41

Disco Science

Mirwais

Production (2000)

Music is generally a passive experience — it doesn’t really take any effort to listen a song. “Disco Science” is an exception. Beyond the “mm-mm” Cannonballs sample, the song is completely instrumental, and when that screaming siren finally comes in for the “chorus,” it practically dares you to keep listening. It is not, in itself, a particularly appealing sound – kind of like a fire alarm – and there is pretty much no way to have this song on “in the background.” But the sinister bassline and whip-like percussion that leads to it turn that noise into the more fable-like version of a siren – something that irresistably calls you to it (potentially to your demise). I’ve never taken drugs, but I imagine this is the kind of dance song that could make you completely trip out.

Also check out: Mirwais’s side project Y.A.S., which takes his trademark catchy electro and combines it with Arabic vocals

36

Fuck the Pain Away

Peaches

The Teaches of Peaches (2000)

If the title alone wasn’t enough, the first lyric in this song goes: “Sucking on my titties like you wanted me.” Yes, Peaches is one dirty bird, and she sure knows how to get your attention. Everything about this song is dirty — not just the lyrics, but the production, the bass-line, her voice, the hammering cymbals on the chorus — all of it. It sounds like it was recorded in a basement (it probably was, actually), and is powered by raw sexual energy that is both aggressive and desperate. (Side note: This is one of only two cover songs in my short-lived musical career that I have performed live — I mashed this up with my song “Everyone Wants to Feel Something” at a concert in Brooklyn.)

(I had never seen this video until just now – don’t know if it’s the official video but it’s amazing!) 

Also check out: Do you like crude sexual references, but crave a little more melody? Try “Pussy” by Brazilian Girls.

35

Music

Madonna

Music (2000)

Okay, in case you couldn’t guess it already, this is list is gonna be Madonna-heavy. She had a good decade, okay? Anyway, while many regard her 1998 “Ray of Light” album as the highwater mark of the newly electronic-leaning incarnation of Madonna, my preference has always been for the 2000 follow-up. When I first heard the song “Music,” it was genuinely unlike anything I had heard on the radio. The closest point of reference seemed to be Daft Punk, while others noticed similarities to early ’80s underground electro pop. Madonna gets a lot of flak for supposedly “stealing” the work of her producers and riding their talent, but I think that completely disregards the pop sensibility and songwriting prowess that she possesses. Not to mention the fact that bringing those cutting edge sounds into the mainstream, even if that ”edge” gets dulled a bit in the process, still encourages innovation in pop across the board. And this song — that single-note bassline drone, wildly vocoded hooks, and lyrics that swing from “do you like to boogie-woogie” to referencing the “bourgeoisie” — it deserved to become the giant hit it was. “Music” became her first #1 single in 5 years (and likely the last of her career), proving it really did “make the people come together.”

Also check out: Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” – another Daft Punk inspired sing-along.

10

B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)

Outkast

Stankonia (2000)

I’m noticing a theme on my list here — I’m most intrigued by pop artists who are willing to get a little weird. High on that list is easily the dynamic duo of Outkast. A more popular choice from them might have been “Hey Ya,” but that is one of the few cases in my life where a song I loved got SO overplayed that I am no longer able to listen to it at all, even 5 years after its release. Not the case for “B.O.B.,” which jumps right into its frantic 155 BPM beat (which is obscenely fast — a typical dance song is only in the 120s), and is scattered with easily chantable lyrics. After its first half, the song avoids a typical structure, bouncing from section to section with reckless abandon. The lyrics, as far as I can tell, are basically saying “go big or go home,” as both Andre 3000 and Big Boi reference the sacrifices they’ve made to pursure their career. I’m glad they did - we’re better off for it.

Also check out: “Universal Mind Control (UMC)” by Common – another clever entry in the dance-meets-hip-hop realm

6

Idioteque

Radiohead

Kid A (2000)

I’ll confess that a lot of the bands that major music publications salivate over just don’t excite me — but one notable exception is Radiohead. Much was made of their shift toward knob-twiddling electronics on “Kid A,” particularly in light of their much-lauded, rock-oriented “OK Computer” (maybe that album title was subconsciously prepping us for their future?). However I think it’s become clear in the years since that their stylistic explorations are not frivolous — it’s all in service of creating great music, regardless of the instruments involved. “Idioteque” was as far to the dance side of things as they let themselves go, but I’m glad they went there. The song, like much of “Kid A,” uses lo-fi to its great advantage, the beat at times sounding more like an accidentally dropped microphone than an actual drum loop. The lyrics are vaguely apocalyptic, but sometimes a song doesn’t so much tell a story as it does set a mood. I found “Idioteque” mesmerizing on my very first listen, and nearly ten years later that feeling has not changed one bit. (Note that, at this point in the countdown, any song in the top 6 could have ended up being my #1 — choosing one was incredibly difficult.)

Also check out: “Harrowdown Hill” from Thom Yorke’s solo effort

2

Don’t Tell Me

Madonna

Music (2000)

Of the 5 songs Madonna has on this list (by far more than any other artist), “Don’t Tell Me” might not be the first one that would come to mind if you were asked to name her most most memorable single of the decade. But this is a not a song that tries to put on a big show, it’s one that slowly wins you over until you want to hear it over and over again. While the lead single to “Music” didn’t really connect to her West-Meets-Electro look, “Don’t Tell Me” fully evoked that spirit in both its sound and its video. (The video is also one of the best of her entire career.) This song attempts to merge country with hip-hop, and amazingly, it succeeds. Madonna took the lyrics written by brother-in-law and alt-country artist Joe Henry for his love song “Stop,” re-arranged them to focus less on love and more on her own unstoppable spirit, and brought in the impeccable production of collaborator Mirwais (in fact, if you count his production work, he also makes 5 appearances on this list). The song’s guitar hook is made out of a chopped-up and re-edited progression, while the rest of the track is composed of little more than some wistfully playful strings and a mid-tempo beat fit for a line-dance. It sounds simple, but it all comes together with such effortless skill. The final third of “Don’t Tell Me” is an almost entirely instrumental coda, which could easily get boring after awhile. But every time I hear the song, I never want that addictive beat to end. You can “take the black off a crow,” “tell the sun not to shine,” or “tell the wind not to blow,” but you can’t ever tell Madonna to stop.

Also check out: The closest I’ve ever heard another artist get to succeeding at this style of folk-pop is Nelly Furtado’s “One Trick Pony”