There are only three rules here at Needs Further Review:
- Use as many Bachelor extended metaphors as possible without being awkward and transparent, and if it’s awkward and transparent, do it anyway;
- Reiterate whenever possible that Ted Cruz is a disingenuous, terrifying sociopath who should not be entrusted with a lunch order, much less the White House; and
- Never, ever allow the memory of decade-old pop music to fade.
Thus, back by popular demand (NOTE: literally no one asked for this), it’s a retrospective of the top 20 songs of ten years ago today. As a refresher, the good people at Billboard allow you to call up any historical top chart simply by going to current week’s chart and then selecting a new date in the search bar. Last year in this space, we broke down the fallout from the 50 Cent-The Game feud, sang along at the top of our lungs with Rob Thomas when were sure no one could hear us, and engaged in some well-deserved Gwen Stefani appreciation. What adventures in musical history await us this year, frozen in the digital carbonate that is YouTube and Vevo? LET’S DO THIS.
Apparently too morose to consider seriously things like irony or “not actively making things worse for yourself, you idiot,” Ne-Yo takes out his frustration with sad, slow love songs on the radio that remind him of an unnamed ex-ladyfriend by making…a sad, slow love song for the radio about said ladyfriend. This cannot be the course of action that his therapist recommended. The memorably weird music video features Ne-Yo moping around an empty cabin, wearing a hat in a hot tub for some reason, and passionately singing the outro from the confines of a ski lift gondola.
Poor coping abilities aside, Ne-Yo will always have a soft spot in my heart for being a named defendant in a hilarious defamation lawsuit from Lindsay Lohan. Ne-Yo wrote and sang the hook to Pitbull’s 2011 hit “Give Me Everything,” and Lohan claimed that the song’s lyrics (“I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan”) threatened to do “irreparable damage” to her reputation, an assertion that demonstrates a REMARKABLY poor understanding of cause and effect on the part of someone sentenced to prison five separate times. Fortunately, Lohan’s suit was tossed, and Ne-Yo’s First Amendment rights remain untrammeled.
If you don’t instinctively nod your head to the riddim (NOTE: this is a real thing, not a culturally insensitive spelling of “rhythm”), you might be medically dead. With apologies to Shaggy and Keak da Sneak, Sean Paul might be the best artist of the past 20 years who managed to enjoy periods of wild popularity despite the fact that you could only understand four words of any given bar. Even the hooks to Paul’s other hits (“We Be Burnin” or “Gimme The Light,” anyone?) are total mysteries beyond their titles. People who try to rap along to Sean Paul sound like bad scat singers at an open mic jazz club.
While we’re here, “Temperature” is an important cautionary tale for the proposition that you should never, ever feature technology in a music video if you want people to take it seriously for more than six months. Look at this T9-enabled slider contraption that he pulls out at the end! Look at the aux cord that he uses to plug it in to his sound system!
PRO TIP, if you are a musical artist, and your goal is to use a music video to show how much money you have, just stick to throwing stacks of cash. It’s timeless.
GAH. “You’re Beautiful” was as inescapable as it was dreadful, a deeply ill-conceived love song that sounds like it would get booed off the stage at a middle school talent show. The music video, in which Blunt stares with startling intensity into the camera while standing on a glacier (what is it with sad top-charting 2006 songs and inappropriately cold climes?) and undressing slowly, goes to a dark place when the song concludes with him leaping into the ocean without warning. As seagulls circle buzzard-style overhead, you’re not sure whether to be disturbed by the on-camera suicide or just relieved that you won’t have to hear the chorus again.
In other words, “You’re Beautiful” is…bad. But! How might your feelings be changed if you learned that none other than THE ARTIST HIMSELF has publicly apologized for recording and releasing it?
James Blunt offered a mea culpa for his biggest hit “You’re Beautiful,” admitting after all these years that the treacly love song “was force-fed down people’s throats” and that “it became annoying.”
It take a big man to admit a mistake like that. You’re forgiven, James. Hopefully the seagull vultures managed to somehow rescue you from Arctic Sea.
Legally, the lyrics to “Be Without You” may only be printed in all caps. I haven’t seen my college roommate Briant in four years, but occasionally I’ll get a “CALL THE RAY DEE YOH IF YOU JUST CAN’T BE WITHOUT YOUR BABY! AAAHH-YEAHHHHHHHH” text at 7 in the morning. There are too many emotions here to be bothered with more than one case.
