The Best Singles of 2007
"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
9UGK 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
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
7The 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
"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
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
"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
"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
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