Best & Worst Singles of 2006:
The good, the not-so-good, and the atrocious horrors...
The best (from left to right): Snow Patrol, "Chasing Cars"; Christina Aguilera, "Hurt"; The Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready to Make Nice"; Chris Brown, "Run It!"
For those of you named Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, Pussycat Dolls, or James Blunt, 2006 was an excellent year. For the rest of us, though, 2006 was a fairly unremarkable time. Last year’s hit makers, which include Mariah Carey, Green Day, and Kanye West, were all but replaced by middling talents like Shakira, Rihanna, and the cast of “High School Musical,” who are so vacuously pretty they’re like watching Jessica Simpson do math.
Established successes, most notably the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z, Evanescence, The Killers, and Beyoncé, put forth substantial efforts that unfortunately lacked the clout of their previous chart toppers. Still, Stadium Arcadium, Kingdom Come, The Open Door, Sam’s Town, and B’Day were able to produce some likeable singles. And the biggest comeback this year goes to The Dixie Chicks, who managed to put out a winning album and a documentary after being ensconced in scandal and social banishment last year.
Rap and hip-hop continued to be powerhouses, with Chamillionaire and Ludacris leading the pack, albeit with little substance. Eminem has finally emerged from his angry cocoon to release The Re-Up, while The Game and others continued to use juvenile feuds in a last-ditch effort to sell records. Chris Brown and Ne-Yo also gained momentum as the R&B hook-ups of the day, while will.i.am still keeps on haunting our dreams in his quest to collaborate with everyone in the whole wide world. The only shining moment in soul has been Gnarls Barkley, whose album, St. Elsewhere, redefined the boundaries of funk.
But what has become even more cookie-cutter than rap is emo, which took a turn for the worse this year with undistinguishable bands releasing countless singles with many lyrics that surprisingly said very little. Among those vying for some face time, The All-American Rejects, The Fray, and My Chemical Romance have managed to emerge victorious and win our hard-earned money.
So who stood out from the pack this year, and who still continues to annoy? Let’s take a look. ¤ C.Ho.
- “Call Me When You’re Sober,” Evanescence: Even though the title leaves a lot to be desired (although for most relationships, it’s often true), the song is a ringing endorsement for Amy Lee’s enormously full voice – especially when she hits the chorus and lets it all out. Admittedly, “Call Me When You’re Sober” sounds a lot like every other single Evanescence has released thus far, but there’s no denying that it’s catchy and empowering all at once.
- “Chasing Cars,” Snow Patrol: As far as songs from a “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtrack go, Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” is right up there with the sappiness quotient that the show’s viewers are accustomed to hearing. And yet, the song’s poignant lyrics and tinkling piano make this an unforgettable song that lasts well beyond the fifty minutes that Meredith spends pining away for Dr. McDreamy.
- “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley: From the hypnotic music video to Cee-Lo Green’s soulful voice to Danger Mouse’s tight production, “Crazy” has it all. Energetic, catchy, and funky, it’s what every song wishes it could be.
- “Gallery,” Mario Vasquez: It’s not every day that I will confess that an “American Idol” cast-off has enough presence and talent to yield a spot on any “best” list, but Mario’s first single drips with bittersweet honey that’s hard to resist. Part crooner, part R&B aficionado, he manages to use silky vocals with surprisingly very little oversinging that “American Idol” contestants are so fond of. Watching the music video and seeing his facial tics kind of ruins the sentiment of the song, but with eyes closed, his voice is as smooth as butter.
- “Hurt,” Christina Aguilera: Although Back to Basics was not one of my favourite – or even likeable – albums to come out this year, “Hurt” earns rave reviews for the sheer power of Christina’s voice. Christina is one of the greatest vocalists of her generation, and it’s nice to see her finally find a song where she can showcase this talent without wiggling her ass around.
- “It Ends Tonight,” All-American Rejects: Any song that can work in “subtleties,” “disdain,” and “unweaving” in its lyrics automatically earns points with me.
- “Irreplaceable,” Beyoncé: The definitive “screw you!” anthem of this year has to go to Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable,” a song about a break-up in progress that is so deliciously angry that it easily tops anything Angela Bassett ever did in Waiting to Exhale. Although the music video lacks the punch that the song easily commands, the single on loop will make anyone who’s ever gone through a hideous break-up elated that they’re fabulously free.
- “Not Ready to Make Nice,” The Dixie Chicks: Yes, I know it’s a country song, but I do love me some angry tunes. And on this track, The Dixie Chicks are giving a giant middle finger to all their detractors while putting out a great song.
