Singles of the '00s, Part 2: Rock

Monday, August 30, 2010
When I started this series a few weeks ago with the top 50 rap/R&B crossover singles of the last decade, I mentioned that there'd be more lists like it, but I didn't mention what exactly. This list, though, is actually the one that got the whole idea running. I've long been one of the only rock critics I know who likes to listen to mainstream contemporary rock radio or write about it with any degree of interest beyond general loathing or dismissal. I'll be the first to admit that the alternative and 'active' rock formats have, in the '00s, have been a shadow of what they were in the '90s, as far as quality or cultural influence or general excitement or variety. But I'm still not sure mainstream rock took as much of a nosedive as the average indie rocker things (or as much of a nosedive as big time indie rock took in the same time period).

I enjoyed the hell out of thinking hard about mainstream rock radio in my Idolator column Corporate Rock Still Sells from 2007 to 2009, and when that site went to shit a few weeks before the end of last year, I was especially bummed that I wouldn't be able to do any kind of big end of decade wrap-up or list. So that's really where the idea to do these genre-specific lists came from. One thing I'm going to be pretty hardcore about here is that every song on the list must have charted on Billboard's Modern Rock and/or Mainstream Rock charts. So no personal favorite indie rock singles here that never got serious radio play, and anything that was a hit on pop or adult contemporary radio but not actual rock stations will instead be considered for the pop list later in the series. Like with the previous list, I'll be posting each of the 50 songs one at a time throughout this week, 10 a day, and you can follow me on Twitter as I unveil each choice:

50. Chevelle - "Send The Pain Below" (2003)
#65 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

For a few years, I dismissed Chevelle as one of the more derivative bands in rock radio; they sounded to me like a smoothed out synthesis of Tool and Deftones, with all the prog and harshness of those bands taken out. But my wife loves them, and between hearing their albums via her and them becoming an an incredibly consistent singles act, I’ve come around to realize that’s a strength, not a weakness, and they write better pop songs than any of the bands they sound vaguely like.

49. The White Stripes - "Icky Thump" (2007)
#26 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #11 Mainstream Rock

If someone with a more tasteful Rolling Stone kind of perspective on mainstream rock in the last 10 years was making this list, The White Stripes would probably appear more than any other band and “Seven Nation Army” would probably be #1. But it’s my list, and I spent most of the decade hating Jack White’s awful fucking voice and schticky bullshit and overrated songs. I softened my position on White a bit later on when he teamed up with the far more tolerable Brendan Benson in The Raconteurs (although I never really liked their singles), and that Loretta Lynn single was pretty good too, and maybe that’s why the title track from their last album, Icky Thump, ended up being my favorite White Stripes song. I just love that gnarled groove and those Univox solos, this song was so much more fun than the other shit to me.

48. Limp Bizkit - "Break Stuff" (2000)
#14 Modern Rock, #19 Mainstream Rock

Limp Bizkit peaked in the final months of the ‘90s with the release of Significant Other, and rode the victory lap of their pop culture ubiquity in 2000 with this, its 4th single, and their last hit album, Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water. From there on out, it was all downhill: lineup changes, plummeting sales, long periods of inactivity. And even though they and their similarly reviled arch nemeses Creed peaked around the same time and had their own precipitous fall from prominence, they remained the whipping boys for why mainstream rock is bad until, like, 2006, the easy shorthand for what was wrong with popular music a half decade after their last platinum plaque. But mostly that extended stay as villains was unwarranted because they were a better and more entertaining singles act than a lot of the admittedly less obnoxious bands that replaced them on the rock charts.

47. Halestorm - "I Get Off" (2009)
#36 Modern Rock, #7 Mainstream Rock, #17 Rock Songs

In the past 10 years, there’ve been very few female-led bands on rock radio, and that handful have kind of been all over the map. But there’s still a familiar arc for frontwomen, from Evanescence to Paramore: they don’t sing about sex or romance beyond vague emotion/relationship stuff, and they usually seem embarrassed about being considered attractive by fans and play up their religious background. So that’s why it was kind of refreshing last year to hear Lizzy Hale singing “I get off on you getting off on me” over a big hair metal riff. It’s worth noting that this is one of a handful of songs on the list that charted on the “Rock Songs” chart Billboard started running halfway through 2009, after I’d been whining for a couple years on Corporate Rock Still Sells that the Modern and Mainstream charts were becoming more and more indistinguishable from one another and there might as well be one big rock chart.

46. Staind - "For You" (2002)
#63 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock, #3 Mainstream Rock

At the end of the ‘90s, Staind were just another shitty nu-metal band with a stupid mispelled name, a breakthough hard rock radio hit hilariously called “Mudshovel,” and a supporting slot on the Family Values tour. Then, frontman Aaron Lewis did some solo acoustic sets on the tour, the Bizkit’s Fred Durst sat in at a show to sing harmonies and sing and shout about how he’s feeling those lighters, Biloxi, and the megahit live recording of “Outside” was born, transforming Staind into the biggest, most loathesome power balladeers of the new millenium. The quintuple platinum album that followed, Break The Cycle, spun off three slow, boring hits, including a full band studio recording of “Outside,” before they finally released a song with something resembling a pulse as its 4th single. So I’m not even sure how much I even like “For You” and how much I was just relieved that it provided a break from the ballads, as well as a completely ridiculous video.

45. Weezer - "Troublemaker" (2008)
#2 Modern Rock, #35 Mainstream Rock

I will never understand the cult of Weezer, not just because the two albums they made in the ‘90s do not deserve that kind of reverence, but also because the music they’ve made since then do not deserve to be treated like a fan betrayal on the level of the Star Wars prequels. The closest early Weezer obsessives got to outright celebrating a new single from the band in the past decade was “Pork & Beans,” a song that was no less asinine than “Hash Pipe” but did admittedly sound a little more like Pinkerton. But the much less heralded follow-up ended up hanging around on the charts way longer and has probably been the song I’ve heard by the band the most in the past 2 years, even more than those overrated ‘90s recurrents.

44. Fall Out Boy - "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs" (2007)
#11 Hot 100, #19 Modern Rock

After the decline of Limp Bizkit, we didn’t see another rock star like Fred Durst -- openly hob nobbing with rappers and pop stars and revelling in fame -- until the bassist from an Illinois emo band like Pete Wentz of all people. Fall Out Boy were the most shamelessly modern cosmopolitan dilettentes to become rock stars in the past decade: as soon as they became famous, they started getting Jay-Z and Lil Wayne to shoehorn awkward guest appearances onto their albums, collaborating with Timbaland, and so on (the “kicked out of the hood” sequence on the “This Ain’t A Scene” video remains one of the most embarrassing things in a career full of cringe-inducing moments). But their most successful and unlikely crossover into the black pop world was when they asked Babyface to produce a couple tracks on 2007’s great Infinity On High, not because of their interest in R&B but because he’d done some great power pop production on the Josie & The Pussycats movie soundtrack. He ended up co-writing and playing mandolin (!) on what would be Fall Out Boy’s last significant rock radio hit, before they sunk fully into the pop crossover world that would eventually prove to end their winning streak, as 2008’s Folie a Deux turned out to be an artistic triumph and a commercial dud.

