Rest in peace on Earth, James Brown.
I have spent nothing on music this year. Before you call the feds, realize that I own neither an portable MP3 player nor a working CD player in the car. This limits my musical options to the library, YouTube, and terrestrial radio (formerly known as "radio").
Reviewing my list from last year, I'm pleased to discover no embarrassing choices. Here's hoping I can say the same for this 2006 lineup of my fave singles, powered mostly by estrogen. (Links to YouTube videos provided, copyright willing.)
10. "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse. With the disbanding of The Darkness, where else can we go for melodramatic, overproduced Spinal Tappish rock? Okay, Tenacious D, but also these guys. This track sounds like Thom Yorke fronting Queen, but the video strongly suggests they're not serious.
9. "Call Me When You're Sober" by Evanescence. Didn't care for this "Bring Me to Life" rehash the first few times, but the video grew on me. It helps that I have a mild crush on Amy Lee, and her giggle at the end is a killer.
In an alternate world, she would be Circe Nightshade, host of Goth Talk, and I would be her Azrael Abyss, Prince of Sorrow.
8. "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood. Unimpressed with Nashville this year, so this crossover hit -- by an American Idol, no less -- will have to do. Great lyrics and vocal delivery, even if I don't believe her hostility in the video for a second.
7. "Put Your Records On" by Corrine Bailey Rae. I'd argue that it sounds and looks like a blend between Erykah Badu and Norah Jones, but you'd reply, "Yeah, a lightly roasted blend." Okay, it's Starbucks music. Sue me.
6. "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" by K.T. Tunstall. This song mostly reminds me of Rebecca Romijn and Katharine McPhee because of Pepper Dennis and American Idol, so it's difficult to imagine its existence as an independent song by another person. Catchy as hell. Good album, too. Never saw the video until now.
5. "King Without a Crown (live)" by Matisyahu. As a rule, I prefer a clear studio recording to a noisy live version. (That's why I skip concerts.) But here's a glorious exception: compare the live performance to the inert video.
4. "Fully Alive" by Flyleaf. The best Evanescence song of the year is by another band. (I'm more of a "Going Under" person.) I could do without the clichéd video, which only seems to confirm that they do, apparently, rock.
3. "Smile" by Lily Allen. It's strictly a YouTube discovery, as the album hasn't been released stateside. Naughty and clever. The regular version is very good. But listen to the sped-up chipmunk version and you won't go back.
2. "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks. It's an ordinary song made extraordinary by circumstance, and yet it wasn't nearly as big as it should have been. In interviews, the trio stress solidarity in their anti-Bush sentiment, but watch the video: it's clear that Natalie Maines acted alone.
1. "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley. As if #1 could be anything else. So utterly simple in its creation and execution that music historians have to wonder why it wasn't created earlier. Even the video is so basic you'd think it was Godley and Creme, early 1980s. Fan fervor may have since subsided, but make no mistake: this is the closest thing to a standard the hip-hop generation has ever created, and it will sound relevant decades from now.
Honorable mention: "The Avon Lady part 1" by Kal Penn and Chester Tam. In the year of viral videos, it's the best. See why.
Dishonorable mention: By and large, male soft rock sucks: Nickelback, Hinder, The Fray (notable for whining in spondaic tetrameter), James Blunt, Daniel Powter. Go away.