The highest ranking rock-ish songs on my list this year are from an all-female, historically country group (Dixie Chicks) and a Hasidic reggae artist (Matisyahu). If you would have told me this would be the case at the beginning of the year, I would have been pretty skeptical.
Some thoughts on my Top 5:
5. Dixie Chicks “Not Ready To Make Nice” - An intense song that deals with the career-altering fallout from frontwoman Natalie Maines minor, anti-Bush comment. The excellent documentary, Shut Up & Sing, follows the incident and its aftermath. Seeing it will likely add to your appreciation of the song and their most recent album, Taking the Long Way.
4. Matisyahu “Youth” – Yes, he’s a Hasidic reggae artist. Sounds gimmicky, but he’s got the chops and the passion to make it work. I don’t listen to much reggae, but his rock crossover elements and Americanized diction speak to me…loudly. He’s the only artist with two songs in my Top 10 this year.
3. Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon “Kilo” – One of the catchiest and most educational drug-dealing, rap anthems of all time.
2. Black Ice “The Ugly Show” – The Def Poetry Jam veteran released his first hip hop album this year. Naturally, he’s more articulate than most rappers in the game. This post-Katrina reaction song is stunning and chilling.
1. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” – The vintage soulful flavor, modern flourishes, memorable melody and thought-provoking lyrics made this ubiquitous one a popular pick for song of the year. What’s most fascinating to me is that “Crazy” is so good that it tricked people into thinking St. Elsewhere is a great album. Yes, it has a couple other highlights like “Just A Thought” and “Boogie Monster,” and it’s all interesting and ambitious. But if it weren’t for “Crazy,” St. Elsewhere would have remained way under the radar and off most people’s Best-of lists.
Enjoy the rest of my Top 20. These are the best songs from albums released between December 1, 2005 and November 30, 2006 in the United States. As I do every year, I factored in the following criteria when ranking the top songs: originality, composition/arrangement/production, lyrics, catchiness/memorability, energy, emotion.
If you plan to buy any of these songs on iTunes based on my recommendation, please use the link below:
1. Gnarls Barkley “Crazy” St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
2. Black Ice “The Ugly Show” The Death of Willie Lynch (Koch)
3. Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon “Kilo” Fishscale (Def Jam)
4. Matisyahu “Youth” Youth (Epic/JDub)
5. Dixie Chicks “Not Ready To Make Nice” Taking the Long Way (Open Wide/Columbia)
6. Outkast “Mighty ‘O’” Idlewild (La Face)
7. Matisyahu “Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth” Youth (Epic/JDub)
8. The Evens “Cut From the Cloth” Get Evens (Dischord)
9. The Decemberists “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)” The Crane Wife (Capitol)
10. Christina Aguilera “Ain’t No Other Man” Back to Basics (RCA)
11. Clipse “Dirty Money” Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up Gang/Star Trak/Zomba)
12. The Rapture “Get Myself Into It” Pieces of the People We Love (Universal Motown)
13. Blood Brothers “Laser Life” Young Machetes (V2)
14. TV On the Radio “Wolf Like Me” Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)
15. Cold War Kids “We Used to Vacation” Robbers & Cowards (Downtown)
16. Driveblind “I Know You” Driveblind (Geffen)
17. Belle and Sebastian “The Blues Are Still Blue” The Life Pursuit (Matador)
18. The Roots “Here I Come” Game Theory (Def Jam)
19. TV On the Radio “Hours” Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope)
20. Lupe Fiasco “Kick, Push” Food & Liquor (Atlantic)