43. The All-American Rejects - "Swing, Swing" (2003)
#60 Hot 100, #8 Modern Rock

The All-American Rejects had a similar arc as Fall Out Boy, crossing over from Modern Rock radio to pop radio and losing rock radio support in the process. That means that my favorite of their singles, the title track from 2005’s Move Along, isn’t on this list because all of that album’s singles got pop radio play and no Modern Rock chart action, which kind of breaks my heart because I love that song, it coulda been top 10 here, and it’s way more of a rock song than “Gives You Hell,” the Smashmouth-y pop song that put them back on the Modern Rock chart last year. But anyway this, their debut single, is pretty good too.

42. The Killers - "Mr. Brightside" (2004)
#10 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock

If any band ever seemed destined to move, like Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects and Maroon 5, among others, toward being too pop for rock radio, it was the pretty boy synth-playing Anglophiles in The Killers. And yet after 3 albums, each of them has yielded multiple Modern Rock top 10 hits, and even the Brandon Flowers solo record is doing pretty well on rock stations. Go figure. But it’s pretty definite that this is the song that ensured they’d be around for at least a while getting heavy rotation somewhere or another.

41. Jimmy Eat World - "A Praise Chorus" (2002)
#16 Modern Rock

With a lot of the bands here, I like several singles by them but ended up shaving down their presence on the list to one or two songs, or only one per album or era, just to make room, because this easily coulda been a top 100 instead of just 50. But there are some albums that just spun off multiple undeniable hits, and chief among them is Jimmy Eat World’s 2001 breakthrough album, first called Bleed American and then changed to self-titled in those oversensitive days following 9/11. All four singles were great, and even the last one, which was a relatively minor hit, still gets played on the radio all the time and I smile every time I hear it. The singer from the Promise Ring getting namechecked in “A Praise Chorus” is the closest that moron ever got to a great rock song.

40. Green Day - "Waiting" (2000)
#26 Modern Rock

This song represents probably the low point of Green Day’s career in terms of popularity: the third and least successful single from their lowest selling major label album. But it’s exactly the kind of jangly gem they completely gave up on making when they came back with those bullshit rock operas a few years later and forgot the rubbery rhythm section and sneering hooks that made them great in favor of thudding, generic alt-rock. This is the only Green Day song on this list, fuck all that American Idiot noise.

39. Papa Roach - "Lifeline" (2009)
#81 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

Papa Roach will always be best known for their first single, the dunderheaded nu-metal smash “Last Resort,” but in the 10 decade since then they’ve released five albums and a string of much better minor hits like “She Loves Me Not” and “Forever” and this, chunky angry frontman Coby Dick gradually becoming the guylinered metrosexual Jacoby Shaddix and the band’s sound similarly slimming down to upbeat, anthemic hard rock.

38. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Maps" (2004)
#87 Hot 100, #9 Modern Rock

I’ll tell you right up front that none of the Modern Rock chart hits by Modest Mouse or the Shins or Arcade Fire or Death Cab For Cutie or a lot of other indie bands made good in the last decade will be on this list. But this one, as much as I hate the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, this song kinda got to me. I still don’t buy the “omg they ripped this song off for ‘Since U Been Gone’ and that’s why it’s good” thing, though.

37. Alien Ant Farm - "Smooth Criminal" (2001)
#23 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #18 Mainstream Rock

Two years ago, I wrote a Corporate Rock Still Sells column detailing the history of rock radio hit covers of pop songs, and how they doom new bands to one hit wonder status, as a cautionary tale for the band Framing Hanley that had just released a cover of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.” Obviously, they didn’t heed my warning.

36. Korn - "Word Up!" (2004)
#17 Modern Rock, #16 Mainstream Rock

Novelty ‘80s covers weren’t just for one hit wonders, though -- sometimes they were a way for established bands to pad a best of comp and actually sound like they’re having fun for once. Korn spent the last decade coasting on early hits and continually failing to write anything with a hook remotely as good as “Freak On A Leash” or “Falling Away From Me,” and at one point thumbed their nose at their label with a joke single called “Y’All Want A Single” that was still just as turgid and unpleasant as their serious songs. But then they covered Cameo and Pink Floyd for a greatest hits collection and those songs actually jammed way more than they had a right to.

35. Disturbed - "Land Of Confusion" (2006)
#18 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

Disturbed covered Tears For Fears on their first album, and I feel pretty confident that if they’d released “Shout 2000” as a single instead of “Stupify” or “Down With The Sickness” they wouldn’t be remotely as successful today. But a couple albums later when they were well established, they got their ‘80s jones out of their system with a pretty kickass cover of one of my favorite Genesis singles.

34. The Ataris - "Boys Of Summer" (2003)
#20 Hot 100, #2 Modern Rock, #36 Mainstream Rock

One band that definitely didn’t learn the lessons of Alien Ant Farm was The Ataris, who ended up with my favorite cover on this list, with some crunchier guitars and peppy drum fills and changing references from Grateful Dead to Black Flag to make a predictable but totally effective Don Henley update.

33. Foo Fighters - "The Best Of You" (2005)
#18 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

Dave Grohl pwned all the bands mentioned in the last few entries not just by having a better career overall, but by getting the ‘80s icon he covered to cover him back. After the Foo Fighters charted in 2003 with a b-side cover of “Darling Nikki,” and the author supposedly objected and stopped it from being released as an a-side, Prince unexpectedly played one of Grohl’s best originals, perhaps as tribute, perhaps thumbing his nose a little, during his halftime performance at the 2007 Super Bowl. The Foos were definitely one of the most consistent rock hitmakers of the last decade, even if they never quite reached the heights of 1997’s The Colour And The Shape, and I kinda feel bad making this their only entry on the list. But if I had made it 100 songs long, you’d definitely be seeing “The Pretender” and “Times Like These” and “Breakout” and “No Way Back” and “D.O.A.” and “Long Road To Ruin” here, too.

32. Say Anything - "Alive With The Glory Of Love" (2006)
#28 Modern Rock

When Say Anything’s 2004 masterpiece ...Is A Real Boy was reissued by a major label in 2006, it should’ve been the beginning of something big, ideally them following in the footsteps of My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy as emo’s next big platinum crossover stars. Instead, this amazing song was just the first and biggest of their 3 minor chart hits, which is probably the most you can hope for considering this is a better perverse Holocaust-themed love song than anything the guy from Neutral Milk Hotel ever wrote. Also the only song on this list I played at my wedding, by the way.

