Monday, December 22, 2008

The Eleven Top Ten Songs of 2008

This year I changed my methodology for calculating the top tracks of the last twelve months. Rather than striving for a representative sample of each album I loved, or each artist I was into, this year is strictly by the numbers. I looked at all the new music I acquired this year, compared the play counts, and ended up with this list as a result. The-Dream has five of the top ten songs, and makes an appearance on the sixth; while his was definitely my favorite album, and he sort of deserved that number one slot, it had to go to DK. The numbers don't lie. And with that, here you go:

11. Raheem DeVaughn and R. Kelly, "Customer (Remix)" This summer, when I was in the throes of bar exam-related depression and ennui, do you know who saved me? It was R. Kelly. Sure, he's had some legal troubles related to child pornography, but the man has talent. And he was acquitted. I already wrote about this song (and "Hair Braider," further up on the list) here, but I actually only added this song to my ipod a couple weeks ago. It is an honorary number 11; I still love it, I love everything about Kelly's verse, his ad libs, everything. Now I ain't tryin to smash or outshine nobody, but I just gotta be true, yeah. Doesn't everyone? I recite this line to my colleagues at work constantly.

10. Ryan Leslie, Cassie, and Fabolous, "Addiction" This is a great song to dance to. Textured beat, simple lyrics, long vocals. A great verse by Fabolous at the end, who really reemerged for me this year (between this song and "She Got Her Own"). If I wanted to live inside a music video, this might be one. This one is really fun to sing, too -- his range is right where I am. And this is the guy who produced Cassie's "Me & U" and "Long Way To Go"! Awesome production.

9. Mariah Carey, "For the Record" I was shocked that this song is on my top ten. I didn't think I liked it that much. I was disappointed with her album but this song jumped out at me with its catchy hook, crazy backward-sounding instrumentation and plaintive lyrics. I also feel, and maybe I'm wrong about this but I doubt it, that you could overlay parts of Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" into this song, and it would sound really nice. That's like a free remix I just gave you.

8. Mariah Carey, Rick Ross, and The-Dream, "Touch My Body (Remix)" Ok, this song redeemed Mariah Carey for me. This was another song that represented the freedom of summer, escaping bar exam prep and going to Chipotle for lunch, as I previously discussed. I found the original version of the song cloying and a little too chirpy and cute, but the remix dirtied it up and made it something to sink your teeth into. And those last few bars, with the chopped up synthesizer -- that's the heart of it, right there.

7. The-Dream, "Luv Songs" Ok, welcome to The-Dream love fest. I had no idea how much I loved so many of his songs. This was the album I listened to all winter and spring, and into the summer. It's one of the rare albums where I know basically every song; it's in the pantheon of my all-time favorites, like "Rhythm Nation" and "Parachutes" and "White Ladder" and "Justified." You know what brought out the beauty and genius of this song for me? Hearing the Chipmunks version on YouTube.

6. The-Dream, "I Luv Your Girl" I didn't like this song at first; as the fall progressed, it grew on me. The laidback vibe. The finger snapping. This song is all about eye contact across the room.

5. The-Dream, "She Needs My Love" This song is part of a suite of several songs on the album, all seamlessly blending into one another. The last minute of this song, when the beat changes, gaining intensity and urgency (Call 911 if my love ain't there -- love that line) and then dropping out, paving the way for something new.

4. R. Kelly, "Hair Braider" The beat of this song is so slow, so fat, so summer-like. I know this song is stupid and everybody hates it, but I loved it, even if it wasn't up to Kelly's usual standards.

3. The-Dream, "Falsetto" This was hands-down the sexiest song of the entire year. This song to me captured all of it, from the eyes to the bumping and grinding to the (how shall I put it) denouement. I loved the words of this song and I loved his lack of vanity in killing those high notes. I felt such a connection to this song that it shocked me to hear it on the radio or see it on tv; I thought this song was mine.

2. The-Dream, "Shawty is a 10" Hey! Party song! This one grew on me for several months. Gotta love the litany of names, the hands-in-the-air, the call and response. I sort of wanted this song to be number one, even though his voice sounds really pinched and rodent-like.

1. Danity Kane, "Damaged" Can't be denied. This song leeched onto me like a parasite for many months, as I discussed earlier. As the year progressed this song developed a surprising emotional resonance for me, and that's the reason it's number one. Behind the slick production and plasticky vocals, I was shocked to discover some real emotion, emotion that stuck in my gut for a long, long time. In some ways I feel like my relationship with this song traced the arc of the year. When I was sick of this song, I didn't need it anymore, and that was all the better. But it was a hell of a thing while it lasted, like the year itself.

With the old year behind us, now I'm looking forward to a winter with the new Kanye album and whatever else catches my attention. I love that feeling of discovering a new song and knowing that soon you will love it and know it inside and out, that you will enjoy it on the surface now, and that even later on, when you hear it you'll be reminded of this particular moment; but for now, you are content to let yourself be surprised and get lost in the beat, enjoying its foreignness and unexpected novelties, maybe later looking up the lyrics online or seeing what the kids are doing to the song in the dance studios and remixes on YouTube. All for that new song with quick lyrics and an eight-count beat.

Music makes me so damn happy.

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