1. Far East Movement, “Like a G6”
Proof that God is a DJ, except sometimes the DJ is a drunk girl, which is how songs like this happen. This Number One smash is the essence of electro-thump, a gloriously trashy ride through Eighties Miami freestyle beats, with four synth-geek dudes from LA’s Koreatown and their sassy Latina hype girl. (Drink up, Dev!) In a year when dance music went crazy and the whole pop world flipped for shiny-shiny club sounds, “Like a G6” topped the charts from Seoul to Stockholm to back in the U.S.A., anywhere the sober girls like to pretend they’re drunk. They claim the song took two hours to write, which begs the question: Where did the first hour and 45 minutes go? The lyrics stress the importance of drinking “right,” which seems to mean drinking until you start wanting to have sex with a plane. Brilliant!
2. Ke$ha, “Tik Tok”
You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest trash-disco star in the world: Ke$ha! She has a lot in common with Kiss, actually, even spelling her name with a dollar sign the way Gene Simmons probably always wanted to. Every one of her singles is a blast of avant-cheese pop fantasy, where the glitter girls of Young America prowl the streets acting tough and feasting on the blood of hipster boys, but only if they swagger like Mick Jagger. (My local karaoke bar’s machine translates this line as “We kick ’em to the curb unless they look like McJagger.” Somehow that makes it seem even cooler.) When Ke$ha tries to rap like L’Trimm, she sounds like any ordinary lonely teenage girl stuck in a nowhere town, singing along to her radio and dreaming of a party where she’s the star. Ke$ha’s greatness is that in her voice, you can hear both the loser girl and the star. All hail the Queen of Noi$e!
3. Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce, “Telephone”
On one level, it’s a guitar ballad as delicately constructed as anything on *Something Else By The Kinks*. But it’s mostly a batshit art-freak Catholic girl staging a communication breakdown on the dance floor, where she left her head and her heart. (“Stop calling! Stop calling! I don’t wanna think any more!”) Beyonce, the most egregiously non-crazy pop star of our time, gets to pretend she’s as nuts as Gaga for a few minutes.
4. Kanye West featuring Pusha T, “Runaway”
It starts out as a Europop power ballad like Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” then in the final minutes it turns into Robert Fripp soloing on Brian Eno’s *Another Green World*. In between it gets complicated.
5. Sleigh Bells, “Ring Ring”
A boy-girl feedback love jam, based on a loop of acoustic guitar heaven sampled from Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That?” They cleaned up the production and retitled it “Rill Rill”; both versions are keepers, especially the line, “Wonder what your boyfriend thinks about your braces.” In some alternate universe, this is folk music. Can you get to *that*?
6. Rick Ross featuring Styles P, “B.M.F. (Blowin’ Money Fast)”
Rozay drives his black Batmobile through a high-life fantasy, pushing powder so white he calls it the “Archie Bunker.” (How much for the Jack Tripper? Is there a LaVerne DiFazio Special?) He blows money, to the money, to the money he blows.
7. LCD Soundsystem, “Drunk Girls”
As a friend texted me, “I have never felt so understood by a song.” Me neither! The LCD Soundsystem album has deeper, more sensitive songs, but somehow their dumbass novelty single never wore out for me, which probably means it wasn’t much of a novelty. Best line: “Drunk girls know love is an astronaut / It comes back but it’s never the same.”
8. Usher featuring Pitbull, “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love”
Drunk girls, drunk girls–this year, everybody wanted to be a drunk girl, or just dance like one. Or be the pop star who makes the drunk girls dance. (As Kanye put it, “DJs need to listen to the models.”) Even Usher, a man who has never in his life had trouble attracting female attention, realized that in order to find true artistic fulfillment, he had to put the slow jams on pause and transform himself into a Swedish robot disco machine. He tried and failed with the embarrassing “OMG,” but he nailed it with this one. Great lyrics, too: Ush hits the club and–what are the odds?–meets a fine lady who drags him to the floor and ravishes all that buzzkill *Raymond vs. Raymond* depressive shit out of his system. Tomorrow morning, they can blame it on the DJ.
9. Gil Scott Heron, “I’m New Here”
It got chic to namecheck this Seventies jazz-funk poet a few years ago; nobody had any idea he was on Riker’s Island at the time, on drug charges. Now he’s out, croaking an acoustic indie-rock ballad from Smog until it sounds like ancient country blues. Heron gets sampled on the Kanye album–yet his voice sounds a lot scarier here. It comes back, but it’s never the same.
10. Grinderman, “Heathen Child”
For Nick Cave, hell serves the purpose that the club serves for Usher. It’s where he goes to meet girls. And just like Usher, he keeps acting surprised at what he finds there, even though he keeps meeting the same girl over and over. (Hey, a bathtub! Wait, how did this gun-toting, thumb-sucking, naked pagan homicidal maniac get in here?) It’s as sinister as “From Her To Eternity,” but louder. Call your girlfriend, Lucifer!
11. Big Boi featuring Cutty, “Shutterbugg”
The best OutKast-related jam since UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem,” with Big Boi shouting out to Eighties faves like Soul II Soul and the Geto Boys, over that hydraulic-pump bassline. Even though I know he’s probably saying “history,” I love the part that sounds like, “I been witness to the Sister Ray ever since the 10th grade, we went from rocking braids to temp fades.”
12. Weekend, “End Times”
I know nothing about these San Francisco doom-drone guitar boys except they could probably use more Vitamin E in their diet, they probably don’t get much sunlight, they have studied their My Bloody Valentine records intently, and their drummer is a maniac. They will get either better or worse after they start meeting girls–but not much better, because how much better could any band get than this song?
