Posted on my web site about a month ago...
1) “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)” UGK
Overall, this is the year’s perfect hip-hop jam. Or at least mine. Andre 3000 begins the song poetically with all sorts of mind-blowingly good play-on-word and metaphoric lines (examples include “And I apologize if this message gets you down/Then I CC’d every girl that I’d see see around town” and “I’m so like a pip, I’m glad it’s night”… Gladys Knight and the Pips, get it?). If it was just ‘Dre on the whole song, I’d probably still give it a 5. Almost one-upping him on the second verse is Pimp C who bumps the shit out of the song, almost immediately reversing the polarity of poetic flow into a Southern Rap Barbeque Jam. In verse three, Bun B continues where his late partner leaves off… possibly not on par with the intelligent lyrics of Andre 3000, but UGK’s flow is simply impeccable. It’s almost impossible to not bounce up-and-down to the “anthem”. The only slight misfire on the song is Big Boi’s verse, partially because I’ve never really been a fan of him, partially because it half-kills the momentum/vibe of the song. It’s delivered too slowly and the sublime beat almost completely cuts out until the end. But I haven’t even touched the beat yet. It’s absolutely wonderful, soulful, gospel, beautiful, whatever. My goal in this review isn’t to completely and totally analyze the song and beat the shit out of it; it’s for you to listen to it. It’s great. It was a pretty clear choice for me that this song was number one.
2) “Dancing in the Rain” Blu & Exile
You like hip-hop? Eh? Okay go listen to Blu & Exile. Right now they are the best underground hip-hop group out there and it’s truly a shame that nobody’s heard of them. This is the highest-rated song out of the three I included (in the top 11) from their debut album “Below the Heavens”, which I believe is the Album of the Year, regardless of the genre. Blu is a relatively unknown (okay, completely unknown) 24-year old MC from Southern California and his partner Exile is a fairly well-known underground hip-hop producer from Los Angeles. Blu wrote this song when he was 19, and it shows with the youthful feeling to it. Exile produces by far the most chill beat of the year, mixing in a guitar with an old-school drums-n-bass line. Blu speaks of the struggles of being a young urban teenager, being a writer, being an artist, being a person in this crazy, hectic world of ours. He explains that all of this pain can at least be temporarily relieved by just letting loose: “Don’t nobody wanna dance slow in the rain/So just move your ass, Just move your ass/Don’t nobody wanna liberate the weight of the pain/So just move your ass”. No offense to my idol Common, but if he had released this song, it probably would’ve been labeled a classic. It’s an idealistic song in the wake of pain and pressure. And it reminds me of what hip-hop should be all about.
3) “Paper Planes” M.I.A.
2007 has been weird. Straight up. Somehow a Sri Lankan girl named Mathangi Arulpragasm mixed The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” and the chorus of the 2 Live Crew song “Rump Shaker” and created the gangster-est song of the year. Really, some rapper should’ve come up with this song before she got to it. The sample of “Straight to Hell” creates a reggae-like backing (fitting for The Clash, a punk band who was heavily influenced by reggae) that sets the stage for M.I.A.’s boasting of “bonafide hustler making my name”. The chorus is basically gun shots and a cash register ka-ching dispersed around a couple words. Somehow it comes out like genius. It’s official: Sri Lankans can be gangsta. And they will “take your money”.
4) “Sleeping Lessons” The Shins
This is the highest ranked song that is actually… a band. That’s probably a little late I’d say, even for me. But in my mind this was a year that hip-hop trumped rock, indie rock, electronic, techno, reggae, everything really. Anyways, this song starts out beautifully, with an intro that sounds very much like a harp or something of the sort. In a dreamlike state singer James Mercer sings “And glow/glow/Melt and flow/Eviscerate your fragile frame/And spill it out in the ragged floor/A thousand different versions of yourself”. In my mind, the song is about open-mindedness and having the ability to believe in whatever the hell you want to. This is reiterated in the repeated line “Jump from the hook/You’re not obliged to swallow anything that you despise”. Two-and-a-half-ish minutes into the song the guitar and drums finally kick in and you get a song closer to their Chutes Too Narrow opener “Kissing the Lipless”. Never a bad thing.
