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#10: Beautiful ♦ Snoop Dog

The Review
(download this song now)

Well intentioned claims that inserting a eunuch like Pharrell Williams to bleat his falsetto as a coda for what turned out to be the best Snoop single of the decade resulted in a love song devoid of the misogyny so common in gansta rap in general and the snoop dog cannon specifically could not be further off the mark.

This is a man, after all, who walked the red carpet at the 2003 MTV Awards with two women on leashes and fed the rumor that they were not only prostitutes, but his prostitutes.

Ho Ho Ho?

Is it gansta black male machismo that, according to mythipedia, would have you believe that Snoop Dogg met his wife Shante while hitch hiking along Santa Monica Blvd. He said he had intended to rob and murder whoever picked him up but he said that he fell in love with Shante as soon as she stopped to pick him up. He then decided to only rob and rape her.

Or is it meta- gansta black male machismo?

Cuz, Snoop is a married man with a wife and three kids at home – and pimping? Pimping, media savvy college kids will tell ya, is just a part of the Snoop persona. Snoop isn’t even his real name ya undershizzle?

So what kind of world exactly do we support by including Beautiful as #10 in our top ten list of songs from the decade? I don’t really know, I left my Political Correctness decoder ring on the dance floor and Snoop’s flow is so single malt that if we are setting the women’s movement back at all, we are being so very very kind about it all

The Music Video:


#9: Last Night ♦ The Strokes

The Review: (download this song now)

There was a moment at the very start of the decade after the dust settled on the Y2K disaster that never happened and right before the Towers came down that those of us in New York experienced a moment not unlike those moments you get when you are half asleep- half awake.

A group of kids came alone and created a sound that made you forgive them their trust funds because they created a sound that made you forget, in your half asleep state, that your east village neighborhood did not have a Starbucks to record shop ratio that reminded you, every ½ block, that the tsunami of gentrification had long since leveled your neighborhood and left behind a corporate template of urban planning complete with invisible but very powerful soul sucking vacuums.

Last Night- the hit single from IS THIS IT, is a most delicious cigarette over one last Makers Mark at 4am and the wonderful sensation one gets by throwing that highball glass against that brick back wall because you aint leaving this bar until they throw your punk ass out. Last Night is the very essence of Romance: a celebration of the present moment without consideration for the hangover, the disappointment, that is sure to come.

Last Night let those of us in our half asleep moment in time feel as if New York might be a place where something might happen again. Where a few guys would give the 90s the finger, and- grunge and post punk be damned- not apologize for being rock stars, show up at a gallery with the next Andy Warhol and puke and do drugs make music and yes there are some streets in Soho that are still lined with cobblestone and we will all make music and art and drink and fuck models and be famous.

And then, we woke up and realized they stole the whole thing from Tom Petty. A classic case of cut and paste plagiarism, plopping Petty’s “American Girl” into a younger, skinnier pair of jeans and end running the system because Daddy is famous and, oh, did I mention the prep schools? And the trust funds?

But Last Night was always about nostalgia. And those of us in New York at the time had to admit we were not running with the Velvet Underground and Basquiat- we were shopping at Barnes and Noble, drinking Starbucks and wearing clothes from Urban Outfitters.

And then, of course, the towers came down and the decade went all emo on us.

LAST NIGHT”  Music video:


#8: Rich ♦ Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

While the Yeah Yeah Yeahs seminal tune “Maps” gets much of the critics praise for bridging the garage rock revival & post punk and art house noise that seemed to herald the YYYs as a baseless Sonic Youth of the new millennium, it is the opening track from their 2003 album Fever To Tell that takes the cake, shoves it in your face, has its way with you and does not call you in the morning.

Nick Zinner’s guitar drops a half second chug that immediately let’s you know that the restraint in the songs prologue will soon give way to the seductive excess that is Karen O’s orgasmic wails swooning with the chugging diesel circus that are Brian Chase’s drums and the limitless range Zinner’s guitar creating a sound so, well, rich, that one can not believe that this is a trio.

Think of the female power of Bikini Kill, subtract the political correctness of the riot grrrll movement, add the libido and strut of a gangster rapper and sprinkle on a little Janis Joplin and you begin to appreciate the raw power on display in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs RICH our #8 top song of the decade. But all good things must come to an end. The YYY’s did not go the way of Sonic Youth, but are currently doing their damndest to reinvent themselves as the new millennium’s Depeche Mode.

