With a little over a month left in 2010, I've been looking back at the music I've been listening to on a near constant repeat and I've compiled this list of my favorite songs of the year. I don't claim these as the year's best, but merely the songs that helped define my 2010.
10. “Telephone” - Lady Gaga featuring Beyonce
Released as a single in January this barely makes the cut. Lady Gaga is simultaneously a pop star and a satire of one that towers over contemporaries like Ke$ha and Katy Perry. Her songs are infectious, but under all the polish, strong songwriting. Check out Pomplamoose's cover of “Telephone” on YouTube to hear that there's more to the song than at first listen.
9. “I'm Awesome” - Spose
One of 2010's sleeper hits came from an unexpected source: a 25-year rapper from Maine. The endearingly low-fi production and tongue-in-cheek rhymes make for a goofy dig at the over-the-top boasting that has always been a fixture of hip hop music.
8. “Fuck You!” - Cee-Lo Green
This song, a throwback to R&B and soul of the 1970s, is every bit as good as “Crazy,” Cee-Lo Green's huge 2005 crossover hit with Gnarls Barkley. With Green's powerhouse vocals and offbeat lyrics like “Yeah I'm sorry, I can't afford a Ferrari, But that don't mean I can't get you there” make this a fresh, fun track. Gwyneth Paltrow also did a knockout version of it on “Glee.”
7. “In the Sun” - She & Him
Actress Zooey Deschanel and folk/country singer M. Ward returned in 2010 with their follow up to their 2008 debut. When actors decide to become musicians it is often dubious at best, but Deschanel's vocal have a unique flavoring that when paired with a nostalgic sound and witty lyrics make for a combo that's hard to deny.
6. “Wheels” - Jamie Cullum
For many this jazz pop artist is just the English Harry Connick Jr., and while he is quite willing to croon the standards, he also has an ear for crafting his own sweeping pop songs in the vein of 1970s piano based rockers like Elton John and Billie Joel. “Wheels” has a piano part that grabs instantly and builds to a sweeping chorus.
5. “Garbage Truck” - Sex Bob-Omb
Written by Beck for a fictional band in the movie “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World” this is the probably the first love song ever written from the perspective of a sanitation worker. Clocking in at less than two-minutes it is a quick burst of pure garage band rock.
4. “From Above” - Ben Folds and Nick Hornby
Singer/songwriter Ben Folds teamed with author Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”) for the album “Lonely Avenue” with Folds providing music to Hornby's lyrics. Not unsurprisingly, the lyrics are like short stories in song format. “From Above” tells the story of a pair of soul mates that go through life just missing each other. The melancholy lyrics are infused with an upbeat sound to create a pop song with substance.
3. “Stylo” - Gorillaz
Gorillaz, the cartoon band created by Blur's Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett in 2000, has very much turned into the real deal. From the beginning the band's sound was a mixing pot of different genres, but on their third album, “Plastic Beach,” the combination of pop, rock, hip hop, soul and New Wave is at its most cohesive yet. “Stylo” features a driving synth hook and excellent guest performances by Bobby Womack and Mos Def.
2. “Four Seconds” - Barenaked Ladies
Steve Page, one of the primary songwriters and localists recently left the band, but his absence is not felt on their 2010 release “All in Good Time,” which features their typical blend of cheery pop with alternatingly clever and sincere lyrics. “Four Seconds” is easily the most fun track on the album and brightens my mood every time I hear it.
1. “Fresh” - Devo
Yes, Devo, the band behind the song “Whip It,” put out their first album in 20 years and it is fantastic. Devo is often wrongly dismissed as a one-hit wonder novelty act, but the influences of their pioneering sound can be heard throughout the radio. The time was right for their return. Appropriately enough the album's first single “Fresh” didn't sound stale and the rest of the album is full of giant hooks and the band's signature idiosyncratic lyrics.