5) “Throw Some D’s” Rich Boy
I heard this song roughly two months, maybe four months before his album dropped. I was expecting huge things from him, for reasons I am about to list. Then the album dropped. And after listening to Rich Boy’s self-titled debut album, I realized that he wasn’t huge. He wasn’t even big. He was barely above passable. He simply doesn’t have it. And even despite this huge disappointment, I’m still amazed how he pulled it all together for at least one song, that being “Throw Some D’s”. Butta and Polow Da Don’s masterful production probably has a bit to do with it, as the mixture between soul, bass, and video game sounds somehow makes love to my auditory senses. I’ll mark that down for the future. But even in competition with the beat, Rich Boy’s rhymes about rims, selling dope, and gettin’ hos blow just about every other mainstream rap song this year out of the water.
6) “Blu Collar Workers” Blu & Exile
I almost wish that they had released this song on a later album, because at least it would’ve had a chance of hitting the radio. And it really belongs on the radio. The sung chorus makes it an enjoyable one, as he pleads “Please don’t take it personal/But I gotta go and work some more/And I know deep down it hurts your soul/But I’m a blu collar worker, girl”. And this isn’t Eminem singing to his daughter or 50 singing to… bitches?. It’s actually pretty good. Even the subject matter fits on the radio, as he raps about the way the ladies perceive his rap career. It’s a downright fun jam.
7) “Stronger” Kanye West
I’m half-putting this on here because it’s a great rap song, half-because it’s a mainstream tribute to French electronic magicians Daft Punk, half-because I’m so surprised that this song was so widely embraced. And those 1.5 reasons are why it chills in this year top ten. The analysis probably isn’t necessary because everyone and the mother-in-law have heard this song. This song is just redeeming for me. It put electronic music on mainstream radio. It serves as legit contender for Pump-Up Song of the year (it’s going to be a couple years before you stop hearing “Stronger” at sporting events, and a couple decades before CBS stops using it for interludes to pre-game NFL pieces). And most of all, it made black teenagers figure out who the hell Kate Moss was, and even better, made them curious to how the hell she’s a famous model.
8) “Archangel” Burial
It’s hard for me to explain some songs. Partially because I’m overwhelmed by emotions… mostly because I’m not educated in enough musical technicalities to explain shit. Any who, this is my first electronic song in the list, created by an anonymous London artist who goes simply by the name of Burial. The song starts off with an industrial drum beat that sounds like it was created in the basement boiler room of abandoned warehouse in Eastern Europe. Don’t ask me how I came up with that. But I swear that’s the sound. Almost immediately after the music starts, a few barely audible lyrics are sung over it. And repeated. And a few more come in. And repeated. And I am overwhelmed by emotions… and am wondering how exactly I could explain this song to somebody. And it’s haunting and beautiful.
9) “A Paw in My Face” The Field
Swedish electronic artist Axel Willner, also known as The Field (I’ll let the “the” name slide this time because the song is so good, but I’m not letting The Edge or The Dream off easy on this one) creates the best minimalist song of the year. Again, it’s repeated electronic music, but it almost seems to have words, creating verses and hooks and choruses, albeit long ones. The song is perfect from start to end, but the full payoff doesn’t come until the end of the song, which includes a short jazzy outro that satisfies the song and ties it up as a whole. You really just have to have to listen it and draw your own conclusions.
10) “All My Friends” LCD Soundsystem
LCD Soundsystem is normally known for making innovative, somewhat offbeat electronic music. This song would probably be considered a change of pace for them, but in my opinion it is undoubtedly the best song on their critically acclaimed album Sound of Silver. The quickly-paced keyboard intro sets the pace for an eight minute marathon of living life without regret. The song does a great job of picking up steam throughout, almost like the stakes are getting higher and higher as the song goes on. I consider that quite the amazing task to complete, given the length of the song and all. This is a song that I had much lower at the start of the list-making process, but it continued to move up with every listen.
11) “In Remembrance of Me” Blu & Exile
Well if you haven’t figured out by now, I feel pretty strongly about Blu & Exile’s debut album. Lyrically, this might be Blu’s most perfect work. This song contains by far the best storytelling out of anything created this year, possibly in a very long time. There are no lyrics sites online that have this song, so to get the lyrics I literally had to listen and come up with what I heard. I’ll just give it to you:
“It seemed like yesterday we was chasing the ice cream truck/Now we hopin’ that our eyes blink/Plus its kinda crazy, right?/One minute you a baby/and the next you sexin without protection and you holding the baby/Like damn, I was just in your shoes/Now you the papa that was just in their shoes/Teachin them to walk straight/Cuz honestly they got a long way to go/And now what you tell them is all that they know/See I remember when my folks said you’ll know I mean when you get older/I was only a teen, thinking that I was a grown-up/Please, I had so much to see/Thinking that the little I saw is all that the world had to offer to me/At eighteen I headed off in the streets without guidance/Just the eyes of God watching over me as time went/I spent hours working nine to fives to survive/Me and Jack up in the shack started hustling sacks/just to eat chips and soda/We thinking we’re gonna blow up once this demo gets done/We gonna be stretched out riding limos and such/Boy I was just a dreamer/Rockin’ shows like I win gold/you shoulda seen us/We was full of youth/Not yet abused by time/I saw the whole world through my rhymes/It’s kinda crazy, right?