31. Good Charlotte - "The Anthem" (2003)
#43 Hot 100, #10 Modern Rock

They disappeared from view about as quickly as they blew up, but for a second Good Charlotte’s self-proclaimed goal of being “a combination of Minor Threat and the Backstreet Boys” was one of the weirdest most shrewd crossover stories of the decade that saw Radio Disney and the Warped Tour continue to meet each other halfway more and more in recent years.

30. Nickelback - "Photograph" (2005)
#2 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

Nickelback became rock’s biggest villains, the megasellers that boring people use to illustrate why popular taste is wrong, once Creed and Limp Bizkit had been gone long enough that they needed a new punching bag. And sure, they do deserve it to some extent, but they also did write some great songs, like this, the first and biggest of the staggering 8 hits from 2005’s All The Right Reasons.

29. Blink 182 - "Always" (2004)
#39 Modern Rock

“Always” was the last single Blink 182 released before their breakup, and Tom DeLonge’s prediction that the song would “change people's lives and might actually change the world forever” foreshadowed the self-aggrandizing dipshit he’d soon become as the frontman of the completely worthless Angels & Airwaves. But this song, forgotten chart blip that it is, really is fantastic and should have been huge, and the video was pretty clever too.

28. N.E.R.D. - "Rock Star" (2002)
#36 Modern Rock

Rap/R&B super producers The Neptunes’ rock side project has been mostly an ill-advised affair, including the decision to re-record their debut album In Search Of... with a live band (although their backing band, Spymob, made one of my favorite rock albums of the decade and would most certainly be on this list if any of their singles ever actually charted). But this was the one song that actually sounded way better on the ‘rock’ version of the album, and was appropriately the album’s one song that got Modern Rock chart action, which helped the Neptunes become the only guys who’ve had a hand in songs on all 6 of the lists in this series.

27. 311 - “Don’t Tread On Me” (2005)
#2 Modern Rock

OK, yes, I know what you’re thinking, that I’ve already displayed questionable judgement in this list so far and this is the last straw (even my wife, who probably likes more songs on here than anyone else reading this, scoffed at me this morning over Nickelback). These guys were bad in the ‘90s, and they were arguably even worse in the ‘00s, what with the reggae Cure cover and that fuckin’ “amber is the color of your energy” song. But seriously, this is a good song, and if anyone else wrote it I wouldn’t be the only person noticing or admitting it.

26. The Darkness - “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” (2003)
#35 Mainstream Rock

Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek hair metal satire, but it’s also better than just about any serious attempt at recreating ‘80s rawk magic made by any aging hair bands or Crue Fest flunkies or dickhead revivalists like Avenged Sevenfold in the past decade. And unabashed campy retro is about as good as British rock got in its miserable hype-fueled ‘00s.

25. Muse - "Knights of Cydonia" (2006)
#10 Modern Rock

At the end of the decade, Muse stood alongside Kings Of Leon and 30 Seconds To Mars as the new alt-rock radio A-list, careerist pretty boys with grandiose artistic and/or commercial ambitions in the Killers/Coldplay mold. And while their coronation came with their most recent run of garbage singles from The Resistance and that last Twilight movie, they were actually a pretty tolerable singles act for a while there. And this, the third U.K. single from Black Holes And Revelation but the album’s lead single in the U.S., was their shining moment, every bit a self-parodic bit of classic rock excess as “I Believe In A Thing Called Love,” with its own hilarious sci-fi comedy video to boot.

24. My Chemical Romance - "I’m Not Okay (I Promise)" (2004)
#86 Hot 100, #4 Modern Rock

I got hooked by the hysterical fake movie trailer video first (people compare it to Rushmore, but I feel like at this point people just have a Pavlovian reaction to make that comparison whenever they see private school uniforms), then I realized the song is a blast too and that these guys are brilliant, or at least they were before they disappeared up their own asses with that rock opera follow-up, and have taken 4 years and counting to deliver anything new since then. Man I miss the young, snotty, funny MCR.

23. Pearl Jam - "The Fixer" (2009)
#56 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock, #10 Mainstream Rock, #2 Rock Songs

Pearl Jam remained a great radio act throughout the ‘90s, even through their most adversarial period when they were protesting Ticketmaster and refusing to release their catchiest songs as singles. It was only really in the 2000s that they finally shook off radio programmers, at least for a while, with turgid, unforgiving singles like “Nothing As It Seems.” But by the end of the decade they’d come back around to releasing uptempo singles and the concise, peppy new wave of “The Fixer” was in some ways more pop than even the hits that made them famous.

22. Nine Inch Nails - "The Hand That Feeds" (2005)
#31 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #2 Mainstream Rock

Nine Inch Nails were, like Pearl Jam, a ‘90s alt-rock institution that started off the ‘00s slow before becoming radio mainstays again, but unlike Pearl Jam that was because they were pretty much silent for the whole first half of the decade. And then Trent Reznor just came back with a vengeance, dropping 3 back-to-back albums full of radio hits (plus a pretty great instrumental double album), and supposedly ending the NIN saga on a high note to go start a new band I still haven’t checked out yet.

21. Paramore - "MIsery Business" (2007)
#26 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock

I’ve had this and “I’m Not Okay” kind of taking turns being stuck in my head today, and they’re both just perfect blasts of hooky pop punk adrenaline, both from great albums by bands at the top of their game. If only Warped Tour rock was always this good.

20. Incubus - "Wish You Were Here" (2001)
#60 Hot 100, #2 Modern Rock, #4 Mainstream Rock

Incubus are kind of an underrated band, I think -- I’ve never bought an album, but I’ve heard most of them in my brother’s or wife’s cars, and they’re just a solid, versatile band that only occasionally goes overboard in the name of being ‘eclectic.’ They have a lot of good singles that could have made this list and “Anna-Molly” came close, but it’s always felt like this song was their clear peak.

19. Fall Out Boy - "Dance, Dance" (2005)
#9 Hot 100, #2 Modern Rock

“Sugar, We’re Going Down” is both their breakthrough hit and seemingly the one most people like, but for me the follow-up was the song that made me start to like these guys and still my favorite. But then, it was also the beginning of them doing really indulgent videos with the band members having dialogue and all that shit, so it’s a double-edged sword.

18. The Strokes - "Hard To Explain" (2001)
#27 Modern Rock

The ‘the’ band ROCK IS BACK! hype of 2001 was too boring for me to even hate, and even though I’m snubbing the Hives and the Vines and only listed on later White Stripes single here, I have to admit that This Is It has held up well and I was tempted to put all 3 single from it on here, but I’ll settle for just my favorite.

17. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "By The Way" (2002)
#34 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

After John Frusciante rejoined the band in the late ‘90s, Red Hot Chili Peppers enjoyed a huge resurgence of commercial success, mostly with single after single of wishy washy midtempo alt-rock that featured little of the band’s early funk and frenzy and a whole lot of Anthony Keidis, Balladeer. But this was at least one time that they were able to kind of fuse the melodic sensitive nu-RHCP with something kind of fast and fun and it all hung together surprisingly well.

