Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best Ultra Mainstream Songs of the 2000s

I think I've ranted enough about various popular songs in this blog, so it's time to man up and admit to liking some of the biggest radio staples of the decade. Because the truth is, not every pop song is bad -- in fact, the good to bad ratio probably is the same as any other genre of music: a whole lot of crap, but occasional gems that make all the crap kind of worth it.

Whether most music dorks want to admit it or not, there is a definite art to making a quality pop song that appeals to the masses. Songs that succeed in this are just as refreshing to hear as any great indie song: the choruses are catchy, the hooks are meticulously crafted, and the production is top notch. Songs that pull this off are rare, but they do exist.

With this in mind, here are some songs that pull that off:

10. Justin Timberlake - Cry Me a River

I'll just kick off the list by getting it out in the open: I kind of like Justin Timberlake. Free from the teenybopper exploits of NSYNC, he's become a real pop star with songs like this. For pop song standards, the lyrics are very good (and let's face it, how can you not like a song dissing Britney Spears?), and Timbaland - possibly the greatest contributor to pop music this decade - gives his usual excellent production. The result is possibly the best dis song of the decade.

9. Nelly Furtado - Say It Right

Already a pattern is emerging with many Timbaland songs on this list. Expect it to continue, since this decade was mostly about production and he was the best producer. "Say It Right" is one of the more unusual songs to get big from this decade. It's basically just a beat in the background and eschews the typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format. What mostly makes it great is the vocal delivery of Furtado, the beats, and the well written lyrics.

8. Britney Spears - Toxic

As I mentioned, pop music this decade was mostly about the production. Nobody is going to mistake Britney Spears for a great singer, but she sells this song (mostly with her skankiness) thanks to the production. The chorus is extremely catchy and I'm a sucker for that high pitched hook.

7. Christina Aguilera - Beautiful

This song is ultra corny, but it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (and these songs usually make me gag in terror). The obvious message of the song is one heard a lot, but also one worth repeating in my opinion. I think what I like the most about it is that in an era full of production and HOT BEATZ, it's a simple piano song completely sold by Aguilera's amazing voice. Also, that gay guy singing it in "Mean Girls" was funny.

6. Eminem - Lose Yourself

As you can probably guess, I'm not usually a big fan of the rippity rap or whatever you kids are calling it these days. But "Lose Yourself" is one of those great songs (like most on this list) that defy these types of barriers and are just plain great. While I know next to nothing about who is actually good at rapping and who isn't, Eminem seems to be pretty adept at it on this track. But what makes Eminem better than just about any other rapper is his ability to craft that piano hook and the chorus around his rapping.

5. Justin Timberlake - My Love

Justin Timberlake/Timbaland appear on the list again. The futuristic synthesizer sounds downright cool, especially when combined with Timbaland's trademark beats and Timberlake's falsetto voice. And, for once, a rap interlude (by TI) actually seems to have a place in the song and doesn't ruin the entire thing.

4. Rihanna - Umbrella

While I could do without Jay-Z's pointless rap at the beginning, the rest of this song is pure pop perfection. The whole "you're my umbrella" thing is admittedly corny, but for whatever reason I find the lyrics of this song really poignant and authentic, and of course it has a chorus that gets stuck in your head for days (along with the ella-ella-ella part).

3. Beyonce - Crazy in Love

This song mostly makes the list because of that horn hook, which was constantly stuck in my head before I even knew what song it was from (I wasn't keeping to up to date with the pop music in 2003). It doesn't get much lamer than just having a horn thing stuck in your head, but I and many other Americans were cursed with it thanks to this song. That's really all the analysis of this I have, sorry.

2. Outkast - Hey Ya!

Outkast has become sort of the official hip hop/rap band for dorky white guys, and songs like this are why. Even an eternal pessimistic and cynic like me has to admire how ridiculously upbeat and happy this song is. Throw in the experimental techniques Outkast is famous for and their penchant for surprisingly good lyrics and you have the recipe for a song that is just fun to listen to.

1. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone

It should become apparent by looking at my favorite artists list that I am a big fan of chick rockers. Kelly Clarkson made chick rock cool again with this endlessly catchy staple that made her a true superstar, not one just created by American Idol. This song probably rocks harder than any other pop song this decade (and a lot of popular "rock" songs, right Nickelback?), and Clarkson's vocals are top notch as usual. Anyone who says they don't like this song is a liar.

Does anyone else have favorite songs that got a lot of radio play? Don't be afraid to admit it!


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  2. Agreed! Not all pop songs are bad. Nice to see a list acknowledge that.

    - Dave,