CoS Top 50 Songs of the Decade: 25-1

25. Bright Eyes – “Road to Joy”

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Chaotic brilliance is perhaps the best way to describe Bright Eyes’ 2005 masterpiece “Road to Joy”. It’s one of the few times that the music accompanying Conor Oberst is as emotionally explicit and profound as his lyrics. Simplistic to start, the music gets more complex (trumpets and drums appear) and louder as Conor’s words become less suggestion and more of a downright blatant attack on what are his perceived depressing realities existent in America. By the time his travels conclude and he reaches the end of this road, all hell has broken loose, both for our storyteller and his soundtrack. –Alex Young

24. Radiohead – “Idioteque”

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I’m convinced that when Radiohead decided to fuse IDM with Arena Rock a new universe was formed. A universe where people dance to apocalyptic electro-bangers that sample archaic analog synthesizers from compositions like Paul Lansky’s “Mild und Leise”. A universe where bands continually go against the grain, yet still see critical and financial success. A universe where . . . Oh crap . . . –Drew Litowitz

23. Bon Iver -  “Skinny Love”

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Justin Vernon has a way with… well, everything. Through stinging minor chords, soulful yelps, and intense speculation, “Skinny Love” sees the man attempting to reason through just what went wrong. When he screams, “I told you to be patient/ I told you to be kind,” it’s hard to tell if he’s kicking himself or the source of his heartbreak. Either way, the outcome pleasingly bruises. –Drew Litowitz

22. Madonna – “Music”

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It’s fitting that this disco-meets-the-future tune was released in 2000. Madonna tapped Parisian production whiz Mirwais to craft stylish beats and update her sound for the ’00s. The result is one of Madge’s most rollicking songs of any decade. –Gillian Rosheuvel

21. Kanye West – “Stronger”

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Though Kanye may be the decade’s biggest asshole, he is also behind some of the decade’s greatest songs. “Stronger”, from 2007’s Graduation, used samples from Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” to carry the two to infamy. The track has been described by Kanye as an “emancipation”; it marks his move from hip-hop to electronic music, and lyrically allows him to repair, or at least repent for, past mistakes. “Damn, they don’t make ’em like this anymore” — that’s true, there’s no one else like Kanye West. – Shayna Hodkin

20. Phoenix – “1901”

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In the tradition of commercials skyrocketing songs to the forefront, Phoenix’s “1901” is now thriving due to its use in a Cadillac commercial. The song, however, has enough of its own merit to stand strong divorced from the luxury vehicle marque. The French band’s buoyant single from Wolfgang Amadeus is the epitome of carefree, radio friendly pop. The melodic quality is superb, and the use of tom drums in a snapping sequence  literally elicits foot tapping. –Becca James

19. Arcade Fire – “Wake Up”

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The secondary title for Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” could read: “(Eulogy for Youth)”. An anthem for the nostalgic adult, the song sulks as it comes to terms with maturation. “Children/Wake up/ Hold your mistake up,” Butler orders atop climactic electrifying strums and lush strings. Arcade Fire hit the nail on the head as they attempt to debunk the myth that one must sacrifice his or her youthful fascinations in order to grow up. Not to mention the song’s pump-up value. There’s a reason why David Bowie, Bono, and the New York Rangers all took an immediate liking to a song this exhilarating. –Drew Litowitz

18. The Killers – “All These Things That I’ve Done”

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OK, admit it. Who hasn’t sung along to “I got soul but I’m not a soldier”. Without really knowing what it’s about. It might be about the second coming or just a plea to come home from the war but let’s not break into discussion groups shall we. “All These Things” is plainly a great rock and roll anthem with a full-on armoury and a heat-seeking chorus. –Tony Hardy

17. The Knife – “Heartbeats”

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In the same vein as ABBA and Ace of Base, The Knife has distributed Swedish pop to the masses. However, the duo delivers a more artful and subtle sound, with songs such as “Heartbeats”. The synth reprise and in-depth lyrics enable the listener to reflect, while lost in the mesmerizing sound. –Becca James

16. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”

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A song which rode out its underground birth to gain elite cultural status, “Paper Planes” was all kinds of awesome. Few songs are able to transcend such humble beginnings, but Diplo’s lo-fi production and M.I.A.’s satirical verses rode out the storm. The song innovates in a number of ways, adding controversial gunshots, a children’s choir and samples The Clash’s “Straight to Hell”. Eventually finding success through cinema, the song went on to feature in “Swagga Like Us”, bringing together four of the best rappers alive — just one of its incredible achievements. –Will Hines

15. Daft Punk – “One More Time”

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“One More Time” is the ultimate call for celebration. Daft Punk hits all the right notes on this track from 2001’s Discovery, it’s the perfect anthem to get everyone up and feeling alive. –Charles Poladian