13. Taylor Swift, “Mine”
Rebel girl, you are the queen of my world.
14. The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
If Leonard Cohen joined ELO in 1976, this is how “Sweet Talkin’ Woman” might have sounded.
15. Nicki Minaj featuring Cassie, “Fuck You Silly”
From her *Barbie World* mixtape, the side of her style she took care to edit out of *Pink Friday*. “I don’t wanna brag, I Louis Vitton bag ’em, hopped out the Jag, proceeded to shag-shag him, thought he was a queen I dra-dra-dra-dragged him, dodged to the room and whipped out the Magnum.”
16. Interpol, “Lights”
People write off Interpol for all sorts of perfectly valid reasons: (1) they’ve stuck around too long, so they no longer have any snob appeal, (2) after the departure of bass stud Carlos D, they have the collective charisma of a slightly agitated kitten, (3) their previous album had a cover painting of caribou mating (4) plus a tender ballad titled “No I In Threesome,” (5) their latest album is drably called “Interpol,” no doubt because they already used the title “Untitled,” (7) their stage banter is basically “um, thank you,” making no effort to hide the fact that (8) they have nothing to say. All of which matters. . . how exactly? Not much, really, not when they deliver sulky-bastard guitar epics as smashing as “Lights,” which can hang with anything off their classic first two albums, or their merely-good last two. As long as you don’t care what’s going on in Paul Banks’ head, which you probably shouldn’t (it’s not like he cares either), this is six minutes of guitars doing what guitars were invented to do.
17. The Hold Steady, “The Sweet Part of the City”
The guitars take a cruise around the radio, spinning the dial like a roulette wheel and jacking every classic rock ballad they find–the Rolling Stones’ “Winter,” Van Morrison’s “Saint Dominic’s Preview,” even Jefferson Starship’s “Find Your Way Back.” Craig Finn drinks booze from the thermos in the cold Minnesota night, dreaming of the places he’s left behind, until he starts spluttering woozy lines like “Distance don’t equal rate and time no more.” But he still can’t find his way back.
18. Robyn, “Call Your Girlfriend”
Yeah. Call her. Tell her you met somebody new. Say it’s not her fault. Tell her you can still be friends. *Jesus.* Robyn sings this like she could be the new girlfriend, or the old girlfriend, or the new girlfriend knowing that in a few months she’ll be on the old-girlfriend side of the conversation. She could even be the one dumping her girlfriend. Either way, a total synth-pop squirm-fest, and it’s just one of a couple dozen great songs Robyn released this year.
19. Girl Talk, “That’s Right”
When Spacehog fluked into their Brit-grunge hit “In the Meantime” in 1994, they used to say their goal was to inspire a Weird Al parody. They fell short of that, but mixology monster Greg Gillis has clearly embraced Weird Al’s role as the guardian angel who rescues lost songs from oblivion. His Spacehog/Fat Joe sample spurred me to finally dig out their third album, 2001’s *The Hogyssey*. Turns out it has a song called “Dancing On My Own” that compares favorably to Robyn’s. Thanks, Girl Talk!
20. 3OH!3 featuring Ke$ha, “My First Kiss”
Dr. Luke, have you no shame? You have to admit, even by the mega-producer’s standards, this is pretty ridiculous pop bombast. It sounds exactly like Sugar Ray–make that *late-period* Sugar Ray, and who even remembered there was such a thing as late-period Sugar Ray? What the hell kind of band decides to be influenced by late-period Sugar Ray? I’m in awe. Two rock clods do the twist with Ke$ha, who provides the eight-word cameo that makes the whole song (“My first kiss went a li’l like this!”) and raises Ke$ha consciousness to an all-time high. Bonus points for the video where Ke$ha dresses exactly like C.C. DeVille circa “Talk Dirty To Me.” In short, perv perfection.
21. Keri Hilson, “Pretty Girl Rock”
Her name is Keri, she is so very.
22. Liars, “Proud Evolution”
The goth-punk death-disco version of “I Feel Love,” from the kind of band that moves to L.A. because Berlin just wasn’t bleak enough.
23. Spoon, “Got Nuffin”
Britt Daniels is an increasingly rare breed of rock auteur–flagrantly non-neurotic, cocky, industrious, not all that tortured, never bothering to hide the craft and guile that go into his albums, just getting shit done and doing it clean. He makes it seem simple even when he goes for the nuanced emotions of this tune, with a Krautrock drum groove, Morse-code piano, and the hurt in his voice.
24. Best Coast, “The Sun Was High (So Was I)”
I loved Bethany Cosentino’s previous band, Pocahaunted, two quite-possibly-baked girls playing twenty-minute psychedelic guitar jams with titles like “Heroic Doses.” I was listening to Best Coast for months before I realized it was the same Bethany, just a lot more baked. Note: she appallingly left this song off her album, so I briefly considered listing “Boyfriend” here instead, but it’s not as good, and when I slacken my quality standards, who suffers? We all do!
25. Britney Spears, “Telephone (Demo)”
Back when Lady Gaga was just another nobody songwriter, she pitched this one to America’s psycho sweetheart, who cut a demo and then forgot about it. Yet when it leaked this spring, it was a welcome reminder of all the Britney we’ve been missing. Let’s face it, pop music without Brit is like pizza without the ranch dressing, so this merely whets the appetite for her next album (due early 2011). Oh, Britney–DJ got us fallin’ in love again!