“RICH”/ live performance


#7: Skinny Love ♦ Bon Iver

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

You want to remember your worst breakup and have it channeled not into some Chris Brown or Rhianna style vengeance or anger, but into something with beauty, not anger, just a “how is this happening to me jaw dropping horror?” Of course you do. Skinny Love may be the best song born of a break up ever.

Justin Vernon, the singer songwriter, of Bon Iver has been there and offers a very inviting shoulder to cry on.

Famously made in alone in a remote wood cabin, the album that gave us Skinny Love: For Emma, Forever Ago brings to mind a sound that Sigur Ross might produce if they were a folk act…

No, imagine if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) could manifest itself in a folk song. What draws the listener in is now some emo “Woa is me bullshit” but a flesh and bone American male facing grief honestly and fully and without apology. On top of a steel guitar that draws you in sink layers upon layers of heartbreaking falsetto vocals; layers does not even get at it- Vernon claims that these songs were meant to be sung by 100 people.

Put one some headphones, and add another layer of vocals to make it 101.

With that many people singing, maybe she will come back.



#6: Paper Planes  ♦ M.I.A

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

That an angry defense of immigrants and condemnation of American isolationism delivered in the satirically ironic style that is the current fashion has made MIA a crossover star and that has American frat boys signing along clocking and glocking their gains is the insult added to fame.

[The sample of the gun reloading and then the cash register ringing] was a joke, says MIA. “People don’t really feel like immigrants or refugees contribute to culture in any way. That they’re just leeches that suck from whatever. So in the song I say ‘All I wanna do is [sound of gun shooting and reloading, cash register opening] and take your money.’ I did it in sound effects. It’s up to you how you want to interpret. America is so obsessed with money, I’m sure they’ll get it.”

I wouldn’t count on it.

“PAPER PLANES” Music Video:


#5: Chicago ♦ Sufjan Stevens

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

Any song that can inspire this cynical 40 year old crank into walking shirtless into the pitch black night and gazing heavenward, arms outstretched, soaking in the pouring rain and having a really good cry, just because we all need a really good cry sometimes you know, has achieved… something.

The catharsis on demand that is the single Chicago is off the 2nd album in Stevens ridiculously ambitious 50 States project, in which he intends to write an album for every state in the nation. Stevens has recently backed away from such a promise after a year in South Dakota left him with crippled with writers block.

With Chicago, he gave us what feels like the Act 2 closer for a rock musical yet to be written. Shit, if Green Day can have a Broadway musical, Theatre lovers certainly deserve Stevens to join composers Leonard Bernstein, Andrew Lloyd Weber & Billy Jo Armstrong. My advice to SS: abandon the 50 states project and turn your attention to writing the next great American musical. Because if it is one thing the world needs more than shirtless 40-year-old men crying in the rain it is a great American musicals!!!!

Cuz America sure has made a lot of mistakes.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes.

And with catharsis, I’m told, comes healing.



#4: Walkie Talkie ♦ DJ Shadow

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

Being a Dadaist by profession, the artist Max Ernst said, was a contradiction in terms. There was no such thing as an unchanging state of revolution. And to put the spirit of Dada on exhibition, he continued, was no more than a weak illustration, like trying to capture the violence of an explosion by presenting the shrapnel.

Check me out.

Being a DJ is the musical equivalent of being a Dada artist. Working with found objects, collaborating across time and space with musicians you never met DJ Shadow plays above and around his trademark bass and drum sound and defies you not to groove to this shit.

Any number of tracks from Shadow’s Private Press could have made this list, from him minimalist “Giving Up the Ghost” to his snarky and virtuosic “ Monosyllabic”, which constructs a 7 minute epic out of only a three second, two bar sample of an obscure song by getting gloriously lost inside myriad beat and tempo shifts, or even Shadow’s nod at his Dada influence at the top of his road rage song “Mashin on the Motorway” which opens with the sample “He said you can call me Captain Dada, whatever that meant”

It is his disco thumping piece of braggadocio that is “Walkie Talkie” that is going to be featured on your next party list, I promise you.

Need a confidence boost? Interviewing for a new job in this suck ass economy? Trying to work up the courage to ask that girl out? Need a pep talk for the little guy, down on his luck, starring back at you in the mirror. Pop in some headphones, and capture the power of the exploding disco shrapnel that is Walkie Talkie, #4 on the No Cure For That top songs of the decade.



#3: Hey Ya! ♦ OutKast

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

Because, really, what is cooler than being cool? Andre 3000: a character in a band within a band (The Love Below), that pulls off a music video that takes the whole hip hop ethos of “playing a character” to a dizzying meta extreme while simultaneously riffing on the Beatles debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Now that’s ice cold.

