When I decided back in August to try and encapsulate the best in pop culture from the 2000's (or the "Oh-Oh's" as we're going with here), trying to pick the 10 best songs was the toughest one by far.
The biggest problem for me was that I didn't really like most of the "best" songs and artists from this past decade. My buddy Jesse and I were talking about this a few weeks ago and I realized that what made our college campus sketch comedy show work back in 1999 was the fact that as a producer, I was completely in touch with the biggest and best artists/albums/songs of that moment.
If we tried to start that show now, I would be lost.
As I've discussed before, from my perspective, music seemed to be split into three different eras during the Oh-Oh's: (1) bubble-gum, mainstream pop, (2) underground indie that became mainstream, and (3) Euro-dance pop - all encompassed by an evolution in hip hop (from traditional rap).
Even more importantly than all of that was the way we could access music. We were no longer dependent on physical albums or CDs with the emergence of Napster, illegal downloading sites, and eventually iTunes (I would give ANYTHING for the newspaper industry to adopt some form of iTunes, but that's another discussion for another day).
So I will remember music from the Oh-Oh's as a transitional decade. I don't know if it's going to get any better or much worse, but we're heading in a new direction regardless.
OK, on to my list.
Once again, I know that all of the standard Top 10 lists will feature selections from Radiohead, and Outkast, and Beyonce, and Jay-Z, and Kanye, and The White Stripes, but that's not the stuff I was listening to, so it would be impossible for me to rank it.
This song dilemma is what made me decide to go the personal route with these lists and I hope that comes through in my explanations. As much as I didn't care for music on the whole this past decade, I was pleasantly surprised with the 10 songs (actually 11) I was able to find and how they each hit me at different points during this part of my life.
Go ahead and blast my list (and feel free to submit your own). I think we can all typically agree on best teams, best TV shows, and best movies (even if they're not a personal favorite) but music seems so much personal than the other pop culture mediums. A certain song has the ability to mean more to one person than it does to another in a way a show or film cannot.
I've included my favorite line from each song (known as the "Money Line") and if you click on the name of the song, it will link you to the music video or live performance or the best option I could find (note: some songs include strong language).
Once again, can't wait to hear your thoughts on your favorite songs of the Oh-Oh's and the ones that got me through them as well.
10. Bad Day – Daniel Powter (2005)/You’re Beautiful – James Blunt (2004)
These two make the list in a tie for the most overplayed songs of the decade (Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody made a gallant run just a little too late). The crazy thing is that I really liked both of these songs before they were playing on every radio station all of the time – I honestly heard You’re Beautiful on FIVE stations at once. Bad Day also gets the distinction of best music video of the Oh-Oh’s. It was like a full romantic comedy wrapped up in three minutes.
BAD DAY MONEY LINE: You had a bad day/The camera don't lie/You're coming back down and you really don't mind/You had a bad day/You had a bad day
YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL MONEY LINE: And I don't think that I'll see her again/But we shared a moment that will last till the end.
9. You’ll Be Coming Down – Bruce Springsteen (2007)
You don’t have defend yourself too much when it comes to The Boss. One of the best songs off of one of the best drive-to-albums of the last 10 years. Every spring I can’t wait for the weather to warm up enough so that I can roll the windows down and blast this one.
MONEY LINE: Like a thief on a Sunday morning/It all falls apart with no warning/Satin sky's gone candy-apple green/The crushed metal of your little fine machine
8. Should’ve Said No – Taylor Swift (2006)
Beyond being a great song, it was Swift’s water soaked performance of Should’ve Said No at the ACM awards that I will always remember – and before your dirty minds wander, there was no sexual element to it. We’ve seen so many performances done on so many award shows, that it all kind of blends together now. This seemed so simple (sing angry while water pours down on you) but it was so unique and fresh. In a decade of a lot of songs and artists I didn’t care for, Swift gives me a glimmer of hope that all is not lost.