14. The Strokes – “Last Nite”

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It wasn’t exactly the Fadd9 chord that cracked the shell of Beatlemania, but the opening notes to “Last Nite” hit similar vibes. Good feelings just ooze from this track, whether it be the throaty, muffled vocals of Julian Casablancas or the minimalistic yet vital solo from Albert Hammond, Jr. And at the end of the day, who can’t help but champion five lanky kids with a fetish for denim? It sure as hell saved modern youth from baggy pants and XXL Limp Bizkit shirts. –Michael Roffman

13. Jay-Z – “99 Problems”

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There’s a lot going right for Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”. It was Rick Rubins first crack at producing a hip-hop track in some time and it samples the likes of Mountain and Billy Squier while it pulls a chorus from an old Ice-T song. While that’s enough for any track, the magic lies in the stripped down, basic-as-can-be guitar part and Jay’s lyrical delivery.  Like its corresponding black and white video, his flow is gritty and dark, attacking everyone from the cops to record labels, while at the same time being smart and humorous and ever so witty, representing the peak of HOV’s dominance. The song stands as one of Jay-Z’s strongest musical moments and is a definitive moment in the revitalization of a career that almost went the way of the dinosaurs. And we haven’t gotten a single problem with that. –Chris Coplan

12. MGMT – “Kids”

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In MGMT’s ambitious full-length debut, Oracular Spectacular, the band managed to do the ’80s better than the ’80s did, with the electronic, dance style single “Kids.” The song offers the best of time worn synth, with timeless lyrics, such as the opening lines “you were a child/Crawlin’ on your knees toward it/Makin’ mama so proud/but your voice was too loud.” It’s lyrical morsels like that, paired with a fetching hook that cater to the band’s synthpop aesthetic, resulting in an addictive single. –Becca James

11. Eminem – “Lose Yourself”

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The cinema-ready piano intro gives you an idea of how epic this song is going to be. Yet you’re still not ready for the force unleashed when Mr. Mathers begins rhyming over a head-nodding guitar riff. Recorded for the soundtrack to Eminem’s quasi-biopic 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself” might be the best distillation of the rapper’s songwriting gifts and infectious, ramshackle flow. –Gillian Rosheuvel

10. The National – “Mr. November”

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Whether the song references Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, being the President of the United States, or all of the above, the emotions on The National’s glorious Alligator album-closer are so universal, that the specific allusion is almost irrelevant. When Berninger repeats the phrase “I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders,” for some reason, we all know exactly what he means. As he unleashes his desperate, feigned reassurance, “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November!” a feeling of intense hopelessness comes with it. “Mr. Novemeber” is a classic example of how with each of their songs, the National builds a sense of tranquility, caves in on itself, but somehow manages to make it out alive. –Drew Litowitz

9. LCD Soundsystem – “Someone Great”

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Off of 2007’s Sound of Silver, “Someone Great” is an understated gem. The minimalist intro shows a sense of restraint that wells up into a surging rush of lush music and the lyrics show off James Murphy’s clever understanding of loss, desire, and yearning of what could have been. –Charles Poladian

8. Radiohead – “How to Disappear Completely”

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“How to Disappear Completely” is a song that wholly speaks for itself. It is an exercise in perfection of songcraft. Based on advice Yorke received from personal hero and REM frontman Michael Stipe on coping with the intense stresses of touring, the song confronts listeners with a true sense of helplessness. Rightfully so, both sonically and lyrically, it oozes with desperation. Yorke begins by strumming an acoustic guitar, talking everything over logically. But slowly, as Yorke continues to reason with himself, his anxious words drown in a sea of overbearing, dissonant strings. Yorke cries, “I’m not here, this isn’t happening” as the words and strings become nearly indistinguishable; poetry engulfed in chaos. We feel like we lose Yorke in the track, but moreover we feel for him as he nearly loses himself. Radiohead have always been good at encapsulating the inexpressible aspects of human existence, but never have they been more spot on. –Drew Litowitz

7. The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”

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The first great love song of the digital age. “Such Great Heights” has plenty of pop charm yet shines bright with emotional honesty. Jimmy Tamborello’s endearing electronic melodies coupled with Ben Gibbard’s charming indie pop sentimentality grabbed the iGeneration by the earbuds and will continue to tug on the heartstrings of every listener. Unlike many unabashedly romantic tracks, “Such Great Heights” isn’t confined to a future of easy listening; its dance rhythm expands the song’s scope to an exciting and adventurous pace that’s narrated not just film and television, but the lives of countless 21st century denizens. –Cap Blackard

6. U2 – “Beautiful Day”

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Let’s face it, U2 is universal. It’s hard a statement to swallow, but for now just try and hide your hipster sensibilities — pretty please. While Bono’s become somewhat of a punchline to every rock ‘n’ roll joke this decade, people forget how prolific the guy really is. He knows his shit. What’s more, he knows your shit, too. That’s why he’s able to rope in about 80k people at the drop of his hat and have them leaving with smiles and emotions that only seemed to exist in a Hallmark card. “Beautiful Day” pretty much summarizes that moment. It’s lofty, sure, but it’s so catchy, it’s so touchy feely, and it’s so sweeping that even nine years later, we’re still humming it and getting all rowled up when it comes on — even if you’re scoffing or rolling your eyes to keep up that credibility of yours. Don’t believe me? Hit up a show next summer. Once they reach this hit (which happened to take home three Grammy awards, mind you), even athiests will admit it’s a very religious-like experience. At least this writer did. –Michael Roffman

5. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”

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One of the greatest accomplishments thus far in the music of the 21st century is the return to the roots of funk and soul. Fusing classic sounds with outstanding contemporary production, Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo created a beautiful monster. “Crazy” grooves and haunts — eerie spaghetti western strings mesh with funky bass lines and Cee-Lo’s spooky soul singing. Danger Mouse’s expert mixing isn’t just catchy sounds, it’s also layered with subtleties. While listening to this track outdoors with headphones on, you may look to the sky thinking you’ve heard a low-flying aircraft, but there’s nothing there- making you look and feel crazy. –Cap Blackard

4. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”

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It’s practically impossible to have gone seven years without hearing one of alternative’s greatest love songs, My Angus Please Stay, or “Maps” as it’s known to the rest of the world. The song was written by Karen O about her relationship with the lead singer of Liars, Angus Andrew. The rapid picking of a high E leading into Karen’s lament (“They don’t love you like I love you”) lands the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at number four on this list. –Andy Keil

3. Andre 3000/Outkast – “Hey Ya”

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Way back in the autumn of 2003, probably October, I remember drinking a beer with some friends at this complete shithole bar in Tallahassee, FL, where we were checking out some local bands. Usually, the owner would try and pathetically get girls to strip on the bars by putting on some Bon Jovi or Warrant, but this one night, he decided to play some Top 40 nonsense. After three songs in, the opening roll call of Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya” kicked in and the beat and strum took it all away. Immediately, everyone — both bros and hipsters alike — danced together. A week later, the same thing happened in a club (don’t ask why I’m at these places), only this time, you really saw how this song spanned from one demographic to another. It was then my friend turned to me and said, “This song is the decade’s “Teen Spirit”, man.” It probably sounded ignorant and ridiculous at the time (who talked about Nirvana then, anyhow?), but here we are in 2009, and that statement seems pretty valid. Why? Three reasons: Everyone loved it, radio stations continue to exhaust it, and we all grimace when anyone ever attempts to cover it. The only thing left now is for Tori Amos to take a stab at it. But, there’s always time for that. –Michael Roffman

2. Kanye West – “Jesus Walks”

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If you ever wonder as to why we still have faith in Kanye West despite all the evidence to the contrary, this is it. Ironically the song that West himself was told would never get radio time, thanks to its religious subject matter, is one of his biggest hits. And it’s not hard to see why this beat out everything from “Through The Wire” to almost anything on 808s and Heartbreak. From its regimented drum beat and angelic children’s choir to the auto-tuned to oblivion gospel cries, the song is both undeniably danceable and technically proficient. But more than anything, it’s one of West’s most sincere pleas as he attempts to navigate in and reign over an entire industry. It’s fresh and honest and instills within us the massive concept that music can both be personal and push boundaries without giving up any of its sheer kinetic energy and/or catchiness. –Chris Coplan

1. The White Stripes – “Seven Nation Army”

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By the time 2003 rolled around, Jack White and his big sister Meg were households names in the indie community. Having released the masterful White Blood Cells two years earlier, the duo had fully demonstrated its talents and realized its greatness. But on April 1, 2003, something remarkable occurred — Jack and Meg unveiled an album and more specifically a song that would capture the minds and hearts of hipsters and ring tone buyers alike.

You know a song is great when, even after the 1,000 or so spins you give it over the years, it still sends shivers down your spine, causes you to bob your head as if you’ve just been infected with rabies, or a combination of the two. As is the case with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “London Calling”, and “Born to Run”, The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” causes such a sensation. This reality is a combination of factors: the “duh du du du duh duhhhh duhhhh” hook, a resulting enigmatic intensity, lyrics of the sing-a-long variety, and one hell of a climax, stemming from one of Mr. White’s trademark’s guitar solos. The song’s lone flaw? It ends.

Not surprising, Elephant‘s lead track and first single would not only prove to be The White Stripes’ best song to date but also its biggest, charting in at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks and #12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks (the album would peak at #6). As a result, “Seven Nation Army” would transcend The White Stripes from indie’s best kept secret to full-fledged rock superstars and exemplified that even in today’s watered down mainstream music culture, quality can still win and indie and mainstream can co-exist, if done correctly.

In the months and years that followed, The White Stripes would go on to be one of music’s most popular bands while White emerged as this generation’s surest thing to a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall-of-Famer. As for “Seven Nation Army”, it remains as vibrant and as popular today as it did on April 1, 2003, resonating on a daily basis from record players and football stadiums alike. And like any rock ‘n’ roll anthem, White’s should continue to be equally vibrant and as popular for an eternity to come. –Alex Young

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