No, I haven't forgotten! I'm listening to all 50 of Rolling Stone's top 50 singles of 2010, having heard hardly any of them till just now. You can read 41–50 here, 31–40 here, and 21–30 here. Now: 11–20. Honesty follows…
20. “Boyfriend” – Best Coast
The ruler-slapping grammarian in me finds this song annoying simply for its repeated refrain: “I wish he was my boyfriend” (were, dammit, were). This is a fairly appealing little mash-up of pop music tropes (“imagine Brian Wilson as a sensitive stoner girl,” Rolling Stone writes, and that’s dead on), buried in that tin-can production haze that’s supposed to be…authentic? Enigmatic? I can’t tell. Combined with the singer’s wholly unexceptional whine, it makes the song a little too annoying for its own good. But it gets in and out in a brisk 2:31, so no harm done. (Why this band has inspired a fervent cult, however, is beyond me, but I think I need to get used to that feeling.)
19. “Your Hands (Together)” – The New Pornographers
Perhaps the saddest thing about my withdrawal from the pop-music scene is the fact that even when I become a fan of a band, I fail to keep up with them; I’m routinely hearing about a supposed favorite group of mine’s new album months after the rest of the world has consumed it, let alone its legions of Internet acolytes. Example: the New Pornographers, whom I’ve enjoyed quite a bit for at least seven years (I remember this song really grabbing me in the early days of the Big Quiz Thing—I squeezed it into the first Canada Day audio round, stumping nearly everyone). I had no inkling this new song existed till just now. Give me a minute while I start following them on Twitter. (Now follow me.)
The New Pornos have a great, quirky sound, outstanding melodies and tight-as-hell musicianship, and this song is no exception, but I don’t think this is their best effort. My initial reaction is that it’s a good idea needing development; the entire song sounds like the bridge of a much better song. Wait, let me listen to it again…
Yeah, not doing it for me. Try this instead.
18. “Scissor Runner” – Jenny and Johnny
Calling your act “Jenny and Johnny” makes me want to hate you, though I suppose I can stomach it if you actually consist of a woman named Jenny and a man named Johnny. These two have a great way with a melody and terrific vocal interplay; I was going to critique Jenny's voice, seeing as how it sounds like nearly every indie-pop queen of the past ten years, but then I discovered that she's the gal from Rilo Kiley, so she pretty much is every indie-pop gal of the past ten years. Still, I just cannot get excited by this, though I forgive them for the duo name.
17. “I Can Change” – LCD Soundsystem
The LCD Soundsystem guy (I believe it’s just one guy, but again, doing hardly any research here) clearly loved Depeche Mode and the Human League as a kid, but thought those guys weren’t trying hard enough to get laid. So here you go: a catchy repeating techno backline fronted with overemotional, milky vocals. This is far more human than I expected from this act, and fun, but it seriously overstays its welcome, which undercuts the humanity of it and makes it sound like just another slice of computerized product.
16. “Coffee Spoon” – Cold War Kids
I really enjoy the sound of this one; the muted dancing guitar figures, the white-guy soulful voice, the perfect female backing vocals. A really beautiful gem held together nicely by throwback musical sounds. Then I looked up the lyrics, and welcome to pretension-o-rama: “Ascetic wring their hands, this decadent misuse/Inside my china room you are my coffee spoon.” I don’t think it’s complete gibberish—I think I could puzzle it out if I wanted to make the effort—but I don’t quite have the patience. But I’ve always had a talent for ignoring bad lyrics in favor of catchy music (hell, I used to like the Goo Goo Dolls), so I’ll let it pass and put this song in the plus column.
15. “Over” – Drake
Ah, the rapper laments the struggles and tragedies of fame. Hard to do this in a fresh and original way these days, especially when you’re as lyrically dopey as Drake. He just doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to make his words work together in a coherent fashion, rambling with confidence but not eloquence. Lucky for him, he does it all over a great symphony of samples and instruments, with shifting time signatures that really command the attention. Still, cry me a river, millionaire.
14. “Shutterbugg” – Big Boi feat. Cutty
Icy electro rhythms that sound straight out of a vodka commercial, but appealingly so. Big Boi—the other guy in OutKast, from my POV—has a lyrical confidence, and an impressively speedy flow. Lots going on here, in a good way. I’m never going to love something like this, but I do like it.
13. “Hustle and Cuss” – The Dead Weather
I never could get with the White Stripes, though I always admired Jack White’s appreciation for that undefinable classic-rock flavor. This is his side project, the Dead Weather, with a hellion female lead vocalist, and it has that same element: the dark, heavy overtone of an Iron Butterfly song, with a lot more personality. But it also has what I perceive to be the White Stripes greatest flaws, a dulling repetitiveness and slight pretension. They hustle and cuss and lick on the dust, I take it, many, many times, whatever the hell that happens to be. Another example of a good idea that isn’t really taken anywhere worth going.
12. “Bang Bang Bang" --Mark Ronson and the Business International feat. Q-Tip and MNDR
That took too long to type. Another genre mash-up—ultra-white Euro-techno and hip-hop— with an excellent melodic hook in the chorus. The song takes “Alouette” as its point of departure, cleverly. But ultimately this is too sterile to appeal beyond the level of a novelty. I feel like too many modern musicians are in the business to impress people with their talent, and not so much to express something emotionally—they’re stuntpeople, rather than artists.
11. “Everlasting Light” – The Black Keys
More falsetto vocals over hazy, chugging guitar rock. Maybe it’s me, but this is just another damn decent idea that some guy in a leather jacket pounds into the ground, to diminishing returns. Toward the end of the song, a crescendo begins, building the song to what will hopefully be some kind of cathartic payoff, but then it completely fizzles out in the wimpiest way conceivable. Do these guys have emotions or just interests?
Only ten to go! I bet those will be really, really awesome…