Remember that song that goes “Ela, Ela, Ela, eh, eh, eh, etc”? How about the one with that cool ink-blot video about the guy who didn’t know if he was crazy or not? Of course you do, because those songs will forever be identified with the year in which they were released, but what about this year? Which songs will you hear on the radio in a few months and say “that is sooooo ’08”?
Le Deuxième etape of the Flashlight’s Best Of series focuses on the songs that defined the year in which proximity to Russia qualified you to be Vice President, regardless of whether or not you could point out Australia on a map. Some of them were top 40 hits, others were underground successes, and one of them is about seven minutes long, but regardless of what genre of music you listen to, at least one of them is likely to remind you of the year 2008.
10)T.I.- Whatever You Like
About a month ago, I was in charge of the music at a friend’s house party. His iPod didn’t have much to choose from, so I wound up playing this song about eight times throughout the night, but nobody seemed to care. Every time it came on, people embraced each other and sang along, and five minutes after playing it, people would still come up to me and ask me to play it again (although that may be because they were pissed drunk and couldn’t remember that they had just heard it). Between this song and “Live Your Life (Feat. Rhianna)”, you couldn’t turn around without hearing T.I.’s southern drawl, and justifiably so. As I said before, his album “Paper Trail” is his best work to date, and one of the year’s best albums, so it’s only right that this song spent seven consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 100.
9) Kevin Rudolf (Feat. Lil’ Wayne)- Let It Rock
As soon as Producer/Singer/Guitarist Kevin Rudolf released this song, America embraced it. Upon being sent to New York’s own Z100 radio station the song quickly became the station’s most requested song, as well as the New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago markets. With no marketing or promotion, “Let It Rock” was featured by the NFL, the NBA, and Dancing With the Stars, until finally getting picked up by the Philadelphia Phillies, becoming the official song of the team’s World Series winning playoff run in 2008. Why did it become so successful? It could be the inclusion of feature-rapper-with-the-Midas-touch Lil’ Wayne, but it’s more likely that the song’s crossover appeal meant that it would be embraced by both hip hop and rock audiences. It has the swagger and production values of a rap song, but Rudolf’s subtle guitar licks and melodies denote a more danceable sound. Either way, this genre-defying track justly deserves it’s place amongst the year’s best songs.
8 ) Kings of Leon- Sex on Fire
This song went to number one in British, Australian and Irish charts. In fact, the only major English-speaking country it didn’t go to number one in was the band’s home, The United States. Nonetheless, it is still the Kings of Leon’s highest charting song in the U.S., and anyone who listens to K-Rock or any other alternative rock station has heard it at least once and fallen in love with it. Originally derided by both the band and the music press, the world embraced lead singer Caleb Followill’s vocals, and the song’s simplicity translated into a damn good pop song. Not bad for a bunch of boys raised by a Pentecostal minister.
7) Metallica- The Day That Never Comes
This album should be an honorable mention on our Best Albums list, as it is the best album the band’s put out since the Black Album, and this is the record’s finest moment. It may sound similar to “One” and “Fade to Black”, and it does have a similar structure, beginning as a slow-ballad before speeding up amid lead singer James Hetfield’s cries of “This I swear”, but it serves in reminding us of the band’s glory days, before the squabbles with Napster and the mediocrities that were their previous few albums. It serves in reminding us that this album is easily their best work in the last 17 years.
6) Estelle- American Boy
While Kanye spent the year whining about his problems through an auto-tune machine for his fourth album, he at least took the time to spit one decent verse in British singer Estelle’s immaculate “American Boy”. Produced by Will.i.am., who was also busy this year writing campaign songs for Barack Obama, the synth-heavy beat harks back to the days of the 1980’s, and there is nothing cooler than Estelle’s London accent giving shout-outs to every major American city, but what really makes this song is Kanye West’s rhyming skills, and it’s what made this song a hit. Shame his new album sucks.
