Previous installments: #100-81 #80-61 #60-41 #40-21
20. Jessica Simpson 'I Think I'm In Love With You'
2000. From Sweet Kisses.
Of the four teen pop princesses who emerged in 1999-2000, Jessica Simpson (along with Brit, Xtina and Mandy Moore) gets the least amount of respect these days. I find it a shame that she's nothing more than tabloid fodder because underneath all of the Newlyweds, "dumb blonde" foolishness, there's a legitimate talent. When she gets a great pop song, she nails it (see also: 'A Little Bit,' 'With You,' 'Irresistible'). 'I Think I'm In Love With You,' sampling the fantastic hook from John Cougar Mellencamp's 'Jack & Diane,' is the perfect pop song, the embodiment of how I want to feel when I fall in love with someone. I want to sing that big note without a care in the world. One more than one occasion I've said that I love this song more than nearly every member of my extended family; it's still true and probably always will be.
19. Leona Lewis 'Run'
2008/9. From Spirit.
My only gripe with Britpop of the 2000's, a decade which saw the Brits deliver consistently more clever and creative pop music than us lazy Americans, is the way they constantly cover pop songs that had no business being covered (and the fact that they get to #1 again and again at an alarming rate). Just think of all Christmas #1's, X-Factor finalists/winners and charity singles that hit the top of the chart and then were quietly forgotten two weeks later. One of the very few exceptions to this rule is Leona Lewis's 'Run,' a cover of Snow Patrol's so-indie-it-hurts ballad. Leona turned this dire song into one of the biggest and most emotive power ballads since Celine Dion's heyday. Now, this how you cover a song.
18. Lady GaGa 'Bad Romance'
2009. From The Fame Monster.
A future classic. 'Bad Romance' is the moment everyone realized that GaGa wasn't fucking around.
17. Robyn featuring Kleerup 'With Every Heartbeat'
2008. From Robyn.
Whenever I hear some annoying twat complain about how shallow pop music is (especially in comparison with whatever precious indie shit they adore), I, first of all, want to shake them. After that, I would tell them to listen to Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat,' a searing, unconventional portrait of a broken heart that is unashamed of its pop roots. The way she repeats "And it hurts with every heartbeat" over and over at the end is more emotive and real than all of your "real" music put together.
16. Destiny's Child 'Say My Name'
2000. From The Writing's on the Wall.
America's premiere girl group bounced right back from the nasty departure of two of its members with 'Say My Name,' the song that solidified their then-burgeoning fame. I simply adore the way this song plays around with tempo and pacing, oscillating back and forth, constantly surprising with what's coming next. Bonus points for that iconic music video--which girl's room do you want to be in?
15. Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland 'SexyBack'
2006. From FutureSex/LoveSounds.
This song should have gotten old quickly. Thankfully, it hasn't. I can still listen to JT's sexy growling and Timbaland's constant "Yup!" and never get sick of it.
14. Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z 'Crazy in Love'
2003. From Dangerously in Love.
I don't fall head over heels in love with a song on first listen, but 'Crazy in Love' had me right from that opening trumpet wail. Beyoncé always had star power--'Crazy in Love' just proved that she had the ability to take over the pop world. Seven years later, we are still captivated by her.
13. Leona Lewis 'Bleeding Love'
2008. From Spirit.
My God, those lyrics! I simply can't get over how rich, emotive and surprisingly dark they are, even after hearing this song approximately 1400 times since its American debut in the spring of 2008. But this isn't the song's sole claim to success. Jesse McCartney, one of the song's co-writers, sang a version of it, but it never worked for me. Leona has this amazing knack to emote on my exact emotional level at all times. She turns 'Bleeding Love' from a great poem to an amazing musical experience.
12. Girls Aloud 'Sexy! No No No...'
2007. From Tangled Up.
The first Girls Aloud song I ever heard. What a way to start, hm? I love the absolutely relentless beat that gets heavier and heavier as the song moves along. It's so f-ing addictive, and I'm sure it is what made me a Girls Aloud convert right from the get-go (the insane punctuation in the song title sure didn't hurt either).
11. Mariah Carey 'We Belong Together'
2005. From The Emancipation of Mimi.
The moment America seemed to remember how much they truly loved Mariah after all those years of calling her crazy and washed up. I loved Mariah, even during those dark years (I still think Charmbracelet is an underrated album), but 'We Belong Together' reaffirmed those feelings like a renewal of marriage vows. A couple times a year, some R&B songstress tries to come out with a smooth R&B slow jam and try to out-Mariah Mariah. A couple times a year, those songs fail. No one does 'We Belong Together'-style balladeering better than the originator.
