Before we go on with the countdown, let’s take a moment to check out the 10 songs that almost made it (in chronological-alphabetical order, by artist). They may be bubbling under at Nos. 101 to 110, but they are all worth checking out.
- Artful Dodger Ft. Robbie Craig & Craid David “Woman Trouble” (2000)
- Aaliyah Ft. Timbaland “We Need A Resolution” (2001)
- Basement Jaxx “Where’s Your Head At?” (2001)
- Bilal “Love It” (2001)
- Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions “Suzanne” (2001)
- Pete Yorn “For Nancy (Cos It Already Is)” (2001)
- Coloursound “Fly With Me” (Midnight Mike Remix) (2002)
- Kelly Rowland “Stole” (2002)
- Norah Jones “Sunrise” (2004)
- Celine Dion “My Love” (2008)
30. Lady Gaga “Poker Face” (2008)
I don’t know how she did it. I never thought I’d be gaga over anything by Gaga. I wanted to hate her (and for a long time I did), but in the end, she had me at “Poker Face,” her greatest and biggest hit from an album with four of them — and still counting. The meaning of the lyrics — something about bisexuality, or something — is beside the point, but the way her robotic-electro delivery on the verses gives way to soulful pop crooning on the chorus and back to the robotic-electro “P-p-p-poker face/P-p-poker face” refrain is a stroke of vocal-arranging genius. Forget all the remixes and the pointless stripped down piano-and-voice version. The original, in all its dramatic new-wave glory, is it.
29. DB Boulevard “Point Of View” (2001)
When you hit rock bottom, you’ve got two ways to go: straight up and sideways.
28. Tweet “Boogie 2nite” (2002)
Okay, this wasn’t exactly a single. At least not by Tweet. Well, it’s complicated. It was intended to be the fourth UK release from Tweet’s debut album, Southern Hummingbird, but despite being a club hit, it was cancelled by her label due to a lack of radio airplay. Chances are you know the song, if you know it at all, from the 2006 remake by Booty Luv, a No. 2 hit in the UK (yes, timing, apparently, is everything). Now forget Booty Luv’s botch job — if you haven’t already — and check out the superior original (below), co-written and sung by the woman who made masturbation radio-friendly with “Oops (Oh My)” in 2002. It’s darker, dirtier and infinitely more soulful. Sometimes the first cut is the deepest — and the best.
27. Mariah Carey “We Belong Together” (2005)
Mariah probably owes the fact that we still care about her to this song, a break-up ballad delivered carefully and tearfully, with phrasing that’s more acrobatic than the actual singing. After the breakdown-Glitter one-two punch and the hot aural mess that was Charmbracelet, “We Belong Together” made for the most spectacular pop comeback of the decade and the biggest hit of Mariah’s career. Like the bulk of latter day Mariah tracks (from The Emancipation Of Mimi on), the lyrics are exacting, complicated and specific — she’s no longer singing about dreamlovers, heroes and sweet sweet fantasies. By the time she starts lamenting hearing Babyface and Bobby Womack on the radio because they only serve to intensify her heartbreak, she’s already added one more to soul music’s canon of immortal sad songs that say so much.
26. Eve “Tambourine” (2008)
The underrated jam of the ’00s! I’m still in shock that the second best rap single of the decade (stay tuned next week for No. 1) barely slipped into the U.S Top 40. But I won’t go on (again) about what bad taste U.S. music lovers often have. (I once heard “Tambourine” on an episode of Gossip Girl, so at least somebody knows what’s up.) I won’t even try to explain why this Swizz Beats production is so ridiculously fierce and worthy of smash status. Just press play (below), and hear for yourself.
25. Tracey Thorn “Grand Canyon” (2007)
Blink and you probably missed Out Of The Woods, the 2007 solo album from the singing half of the long-MIA British duo Everything But The Girl. Too bad. It was one of the best albums of the decade, and this house-inflected dance track, an aural departure from the trip-hop and electronica of EBTG’s last few albums, is the hands-down highlight. What I love about Tracey is how she can get the party started and keep it going at full-tempo without seeming to break a sweat at the microphone.
24. Rachel Stevens Vs. Adam Ant “And Said Never Again” (Backdoor Remix) (2005)
I don’t understand how the UK music industry works. Although Rachel scored a platinum Top 10 debut album (2003’s Funky Dory), two No. 2 hits, a No. 3 and two other top tens, this single in it’s original form peacked at a respectable No. 12 and marked the apparent end of the former S Club 7 member’s solo career. Too bad. In two albums, she produced at least two perfect pop moments that will live forever in my iPod (until the next superstar portable music-listening device comes along). “Sweet Dreams My L.A. Ex,” a post-split kiss-off from the same co-writer (former pop star Cathy Dennis) who brought us “Toxic” and “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,” and this cross-pollination of pop and glam rock (glam pop?). The original, “I Said Never Again (But Here We Are),” pops for sure, but the mash up with Adam And The Ants’ “Antmusic” and “King Of The Wild Frontier” — it’s posted below the original’s video — is a match made in Britpop-pop heaven.
23. Beyonce “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” (2008)
From the Chi-Lites horn sample that announces “Crazy In Love” “to the left, to the left” of “Irreplaceable,” Beyonce’s career has had more zeitgeist moments than any recording artist this side of Madonna. But this is her greatest hit, and when all is said and done, it surely will be her most enduring (thanks in part to an endlessly praised and parodied video, which Kanye West correctly deemed one of the best of all time). What makes this one stand out from Beyonce’s non-ballads (aside from the absence of samples and guest rappers) is how she tones down her usual vocal histrionics and just coolly, calmly and collectedly rides the groove. Her other hits, excellent as they were, quickly wore out their welcome, but “Single Ladies” continues to put a rush on me.
22. Mad8 Vs. Shawn Christopher “Deep Sleepless Night” (Dino Lenny’s Old Skool Mix) (2005)
The first time I heard this update of Shawn Christopher’s 1991 house classic, “Another Sleepless Night,” I was with my mother trying on a pair of jeans in Lucky Brand at the Beverly Center in L.A. I downloaded it the minute I got back to my hotel and played it on repeat for at least an hour. A remix that not only improves on the original but completely transforms it without rewriting it, “Deep Sleepless Night” brings the tempo of the original down to a dark, lean, hypnotic groove that complements the restrained desperation of the Shawn’s vocals. I still work out to it all the time, but God only knows whatever happened to those jeans.
21. Destiny’s Child Ft. T.I. & Lil Wayne “Soldier” (2004)
I was getting so tired of hearing Destiny’s Child sing about survivors and independent women, and then they totally blew me away with the first two singles from Destiny Fullfilled, their swan song CD. “Lose My Breath” was dressed to kill, with a frenetic, relentless beat that more than lived up to its title. Then they topped themselves again with “Soldier,” a career-best single underscored by a spooky, marching rhythm track. What do these girls want? A ruffneck with hood status who will go way out of his way to please his lady. But the double entendre is as clear as you want it to be. What do these girls really want? A soldier who will, ahem, stand up straight. In other words: a freak like me. Yeah, let’s talk about sex indeed.