5) Flobots- Handlebars
Sounding like a cross between Rage Against the Machine and Eminem, there are many elements that make this song into the classic that it is. Opening with a simple acoustic guitar and a gorgeous trumpet solo, the song builds and builds, until reaching a climax where lead MC Johnny 5 paints a picture of a tyrant’s mentality. The song’s hidden meaning is just as deep, contrasting humanity’s good will and talent with it’s drive to create technology that oppresses and kills people. At last, a successful song that makes you think!
4) The Ting Tings- That’s Not My Name
Sporting one of the catchiest choruses since Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey”, Manchester duo The Ting Tings not only achieved popularity in the UK with this avant-garde pop hit, but around the world, even gaining exposure from an iPod commercial and an urban legend that the song is about the singer Fergie (Whose real name is Stacy). Just try listening to it once without it getting stuck in your head, I dare you.
3) Coldplay- Violet Hill
I actually went and bought a vinyl version of this song because I loved it so much. Not bad for a band that three years ago was at the top of my list of bands that will be executed come the musical revolution. I was so in love with this song that it eventually spawned my interest in the band that I had so loathed years before. “Violet Hill” is not your typical top-40 song, and it’s not your typical Coldplay song either. There are no delicate, Brian Eno-produced soundscapes, no sappy lyrics about love or space or time, and Chris Martin doesn’t sing in his trademark falsetto. Instead crashing guitar and piano chords interrupt the song’s marching tempo, and the lyrics “a carnival of idiots on show” and how a “fox became God” are in reference to Bill O’Reilly and Fox News, as well as the Bush Administration. Coldplay, I’m sorry I’ve ever doubted you.
2) MGMT- Time To Pretend
Trippy video, right? Well that’s MGMT for you. Before everyone started taking them seriously as stadium anthem writers, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were just two students at Wesleyan University making psychedelic pop music on their Yamaha keyboards and Macbook pros. Unlike all the other bands to come out of Brooklyn in the last few years, MGMT signed with major label Columbia instead of a smaller, indie label, which pretty much describes to you how ambitious they are. Time To Pretend embraces every cliche of rock and roll, proclaiming “Let’s move to Paris, shoot some heroin and fuck with the stars”, and in a way can be interpreted as the band’s manifesto, refusing to shy away from rock’s most worn-out stereotypes. After all, VanWyngarden sings, “If you’ve got the vision, why not have some fun?” The keyboard riff in the background is just as good, it’s “dee-dee-dee-do-do-dee-dee” melody is the song’s most memorable aspect. I have a feeling I’ll still be singing this song when I’m fifty.
1) M.I.A.- Paper Planes
You may have first heard it in the preview to Pineapple Express, or on the radio, or you may have known about it months and months before anyone else did, but at any rate, there is little more fun you can have than miming the chorus’ gunshots whilst drunk in a certain bar that shares names with a song from Fiddler on the Roof. There is no way to hate this song. Recorded in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, M.I.A. satirizes middle America’s fear of illegal immigrants over a sample of The Clash’s “Straight to Hell”. By the time M.I.A. proclaims that she has “More records than the KGB”, you’re bobbing your head along with the beat, if not waving your drink in the air and singing along to the refrain of “Some, some, some of them I murder, then some, some I let go”. It’s about time an artist as innovative and talented as M.I.A. finds mainstream success, and its all due to the trailer for a stoner comedy.
So there you go, the top ten anthems de l’an 2008. Comment if you disagree, but don’t ask me why I didn’t include Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl”. Katy Perry is a shitty singer capitalizing off of horny teenage boys, and is the most overrated, hyped-up thing since the Segway Scooter. Sure, her song was popular, but it doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in even the same sentence as any of the songs on this list.
Tags: American Boy, Coldplay, Estelle, Flobots, Handlebars, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Kevin Rudolf, Kings of Leon, Let It Rock, Lil' Wayne, M.I.A., Mario Vergara, Metallica, MGMT, Paper Planes, Sex on Fire, Songs, T.I., That's Not My Name, The Day That Never Comes, The Ting Tings, Time to Pretend, Top 10 Lists, Violet Hill, Whatever You Like