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The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.

30. Kanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”

Incongruities define Kanye West: middle-class upbringing vs. street swagger, insecurity vs. genius complex, bling-lust vs. social conscience. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, the curiously low-impact lead single off Graduation, upholds this truth in spellbinding fashion. Lyrically, Kanye still manages to make self-criticism sound like braggadocio (The Katrina flap? Just excessive candor). But when his assertiveness meets the song’s atmospheric, almost ethereal backdrop, the contrast is rich and hypnotic. Isn’t that typical ‘Yeezy? Spinning soulful beauty out of bombast. – Barry Lenser

29. Avril Lavigne – “Girlfriend”

Upon first listen, this tribute to girls’ inhumanity to girls might alienate music fans put off by its entitlement or borderline soullessness (not to mention that the supposedly boy-cruising singer married young). But in refashioning Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey!” as a mall anthem, Lavigne bounces her trademark brattiness away from rocker posing and over the top of bubblegum mountain. It turns out an empty, cynical Avril is a lot more infectious; maybe she should’ve ditched the sincerity years ago. – Jesse Hassenger

28. Los Campesinos! – “You! Me! Dancing!”

In a year when the Arcade Fire decided to go all sullen on us, thank goodness for these Welsh kids, who take the energy of said Montrealers, the busy mix of Broken Social Scene (even hijacking their producer), and the snarky wit of Art Brut, and mash it all into one big, joyous mess, Gareth Campesinos! perfectly capturing an indie geek’s epiphany that even though he can’t dance a single step, that’s no reason for him not to uncross his arms, wipe that indifferent look off his face, and give it a shot. – Adrien Begrand

27. Panda Bear – “Bros”

Panda Bear, Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, is the new Brian Wilson. I take that back. Dennis Wilson. Cat Stevens. Ronnie Spector. Annie Lennox? Am I on the right track? What if “Bros” is really the new “Good Morning, Starshine”, and a Judd Apatow bit player croons it in our next bro-medy? All I know is that “Bros” is beautiful, however or whatever we want it to be. Worth another listen or 12. – Maureen Miller

26. Peter Bjorn and John – “Young Folks”

“Young Folks” is the song of 2007 most likely to stick in your brain. After becoming an international hit, the Peter, Bjorn and John ditty was everywhere from radio to retail stores to the season premiere of Gossip Girl. All of that exposure should make “Young Folks” incredibly annoying. But Peter, Bjorn and John created such a perfect storm of a song that hearing “Young Folks” opening whistles is cause to crank the volume and whistle back –- over and over again. – Rachel Kipp

25. The White Stripes – “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)”


A little of the White Stripes goes a long, long way, but when Jack and Meg White get it precisely, absolutely right, then the results are always thrilling. And “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is the duo’s finest work since “You’re Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)” kicked off De Stijl all those years ago. While Meg pounds away like John Bonham’s lackadaisical zombie remains, Jack swaggers through this mid-paced country-blues-rock anthem like he swapped his soul at the crossroads for just a little Jimmy Page and a whole lotta Robert Plant.

Through every repetition of the double-wide, circular saw riff down to the finger-nails-on-the-chalkboard soloing that draws it to a close, every inch of this song is flavored with splendidly jagged contempt for the object of Jack’s attention. Embraced by blues and rock legends like the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, Lou Reed, and Jimmy Page himself, and imbued with the same sense of history and tradition that inspired them, Jack White is the closest thing this new millennium has to a rock ‘n’ roll hero. And Meg? Well, she’s the primal glue that underpins the boy wonder. – Roger Holland

24. The Animal Collective – “Peacebone”

If the last few Animal Collective albums can be viewed as a gradual exploration of the band’s latent pop tendencies, Strawberry Jam brings the trend to fruition, and opener “Peacebone” is the perfect flagship. While employing the band’s most familiar verse/chorus/bridge structure to date, the song is nonetheless a marvel of eclectic arrangement, incorporating insistent guitar pulse, steel drums, sampled words, and animal snarls without batting an eye. The opening, where the purely catchy bass hook seems to reign a wash of atonal ambient blipping into chord structure is a fitting microcosm of the overall achievement. – Nate Dorr

23. Caribou – “Melody Day”

This year found a lot of experimental, sound-based groups spending more time working successfully in basic, melody-driven sound structures, and there isn’t a better example of this than “Melody Day”. Dan Snaith’s penchant for exciting production isn’t lost on the song at all, but rather it is enhanced by his ability to write a song as catchy as it is layered. The bass slides up and down the neck throughout, giving the Wilsonian vocal harmonies something solid to stick to, and the smorgasbord of sound that hits you as the song goes on seems almost too haphazard to stay together. But when the song fade out, only to bust back in on you full-force, it becomes apparent that this isn’t nearly as unfocused as it sounds. It’s a perfect combination of sounds, and one of the best songs of the year in any genre. – Matt Fiander

22. Justin Timberlake – “Lovestoned/I Think She Knows Interlude”

The Futuresex/LoveSingles keep on coming! In both its radio edit and seven-minute incarnation, this track is the sound of sweat against clothes against flesh against flesh. The first half of the track is one of Timbaland’s funkiest beats, while the long outro begins as an Interpol inspired guitar drone before a shimmering string climax. The highlight, though, is JT’s the most hypnotic performance of his Casanova phase yet. – Robert Short

21. Radiohead – “Jigsaw Falling into Place”

“Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is the most immediately visceral track amid an album focused on the opposite. Originally known as “Open Pick”, much of the guitar noise is toned down; instead, a haunting, wordless refrain threatens to swallow the song whole, evoking The Bends in all its glory. Yorke laments over a shallow relationship, yet by the time he leaps an octave and quotes Tina Turner, you’ll be moved faster than you can moan “160kbps!” Yes, they can still rock. – Zach Schonfeld