What better way to spend your blizzard? Part 8, baby!#30: “THE BEST OF TIMES” by SAGE FRANCIS.
An intimate conversation between a man and his 13-year-old self. “Don’t listen to them when they tell you these are your best years… and when you think you got it all figured out and then everything collapses – trust me kid – it’s not the end of the world.” With Kanye West putting Bon Iver on his record, and The Roots collaborating with Dirty Projectors and sampling the Monsters of Folk, this was the year where hip hop and indie rock finally met on a Run DMC/Aerosmith type scale. But no one took that meeting to a greater extreme than Sage Francis who enlisted a pack of indie titans including Chris Walla, Mark Linkous, and Jason Lytle to concoct the “beats” for his latest album Li(f)e. Here, he’s accompanied by French avant-garde/post-rocker Yann Tiersen.
#29: “ACAPELLA” by KELIS.
It’s hard to imagine this is the same woman who sang “Milkshake” in 2003. Then again, it was hard to imagine the woman singing “Milkshake” was the same one who sang “I Hate You So Much Right Now!” in 1999. Which I suppose is the point of this song: People change when life changes. The life change here being, specifically, motherhood, which Kelis dramatizes in various guises in this gorgeous video. I especially love her jungle huntress and her desert wanderer personae. The sadly somewhat overlooked Flesh Tone, Kelis’s debut album for the will.i.am label, was a surprise gem of a dance pop record in year packed to overflowing with great dance pop records.
#28: “SHE SAID” by PLAN B.
I think this might just be my favorite video of the year. That jury has rhythm! Those bailiffs are funkayyy. And Plan B’s hyperspeed “defense testimony” at the song’s center is a perfect sonic counterpoint to his pleading blue eyed soul vocal everywhere else. And the strings! Holy sh*t, the strings! How is this guy not getting airplay here?
#27: “IF WE EVER MEET AGAIN” by TIMBALAND featuring KATY PERRY.
“What’s your name, whatcha drinkin’, I think I know what you’re thinkin’. Baby what’s your sign? Tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine.” Just a great, fun pop duet to get stuck in your head for days, and, really, better than anything on Katy Perry’s (literally) cotton-candy scented album.
#26: “DANCE IN THE DARK” by LADY GAGA.
This is THE shoulda-been single from The Fame Monster. How this one got passed up for the immediately catchy but ultimately sorta lame “Alejandro” is just beyond me. “Tell ’em how you feel, girls.” Any song that can somehow mournfully-defiantly-joyfully link Judy Garland, Sylvia Plath, Marilyn Monroe, JonBenet Ramsey, Liberace, and Princess Di – and actually make absolute sense in the process – has to be some big flowery, exotic kind of awesome.
#25: “YOU KNOW ME” by ROBBIE WILLIAMS.
A great big ballad on the lifestyles of the rich, famous, and newly single. “I’ve been doing what I like, when I like, how I like. It’s joyless.” I love this song’s big arrangement, but I’d also love to hear it acapella with all those doo-wop-op-op background vocals.
#24: “UN-THINKABLE (I’M READY)” by ALICIA KEYS.
A dark atmospheric ballad of a forbidden affair’s “moment of honesty”, this song topped Billboard’s R&B charts for 12 weeks this summer, and was named Billboard’s #1 R&B song of the year. All for good reason. Given the Keys’ engagement to producer Swizz Beatz before his divorce was even final, the song has an autobiographical truth to it, but this gorgeous video puts the song in a social/historical context. Probably a good move.
#23: “NA NA NA (NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA)” by MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE.
Without question, my favorite song title of the year, even though I had to “fact-check” it to make sure I had the appropriate number of NAs. The song is as frantic and obnoxiously fun as its title: “Shut up and let me see your jazz hands!” You’ll also notice that the song racks up 3 bleeps in the first verse. The word there is “drugs”. We’ve apparently come a long way since Huey Lewis. They do also bleep out a spoken f-bomb during singer Gerard Way’s little mid-song monologue, but the actual swear word is covered by lazer shot sound effects.
#22: “ALL THE LOVERS” by KYLIE MINOGUE.
Probably the happiest sounding song of the year. Every time I hear it, it makes me smile. Every time I see the video, it makes me smile real big. Kylie’s Aphrodite is one great big adorable pop record that sounds like everything I loved about 1983. And how can you not love a video like this? A white horse on a city street. A white balloon elephant in the sky between the skyscrapers. And a great big Christmas tree of beautiful, copulating, near naked human flesh with Kylie Minogue on top. She swoons, the whole tower swoons, I swoon too.
#21: “BUTTERFLY, BUTTERFLY (THE LAST HURRAH)” by A-HA.
“These stained-glass wings could only take you so far…” Earlier this month, the trio that brought us “Take On Me” in the 80s (and many great – however neglected – singles since) played their last shows. a-ha is kaput. And with this song, they don’t wave good-bye so much as shrug off their 25+ years together.
In the Top 20: There will be Kanye, I promise. (Or is that a threat?)