Music

Best Music of 2002: Nikki Tranter

Nikki's Top Ten Car Radio Singles of the Year

I don't listen to the radio at home, and haven't for a number of years. Not one of my numerous CD players or cassette records is tuned to any station at all. Home is for albums only. My car, however, is tuned to every radio station available in the rural area I call home, which amounts to all of about four. These four stations have been vying for my attention throughout 2002 with a variety of exciting, singable, in-the-car danceable chart hits. And, there have been a lot of them ths year. Here are my favorites:

1. Taxiride, "Creepin' Up Slowly" (Garage Mahal, Warner Bros.)
A mix of hip-hop, pop and garage rock, Taxiride's first single from their second album, Garage Mahal, goes a long way towards proving the band's debut, double-platinum smash, Imaginate (Sire, 2000) was no fluke. Band members Tim Watson, Tim Wild and Jason Singh contribute equally to the song on vocals and instruments, creating an awesome mix of vocal styles and harmonies. A smart, vibrant, and somewhat complicated song about rumors, lies, understanding and change, "Creepin'" is unashamedly radio friendly, and guaranteed to get you moving around in your car seat.

2. Shakira, "Objection (Tango)" (Laundry Service, Epic)
Ahh Shakira, it's not her fault she's so irresistable. With this outrageously infectious tune, the Colombian goddess with the hair like killer waves turns away from the pop-driven likes of previous singles "Whenever, Wherever" and "Underneath Your Clothes" in favor of rockin' out. The only thing better than hearing this song over and over on the radio, was seeing her perform it on this year's MTV Video Music Awards (http://www.popmatters.com/music/features/020903-mtvvmas.shtml), shaking those trademark hips and slamming on the stage as though she were a member of Van Halen. Irresistable, indeed.

3. Usher, "U-Turn" (8701, LaFace)
Being that I'm no great fan of hip-hop, I was as shocked as anyone else to become so infatuated with Usher's groovy little letter dance. "Put your hands up, bend your knees / Bounce around in a circle, get down wit me" -- it's very hard to do in such a confined space behind the steering wheel, but believe me, it can be done. The video accompanying this song sees Usher moving about as though being held up with strings, it's a grand site whether you're into his style of music or not.

4. The Streets, "Don't Mug Yourself" (Original Pirate Material, Atlantic)
Is this hip-hop? I don't know, but how great is this song? Admittedly, it received little airplay here in Australia, but when it did make it on to my car radio, it brightned my entire day. A poignant and hilarious song about the morning after a hot date, its bizarre tongue-twister lyrics -- "And I'm like, honestly it's not like that / Your acting like I'm prancing like a sap / Jumping when she claps and that" -- are twice as funny when delivered in Mike Skinner's cockney drawl. The song's video also featured one of the best moments of the year with Skinner falling through the wall of his local pub to find himself in an entirely different video.

5. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, "Get Over You" (Read My Lips, Universal)
After fronting The Audience for a few years, Ellis-Bextor burst on to the solo scene late last year with the horribly infectious "Murder on the Dancefloor". Her brand of fuzzy, Euro-pop has taken over Australian radio; it's impossible to escape her. Especially so, now that all three hits -- "Murder", "Get Over You" and "Music Gets the Best of Me" -- from her excellent Read My Lips album are receiving equal rotation. "Get Over You" is definitely the best of the three with it's impossibly catchy hooks and Ellis-Bextor's own sly wit (as demonstrated in recent Aussie television interviews) shining through on every line.

6. Darren Hayes, "Crush (1980 Me)" (Spin, Columbia)
I'm a sucker for anything to do with the '80s, and Hayes' tribute to the decade of decadence is the kind of flashback that really gets my party started. References to all my faves -- I mean, his faves -- are here, including Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, frosted lipstick and crimped hair, delivered in the rapid fire vocal style Hayes perfected on his very first hit, "I Want You" with Savage Garden. Hayes is also one the most played artists on Australian radio this year with all three singles from his Spin album receiving regular airplay. None, however, are as proudly bubblegum as this one.

7. Pink, "Don't Let Me Get Me" (M!ssundaztood, Arista)
I instantly found myself enjoying this song due to its strange similarities to a poem entitled "To Whom it Concerns" composed by Darlene Connor (Sara Gilbert) on an episode of Roseanne which featured the lines: "To whom it concerns, Darlene's great with a ball / But guys don't watch tomboys when they're cruising the hall / To whom it concerns, I just turned thirteen / Too short to be quarterback, too plain to be queen." Pink's ode to the disconnected -- "Never win first place, I don't support the team / I can't take direction, and my socks are never clean / Teachers dated me, my parents hated me / I was always in a fight cuz I can't do nothin' right" -- is just as honest and self-aware. As far as radio tunes go, this one didn't make me dance in my seat so much as compassionately bang the dash, Pink's words resonating with every thump.

8. George Michael, "Freeek!" (Freeek! EP, Polydor)
With its "I'll be your sexual freak / I'll be your inspirational brother / You're one fuck fantasy" chorus, George Michael's latest horny rant usually only found its way on to the radio at night, but it was always a good night when it did. George exudes confidence on this one, and uses his role in the music world as sexual samaritan to tell the kids of the world that, "It's a tits and ass world / You gotta be prepared." Who out there is more qualified to deliver such a message?

9. Lambretta: "Bimbo" (Lambretta, Universal)
Lambretta's Linda Sundblad's unparalled ability to sound (and look) sweet, innocent and charming one minute and like a gutteral, world-hating freak bitch the next made "Bimbo" a radio highlight earlier in the year. Bizarrely, this raging few minutes was co-written and co-produced by Brit-maker Max Martin.

10. Dave Matthews Band, "Grey Street" (Busted Stuff, RCA)
Okay, so this second single from DMB's latest never played on radio in Australia, but I felt it needed to be included as, for me, it's by far the best song released this year. This complicated tale of one woman's paranoid plunge into despair is graceful and poetic. Here's a sample: "There's a stranger speaks outside her door / Says take what you can from your dreams / Make them as real as anything / It'd take the work out of the courage / But, she says, .Please, there's a crazy man that's creeping outside my door / I live on the corner of Grey Street and the end of the world."


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