The Best Singles of 2008

December 11, 2008

First off, I should note that all of the following songs are not on any of the albums I picked in my “Best Albums of 2008” article. I wanted to showcase some of the best music from albums that didn’t quite make the cut. Most of these were singles released on radio, i-tunes or video, but a few are just album cuts that should’ve been singles. Most of these tracks would have made the list had I also considered music from my top album picks, but a few would have been sacrificed to make space for “The ’59 Sound” by Gaslight Anthem, “Sequestered in Memphis” by the Hold Steady, “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne, and “Hero,” by Nas. Anyway, enjoy.

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10) Workin’ On a Dream – Bruce Springsteen
Bruce and the E Street Band recorded an album full of energetic, first take rock songs while on the comedown of the high from the “Magic” tour, and the album will be out in January. Springsteen teased his fans by offering up this single at the end of the year to build up anticipation for that new release. Here’s assuming it will be great, this song is evidence that it probably will be.

9) Swagga Like Us- Jay-Z and T.I. featuring Lil Wayne and Kanye West

Jay-Z, T.I., Lil Wayne, and Kanye West trading off one-up verses over a hook crafted from M.I.A.s subversive single “Paper Planes?” The best one-off  of the year.  Now go back check out M.I.A.’s original.

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8. Rock ‘N Roll Train – AC/DC
I didn’t discredit “Black Ice” from consideration simply because AC/DC went with a Wal Mart exclusive deal even though I hate Wal Mart. I did refuse to go to WM to get a copy though. No, I understand their deal and approached the album on its own terms, actually hoping it would be the later career classic we’ve yet to hear. See, those ‘70s albums with Bon Scott yielded a lot of rock and roll perfection, and upon losing Scott the band came back with an all time classic to pay tribute to him, “Back in Black.” We’ve had bright AC/DC moments since, but none in full length form. The first track on the album, which is also the first single, “Rock ’N Roll Train” is pure energy and a new classic to add to their canon. Unfortunately the latter half of the disc lacks a bit, but this song doesn’t disappoint in the slightest.
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7. I’m Amazed – My Morning Jacket
“I’m Amazed” was the lead off track released by My Morning Jacket this year to promote their new album, “Evil Urges.” MMJ makes a habit of evolving their sound every year or two and almost no two albums focus on the same sound. We’ve heard them go from southern tinged hard rock to quiet folk. “I’m Amazed” announced to their listeners the direction their new album would take: 70s AM style pop rock. This simple, lilting and pretty jaunt is kind of like Yankee Hotel era Wilco minus the distortion. Pop music without pandering, so listen up.

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6) You Know What – N*E*R*D*
“Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in Line for the Bathroom)” was the lead off single from “Seeing Sounds,” the latest album by the rock identity of the Neptunes. A music critic for AMG once noted that the hit qualities musicians seek out the Neptunes production for on their albums and songs is not the same type of thing that you’re likely to find on a NERD album. No, the weirder, more avant garde and odd, experimental aspects the Neptunes save for themselves. Perhaps in part because they’re not always guaranteed pop hit qualities. Well, “Everyone Nose” was fine but the brightest moment on “Seeing Sound” was this simple, funk/disco/pop gem, the best thing that Gnarls Barkley didn’t record this year. Pharell sings about a friends-with-benefits situation in which he fears the friendship might suffer over funk guitars and subtle dance beats, resulting in pop perfection in the Prince vein.
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5) Love Locked Down – Kanye West
Kanye’s released 3 certifiable classics in his career so far so I guess it was about time for an experimental, artsy and ambitiously different approach like “808s and Heartbreaks.” He teased us with the album by releasing “Love Locked Down” on his own blog months before the album was available. It’s a synth drum beat propelled pop song, sung vocoder style (but in a viable way). It’s a great song, the best but one of the only moments on “808s” in which ‘Ye’s ambition matches his talent. The rest of the album is serviceable and admirable, but a bit dreary and R&B-emo’d out. This is the highlight.
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4) Roxxanne – The Knux

“Roxanne” is the best song from “Remind Me in 3 Days, in my opinion. “Cappuccino” may have been the first single but Roxxanne should have been. For an album full of promise, a sonic pasting of electronica, old school hip hop and pop, this is the song to showcase that promise at its highest level. Like RUN DMC riding a Prodigy beat covered in Clash guitars, The Knux rework the Police classic for the i-pod generation.
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3) Re- Education (Through Labor) – Rise Against
“Re-Education (Through Labor)” is a concentrated dose of what Rise Against is and does best. As a single, one-off song it’s almost comparable to the bands excellent full length, “Siren Song of the Counter-Culture” from a few years ago. The lyrics envision the working class rising up against the ruling elite. “We are the rust upon your gears, we are the insect in your ears.” They do this because, “sometimes dreams they still come true, our days are precious and so few.” This song sounds like gospel! The full pitch hard rock guitars, the proud declarations of “I won’t sweat one more drop for you,” the pounding yet melodic tempo all are signs of protest rock done right. A perfect song.
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2) Discipline – Nine Inch Nails
“Discipline” is the best moment on “The Slip,” this years initially free NIN album. In fact, although the entire album doesn’t live up to Nails classics, “Discipline,” may be one of Reznor’s most simple yet effective singles ever. Rolling Stone called it “death disco” when it first came out earlier this year, and that’s about as apt a description as any. It’s the most darkly danceable song he’s had since way back on “Pretty Hate Machine.” So give it a spin or five, once you start you may not be able to help yourself.

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1) My President – Young Jeezy featuring Nas
Young Jeezy is quick to inform you he didn’t write the best cut off the otherwise standard fare “The Recession” album. His opening proclamation “The realest…I ever wrote…I didn’t write this by the way” is a nod to the opening shouts on many earlier Jeezy songs (“The realest…I ever wrote). “My President” was penned by the guest artist on the track, Nas, who included his own Obama endorsement at the end of his own album this year. In retrospect, sounds like he gave the best away. Sure its silly and contradictory; in a verse following a hopeful endorsement of Barack, Jeezy ponders a cocaine run to Texas. But overlooking that, for any proud Obama supporter and even moderate hip hop fan there really wasn’t a better single or a more timely one than this. Nas and Jeezy trading verses complaining about the Iraq war, unemployment woes, the high cost of raising children, the overall sad state of the economy and nation but the hope of a better
future and the proud endorsement of Barack. A lot of us probably have to admit we felt like Jeezy did at the time, that win lose or draw, he was already our president.

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