Anyway, this was Mary J’s biggest hit since 2001’s “A Family Affair,” the Dr. Dre-produced monster of a song that introduced “crunk” to a then-baffled mainstream audience. “Be Without You” won two Grammys, spent a then-record 75 consecutive weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Chart, and is a staple of long-distance relationship playlists everywhere. The video, however, has not aged well, both because it features noted domestic abuser Terrence Howard as Mary’s love interest and also because the YouTube comments were designed in a laboratory to make you feel 703 years old.
There is no point in writing more, because death is near.
Speaking of which, fair warning: this column is about to get PROFOUNDLY unpleasant. If you’ve been reading thus far and having a good time and thinking things like, Hey, yeah, I remember those songs! Cool! Ne-Yo! Sean Paul was fun! James Blunt can and should go right to hell!, then good. I am glad you have enjoyed a few moments of happy nostalgia. But, honestly, if you have something else to do right now—anything else—maybe go do it! Close your browser window, count your blessings, and move on with your life.
I realize this is unconventional, but I’m serious.
You will hate what happens next.
Alright, I tried, man.
HEY, I WARNED YOU. Daniel Powter, a Canadian blessed with Woody Harrelson’s face and Kevin Federline’s fashion sense, created this sonic abomination that would have faded gently into the good night were it not for the monsters at American Idol, who played it over a montage of each eliminated Season 5 contestant. “Bad Day” sounds like what would happen if The Rembrandt’s “I’ll Be There For You” disappeared one day and returned home months later hopelessly strung out on heroin. The song’s only redeeming quality is that the video stars an actress who will almost certainly set you off on a fun “Who’s that, dammit, I KNOW THAT PERSON” spiral that will torpedo your productivity for at least 30 minutes. (Answer: Anna from The OC).
“Bad Day” inevitably invites comparisons to “You’re Beautiful.” Honestly, you could have told me that they were by the same artist, or even that they were the SAME song, and I would have believed it immediately. (Conspiracy theorists should note that a Google Image search for “James Blunt Daniel Powter” yields nothing). Police could alternate these songs at high volume during the next hostage crisis and the captors would be begging for Nickelback within an hour.
James Blunt enjoyed at least SOME additional success with 2005’s “Goodbye My Lover,” I guess (you know this from Season 3 of The Office, when a post-breakup Michael Scott sobbed along to an iTunes snippet but refused to buy the download). By contrast, Billboard declared Powter the top one-hit wonder of the decade since he never again cracked the top TWO HUNDRED after this number-one (!!!) hit. Powter loses, though really, we all do, too.
From Mary J’s ALL CAPS lyrics to the Tallahassee Hero’s exclusive reliance on the lingo of AOL Instant Messenger! “I’m N Luv” gained notoriety when it was widely reported that T-Pain recorded it in two hours using GarageBand, which may or may not have inspired freshman year of college Jay to try unsuccessfully to record his own smash debut single titled something godawful like “Where My Homies At.”
This was early, vintage T-Pain, back when he was inexplicably wearing top hats and waving dreadlocks and clowning in joke videos with Lonely Island and Taylor Swift. But when artists like Drake, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne began experimenting with T-Pain’s signature AutoTune sound, too, it saturated pop airwaves so thoroughly that none other than Jay-Z released a 2009 single titled “Death of AutoTune” in an effort to end the trend. He failed, but T-Pain’s feelings were so hurt by the backlash that he took a year and a half off from music, finally emerging with short hair and an Unplugged-style concert that will absolutely cause you to yelp “DAMN, THAT MAN CAN SING!” at some point.
You deserved better, T-Pain. You deserved better from all of us.
A pop song written about the difficulty of writing pop songs! Natasha and Ne-Yo apparently both viewed songwriting as a vehicle for scrutinizing their deepest insecurities. This one is dear to my heart because my friend Nevin loved belting out “Unwritten” at every opportunity, but the depths of his passion were matched only by his total inability to remember the actual lyrics. This resulted in a lot of joyful shouts of things like “FEEL THE RAIN ON YOUR LIPS” or “RELEASE YOUR DIRTY WINDOW” to emanate from the room below me. It was an interesting sophomore year.
A lock to be playing softly in the background next time you walk by Forever 21, “Unwritten” took on a second life as the opening theme for The Hills and holds up nicely as go-to wedding reception fodder. The video is delightful because it features perhaps the least believable introduction of an African-American gospel choir in pop music history. Everyone involved halfheartedly lip syncs the bridge with “Wait, this leprechaun lady said she would pay us in cash, right?” expressions all over their faces.