16. Jet - "Cold Hard Bitch" (2004)
#55 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

As a rule, nobody writes better AC/DC songs than AC/DC. But in a decade in which the best they could muster was “Stiff Upper Lip” and “Rock’Roll Train,” it’s not quite sacrilege to suggest they were bettered by some otherwise pretty terrible fellow Aussies, who ended up with the best Angus Young pastiche since The Cult’s “Love Removal Machine.”

15. Finger Eleven - "Paralyzer" (2007)
#6 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #1 Mainstream Rock

Three years ago, a douchey Canadian alt-rock band whose previous claim to fame was the guilty pleasure power ballad “One Thing” came out of nowhere with a boogie woogie smash that felt like some kind of smudgy but somehow superior xerox of the dance rock that corny indie dudes had been hyping up five years earlier, and ended up with maybe the biggest uptempo crossover rock song of the decade besides Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.”

14. U2 - "Beautiful Day" (2000)
#21 Hot 100, #5 Modern Rock, #14 Mainstream Rock

U2 are the oldest band on the list by some distance, the only other one that was remotely established back in the ‘80s being RHCP. And while they’ve done a better job than other contemporaries like R.E.M. of continuing to be not just a touring oldies act but a viable hitmaking machine in the 21st century, they’ve been pretty hit and miss with the actual quality of all their Grammy-winning singles. This one I thought was a little too simple and on the nose at first, but it won me over with time.

13. The Killers - "When You Were Young" (2006)
#14 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #30 Mainstream Rock

After the killers established themselves as part of the new accessible adult contemporary arm of alternative rock, heirs to grandiose throne of U2, it was looked at as a potential disaster when they grew goofy facial hair and started awkwardly invoking Springsteen on their sophomore album Sam’s Town. But then, the lead single ended up being arguably their biggest, best hit, and they kept on truckin’.

12. Evanescence - "Call Me When You're Sober" (2006)
#10 Hot 100, #4 Modern Rock, #5 Mainstream Rock

Like the Killers, Evanescence released their follow-up to a huge debut in the fall of 2006, and like the Killers they had an amazing lead single to rise to the occasion. But unlike the Killers, no subsequent singles did much of anything, and they’ve pretty much disappeared since then. A shame, I would’ve loved a bunch of more songs like this, it seemed like they’d kind of stepped up from the pretty good “Bring Me To Life” to do the same kind of stuff with a whole other level of intensity and clever arranging.

11. Weezer - "Perfect Situation" (2005)
#51 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock

As I noted in the previous entry for “Troublemaker,” Weezer’s ‘00s singles output is way better than most give them credit for, but I think that’s partly their own fault. They have a tendency to drop big, stupid attention-grabbing lead singles (like “Hash Pipe,” “Dope Nose,” “Beverly Hills” and “Pork & Beans”) and then save their best and hookiest songs for the second or third single (“Island In The Sun,” “Keep Fishin’,” this and “Troublemaker”). That cycle finally started to break down last year with the great “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To” preceded the awful “I’m Your Daddy,” but it’s too soon to tell what I think of the new one’s lead single, “Memories.” This was actually the 3rd single off Make Believe, on released after the truly horrible “We Are All On Drugs” when it became a fan favorite. Rivers Cuomo has always been a solid tunesmith who gets in his own way with idiotic lyrics, and here he lets a huge wordless chorus do all the talking, even if the verses are still full of hero/zero couplets and other drudgery.

10. Lostprophets - "Last Train Home" (2004)
#75 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #10 Mainstream Rock

They’re not quite a one hit wonder, because really barely anyone on this list is, because if you make one great undeniable rock radio hit they’ll play at least a couple of your shitty follow-ups, although I wouldn’t call the few other songs I’ve heard by this Welsh (!) band shitty per se. But this is also very clearly their one big epic moment, as corny and embarrassing to admit loving as just about anything on this list, but just about the perfect intersection of nu metal and earnest pop/rock for me, with an amazing build up from the verses to the pre-chorus to the big old singalong hook.

9. Yellowcard - "Ocean Avenue" (2004)
#37 Hot 100, #21 Modern Rock

Another kinda sorta one hit wonder from the mighty ‘04 (the most strongly represented year on this list, with this being the highest of 8 entries -- I was working in a pizza place that year and we got through the long boring evening shifts listening to WHFS and 98 Rock). This should be such a twerpy punk pop song, but powerful drumming and a tune thickened out with a little violin deep in the mix really go along way to helping it transcend many contemporaries.

8. Limp Bizkit - "My Way" (2001)
#75 Hot 100, #3 Modern Rock, #4 Mainstream Rock

I was so close to having “Rollin’” on the list before I decided to not let any band have more than 2 songs on the list (making the Bizkit one of 6 bands to drop a deuce here), and in many ways that is the ultimate Durst jam. But in my heart of hearts, this will always be my favorite Chocolate Starfish single. I love the "yeah!" heading into the chorus and the way he rhymes "leadership" with "straight up leave your shit."

7. Sum 41 - "Fat Lip" (2001)
#66 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock

Rap/rock as a commercial entity was mostly left to the active rock mooks like Durst, but this was the one time the punk/poppers got it together to channel their inner Beasties in a big way. Now, the Warped Tour is full of ironic crunk like 3OH!3 while Sum 41 remembered that Canadians should never ever rap (hear that, Aubrey?), and the world is much worse for the change.

6. Train - "Drops Of Jupiter (Tell Me)" (2001)
#4 Hot 100, #11 Modern Rock, #19 Mainstream Rock

This is the big gooey feelgood piano-and-strings pop hit that got these guys permanently banished from rock radio and left to Adult Contemporary formats, so you don’t hear it on alt-rock stations much anymore and you definitely don’t hear “Hey Soul Sister,” but it was pretty big on those stations at the time, and for good reason.

5. Jimmy Eat World - "Sweetness" (2002)
#75 Hot 100, #2 Modern Rock

If I hadn’t ended up with a 2 song cap for any one band on this list I probably would’ve put all 4 singles from Bleed American on here, the best run of rock singles from one album in the last decade (not even sure what the runner-up would be, maybe Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor or Blink 182’s self-titled?). But to narrow it down to my absolute favorite, this one wins over the bigger crossover hit “The Middle” every time. I remember one of the friends I drove to Florida with for spring break in 2002 had the album, and this was always the big singalong favorite even before it was a single, just a great barrage of alternating hooks and big cool drum beats and riffs and pinging pianos.

4. Linkin Park - "Faint" (2003)
#48 Hot 100, #1 Modern Rock, #2 Mainstream Rock

Linkin Park are pretty much the biggest rock radio fixtures of the last decade that aren’t holdovers from the ‘90s, trying to sound as gaudily 21st century as they can with a mix of rap and metal and synth pop and glitchy sci-fi sound effects, and quite often that culminated in big soupy power ballads with boy band vocals. Now and then, though, they lived up to whatever potential they had and just ripped into some crazy uptempo rocker with a good-for-Mike-Shinoda rap flow and a throat-shredding chorus and a backing track that balanced the synths with the Marshall stacks perfectly.

