The top song of 2010 was heavier than the rest of the best. Even Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" sounds like a sunny summer day next to Kanye West's epic-length tribute to dickheads. "Runaway" certainly doesn't sound like anything else released this year, but it's an appropriate starting point to the 10 songs you should add to your playlist. Raise your glasses ...
Kanye West featuring Pusha T
Hip-hop isn't the most self-effacing of genres. In fact, you rarely find a "Creep"- or "Loser"-style slab of self-reflection among all the club-hopping and coke-pushing. So when West hoists his glass and proposes a toast to the "douchebags" and "assholes," knowing very well he's at the head of the table, it's a pivotal moment indeed. And that's just the first half of this nine-minute song, which freefalls into a guitar/AutoTune/noise mashup of epic proportions.
2. "Dance Yrself Clean"
It takes more than three minutes for the first cut on LCD Soundsystem's third album to make itself known. It slowly builds, barely audible, until it erupts in a storm of synths, drums, and voices that's all about redemption on the dance floor. This Is Happening is all over the place. "Dance Yrself Clean" is the cut that not only signals the album's intentions, but also holds it all together.
3. "Fuck You"
Cee Lo Green
The year's catchiest tune paired with the year's best (and most direct) kiss-off. Gnarls Barkley's singer gets all bitchy after his girlfriend leaves him for another guy. "I see you driving round town with the girl I love, and I'm like, fuck you," he sings in that sweet, warbling voice. We'll take Cee Lo's word that he's crushed, because he certainly doesn't sound all that bummed out.
B.o.B featuring Hayley Williams
The whole rap-verses-with-pop-choruses thing is sorta played out (see "Love the Way You Lie" below), but this collaboration between the alt-rapper and Paramore's frontwoman was inescapable for good reason. B.o.B rolls through the hassles of fortune and fame ("Somebody take me back to the days before this was a job, before I got paid"), with Williams soaring in on superpowered wings for the song's monster hook: "I could really use a wish right now."
Yeah, we know — fame sucks. Pop stars have been bitching about it forever. And yeah, Drake was bitching about it before his hip-hop career hit the stratosphere. But over a beat that's part celebratory, part resignation, he sings, "I know way too many people here right now that I didn't know last year/Who the fuck are y'all?" in a voice dripping with grief. In a genre that rarely reveals vulnerability, "Over" sounds like a quiet achievement.
6. "Love the Way You Lie"
Eminem featuring Rihanna
Eminem sealed his comeback with this monster hit about a lethal relationship. Whom do we root for? They're both victims and both abusive a-holes: "There will be no next time ... If she ever tries to fucking leave again, I'm gonna tie her to the bed and set the house on fire." Be sure to check out part two on Rihanna's album.
7. "California Gurls"
Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg
Of course Perry released this right at the start of summer. And of course it sounded great on the radio. That was the plan all along. "California Gurls" is aural cotton candy: overly sweet, fluffy, but oddly substance-free, and it will make parts of your body hurt if you ingest too much. But it's loads of fun, and the part where Snoop drops in after Perry name-checks him is all chewy meta.
8. "Tik Tok"
In a little more than three minutes, Ke$ha compares herself to Diddy, brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack, and kick-starts a party with her mere presence. Ke$ha's debut song introduced us to one of the year's most polarizing artists. Nope, she can't rap, and she's about as deep as a Little Tikes kiddie pool. But this is where all the sexy kids hung out in 2010.
9. "Ambling Alp"
These Brooklyn indie poppers are way more accessible than many groups coming out of Hipster Central. Their second album, Odd Blood, is filled with vintage synth-pop riffs and gooey hooks. And none is as insistent as the one driving this word of advice from father to son. It's a song of hope, perseverance, and self-reliance ("stick up for yourself, son, never mind what anybody else done") that even too-cool-for-you d-bags can get behind.
Parts of Swift's third album show the scars from growing pains. But the first single is a shimmering slice of Big Pop about fairy tales coming true — the sort of thing we loved about her before she started dating famous people. "You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" is a great line from an artist who got a little too close to realizing how much it sucks to grow up.
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