was a good year for fans of every musical genre, but for New Wave
buffs it was first-class. Kenna brought pop-synth to the next
level, and The Dandy Warhols paid marvelous homage to Duran Duran.
As far as songs go, there were three real masterpieces (see #1,
#2 and #3) but guilty pleasures came in the greatest numbers.
Junior Senior reminded us how to dance and Missy Elliot gave the
country a good lesson in hairstyling.
Songs of 2003:
"Let Me Fix My Weave"
relative disappointment of Missy Elliot's This is Not a
Test! didn't stop "Let Me Fix My Weave" from being
the hip-hop song of the year. You can skip 50 Cent's trite
mess Get Rich or Die Tryin', because rap is about having
fun, and no one knows that more than Missy. She irreverently
imitates a Jamaican with a wicked sense of sex humor ("Baby
you could call me/If you go down on me/But you got to back
up off me/Wearing cubic zirconia"), while Timbaland
works up a hot dance club beat that puts P. Diddy to shame.
I bet you won't find this song on any other top 10 list this
year. "Addicted to Bass" is just good pop fun, at
its most unadulterated. Amiel Daemion's euro-faux track promotes
minimalism; the casual cool of her lyrics and the impeccability
of her rhythm taps directly into our sense of music without
the manipulation of mainstream pop: "Listening to the
radio I feel so out of place/There's a certain something missing
that the treble can't erase/I know you can tell just by looking
at my face/A word about my weakness/I'm totally addicted to
"Addicted to Bass"
"Move Your Feet" is guilty pleasure at its gooiest.
No song on Junior Senior's D-D-Don't Stop the Beat follows
another -- and if you're looking for good party fun, "Rhythm
Bandits" and "Boy Meets Girl" are not to be
missed -- but "Move Your Feet" is the electro-dance
number of the year. The New Wave bassline and Junior's infectious
chorus invoke an all-out physical response from the listener
to the song.
"Move Your Feet"
The writer of this
review may not think so, but Madonna's 20-year career
has and continues to be a consistently rewarding experience.
From the highs of her success (Like a Prayer) to the greatly
undervalued points that truly outline her career (Erotica),
it has always been the case that as Madonna grows, so does
her sound. "Hollywood" summons a Sheryl Crow-like
sunny aura about it, but this is a song Crow could never fathom.
Madonna's biting reflection of Hollywood and the hopefuls
that flock to the city every year is sharp and, above all
else, musically addictive. The French techno beats and guitar
licks recur to give emphasis to the nature of the singer's
persistent lyrics: "Push the button/Don't push the button/Trip
the station/Change the channel." Madonna's on-stage performance
with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilaera at last year's
VMA's made her message all the more clear: when the diva came
mouth-to-mouth with her novices after a joined singing of
the song's bridge, it was a self-conscious manifestation and
direct revolt of mass media's faceless methodology.
No year's best songs list would be complete without R.E.M.
Don't be alarmed: they didn't come out with a new album in
2003, but in releasing their In Time "best of" collection
the band did have the courtesy to include two new tracks.
"Bad Day" may not be as subtle as Radiohead's "There
There" but its political message is just as exhilarating.
The exuberant, straight-rock style of the song is a definite
throwback to the R.E.M. of Automatic for the People. And Michael
Stipe's relentless depiction of the Bush administration is
as smart and hilarious as the singer's been since 1983's Murmur:
"Free Teflon whitewashed presidency/We're sick of being
jerked around/Wear that on your sleeve." Fans now have
permission to rejoice.
Like the album it comes from, the Dandy Warhols' "You
Were the Last High" is a marvelous homage to Duran Duran
and an unabashed act of New Wave indulgence. Like their formers,
the Warhols sleekly infuse post-punk and disco; heavy bass
lines and electronic sirens encompass Courtney Taylor-Taylor's
psychedelic voice in full-bodied nightclub spirit. His trashy
love story is one for the ages: "So maybe you loved me
but now/Maybe you don’t/And maybe you'll call me/Maybe
you won't," he says bluntly, as the music rushes over
him. What fun.
"You Were the Last High"
Benjamin Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello's collaboration album
is a stunning feat of electronica. Gibbard cuts between love
poems and politically-charged outlooks on the state of the
world, but "Nothing Better" is the disc at its most
humane. If "Such Great Heights" is a gorgeous but
shallow experimentation in laptop-dance, "Nothing Better"
is a musically modest but tender piece of sweet romance. Gibbard
fights to win his woman back while she interjects with a sensible
sign of farewell: "Don't you feed me lines about some
idealistic future/Your heart won't heal right if you keep
tearing out the sutures." The soft strings and jangling
piano arrangements in the background keep the song's sound
subtly ravishing. Simply put, the Postal Service's masterpiece
is the loveliest thing to happen to electronica since Daft
Kenna's New Wave-inspired New Sacred Crow proves that 80's
synth-pop isn't something to be joked about. The bleeps
that open "Hell Bent" could very well be the start
to a Eurythmics song, but the creamy subtlety of producer
Chad Hugo's immense sound is something to behold. Kenna
gives the song's chilling crisis a celestial sensation --
somewhere between Radiohead and David Bowie -- that refuses
to be labeled.
World affairs and George W. Bush finally gave Radiohead's
deep-seeded paranoia some context in Hail to the Thief.
Though the album was largely a disappointment, you'd be hard-pressed
to find a more profound political work in the whole year than
"There There." Drums swell as the electronic guitar
becomes increasingly urgent in Thom Yorke's evocation of a
dark, cold forest (or a destructively anxious nation): "There's
always a siren/Singing you to shipwreck/Don't reach out, don't
reach out." The band's intentions are firm and biting,
and it's no accident that the song's ravishing musical build-up
resembles that of a society preparing to self-destruct.
poetic love story progresses sequentially down to a devastating
three-part finale, entitled "Eskimo." It places
itself in the pitiful, sobering stage of a break-up, as
anger subsides and despair emerges. A broken-up Rice comes
up for air amidst his excruciating pain: "Tiredness
fuels empty thoughts/I find myself disposed/Brightness fills
empty space/In search of inspiration." The folk-structured
guitar work evokes the song's immense solitude and Rice's
redemption is brought to climax by a swelling string harmony
and an opera singer of awe-inspiring force, and fades out
like a Shakespearean tragedy -- hopelessly beautiful.
out our top ten runners-up of 2003.
out our top ten albums of 2002.
out our top ten albums of 2001.
out our top ten albums of 2000.
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