This reminds me of Junior High/You and I first met/’96 was a year that I could never forget/Sunsets, dance, kisses, chickenheads/Spreadin’ rumors ‘Blu’s cheatin on Shamika with Anika’/We was bad ditchin’ class/grass had us all gassed/I never smoked/Played ball/Thought it’d make me choke/By the way, we lost the championship game by one/Slow fucker hit three at the buzzer/My heart sunk/I was trying to be a pro baller/My first fuck was that year/still I don’t call her/My own father brought me over to her house that weekend/He was cheating so I lost my big V while he was beaten/In the other room/Not yet abused by time/I saw the whole world through that girl’s eyes/It’s kinda crazy, though/How time flies/How it flies/My grandpa died the same year/My mom thought I was to young to make this song/Because I’m only twenty-two/But y’all boy has a long path behind him/I’m walkin in the shoes of giant/And I was a fan of Jordan before I knew Bryant/Lost my great gray suit/But I was done tryin/I hid tears behind my suit attire/Now you can find through my rhyming/Cuz my time has come/and you’ll know my whole story by the time I get done/Rising like the shinin sun/Reminding you how we came/We rich now/We used to be slaves/We pushing whips now/We used to be whipped/Rockin chains/when we used to be in them/Still complaining that we victims in the system/Shit is twisted for shit/We came a long ass way/Yet it just feels like one long day/Shit amazes me/How time flies”
12) “Girls Like Mystery” The Cribs
The Cribs are always good for at least one fun, singable piece of pop perfection per album (though their last album contained four of them). Regardless, the English trio strikes gold again with this song. It’s a very simple song about the fact that… girls like mystery? Yes, apparently they do, and The Cribs know it. This song may be their best song yet. And yes, I’m making this review short because of the “In Remembrance of Me” marathon right before it. But really, there isn’t much to analyze. The song is just awesome.
13) “The Glory” Kanye West
Kanye’s just having fun here. He pulls out everything here. “The Glory” contains probably his best rhymes on the entire underrated album Graduation. His flow continues to add to the song with every line. The sample he uses is top 3 on the album (along with the Daft Punk on “Stronger” and Labi Siffre on “I Wonder”). And he didn’t forget get to use a gospel chorus backing led by oft-used, rarely misused John Legend. By time you get “I know, I know/I look better in real life”, you know this is one of ‘Ye’s standouts. I really don’t understand how Graduation was Kanye’s worst-reviewed album. He got rid of the bullshit skits that plagued his previous albums. His choices of samples were extremely eclectic at worst; it’s obvious that he has branched out even further in his musical tastes. Most of all, the amount of standout tracks (“Champion”, “Stronger”, “I Wonder”, “The Glory”, “Big Brother”, “Flashing Lights”) far outweighs the clunkers (“Barry Bonds”, arguably “Drunk and Hot Girls”, though I’ve grown to enjoy it for what it is).
14) “A Strange Education” The Cinematics
The Cinematics (first Scottish Band tally of the night) debut album, also titled A Strange Education, contains a lot of diverse sounds and styles. Not saying that I was a huge fan of it, because I wasn’t. But the song “A Strange Education” is a totally different story. In remarkably enough, it’s probably the most straight-ahead rocker on the album. And I hate straight-ahead. Anyways, the song starts and continues almost in a dreamer manner, using guitars that sound like they belong in a post-rock band. Lead singer Scott Rinner’s voice is perfect in capturing this Scottish love-rock-ballad-like-thing (okay, the only thing that makes it Scottish-ish is the fact that they’re Scottish).
15) “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” Radiohead
I like it when Radiohead makes songs with guitars and stuff. Y’know, not completely made on a computer. Sometimes that’s mad cool, though (see “Idioteque”). But “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is not made completely on a computer. And that’s a good thing. The acoustic guitar sounds pretty good, especially the intro. And Thom Yorke’s voice continually and gradually gets more and more desperate and intense sounding, exuding an emotion that, as a listener, places you inside-looking-out, rather than the reverse. The best song on a pretty incredible album.
