Posted by: Dave on January 2, 2009 at 10:32 am

FloRidaLowIt’s certainly not unprecedented for my #1 song of the year to be one of the biggest popular hits of the past 12 months (In 2002, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” topped the list. In 2003, Outkast’s “Hey Ya!” ruled supreme. And in 2006, Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” was crowned champion. All monster singles). But each of those artists are highly respected, quality-album making, innovative, career artists.

What’s a little odd about this year’s #1 song is that it comes from a new rapper, who put out a lackluster debut album and has a questionable future in music. But he – Flo Rida – and his cohort – T-Pain, one of music’s most prolific hitmakers of the last two years – did come together for one massive, perfect, dance party anthem – “Low.” Not only was it the most popular song of the year (based on Billboard Hot 100 success and digital sales), but it had the best sing-along chorus of the year, rapid-fire, infectious verses and memorably entertaining lyrics from start to finish. No, it wasn’t particularly complex or intellectually stimulating, but in a so-so year for quality individual songs, “Low” rose above the rest.

The song’s closest competition (looking at #2 through #5 on the year-end list) came from a variety of seasoned veterans who – unlike Flo Rida – are no stranger to critical acclaim (from me…and certainly others, as well).

The Mars Volta had both my #1 and #2 songs of 2005, and their challenging, boundary pushing music yielded them another big score with the #2 song this year – “Goliath.” Gnarls Barkley had my top song in 2006 (as I mentioned before) and landed two songs in this year’s Top 20. Throughout the ‘80s, Metallica created some of the greatest heavy metal songs of all time, but they hadn’t made top-notch music in two decades. This year, by revisiting their signature ‘80s sound, they recaptured much of the magic of their heyday and delivered the epic, instant classic at #4. And Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes) has consistently made stellar music throughout this decade. As Bright Eyes, he put one song on my Top 20 list in 2000 and two songs on the year-end lists in 2002, 2005 and 2007. As a solo artist (which isn’t really different than his Bright Eyes work), he strikes again with the simultaneously dark and rollicking “I Don’t Want To Die (In the Hospital).”

The list below reflects the best songs from albums released between December 1, 2007 and November 30, 2008 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:

Click hear to sample or buy the iTunes iMix for New Music Nation’s Top 20 Songs of 2008

1. Flo Rida featuring T-Pain “Low” Mail On Sunday/Step Up 2 The Streets Soundtrack (Atlantic)

2. The Mars Volta “Goliath” The Bedlam In Goliath (Universal)

3. Gnarls Barkley “Run (I’m A Natural Disaster)” The Odd Couple (Atlantic)

4. Metallica “That Was Just Your Life” Death Magnetic (Warner Brothers)

5. Conor Oberst “I Don’t Want To Die (In the Hospital)” Conor Oberst (Merge)

6. Rihanna “Disturbia” Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded (Island/Def Jam)

7. Nas “Sly Fox” [Untitled] (Def Jam)

8. Dizzee Rascal featuring UGK “Where’s Da G’s” Maths & English (Definitive Jux)

9. Marnie Stern “The Package Is Wrapped” This Is It & I Am It… (Kill Rock Stars)

10. Adele “Could Shoulder” 19 (XL/Columbia)

11. My Morning Jacket “Thank You Too!” Evil Urges (ATO)

12. Lady GaGa “Summerboy” The Fame (Interscope)

13. Keane “Spiralling” Perfect Symmetry (Interscope)

14. Lyfe Jennings featuring Snoop Dogg “Old School” Lyfe Change (Sony)

15. The Baseball Project “Harvey Haddix” Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (Yep Roc)

16. Bun B “Get Cha Issue” II Trill (Rap-A-Lot)

17. Gnarls Barkley “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul?” The Odd Couple (Atlantic)

18. The Game featuring Bilal “Cali Sunshine” LAX (Geffen/Interscope)

19. Kate Nash “Foundations” Made of Bricks (Interscope)

20. Guns N’ Roses “Sorry” Chinese Democracy (Geffen)

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