3. Coldplay - "Clocks" (2003)
#29 Hot 100, #9 Modern Rock

Coldplay shrewdly did the stadium Radiohead thing in the states for years before Muse picked up the mantle, but ironically (I guess? I don’t even know anymore) their best single was based on Chris Martin supposedly playing with what he thought was a Muse-ish piano riff. The first time I heard this song was in some really dramatic promo for I think HBO’s fall lineup or something like that, and even though I’ve come to love the song beyond that big goofy piano riff it really does work best as just a big irresistibly evocative soundtrack moment.

2. System Of A Down - "Chop Suey!" (2001)
#76 Hot 100, #7 Modern Rock, #12 Mainstream Rock

Think of all the songs and albums and movies and TV shows that were launched in the fall of 2001 that failed, and whose creators were eager to somehow blame on national post-9/11 malaise or the unfortunate timing of how their art resonated with that moment in a weird inappropriate way. And then think about how System Of A Down had the #1 album right when all that happened and one of the biggest rock hits of the year while singing about self-righteous suicide, and whatever backlash there was just couldn’t stop them and this song from being rightfully huge.

1. My Chemical Romance - "Helena" (2005)
#33 Hot 100, #11 Modern Rock

This was battling out with “Chop Suey!” for the top spot in my brain for a while, but it didn’t occur to me until just today that they kind of appeal to me for the same reason: fast spastic verses that build tension and release into a massive midtempo chorus. It’s really a formula I wish more people used more often, but it was never used as well as here, just an incredible, perfect song that, more than all their epic classic rock moves later on, was what helped My Chemical Romance transcend emo and just become a great platinum-worthy rock band right in the middle of a decade in which such a thing became increasingly rare.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some recent live reviews I've written for the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog: the Rap Round Robin with Mickey Free/Rapdragons/Height With Friends/AK Slaughter/PT Burnem/etc. @ Floristree, J Roddy Walston & The Business/Tommy Tucker & The Supernaturals @ The Ottobar and Casual Curious/Andrew Weathers Ensemble/Us And Only Us @ the Hexagon and Tears For Fears @ Rams Head Live.

(PT Burnem photo by Al Shipley)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A few days ago I interviewed Trey Songz for my first Baltimore Sun article, which is in today's paper to promote his concert at Pier Six Pavilion tonight. I also wrote a sidebar article about Trey's collaborations, including hits by Twista and Drake, and his remix of DJ Class's Baltimore club hit "I'm The Ish."

The 2010 Remix Report Card, Vol. 8

Thursday, August 26, 2010
"Power (Remix)" by Kanye West featuring Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz
I thought the original was a big lumbering bore, and when I heard the remix was gonna be another big hyped up Jay collab, my hopes were dim. But thankfully Kanye went in and toyed with the beat and tried some new shit, and Jay, as far gone as his once great skills once were, has been on a run of decent verses like this and the new Usher single. Kanye starting with that start-stop chant flow and rhyming "power clap" with "half an hour nap" on his first verse was super lame, but then when Swizz and that Snap sample came in, I gotta admit, I got a little hype of that, even if Kanye just kept rapping way too fucking long.
Best Verse: Jay-Z
Overall Grade: B

"Shine Blockas (Remix)" by Big Boi featuring Bun B, Project Pat and Gucci Mane
This song was just one of the many singles Big Boi dripped out in the 2 year run up to Lucious Leftfoot, and like most of the others it wasn't really a hit at all, but for some reason this so-so track took on a life of its own as THE BEST RAP SONG OF 2009 in a lot of internet circles. And that's probably the only reason they bothered to do a remix for the album, although the lineup might as well have been more Pitchfork-friendly since that's the presumed audience here. Still, it's kinda dope. As one YouTube commenter noted, "This is the happiest beat Pattuh has ever rapped over," and it really is fun to hear him on this.
Best Verse: Project Pat
Overall Grade: B-

"Teach Me How To Dougie (Remix)" by Cali Swag District featuring Jermaine Dupri, B.o.B., Red Cafe and Bow Wow
The So So Def remix of "Oh I Think They Like Me" is kind of a classic and one of the best things JD and Bow Wow ever did, so I love that they're calling back to it with this, JD even recycled the tom-tom drum from that record here, but it just ain't the same, partly because "Teach Me" is just a shitty song. It's amazing that on a track with like 7 different mediocre rappers, B.o.B. still sticks out as insufferably corny. Also, apparently one of these little kids from the group whose name I won't bother to type twice sounds like Magoo.
Best Verse: Red Cafe
Overall Grade: C

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I wrote a review of Dru Hill's new album InDRUpendence Day in this week's City Paper.

Monthly Report: July Albums

Monday, August 23, 2010

1. Casual Curious - Casual Curious
I kinda randomly went to a show last month and these guys, a duo from North Carolina, totally blew me away. One incredible drummer and one guy singing and working a big bank of synths and samples, huge awesomely gnarled sound and instantly memorable hooks, totally the kind of thing I’m always a sucker for. They were giving away copies of their debut full-length, at the merch table, and have really become my most exciting new musical discovery of the year so far. The record is only 29 minutes long and doesn’t sound quite as good as their live show but it is still pretty awesome, kind of a contemporary Americanized take on brooding anglo '80s synth pop in the same way as what I loved about the Kenna albums, but with a little more rock dynamics and lo-fi dirt under the fingernails. I believe there’s going to be an official retail release of this sometime soon, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to publish a proper review somewhere when it does happen, but for now since it's kinda sorta been out there since July unofficially, it's my favorite album of that month, in the meantime check them out.

2. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
I’ve never been the biggest Outkast/Dungeon Fam fan, I respect what they did for Southern rap and had some great moments but over the past decade have been responsible for more corny shit and diminishing returns and overrated pop moves than great rap. But Big Boi’s always been reliable to deliver good shit, and even if I wish this was a little more like “Kryptonite” type stuff, I respect that he’s really stuck to the crazy old Organized Noize-type sound and has mixed it in with more contemporary sounds in a way that holds together cohesively.

3. Fat Joe - The Darkside
Fat Joe has always been pretty dependable about turning out some hard-ass east coast bangers, even when his rep was mainly about being really into sellout R&B hooks and shit. So it’s kind of funny that, now that even radio isn’t really messing with his attempted crossover moves, he’s playing up that he’s returning to REAL STREET RAP even though the album has probably the same amount of R. Kelly and Trey Songz type features as any of his other albums. But again, Joe’s a really consistent and underrated artist and this is probably one of his better albums, not up there with Loyalty and Me Myself & I but definitely better than J.O.S.E. or the last couple underwhelming albums.