As usual, Wikipedia sums it up best:
Lyrically, the song takes place in a dance club, where the female protagonist is letting the male patrons know that they are welcome to come and look at her sexually attractive body when she is dancing.
Sounds about right, robot! “Check On It” is lighthearted, fairly enjoyable, marginally less aggressively sexual version of 2003’s “Naughty Girl.” The video was shot in pink specifically to promote Beyonce’s role in the 2006 Pink Panther reboot, which is ironic given that Beyonce and Jay-Z to this day employ an army of engineers who sit in an office park in Nebraska and work round-the-clock shifts scrubbing all traces of that movie from the Internet and America’s collective pop culture consciousness.
Part of the early wave of snap music dominating mainstream pop charts, the success of “Lean Wit It” ignited the Atlanta rivalry between Dem Franchize Boyz and D4L, whose “Laffy Taffy” had topped the charts in just three months earlier. This was the kind of matchup where you ultimately decided to root for an asteroid to hit the stadium. Save a guest appearance on a criminally underrated Monica single, Dem Franchize Boyz released nothing more of note and disbanded in 2008. Meanwhile, their rivals still record music together and all bought haunted houses in the suburbs, so I’m scoring this one for D4L.
I haven’t listened to Chris Brown in years because, as you know, Chris Brown is a horrible sexist and homophobe who in a just world would have been hit by a car around eight years ago. So listening to this again, it really surprised me just how much early Brown sounded like early Bieber. Unlike James Blunt and Daniel Powter, though, Brown and Bieber HAVE been photographed together. In fact, they released a 2011 duet and speak very highly of one another, because of course they do.
“Being able to collab with [Bieber] was great,” Brown said. “He’s a young, energetic cat, so being able to work with him, with the fanbase he has, was incredible. I know a lot of little girls are going to love this record.
Do you have a needlessly misogynist anecdote to throw in, Chris?
“I actually stood him up on accident,” Brown recalled. “He was kind of mad … I was all the way on the other side of town handling some business, ’girl business,’ and I was rushing back, and by that time, he’s like, ’Man, I’m leaving, bro. I did it — just check it out.’”
Um, this song is good. It’s really, really, really good. The beat is gigantic, Paul “No, I’m NOT Bubba Sparxxx” Wall is at his finest, Nelly memorably breaks down the distinction between the preferences of his grandmama and of his lil’ mama, and Ali delivers a cringe-inducing punchline that you see coming three lines away but still makes me uncomfortable 10 years later (hint: it relates to a current major-party presidential candidate). I’m just glad that there is no photographic evidence from contemporaneous parties that prominently features Reynold’s Wrap and shows just how much I appreciated this song, because that would be embarra
There was no reason for any Europop, techno, or EDM artist to record music after this, because “Every Time We Touch” is sonically perfect. The post-hook drop effortlessly overcomes even the strongest negative association between Jersey Shore and fist-pumping, though since the song clocks in at an impressive 142 BPM, doctors do not recommend listening to it if you have heart issues and/or recently ingested a double espresso.
(By the way, I wrote the part about Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” 72 hours ago, and it hasn’t gotten out of my head since. Go to hell, Daniel Powter.)
Nothing featuring the late, great Nate Dogg can be TOTALLY irredeemable, but…this song is a smoldering dumpster fire. Eminem has always been painfully and hilariously out of his element when trying to make token Hot Club Bangerz (remember “Ass Like That”?). It’s the musical equivalent of Steve Carell’s character in The 40-Year-Old Virgin nervously discussing bags of sand and hoping no one notices how uncomfortable he looks. “Shake That” should not be confused with “Smack That,” an Akon-Eminem collaboration that ALSO suggests to a woman a thing she can or should do with “that,”and was for some reason released only six months later to (I assume) the deep frustration of his publicist.
Poor Bubba Sparxxx. Today, he’d fit in perfectly with a generation of hip hop-minded country artists who aren’t afraid of an 808 drum, a Drake comparison, or even a real live guest rap (think Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, and Sam Hunt). But despite quiet critical acclaim for his 2003 rap-country crossover album Deliverance, Bubba was stuck between genres that at that time were firmly African-American and firmly white, and he never quite found his niche. Like T-Pain, Bubba was before his time, and he deserved better.
That said, “Ms. New Booty” is not exactly a profound, introspective reflection on what it means to be a poor white person in the Deep South. Sample lyrics include:
BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY ROCKIN EVERYWHERE
BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY ROCKIN EVERYWHERE
BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY ROCKIN EVERYWHERE
BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY BOOTY ROCKIN EVERYWHERE
Poetry in motion. I’d also like to revise my earlier take. THIS music video features the least believable non sequitur introduction of a gospel choir in pop music history.