MONEY LINE: And I should've been there, in the back of your mind/I shouldn't be asking myself why/You shouldn't be begging for forgiveness at my feet/You should've said no, baby and you might still have me
7. Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – David Gray (2000)
I know that this was a Soft Cell cover and I know that White Ladder was actually first released in the UK in 1998 (released in the States in early 2000), but this was my official breakup song of the Oh-Oh’s (and if you knew me in my mid-20’s, you’ll know that this song got a lot of play time). It’s interesting how life changes your perspective on – or need of – certain songs. Five years ago, this one would have probably made the Top 5. Now, I’m banking that I will never have to play it again. Gotta love life.
MONEY LINE: We try to make it work, you in a cocktail skirt/And me in a suit, but it just wasn't me/You're used to wearing less, and now your life's a mess/So insecure you see
6. Snails – The Format (2006)
A calming presence during a tumultuous time of life (see #2 for more on this). Try chasing your dreams for a salary of $0 a year and see if this song doesn’t make a little more sense to you.
MONEY LINE: Snails see the benefit, the beauty in every inch
5. Time to Pretend – MGMT (2007)
Like a refreshing breeze blowing in on a scorching summer day, just the first couple of synthesized notes of this tune can turn the even the most boring party in to the event of the year (saw it happen more than once). It was probably the best get-up-and-going song of the past decade and I can’t see it losing that title any time soon.
MONEY LINE: This is our decision, to live fast and die young/We've got the vision, now let's have some fun/Yeah, it's overwhelming, but what else can we do/Get jobs in offices, and wake up for the morning commute
4. Paper Planes – M.I.A. (2007)
No other song could make a bunch of white people channel their inner hip hop self more than this one. Besides, you just gotta respect an artist that relies on gun and cash register sound effects instead of actual words. This one will always be remembered to me as the song on the greatest movie trailer of all time for Pineapple Express. After seeing that preview a few hundred times, I was convinced Express was going to be the next Casablanca. Unfortunately it is the king example of trailers that were better than the actual movie (I should really write THAT column someday soon).
MONEY LINE: All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)/And (KKKAAAA CHING!)/And take your money
3. Viva La Vida – Coldplay (2008)
This is probably the most creative concept for a song that I have heard in my lifetime. I love the idea of delving into the perspective of a former king. And there’s no real preface or reason to it. I just really like the thought that someone was smart enough to think it up and flesh it out. I can’t see a scenario where Coldplay doesn’t go down as The Band of the Oh-Oh’s and this was their signature song.
MONEY LINE: I used to roll the dice/Feel the fear in my enemies' eyes/Listen as the crowd would sing/"Now the old king is dead, long live the king!"/One minute I held the key/Next the walls were closed on me/And I discovered that my castle stands/Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand
2. Black Parade – My Chemical Romance (2006)
Go ahead. Rip me apart for including a My Chemical Romance song on this list. I would if I were you. Yeah, MCR is pretty much just an emo-punk-goth group geared towards middle class teenagers that want to rebel against their suburban parents, but as crazy as it might sound, this song helped get me where I am today. While I watched most of my other friends spend their 20’s climbing the professional ladders, buying houses, getting married, and having children, I was living with my parents getting paid nothing to do what I wanted to do in life. The only solace I could find was that while most of those friends had everything going for them on paper, they didn’t really seem fulfilled. So I pressed on. This song helped me fight the doubts (or embrace the insanity, depending on how you want to look at it) and now I am just beginning to live the life I have always dreamed about. My Chemical Romance makes my list and I am the winner, so there.
MONEY LINE: On and on we carry through the fears/Disappointed faces of your peers/Take a look at me cause I could not care at all/Do or die, you'll never make me/Because the world will never take my heart/Go and try, you'll never break me/We want it all, we wanna play this part/I won't explain or say I'm sorry/I'm unashamed, I'm gonna show my scar/Give a cheer for all the broken/Listen here, because it's who we are/I'm just a man, I'm not a hero/Just a boy, who had to sing this song/I'm just a man, I'm not a hero/I don't care
Tune in tomorrow for the #1 song on my list…