4. The High Confessions - Turning Lead Into Gold With The High Confessions
As a Sonic Youth obsessive and as a drummer I’ve always been a huge fan of Steve Shelley and have followed his various projects outside of SY (hell, I probably have the world’s most complete collection of Two Dollar Guitar records). So it was exciting for me to hear this year that he was forming his first new band in a long, long time, even though it was apparently a metal band featuring other people from band’s I’ve never heard. And indeed, it is kind of out of my usual comfort zone as a listener, and to an extent, I don’t really ‘get’ this stuff and it’s a bit dark and drab for my taste. At the same time, though, it’s cool to hear Steve do something so different from Sonic Youth, and it’s cool how every track but one is over 9 minutes long and there are some crazy drones and weird unexpected things going on in the longer tracks.

5. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul
When I wrote a post here about Mark Linkous following his suicide in March, I talked about how I deeply loved Sparklehorse’s early albums, but slowly lost interest as he started working more with guest stars and outside producers, and ended up not even hearing this album when it leaked last year due to “my general aversion to both Danger Mouse and all-star collaboration projects.” But since this finally got a proper retail release this year, it seemed like a good time to give it a chance and see what I missed. And while it is nice, and it’s great to hear anything Linkous did now that he’s gone, it’s not something I’ll be coming back to as much as Good Morning Spider anytime soon. I realize that to a lot of people there’s not a world of difference between Sparklehorse and bands like the Flaming Lips or Grandaddy, but the main difference to me is that I fucking hate the voices of those bands’ singers, and so guys like that kinda ruin the album for me. So I appreciate that the album was released as a 2CD including instrumentals of every song, but the music isn’t so great in and of itself that I enjoy those a whole lot, I’d much prefer a version of the album with all Linkous vocals.

Monthly Report: July Singles

Friday, August 20, 2010

1. Katy Perry - “Teenage Dream”
I already wrote about this on Singles Jukebox, but really this is great, and even though “California Gurls” was just my #1 in this space a couple months ago, this pretty instantly diminishes it by comparison.

2. Sara Bareilles - “King of Anything”
Also already wrote about it on Singles Jukebox, also still think it’s great.

3. Young Jeezy f/ Lil Jon - “Jizzle”
I think Jeezy is kind of important for being pretty much the last really hugely popular rapper who knows how to stay in his lane and isn’t constantly making concessions to R&B radio with his records, but he’s been almost surprisingly committed to dark ugly rap music with the singles for his next album. Usually he has one big crossover record with Akon/R. Kelly/Kanye/etc. per album, and for a while the word was his next single after the popular but incredibly bleak club banger “Lose My Mind” would be with Beyonce, but instead he dropped “All White Everything” and then this, both totally taking the sound of The Recession further in a dark, aggressive direction, and Jeezy even described “Jizzle” as “’Who Dat’ on crack,” Shawty Redd totally amping the sound Lex Luger’s been biting off him lately up to a whole new level. Also fun to hear Lil Jon on a fucking crunk record instead of some LMFAO or 3OH!3 hipster rap bullshit.

4. Switchfoot - “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)”
These guys are mostly known for their big 2003 adult contemporary grunge hits “Meant To Live” and “Dare You To Move,” but I’ve steadily gained more respect for them with their string of minor hits since then. Part of it’s that they’ve proved to be somewhat chameleonic, at least to the point that I didn’t recognize 2006’s great “Oh! Gravity” or this new song as Switchfoot the first few times I heard them on the radio. Also what I like about this is that it’s kind of interesting to hear an openly Christian rock band do an earnest song about the civil rights movement that sounds nothing like “Pride (In The Name Of Love).”

5. Monica - “Love All Over Me”
This is one of those situations where I’m not sure if it’s the song I like or if I’m just in love with the big weird texture of the snare drum, which is really harsh and cuts through an otherwise kind of pleasantly polite track.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I posted a review of Wye Oak's fantastic My Neighbor / My Creator EP on

R.I.P. Richie Hayward 1946-2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday's news that Little Feat drummer Richie Hayward had passed away was not entirely unexpected or shocking, but still very sad to hear, and the end of an era. Hayward was 64, and had been struggling with health problems for a while, at least as long as a year ago, when he stepped down from touring with the band in 2009 for the first time in 40 years, although he played with them one last time in July. He's the first member of Little Feat to pass away since founder Lowell George's untimely 1979 death, but he now leaves keyboardist Bill Payne as the only one from the original lineup that recorded the first 2 albums still playing with the band. Feat's already been touring for the past year with Hayward's drum tech sitting in, now as I guess a permanent replacement, and I imagine they'll continue going for as long as anyone from the band's '70s glory days is still around to carry the torch.

I grew up on Little Feat, and they were the first band I ever saw in concert at the age of 9. I took my dad to see them at the 9:30 Club in 2008, and it turned out to be my last chance to see Hayward play with the band. It's hard to think of him or his legacy in terms outside the band, but as a drummer and as a Little Feat fan I've probably gotten more out of his playing than I ever realized. The band covered so much musical terrain and so many different types of rhythms and genres that it's kind of mind-boggling to realize it was always the same guy behind the set; the funkier fusion-y stuff on the late '70s albums yielded probably my favorite Hayward moments, although you really just cannot beat the perfect thump of early tracks like "Hamburger Midnight" and "Cold Cold Cold"; to say you envy another man's kick drum is the kind of odd thing only drummers say, but man I covet his sound on those records.

Little Feat aren't a terribly well known band, and if you're not familiar with them you probably think you've never heard Hayward's work, but I can almost guarantee you have. Sure, he also played with Clapton, Waits, Zevon, dozens of others, but I'm really referring to his unheralded role as the father of a ubiquitous breakbeat. The simple shuffling snare/kick/hi-hat at the beginning of "Fool Yourself" was sampled on a ton of hip hop records in the early to mid '90s -- first (I think) on A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebaum" and most famously on the Fugees "Kiling Me Softly." You know the beat I'm talking about. In the last call for pitches for the 33 1/3 series, I thought about proposing a book about a Little Feat album, but never got around to it, partly because I knew it wouldn't get picked, partly because I couldn't decide between Sailin' Shoes or Dixie Chicken. And I always fantasized about doing the latter, and dedicating a chapter to the long unlikely life of the "Fool Yourself" break, and maybe interviewing Hayward and finding out how aware he was of its many uses and what he thought of it all. I guess I'll never get to do that now.

