Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 2

40. Lethal B feat. a million dudes: Forward. This track sounds like its own seething, roiling, violent world. I kind of think of it like "Still Tippin'"; it's this peek into a local aesthetic that I'm totally into without knowing anything much about it. If I'd made this list after hearing this song a few more times, it would've been top twenty, maybe top ten. The beat sounds like a block full of car doors slamming at almost the same time while a little kid jumps up and down on a giant synthesizer like in "Big". There are ten rappers on here, and all of them are awesome.

39. The Streets: Fit But You Know It. I don't follow this song at all. Like, I don't know what Mike Skinner is saying or what the story of the song is or who the white-shirted man is. In the grand scheme of the album, I have no idea what this is doing there. But it sounds right; the guitar stomp sounds like beer sloshing around in your skull, and Skinner sounds like he's off his head, confused, not sure what he's saying. It's fun!

38. Kanye West: The New Workout Plan. When I was making this list and my albums list, I had to deal with The Kanye Problem. I loved "Jesus Walks" when I first heard it, I loved The College Dropout when it first dropped, but goddam Kanye has gotten on my nerves so much over the past seven months or so, talking about how he deserves every good review and award and magazine cover and getting hot when someone has the temerity to deny him any of these things, ruining the best joke in "Jesus Walks" ("y'all eat pieces of shit") by having a defiant prisoner say it to some evil guard in the video before getting beat down. But there's none of that in "The New Workout Plan"; it's just a ridiculous blast of silly stupid fun, no rapping except for the beginning and then a whole lot of talking and chanting about nothing and Roger Troutman singing and clapping and guitar breakdown stuff and that violin, it's nice, it's fun. (College Dropout got to I think #15 on my albums list, "Family Business" would've been top ten if it was a single.)

37. Too Short: Burn Rubber. I don't even know if this was a proper single. Did Lil Jon produce it? I think I read somewhere that he did. This track should've been huge, but I think it just made a couple of mixtape rounds. Did Too Short even put out an album? This should've been his "99 Problems" or "Friday Night": fake beefed-up old school, big clap samples, chilly bells, "pleah" noises scratched in. Short sounds absolutely cold, hard, evil, just like always. Says something about Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty!

36. Cam'Ron: Get 'Em Girls. Howling choirs of the damned, speedy funeral drums, maybe the best rap wordplay this year. Nobody ever talks about Cam's voice on this song: not sounding as self-assured as usual even if his words are, there's quiet fear in there, like the girl from Nightmare on Elm Street fronting tough to Freddy even though she's scared to death. He's not the king of this stuff, he's the dude standing up to the choir, facing it down, not letting his game face slip. Slowly building up his confidence until the "who could fuck with me" line, and then he's ready to fight. The first verse sounds like Tricky to me for some reason: non sequitor repeat-syllable wordplay delivered with a wound-up paranoid edge over cold, apocalyptic music.

35. Nelly feat. Tim McGraw: Over and Over. These two probably would've made more headlines and drawn more money if they'd done some Super Bowl halftime show ish, singing on the roof of an Escalade in Vegas in the video. But it's a sad and lovely song, unhurried, unrushed, nothing to prove, beautiful. The first time I heard it, I wasn't always sure who sang which parts. I love that clicky drum track and the little guitar bings and the part where McGraw gets all choked up like "can't go on not loving you" through that filter that makes it sound like he's shouting from the next building over.

34. Liquid Liquid: Bellhead. "Bellhead" doesn't sound like it was made by a band. It sounds like it was made by a drumline of crunked-out elves with whistles and vibraphones and scary drugs. It moves and wiggles and undulates and bounces and twerks and glistens.

33. Nas: Thief's Theme. Slow, creeping, right on the edge. Look over your shoulder. There's nothing there, but you could've sworn you heard something. What are you doing? Why are you alone, this part of town, this time of night? Don't you fucking know better? You've lived here for how long? Did you really need that pack of cigarettes? It's cold, huddle up, pull your hood up. Grit your teeth. You're almost there.

32. Avril Lavigne: My Happy Ending. "I Miss You" was a great middle-school tantrum, but it's nothing next to the pure undiluted brattiness of "My Happy Ending". Avril maybe thinks she's making a grand, sweeping, cinematic declaration of sorrow, but she's really just slumped in the corner, sticking out her lower lip to blow the hair off her forehead. "Mom, shut up, you don't understand, he was everything everything that I wanted." That sharp Canadian Alanis accent, vowels sound pointy. You want to lock your door, sit in your room, "No Mom, I'm not coming to dinner, I'm not hungry, why can't you just leave me alone, god!"

31. Lil Wyte: I Sho Will. Honky. The horns on the beat sound honky. They honk. Lil Wyte is the whitest rapper since, I don't know, Paul Barman. "I gotta rip this mic from California to Maine." Maine? He treats a DJ Paul/Juicy J club banger like it was um Anticon or something, except he's a poor dirt-stache Southern kid so he's got something to prove, got the swagger and the anger and the defensiveness and the weird goofy sense of humor. Not even Bubba Sparxxx would talk about being the Willie Nelson of the next generation or talk about "Hypnotizzle run the shizzle" or beat up big giant white guys in the video. I can't remember the last time I heard someone so amped and amazed that someone would let him into the studio and put out his record.