10. Kylie Minogue 'Love at First Sight'
2002. From Fever.
The idea of "love at first sight" is technically not a very groundbreaking concept in pop music. With 'Love at First Sight,' however, Kylie is able to capture that emotion like it was a startling breakthrough. In much the same way 'I Think I'm In Love With You' does, 'Love at First Sight' relates an idea or feeling that you hope to experience someday. Only pop music, I feel, has the power to take some emotion so mundane and make it completely zesty.
9. Ciara 'Like a Boy'
2007. From The Evolution.
Ciara stands up to all the wannabe gangsters and tough thugs in one of the cleverest take downs of this decade's rap culture...and no one pays attention. Sigh.
8. Missy Elliott 'Work It'
2002. From Under Construction.
This may not be Missy's most accomplished jam (which sounds like complaining about your least favorite track on Blackout), but it's the one I'm most fond of even after all these years. 'Work It' is Missy at the height of her powers, when she was making music for herself and having a damn good time doing it. The great thing was, everyone else was enjoying it too. 'Work It' was popular among my group of friends in high school, and I remember often talking about how insane and in-your-face this song is--especially that epic lyric in reverse during the chorus.
7. Amy Winehouse 'Rehab'
2006/7. From Back to Black.
Come back to the music world, Amy Winehouse, Amy Winehouse. This place simply isn't the same since your hasty, drug-induced departure. Who else but Amy Winehouse can make a song about refusing to get help for a drinking problem so beautiful and every so slightly sad at the same time (maybe Ke$ha, but less enthusiastically and soulfully)? I will never give up on this woman and her eventual re-ascension to the top of the music world.
6. P!nk 'Just Like a Pill'
2002. From M!ssundaztood.
P!nk's rebellious attitude had become her stock in trade by the time she released this single. Never before had she dabbled in such a dark, eerily moody place as she does in 'Just Like a Pill.' This song is often remembered only as a footnote after the twin mega-successes of 'Get the Party Started' and 'Don't Let Me Get Me,' but 'Just Like a Pill' stands on its own merits and showed the world a side of P!nk that hadn't been seen before.
5. Sugababes 'Push the Button'
2005. From Taller in More Ways.
The sexiest song ever recorded. I wasn't convinced at first, but now I want to make babies to this song.
4. Eve and Gwen Stefani 'Let Me Blow Ya Mind'
2001. From Scorpion.
The best example of post-Spice Girls "Girl Power." Rock and rap collide in this piercing take down of celebrity-hungry culture and rappers more concerned with bling than writing good rhymes. If only more people had paid attention to Eve's warning back in 2001, maybe we wouldn't have had to endure Souljaboy.
P.S. I know every word to this song. It's probably the only rap song I can say that about.
3. Kelly Clarkson 'Since U Been Gone'
2005. From Breakaway.
I'm sure this song is near the top, if not at the top, of everyone else's best of the decade list. But when a song has proven this influential (for good or for bad) and this monumental in such a short span of time, there's nothing left but to give it due credit and follow consensus. Never have I been happier to follow a trend.
2. Girls Aloud 'Biology'
2005. From Chemistry.
I still remember the moment when I realized 'Biology' was one of the greatest songs I had ever heard. I was driving home from work one random night, listening to my Girls Aloud mix CD. I had always liked 'Biology,' but something happened with the song that gave me chills. As weird as it may sound, I felt like I was having some grand epiphany of sorts. This is what pop music is about.
I love the way 'Biology' keeps on playing with your expectations without you even realizing it. The structure doesn't follow the typical verse/bridge/chorus we've come to expect from a three and a half minute pop song. Then, there's the way the first verse builds up to a heated, sexual frenzy, pausing more seductively with each "Closer," only to, for lack of a better expression, give you blue balls with the abstinence-friendly second verse. How many songs do you know that can take you up and then take you down like that all in a matter of seconds?
1. Nelly Furtado 'Say It Right'
2007. From Loose.
Surprised that a semi-serious song from everyone's favorite Canadian warbler is my favorite of the entire decade? I was rather surprised myself when I sat down to make this list that I kept coming back to this one as the song I felt most strongly about, the one that defined the whole decade for me. 'Say It Right' is a perfect, and admittedly strange, combination of mid-90's hip-hop, Eurthymics-style 80's synth pop, late 2000's American pop and East Asian zen. Add to that conflicting pile of influences the fact that I, nor even Nelly herself, knows exactly what this song is about or trying to be about. That hardly matters in the long run, though. When you have a song as mysteriously vague as 'Say It Right,' it's more fun trying to dissect its meaning rather than knowing straight off. For this reason (plus the fact that it's compulsively listenable), 'Say It Right' is officially my favorite song of the 2000's.