Friday, August 13, 2010
New Singles Jukebox blurbs:

Sara Bareilles – King of Anything [8/4.64]
T.I. ft. Keri Hilson – Got Your Back [2/4.86]
J Cole – Who Dat [7/6.3]
Jazmine Sullivan – Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles) [3/7.71]
Brandon Flowers – Crossfire [6/4.2]
The Dirty Heads ft. Rome – Lay Me Down [3/2]
Katy Perry – Teenage Dream [9/5]
Hanson – Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ [6/6]
The Roots ft. John Legend – The Fire [6/6]
Rick Ross ft. Styles P – Blowing Money Fast (BMF) [5/5.44]

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's been about a month since I hit my Kickstarter funding goal for my book, Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music, but I just wanted to post a quick reminder that the official site will continue to be a source of updates about the book and about club music in general. In the past few weeks posts have included thoughts on Debonair Samir's new single, a comprehensive overview of my freelance writing about Baltimore club prior to beginning work on Tough Breaks, links to video of Scottie B. at Whartscape and the Washington Post article by Chris Richards about 92Q and Baltimore Club, and other posts about events and media. I'm still kinda slow going with it so far, but eventually I hope the site will be as much a resource for Baltimore club as Gov't Names has been for Baltimore hip hop, and will be posting about new music more frequently soon, so keep checking for new posts.

Netflix Diary

Monday, August 09, 2010
a) The Wolfman
The wife was excited to see this one. It was alright, I enjoyed the visual atmosphere and the special effects, they did a pretty good job of doing something new with an old concept. But the story wasn't very involving and J.G. guessed the twist very early on, so I wasn't really on the edge of my seat.

b) Sherlock Holmes
I've always been pretty strongly disinterested in Guy Ritchie movies, but apparently if you give him a good star, a classic character and someone else's script, his stuff can be pretty fun and snappy, I really enjoyed this, kinda want them to do more of these.

c) A Serious Man
I have a lot of trust in and affection for the Coens, and this seemed like it had potential to be their best in a while, but I dunno, it didn't fully connect with me. I don't know if the more ambiguous or ineffable aspects just went over my head or what, but it just felt kind of incomplete, when it didn't feel like a less engaging re-do of Barton Fink. Maybe I could grow to really like this, though, but I don't think I'll ever love it.

d) Jennifer's Body
I totally understand why this flopped and it was probably always positioned very awkwardly on the twin houses of cards that are Diablo Cody and Megan Fox's careers, but taken for what it is and nothing more, it's a really entertaining and weird and goofy and gorey horror flick, would definitely recommend it.

e) "Damages," Season 2
As great as the first season was, it felt like such a self-contained story that I was apprehensive about them being able to create another season that was as good. I have to say, though, they really went the fuck in on this, I loved how they deepened the storylines continued from the first season while picking up a bunch of new threads, and fleshed out minor characters from season 1 and show how they were tangled up in ways you had no idea of at the time.

f) "Mad Men," Season 1
I feel like I'm treading on the same ground as the time I dissed "Friday Night Lights" and a commenter spazzed out on me, but honestly this show ain't all that. Maybe the stories and characters get a little deeper and more lived in in subsequent seasons, but so far for me it still feels like a Wikipedia entry come to life, way too much cramming context and historical commentary into the storytelling. The way people use "Oscar bait" as a pejorative, I gotta say this is serious Emmy bait, and sometimes I feel like I'm just watching the wardrobe and set design people earn their awards while the writers just kinda skate by.

g) "Slings & Arrows," Season 3
I messed up and put the 3rd season of this on my queue after watching the 1st, and got through a few episodes before I even realized it wasn't the 2nd season, although I should've suspected something by the way the chronology seemed to skip way forward. Great end to a really strong show, though, and now I have to go back and watch the middle that I missed.

h) "The West Wing," Season 6
I'm digging the Santos/Vinick stuff, like the direction they took with the election thing in the last couple seasons so far, had been looking forward to this once the post-Sorkin era got off to its rocky start. Now I'm feeling some good momentum to finish watching the series.

i) "The Shield," Season 1
This is kinda like "Mad Men" where I've always strongly suspected it's not my thing but decided to give it a chance since I've got plenty of time to try to get into shows on DVD these days. And while I respect that this show obviously laid the groundwork for a lot of the current FX shows I really like ("Damages," "Sons of Anarchy," "Justified"), I'm just not too into this, don't know if I'll finish the season. I kind of hate when shows set the bar so high for how dark and ugly they're willing to be right off the bat that there's really no shock value or anything, you're just immediately desensitized and it just becomes this parade of bad shit happening.

j) "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist": The Complete Series
I watched this show a ton back in the day but hadn't seen it in a while, so I'm kinda going down memory lane with these old episodes now. I think "Home Movies" ultimately did something much better with the whole Squigglevision animation style and style of humor, though, so it pales in comparison to that now, and it really is kind of a clunky, imperfect show. Some classic bits that I've always remembered and am happy to see again, though.

Singles of the '00s, Part 1: Rap/R&B Crossover

Monday, August 02, 2010
Last year, as the '00s or the Aughts or whatever we're calling them were coming to a close, I prepared a series of posts here, with lists of my favorite albums and singles of each year of the decade. By the end of the year, I had counted down my 100 favorite albums of the decade. And I always wanted to do a similar list for singles, but I decided to put off that undertaking for a while, partly because I knew there was no way I'd be able to limit myself to just 100. After a few months of procrastinating, I decided on a different format: several lists of 50, divided up into genres. There'll be a rock list and a pop list, but since the overwhelming majority of my favorite singles of the last 10 years were hip hop and/or R&B, I decided to make a few different lists for those, including one for just all of the many gray areas in which both are involved.

R&B and soul music and almost every other kind of music has been in hip hop's DNA pretty much since its birth, but it's been a very gradual road to the two of them becoming distinct but inextricably connected commercial forces. Pretty much every "rap station" in the country plays mostly R&B songs and rap songs featuring R&B singers. R&B singers themselves have been thugging and jacking hip hop slang since the early '90s heyday of Jodeci, Bel Biv Devoe, and the rise of long-running superstars R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige. Rappers have been increasingly relying on sung hooks, whether sampled or provided by R&B singers or even singing a little themselves, to sell their records pretty much since "It Takes Two." And in the past decade, pretty much every kind of crossover between hip hop and R&B has happened, often resulting in some of the worst music ever made. But I'm gonna try to concentrate on the good songs here. I'm also going to try a new format: counting down all 50 songs throughout this week, 10 a day from Monday to Friday. You can bookmark this post and come back to it as I add new songs, or you can follow me on Twitter and get updates when I add new ones. Here we go!

50. Kanye West f/ T-Pain - “Good Life” (2007)
#7 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #1 Hot Rap Tracks

T-Pain didn't start the fire, but he's fanned the flames a lot the past few years. In 2005 the failed Florida rapper stumbled onto a successful career as an R&B singer after starting to toy with AutoTune pitch correction technology and named his debut album Rappa Ternt Sanga. Within a couple years, everyone in hip hop was calling him for hooks, and within a couple more years they'd bought their own AutoTune plugins and every other rapper started turning into a singer. The Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, which was created in 2002, gave two nominations to tracks featuring T-Pain in 2008. But the remarkable part is that he was the sung part on one song, "Good Life," and the rap part on the other, Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss." The better of those two hits is itself a microcosm of Kanye West's tendency toward both R&B crossover and opulent displays of starpower: "Good Life" features co-production from both DJ Toomp and Timbaland, and in addition to T-Pain's hook and a Michael Jackson sample, Kanye grabs two other platinum singers, Ne-Yo and John Legend, to sing for a couple seconds each at the end of one of his verses.

