kind of dominated this list. Matchboxy Twenty has been on here at least twice so far and now here’s Rob Thomas solo. He almost made it twice by himself. Not to mention, he kicked off the decade with our #1 Song of the 90s (“Smooth”). This is his first solo single and his biggest solo hit thus far (and he’s had some major hits). What sets it apart from the songs he did with Matchbox is that it sounds more of a combination of Marc Anthony and “Smooth” than it does Matchbox Twenty (that combination probably makes no sense to you, but it does to me – it has a Latin beat). It’s just more of a pop-feeling song and it set Rob Thomas off on an all-conquering pop music path. And we’re all better because of it.

#42 – Michael Andrews & Gary Jules – “Mad World” – (2001)

This is how to cover a song and make it your own. Originally done by Tears for Fears in 1982, it was transformed from New Wave/Synthpop into hauntingly beautiful by film score composer Michael Andrews and musician Gary Jules for the movie Donnie Darko. The only instruments are a piano and a cello. The vocals are haunting, really – there’s no other word for it. The sadness of the lyrics are evoked perfectly. It was a huge hit in some countries – a #1 in the U.K. and Portugal. It’s infinitely better than the original.

#43 – Aerosmith – “Jaded” – (2001)

Aerosmith has had more comebacks than just about any band I can think of. Prior to this song, Aerosmith’s last big hit (which was huge) was “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” – prior to that, it was 1994 since their last Top 40 smash. Just Push Play was the second or third or fourth or fifth coming of the band. It was a song that was perfect for the times, released as a single in December of 2000 – the 90s were still drawing to a close but things were changing but hadn’t changed drastically, yet. Interesting observation: what differentiated an adult contemporary hit (this song) from a pop hit in 2000 was that the video for this song received more airplay on VH1 than MTV.

#44 – Everclear – “Wonderful” – (2000)

I saw Everclear in concert last year and was super excited about it. Then their entire performance was marred by technical issues that Art kept leaving the microphone to try and solve. It was bad. Thankfully, we have wonderful (see what I did there?) studio recordings like this to enjoy. This is one of my favorite songs by the band. It’s a song sung from a child’s perspective who is seeing his parents break go through a divorce. The music is pure 90s alt rock. They don’t write ’em like this anymore.

#45 – Mary J. Blige – “Family Affair” – (2001)

Here’s the biggest song of Mary J.’s career. It’s a chart topper that still receives occasional airplay. What’s interesting is that it doesn’t sample anything – unlike many recent #1 hits. The beat is actually by Dr. Dre, among others. The lyrics are intelligible and they let you know that she wants you to have “no more drama in your life.” Also, the use of “percolating” has always stood out to me and this song is all I think of when I hear the word.

#46 – Robbie Williams – “Rock DJ” – (2000)

Well this has been a fairly British week, with Muse, Oasis and now Robbie Williams. Honestly, I’m not sure how this song snuck so far up the list. It should’ve probably been in the 80s but oh well – here we are. This was released in the summer of 2000, which ostensibly makes it a 90s tune (but not quite). This was a huge hit in Europe and hit #1 all over the world. It was the 4th biggest song in the U.K. for 2000. It didn’t make it onto the Hot 100, but then again, Robbie has never been America’s taste. The song is incredibly catchy and samples a number of other, previously successful songs. The video has some controversy surrounding it, having been banned or heavily edited in almost every world market because it is “explicit” – he strips down completely then peels his skin off. It is kind of horrific – especially when he starts ripping his muscles off and throwing them at people, who proceed to eat it. Whatever – it was a big track.

#47 – Muse – “Supermassive Black Hole” – (2006)

This is one of the best rock songs of the decade (so the inevitable “Best Rock Songs of the 00s” list takes another hit with its posting here). Muse is on-going in the pursuit of being labeled rock gods, but this remains one of their best songs and it was really the track that broke them into the U.S. market even though it was from their 4th album. It is the biggest U.K. hit to date. If I had to describe this song in one word, it would be “distorted.” The distortions are what makes the song – the guitar, the vocals. It just adds up to awesomeness.