43

When Love Takes Over

David Guetta featuring Kelly Rowland

One Love (2009)

This was definitely a big year for David Guetta. The DJ, who had previously had quite a bit of club success with songs like “Love is Gone,” crossed over in a major way in 2009, producing the biggest chart hit of the year (Black Eyed Peas’ rather dreadful “I Gotta Feeling”), earning his first top ten in his own right (“Sexy Bitch” with Akon), and hitting a personal artistic best with “When Love Takes Over.” The song made me wonder why Kelly Rowland was never able to really kick her career into high gear like Beyonce, as she’s got an incredible voice and a good musical instinct (she also guests on 2 other songs on Guetta’s excellent “One Love” album). Right from the song’s opening piano arpeggio, it’s got you falling in love with it, while the lyrics convey that weird way that love can be both suffocating and liberating (“Head underwater / now I can’t breathe / it never felt so good”). This was the raise-your-hands-in-the-air club jam of the summer.

Also check out: “Rock That Body” by the Black Eyed Peas, also produced by Guetta – the only truly great song from their “The E.N.D.” album

29

The Girl and the Robot

Royksopp featuring Robyn

Junior (2009)

When I first heard this song, I thought it was a pretty solid electro pop song with a killer bassline. But that was about it. Then one line — and only that one line — kept coming back in my head: “I’m in love with a robot.” And I kept listening to the song. Over and over again. And it got better every time I heard it, until I realized that the whole track just nails it. Most pop songs basically hold your hand through the verses trying to get you to the chorus, and then repeat the chorus as often as possible. As with Robyn’s other entry on the countdown, this song has an odd structure that sidesteps that route. It ends up being that slight structural twist that, in a way, becomes the hook. Meanwhile, Royksopp have never been better — I hope they keep churning out material like “The Girl and the Robot.” Their last two albums have been masterpieces, and they deserve being one of only a handful of artists to grace this top 50 more than once.

Also check out: “Song 4 Mutya” by Groove Armada featuring Mutya Buena (also released as “Out of Control”)

9

Bad Romance

Lady Gaga

The Fame Monster (2009)

It’s fitting that in the opening scene of this video, white latex-covered dancers emerge from pods like aliens, because Lady Gaga certainly seems like she was dropped off here from another planet. She is easily the unlikeliest pop star of the past few years, as her bizarre styling, unabashedly gay pop, and just general freakishness don’t really scream “#1 pop star.” But this living piece of performance art has dominated all of 2009, and “Bad Romance” is pretty much the epitome of the cult of Gaga. The song itself is chock full of catchy hooks and insta-quotes (the Hitchock references particularly slay me: “I want your psycho / your vertigo shtick / want you in my rear window / baby it’s sick”), while the video cobbles together an endless stream of jaw-dropping costumes and slick choreography. It’s a little hard to really judge this song without a little more time to test its endurance, but considering how it seems to have even gotten many Gaga-haters to concede her talent, I think it’s likely it will go down as a modern pop masterpiece.

Also check out: “Whatever Makes You Happy” by the Sugababes – an act that sadly never broke through in the U.S.