Shamelessly biting the intro to 2004’s “Overnight Celebrity” (seriously, take a listen), this song and the entire album on which it appears are just Jamie Foxx’s needless kitchen-sink effort to convince everyone that he is sexually active.
We get it, Jamie. You have sex. I’m glad for you. NO DON’T SHOW US.
Most girl groups have a dominant personality whose fame eventually eclipses that of the others, as Kelly Rowland and the shoddy bedding-hawking Michelle Williams will sadly attest. But the Dolls remain one of the oddest slickly-packaged prefab pop acts in recent memory because I don’t even know how many Pussycat Dolls not named Nicole Scherzinger there WERE. At least Beyonce had the courtesy to limit her glorified backup singers to two.
Moving on to “Beep,” which deserves recognition for ingeniously using the bleeper to be family-friendly but also as naughty as you wanted it to be. As an exclusive, I can report that these are the words censored from the chorus. Feel free to sing along loudly and boisterously next time it comes on during Old School Lunch Hour or whatever.
- Boobs AND Butt
- Self (possibly, but I really, really hope not: dick)
If it’s not an overwrought sports highlight set to “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up),” which is the only thing anyone should listen to while exercising because it makes you feel like you could bench-press a Mini Cooper, I have no time for Fall Out Boy. That’s what you get for breaking Ashlee Simpson’s heart, Pete Wentz. Dick.
It’s misleading to call any collection of words about this song a “review” because no one has ever listened to the entire thing. This is true for two reasons. First, Busta is one of many talented rappers of that era who never enjoyed mainstream success because they couln’t write a hook for the radio (cue The Game and Common nodding sadly). The scary robot lady on “Touch It” intermittently telling me to “format” something (???) is not going to get traction on American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest. Second, the verses are so raunchy that this song’s radio edit sounds like a phone call cutting out because there are so many bleeped words.
Not sure what the ******* are throwing on the ground in this scenario, but I bet it’s graphic and disconcerting. I just can’t imagine ever hearing this song and thinking, Yeah, if I put this on I bet everyone will love it and definitely will not become vaguely uncomfortable.
Not to be confused with “Breakaway,” another Kelly Clarkson single from the SAME album (which was called, of course, Breakaway), “Walk Away” is a fun, sassy number that I could totally nod along to the car, maybe give a little head snap, hey, this isn’t bad at all, and OH GOD NO KELLY WHAT ARE YOU WEARING
I assume that one of Congress’ first acts after the 2006 election was to make the design, production, or display of double-breasted crop tops punishable by death.
The only two American Idol winners to make it big (no, neither Jordin Sparks nor Scotty McCreery count) fill out the bottom of the list. “Jesus, Take the Wheel” recounts the harrowing tale of a stressed-out young mother en route to see her family over the holidays. When her car hits black ice, she panics and releases the steering wheel as her car careens across the highway. Fortunately, she comes safely to a stop on the shoulder, and, thankful, she resolves to let Jesus take greater control of her life. While hers is almost certainly NOT the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s recommended approach to winter driving, I’m glad it worked out for everyone involved.
Ten years later, Carrie Underwood remains physically incapable of writing a song that doesn’t involve a detailed plot featuring character development and everything, absurdity and ham-fistedness be damned. Here are the stories of two of her hits, and one I made up:
- “Blown Away” (3x platinum): an abused young girl purposefully locks herself in the house’s storm cellar and does not wake her sleeping alcoholic father to warn him of an approaching tornado.
- “Two Black Cadillacs” (1x platinum): an unnamed man’s stately funeral is attended by his widow and his mistress, both of whom, UNBEKNOWNST TO ANYONE ELSE, had quietly worked together to kill him.
- “Tears in the Puppy’s Eyes” (2x platinum): a little boy who pined anonymously after the most popular girl in class dies after throwing herself in front of an oncoming car to save her dog, which had suddenly darted into traffic.
While I understand you’re hoping that this is a trick question and that I made up all three of these terrible ideas, no, only the last one does not exist.
At least…not YET. Carrie Underwood remains as popular as ever in 2016. Since the last decade has demonstrated that there are no limits to her willingness to stuff a stupid, overwrought story into a three-minute pop song, check back here in ten more years to see if the “Tears in the Puppy’s Eyes” dream one day comes true.