Andre 3000’s performance art crossing over to mainstream overnight success was a decade in the making (indeed, he was singing about Bombs over Baghdad before the second Gulf War), but in the 30-second section of Hey Ya! – the breakdown and buildup to the Dionysian dance explosion delivered right after we are commanded to shake it like a you know what, how many phrases does Andre 3000 drop into the lexicon of popular usage?

I count, one: “What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold.” Two: “Lend me sugar, I am your neighbor.” And three: “Shake it like a Polaroid picture.”

As far as pushing the boundaries of the English language forward, Shakespeare had less productive days that that.



#2: Bin Laden ♦ Immortal Technique (feat. Mos Def)

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

Lay down a catchy hook and people will sing along with just about anything. For evidence of this, a recent No Cure For That survey confirmed that 9 out of 10 children of the 80s will, when driving in a car whose radio alights upon Journey’s “Separate Ways”, obediently roll down the windows, turn up the volume and try to match Steve Perry’s falsetto while playing air synthesizer: (Sings) Someday love will find you/ Break those chains that bind you/ One night will remind you/ How we touched/ And went our separate ways!

Every decade has its curse. My generation had mullets, Steve Perry and Iran Contra. Americans coming of age in the ought’s have crocs, Lady Gaga & 9/11. One can only hope in 20 years, high school reunions will not be complete without a raucous sing along of Immortal Technique’s & Mos Def’s “Bin Laden”. I mean, I don’t know if, as Mos Def so seductively bites “Bush knocked down the towers.” I know plenty of lies are told, and facts intentionally obscured. But what can a 3-minute song really do?

Get past the chorus and listen to Immortal Technique, and imagine the kind of cultural mind shift that would have to take place for this song to be a sing along ditty of future parties: And of course Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons/ We sold him that shit, after Ronald Reagan’s election./ Mercenary contractors fightin’ a new era/ Corporate military bankin’ off the war on terror

Imagine a future where these are simple point of facts, rather than something we hide from, anesthetizing ourselves with trinkets from target and vacations by the shore, or breaking down the latest Tiger Woods scandal.

Or listen to Eminem, also featured on the track: I don’t rap for dead presidents/
I’d rather see the president dead/ It’s never been said but I set precedents.

Listen: Any historian will tell you that the world would have been a better place had George Bush been killed before the second invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Just as some cultural force or shadow government or roll of the dice conspired to bring us- in quick succession the political assassinations of JFK, Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr, Robert F Kennedy, and just as certainly that resulting pall had the effect of the progressive movement collectively putting their tail between theirs legs for the last several decades while the Imperial reach of the United States Empire has extended its tentacles all over the world.

As the 21st century rolls on, is it not true that we could have imagined a better world if some cultural force or shadow government or roll of the dice existed and conspired to bring us, before the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the deaths of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice?

We need more catching hooks carrying all of the knowledge packed into tight 3 minute packages that Immortal Technique packs into his single “Bin Laden.”

I’m just sayin.



#1: No Cars Go ♦ Arcade Fire

The Review: (listen & download this song now)

For me it was when I was about seventeen years old, a time on the cusp between childhood and manhood, when I had it. I suspect that I, like most, only realized that I had it once it was gone. It, was for me, the left over still not dead and buried wonder and awe struck way at looking at the world of a child combined with the potential to leave a mark on the world that comes with being an adult.

On Neon Bible, Arcade Fire’s brilliant follow up to Funeral, Win Butler sings “I don’t want to fight in a holy war, I don’t want the salesman knocking at my door, I don’t want to live in American no more.”

Teenage rebellion sprinkled with the wisdom of an adult.

For those of us living in America, suffering from Lady Macbeth syndrome desperately trying to wash our hands of blood- out out damn spot- the lyrics are a punch to the gut.

And then comes the track No Cars Go to save the day. Promising to take us to a place where no planes go. Where no ships go.

Even Lady Macbeth knows that no matter what crimes we commit under the cover of night- a time must come to go to bed.

“What’s done cannot be undone”, Lady M councils her husband after they killed the King, holding onto her sanity by a thread, “To bed, to bed, to bed.”

And Arcade Fire takes us, in a rollicking, defiant building swirl of drums and xylophone, and french horn and hurdy gurdy out the escape hatch- and flying! An out of body experience between the moment of sleep and waking where we are all invited- to the a remote renovated church in Quebec, a magical place where we are given back that moment in time when we were 17 and anything was possible. A moment between the click of the light and the start of the dream.




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