- “Run It!” Chris Brown featuring Juelz Santana: Searching for a catchy, club-friendly song on equal footing with Usher’s “Yeah!” is no easy feat, but Chris Brown’s “Run It!” comes pretty close. With staccato beats begging to be played at full volume, the song practically dares you not to move. As far as debut singles go, “Run It!” does a pretty good job of demonstrating Chris’ talent while getting him noticed.
- “What Goes Around.../...Comes Around,” Justin Timberlake: Animosity, resentment, and comeuppance meld together in this delicious song about a love gone wrong. And who better to belt out the seven-plus minute tune than Mr. “Cry Me A River” Timberlake, who repeats the incensed lover shtick with the aptly titled “What Goes Around.../...Comes Around.” With its heavy bass and sharp lyrics, this single is one of the best to come out of his nonsensically named album, FutureLove/SexSounds.
- “Hips Don’t Lie,” Shakira featuring Wyclef Jean: I’m not sure if it’s Shakira’s warbling, or Wyclef’s useless part in the song, or boredom from it all, but “Hips Don’t Lie” manages to not make sense, annoy, and anger all at once. Remember the good ol’ days when Wyclef was actually part of The Fugees? Or when Shakira was able to sing? I miss them too.
- “Me and U,” Cassie: This was a huge summertime hit, but with feeble vocals (to put it mildly), and trite lyrics (“I know them other guys, they've been talking 'bout the way I do what I do / They heard I was good, they wanna see if it's true” – is that implying what I think it’s implying?) demanding a lot from the already-mediocre production, “Me and U” ultimately falters against the bigger and better R&B singles released this year.
- “Ring The Alarm,” Beyoncé: I don’t know where Beyoncé was going with this, but everything about the single, from start to finish, seems like a mess. The only bright spots in the horrible music video are the parts where Beyoncé stops screaming long enough to stare down the camera. (And what is with her and Jay-Z and the chinchilla fur? PETA would not be pleased.)
- “Showstopper,” Danity Kane: Despite the fact that Danity Kane is a “Making the Band” survivor, and despite the fact that the group is signed under the crumbling Bad Boy label, and despite the fact that half of the group members look like down-on-their-luck strippers, “Showstopper” is hardly anything to write home about. With conventional R&B stylings, shoddy production, and a typically “sexy” music video, this single is like a lazy student trying to get by with a C- average.
- “Smack That,” Akon featuring Eminen: “Smack That” is so cartoonish that I have a hard time taking it seriously (or as seriously as one can take a song about getting some booty), and the lyrics are so ridiculous that I’m convinced that a six-year old penned them. When Akon sings, “I feel you creepin’, I can see you from my shadow / Wanna jump up in my Lamborghini Gallardo / Maybe go to my place and just kick it like Tae Bo,” it sends chills down in my spine, and not in a good way.
- “Stars Are Blind,” Paris Hilton: Whoever told Paris Hilton that she could sing was probably drunk or high or clinically insane. While “Stars Are Blind” is certainly not the most offensive song to come out this year, it is one of the weakest. And it doesn’t help that Paris insists on singing the single in a moaning, I-can’t-really-sing-but-I’ll-mask-it-by-mouth-breathing voice. Instead of “Stars Are Blind,” Paris should have titled her debut single “Hotel Heiresses are Tone Deaf.”
- “Unfaithful,” Rihanna: Rihanna’s a sweet girl, but even sweetness can’t buy you a singing voice. On “Unfaithful,” Rihanna’s limited range and earnest belief that she can hit that final note shines through so fantastically that it almost resembles an “American Idol” casting call. And the song itself – about the guilty feelings stemming from being a cheater – progressively gets more and more absurd, to the point that Rihanna thinks she is a murderer. The association between cheating and killing another human being isn’t clear, but what is clear is that the song is a giant drama queen.
- “What’s Left of Me,” Nick Lachey: If I sang a song every time I was going through a heartbreak, I’d probably have three albums released by now. But then again, I can’t really sing, and I doubt I could ever put out a successful album. While Nick and I might not have some things in common, like our abilities to hum a note, we do share that pesky success thing – and it certainly doesn’t start with “What’s Left of Me.” Nick’s vocals are impressive, but the overall song is just retreading boy bad territory – and we all know what happened to 98 Degrees.
- “Wind It Up,” Gwen Stefani: There aren’t words to describe how empty, dull, and utterly stupid this song is. From her absurd lyrics (“They like the we dance, they like the way we work / They like that way that L.A.M.B. is going across my shirt”) to her minimal chorus (“Wind it up!”) to her drag queen video get-ups, Gwen manages to top her own trivial “Holla Back Girl.” It also isn’t a testament to talent when singing is replaced by talk-singing, and talk-singing is eventually replaced by yodeling.
[ Michelle's list. Part I of the best and worst. ]