This was an interesting year in music, as many of them are. Let’s take a look at some of the standouts, in no particular order. All opinions are final.
Best Video: Charlotte Gainsbourg Ft. Beck – Heaven Can Wait
This is an epically constructed orgy of non sequiturs. Every time you watch it, there’s something new to notice. My favorite is probably the guy running away from the axe, although fat kid playing the guitar is good too. America’s favorite scientologist‘s videos weren’t always this fancy.
Honorable Mention: Beyoncé – Single Ladies.
In your face, Kanye West.
Funniest song: The Lonely Island – Jizz in My Pants
Ok, so technically this was from last December, but it still deserves some recognition. What separates this from other parodies is that production values are superb, and more importantly, this is actually one of the catchier dance songs in recent memory. Bonus points for pronouncing the word “saw” as “sawr” multiple times.
Honorable Mention: Das Racist – Combination Pizza Bell Taco Hut
So stupid (stupid awesome!) it can’t be denied
Best rap song: Cam’ron – My Job
This definitely had the best Elton John sample (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” as seen here with Muppets backing Sir Elton) of any rap song this year).
Most Depressing Song: The Antlers – Two
This is a more of a cumulative award for their (deservedly) critically acclaimed album, Hospice. I’ll let wikipedia explain what that’s all about:
The album tells an explicit story (in first and second person narrative) of a man meeting a depressed and abusive bone cancer patient in the Sloan Kettering Cancer Ward where he is working, falling in love, and eventually watching her die while he is beside her. Memories, regret and grief reccur throughout the album.
That last sentence seems a little gratuitous. Also, that very same page includes the interesting factoid that their singer wrote the album over two years of social isolation. In Brooklyn. How is that even possible?
Honorable Mention: The rest of that album. Give it a listen though, it really is quite good.
Most European Song: Mew – Beach
This one has it all: a Danish band with a three letter name releases an album with a 23-word title, a song whose title does not appear anywhere in the lyrics, vaguely peppy electronic beats, and to top it all off, a surrealist video. Slant Magazine’s review of their album pretty much sums it up:
Mew is not as thoughtful or smart as they think they are, but the force of their conviction is inspiring.
Yes, there is little more inspiring than people overly-convinced of their own self-worth.
Honorable Mention: Pete(r) Doherty – 1939 Returning
This is a song by a British guy told from the perspective of a German soldier returning home in 1939. Presumably much of the conflict is his war buddies being mad that he’s leaving at the beginning of the war. Also, the much maligned Pete/Peter didn’t exactly endear himself to Germany this year.
Least European European song: Phoenix – Lisztomania
Ok, it is about Franz Liszt, but these guys are French? Where are the accents?
Honorable Mention: Bat for Lashes – Daniel.
For reasons unclear to me, the director elected to go with “dystopian Fruit of the Loom ad” as the central theme of the video.
Best Pop Song: Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is the Move
If you can ignore the terrible choreography in this video, and the fact that the lead singer here resembles one of those pod people from Minority Report, there is a terrific pop song there. As a bonus, Beyoncé’s sister Solange covered it. Dirty Projectors’ album Bitte Orca was the subject of an interesting recent profile in the New Yorker, which basically praised them for finally getting their act together and making a coherent album. It’s hard to argue with that, considering they once made an album that was, per wikipedia, “an attempt by band leader Dave Longstreth to remember and reinterpret the entire Black Flag album Damaged after not hearing it for almost 15 years.”
Honorable Mention: Neko Case – People Gotta Lotta Nerve
Forcefully delivered, she has a great voice. It’s hard not to hum along to.
Best Song about a Library: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Young Adult Friction
Man, this song has a lot of library/book puns. There’s the title, then also some about spines, and the “don’t check me out” chant toward the end.
Honorable Mention: Camera Obscura – French Navy.
That’s right, I came up with two songs about libraries. This one has fewer puns.
Best Rock Song: White Rabbits – Percussion Gun
Great song, backing a very good album, but they lack a hook as a group. They seem like a bunch of regular dudes from Missouri. If they want to have any kind of career, getting some drug problems, accused of a few armed robberies and punching out a couple paparazzi might help. Pete Doherty’s good with this sort of thing.
Honorable Mention: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll.
Best Song That Is a Year: Yeasayer – 2080
It’s unclear what those chanting kids are saying, but it is catchy.
Honorable Mention: Phoenix – 1901
And I came up with two year songs! Bonus!
Worst Song: Black Eyed Peas – I Gotta Feeling
From the absurd repetition (note that the first minute and a half are basically the same two lines over and over again), to the uncomfortable coöpting of Hebrew words (Mazel Tov! L’chaim!), from the fact that the words don’t really rhyme, and when they do, sometimes it’s the same word to the fact that there are two extraneous members of the Black Eyed Peas, one of whom is legitimately frightening this was undoubtedly the worst song of the year. If there’s one lesson to take, it’s that any time a band releases an album with an acronym in its name (in this case, the E.N.D. stands for The Energy Never Dies), it’s going to be terrible. Note that Flo Rida did the same thing, calling his album R.O.O.T.S., which actually stood for Route of Overcoming the Struggle. Also, this was the longest-running number one single of 2008, with 14 weeks at the top of the charts.
(Dis)Honorable Mention: Black Eyed Peas – Boom Boom Pow
Despite being released in March 2009, this song includes the lyrics “I’m so 2008, you’re so 2000 and late. I should note here that this song immediately preceded “I Gotta Feeling” as the number one song in the country, and that they combined to hold that spot for a record setting 26 weeks. This meant there was a solid six months where you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing a Black Eyed Peas song (especially not Target, or anywhere that sells things). God Damn America!