The Best of the Rest
16) “Flashing Lights” Kanye West
17) “The Greater Times” Electrelane
18)“Australia” The Shins
19) “Reckoner” Radiohead
20) “The Past Is a Grotesque Animal” of Montreal
21) “Fluorescent Adolescent” Arctic Monkeys
22) “Roc Boys” Jay-Z
23) “Littlest Things” Lily Allen
24) “Champion” Kanye West
25) “Vampire” Hot Rod Circuit
26) “I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You” Black Kids
27) “Us Placers” Child Rebel Soldiers
28) “Coffee” Aesop Rock
29) “Bonafied Lovin’ (Tough Guys)” Chromeo
30) “Young Folks” Peter Bjorn and John
31) “Black Mags” The Cool Kids
32) “69” T-Pain
33) “Longing For” Jah Cure
34) “In Transit” Albert Hammond, Jr.
35) “Me & Mr. Jones” Amy Winehouse
36) “Mistaken For Strangers” The National
37) “Play Your Cards Right” Common
38) “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” Radiohead
39) “Bartender” T-Pain
40) “Crank That” Soulja Boy
41) “Because of You” Ne-Yo
42) “Same Girl” R. Kelly
43) “Go Getta” Young Jeezy
44) “People in Love” Art Brut
45) “The People” Common
46) “Pussyole (Oldskool)” Dizzee Rascal
47) “The Way I Are” Timbaland
48) “Smile” Lily Allen
49) “Ali in the Jungle” The Hours
50) “Men’s Needs” The Cribs
Overall, this year was just awful for albums. I was going to come up with an album list, but I literally could only come up with a handful. Blu & Exile’s “Below the Heavens” was my undoubted number one, though. If I were to make a list, I’d include Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”, Jah Cure’s excellent reggae comeback “True Reflections… A New Beginning”, and “Graduation” somewhere in the top 5.
Albums I was looking forward to the most this year: Thrice, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal, Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, and Jay-Z. Thrice, Bloc Party and Lupe Fiasco all massively disappointed me (they couldn’t even fit a song into my top 50). Dizzee’s album wasn’t even remotely close to his remarkable debut… I’m afraid he’s listened to too many execs and he’s getting further and further away from his old sound. Arctic Monkeys’ album grew on me a lot, but the first half of the album is still nearly unlistenable. Kanye threw it down, though.
I’m not including “Hey There Delilah” because they recorded the song in like 1972 (or 2004-ish). They whored the song out for like 4 years praying that it would catch on, and somehow it actually worked in 2007 (“Cupid’s Chokehold” did it in 2006). Believe it or not it would actually be somewhere on this list if the circumstances were otherwise. Now I’m just expecting Something Corporate’s “Konstantine” to be a number one single in 2008.
Best music video of the year was also the number one song on my list. The video just adds to the fun. Scariest video of the year… BY FAR “Coffee” by Aesop Rock. Try watching that shit alone at 5am when you’re wasted. I had me some nightmares.
Most annoying song time extension due to hidden track at the end: “Coffee”. I have like zero ITunes plays for it because there’s no way I’m ever waiting around for four minutes of silence in between the real song and the hidden song.
Songs on the list that you probably haven’t heard yet that I didn’t make full write-ups about (aka just listen to them): “Black Mags” The Cool Kids, “Bonafied Lovin’” Chromeo, “Longing For” Jah Cure (watch the live YouTube clips for the full effect), “Ali in the Jungle” The Hours.
Song I couldn’t decide whether it was good or bad of the year: “Pro Nails” Kid Sister
ft. Kanye West
Song completely ruined by radio editing of the year: “Throw Some D’s” Rich Boy
Prediction on how many songs from 2007 I’ll hear in 2008 and realize that they should’ve made the 2007 List, making me regretful and sad: 14
Amount of songs I had to reconsider the rank of so that I could knock “Ayo Technology” out of the Top 50, solely on the basis that I didn’t feel comfortable having 50 Cent on my list: 4
Amount of times I reconsidered putting “Ayo Technology” back in the Top 50, solely on the basis that it is almost entirely about internet porn: 3
Although it’s very early in the year, the only song I’ve heard in 2008 that I’m positive will make next year’s list is “We’re Looking for a Lot of Love” by Hot Chip
. I’m guessing that it’s going to stay in the top 10.