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The Best Singles of 2007


Kanye West

"The Good Life"

On the surface, Kanye West's "The Good Life" is an overt attempt at feel-good-anthem-of-the-year. Its stadium-worthy production and literal title spell out his desire to succeed in neon flashing lights. However, Kanye can't resist using a pop platform to highlight fractures in The Dream. Though his world is filled with hot whips and hotter chicks, Kanye is more interested in the bitter ironies of excessive success ("We like the girls that ain't on TV / Cos they got more ass than the models"). "The Good Life" is superficially an anthem for all –- aptly set to the King of Pop's beat -– but in reality a 21st century "Chocolate City" that rallies the hungry with a familiar mantra: "Having money is not everything is / Not having it is." Dan Nishimoto



UGK feat. OutKast

"International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)"

With this hard-hitting single, Houston duo UGK proved that they are truly the kings of the underground. Instrumentally, "Anthem" is a mix between the signature styles of the East and the South, boasting a flourishing beat that pairs thin drums with a gushy Willie Hutch sample. With OutKast by their side, the duo barrels over the beat with ease, making the song one of the best pimp anthems of the year. Steven J. Horowitz




"Paper Planes"

M.I.A's "Paper Planes" (off of Kala) is a Walt Disney-on–acid trip through a day in the life of a drug runner, complete with an "Its a Small World"-esque sing-song chorus of children chanting about murder and taking your money. Here, she disproves pop music conspiracy theorists' rhetoric that political consciousness and true pop sensibility can't coexist in harmony. "Planes" also proves that M.I.A has the vision to transcend her self-created genre. Matt Mazur



The Arcade Fire


The first thing you notice is the church organ. As if the Arcade Fire's sound couldn't possibly get any more epic, here the band cranks up the melodrama and plays that one song that lets God know how they feel about their time on Earth, and the results are as beautiful as they are bleak. Few songs can remain so hauntingly catchy when lines like "Every spark of friendship and love / Will die without a home" are being sung with total conviction. When the climax hits, Win Butler's voice cracks and pleads amidst a full-on choir of yearning female voices, his catharsis suddenly becomes your catharsis. It's a song of sheer wonder and magic in a time when we have so little of either. Utterly essential. Evan Sawdey



Amy Winehouse


"Rehab" would prove to be unusually literal, referring to UK singer Amy Winehouse's refusal -- pre- and post-fame -- to endure institutionalized periods of forced sobriety. That fact, happily, happens to be one of the least noteworthy aspects of this overtly appealing single, which unabashedly recalls mid-20th century doo-wop and girl groups; Winehouse's husky, deep-ditch vocals sound so right alongside a full-court-press horn section that it almost seems as though she were born to make us miss Ronnie Spector and Diana Ross. Raymond Cummings



The Fratellis


My introduction to the Fratellis in general and "Flathead" in specific didn't come from the "iPod Flavorful Song of the Year", since the only TV I watch is either sports or Food Network, neither of which show iPod commercials. Instead, I was in a "big box" store, and the song came over the P.A. The odd mix of skiffle, punk, waltz, and samba packed in a 3:17 space with dazzling twists and turns, gorgeous harmonies, and quirky lyrics (I need to find a pink motel to talk dirty in) is melodic and catchy as all hell. I was captivated. I bought Costello Music right then and there, and it turned out to be one of my favorite albums of the year. And I finally got to see the iPod commercial, too -- very cool. Lou Friedman



Miranda Lambert

"Gunpowder and Lead"

Ever see the Dixie Chicks video where all the cute girls in the cowboy hats are singing along that "Earl's gotta DIE!"? Well, in Lambert's not so pretty, gritty, sweaty, deeper shade of blue collar-version of a woman whom the law ain't doing a good job of protecting, imagine those cute girls spittin' and sneering when they sing it. Damn mad, kinda mean, pretty scary, and cathartic as hell. Stand back, fellas, this song is for the ladies. Lambert's Texas twang and kick 'em in the dust country rock is devilishly irresistable, right down to that final, telling sound of the empty shotgun shell hittin' the concrete. Karen Zarker



LCD Soundsystem

"All My Friends"

Leave it to James Murphy to get over seven minutes out of one piano chord. The mind behind LCD Soundsystem has been making us dance while we smirk to his songs for a while now, but on "All My Friends" he lets a touch of the irony fall away. With that one chord coming hard and fast off the piano, the tension continues to mount in this song, which finds him struggling with where music ends and personal life begins. When he gets to the end and he's yelling about tanned kids and magazine articles, he sounds exposed and genuinely confused. This song, more than other on the Sound of Silver, shows us that Murphy isn't just a fantastic DJ, he's a great songwriter, as well. Matt Fiander

Streaming: All My Friends





How many songs are so good that you completely ignore a Jay-Z guest verse? Rihanna's "Umbrella" was the inescapable hit of the summer (or the whole damn year) that you hated to love. The song's pounding electro-thump combined with Rihanna's detached vocals -- she sounded like a sex robot with an electrical short -- gave the song an air that some call slinky, some call sleazy. Either way, "Umbrella" is a pop triumph-a song that was inescapable because it was THAT GOOD, and as such, it will probably be stuck in your head forever-ever-ever-eh-eh-eh. Mike Heyliger

Video: Umbrella





The showcasing single from debut album Mirrored, "Atlas" perfectly encapsulated Battles' sound, with John Stanier's irresistible drumbeat leading into compellingly obscure (yes, those are real words he's singing) chipmunk vocals, wrapped up in irrepressibly playful guitar. All of which sounds disorientating, and it is. But give it hours, days, weeks, and it'll still be there, dancing 'round your head with as much -- nay, more -- energy as when you first heard it. A grower that's brilliant to begin with -- fantastic. Chris Baynes





The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.


Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.


Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.


'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.


10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.


'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.


The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
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