49. Lil Mo f/ Fabolous - “4Ever” (2003)
#37 Hot 100, #13 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Here's the first of several appearances that both of these artists make on the list, together and apart. They had their first hit together, and then a couple more, and have probably done half a dozen tracks together in total. I always loved the way this is kind of a frilly, girly song about marriage, but the beat bangs hard as fuck, this coulda been a hit for any rapper, love that stuttering guitar stab. Fab's always been admirably willing to just jump on any R&B song and not sound embarrassed or half-assed, he stays on topic and comes up with some funny lines, does his 16 bars and dips out. He may never get props from hardcore heads for that, but I think that's kinda dope and unique.

48. Cee-Lo - “Closet Freak” (2002)
#99 Hot 100, #56 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #22 Hot Rap Tracks

And here's our first solo performance on the list from a one-person rap/R&B fusionist. Although his Dungeon Family brethren Andre 3000 scored perhaps the biggest singing rapper hit of all time with "Hey Ya!" (which, spoiler alert, probably should be on this list but isn't, because I don't like the damn thing), Cee-Lo is by far a more capable singer and juggler of genres. He'd already been appearing on Common albums as a hook singer and not a rapper for a few years by then, but it was still kind of a trip to turn on BET Rap City one day in 2002 and see the cat from Goodie Mob doing this crazy Funkadelic homage video. I like how he basically raps one verse at the beginning, and then spends the whole rest of the song vamping and chanting and crooning. Cee-Lo would go onto much greater success later in the decade, writing and producing Tori Alamaze's "Don't Cha" (which ended up being the Pussycat Dolls' first hit), and then forming the regrettably named group Gnarls Barkley and singing the megahit "Crazy" (which, spoiler alert, also isn't on this list). But I still feel like "Closet Freak" is the seminal moment where Cee-Lo tipped his hand at what he was really all about.

47. Jay-Z f/ Alicia Keys - “Empire State Of Mind” (2009)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #1 Hot Rap Tracks

For most of his career, Jay-Z was one of the few rappers of his era who could score solo hit after solo hit without the aid of an R&B singer. One of his first singles featured Mary J. Blige, but the relative disappointment of the R&B-heavy singles for his second album, 1997’s In My Lifetime Vol. 1 and the huge success of the practically R&B-free hits from 1998’s blockbuster Volume 2: Hard Knock Life seemed to give him the confidence to trust his ear for other kinds of hooks. He’d sample little orphan Annie and loads of ‘70s soul records, let producers like Pharrell sing hooks here and there, do 2 albums with R. Kelly and loads of guest spots on girlfriend/wife Beyonce’s records, but when it came to solo singles, he almost never relied on R&B singers from 1998 to 2008 (the few that were featured on minor hits, Mashonda, Chrissette Michele and Static Major, were relative unknowns who didn’t even appear in the videos). So it was a little bit funny when last year, months after “Death Of AutoTune” made Jay’s disgust for rappers singing and relying on singers for hits more explicit than it’d ever been, he finally bit the bullet and let R&B superstars Rihanna and Alicia Keys co-headline two consecutive singles that ended up being among his biggest chart hits ever. “Run This Town” was a relatively bland tough-guy record that seemed to get by mostly on the collective momentum of Jay, Ri and Kanye being on one song, but “Empire State of Mind” was a certified monster both commercially and critically, as his first solo #1 on the Hot 100 and the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop poll. And it came at an appropriate time: Jay’s long deteriorating rapping skills had finally gotten to the point where nobody who likes this song actually enjoys the verses, and it’s pretty much universally agreed that the Alicia Keys parts carry the whole song.

46. The Roots f/ Musiq Soulchild - “Break You Off” (2002)
#99 Hot 100, #55 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

In addition to their niche as the sole prominent instrument-playing band in mainstream hip hop, The Roots have long occupied a weird halfway point between hip hop purism and the kind of tuneful, accessible rap'n'bullshit that their fanbase rarely tolerates from other types of hip hop artists. Maybe it's just that they associate with the classy neo-soul singers, like Erykah Badu and Raphael Saadiq, maybe it's just that their R&B-tinged singles were so good that it didn't matter. But for a while there they were in a good groove with these soulful lead singles gaining them what little radio airplay they've ever gotten, "Break You Off" being the last of them before the failure of 2004’s ill-advised Scott Storch faux-banger "Don't Say Nothin'" cleared the way for the band to abandon all pretense of trying to get on the radio and just played to their base with every subsequent single release.

45. Truth Hurts f/ Rakim - “Addicted” (2002)
#9 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

When Dr. Dre signed Rakim to Aftermath at the beginning of the decade, it was one of the most hyped up unions in hip hop history, a legendary MC and a legendary producer teaming up for an album that could never live up to expectations and ended up not existing. One of the only songs that came out of that era, and certainly the only one that impacted the charts, was Ra’s perfectly foreboding verse on an R&B one hit wonder’s one hit, sinking his immediately recognizable voice into the unfamiliar terrain of an Indian sample (later the subject of a lawsuit) looped up by DJ Quik. I can still remember how the song seemed to come out of nowhere that summer and was instantly in heavy rotation.

44. Drake f/ Trey Songz - “Successful” (2009)
#17 Hot 100, #3 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

Even Drake’s biggest fans will admit how much his rapping owes to both Lil Wayne and Kanye West, but people don’t talk about how his much ballyhooed singing voice (which, to be honest, is just aight, good for a rapper, etc.) is also the product of mimicry. The first few times I heard Drake’s breakthrough solo hit, “Best I Ever Had,” I coulda swore Trey Songz was singing the hook. The first few times I heard the follow-up, “Successful,” I figured Drake’s Trey impression was so consistent that it was him singing the hook, when it was in fact Trey this time. Trey Songz had been bouncing around the industry for a few years, seemingly singing hooks for every rap album that would have him, even multiple appearances on LPs by no-names like Ebony Eyez, just to get his name out there, before he finally started to break through as a major star last year. And part of that breakthrough came because one of the no-names he’d been doing songs with all that time, Drake, was himself starting to become popular. I guess his budget hook singer strategy kinda worked. Also, note that I’m listing the single version, not the original mixtape version with the terrible Lil Wayne verse and extra Drake lyrics, or the video version with the superfluous Trey verse. And also please note this amazing sentence from the song’s wikipedia entry: “Accompanied by a dark tone, the songs lyrics contain quips of self-determination.”

43. DJ Khaled f/ Akon, T.I., Fat Joe, Rick Ross, Birdman and Lil Wayne - “We Takin’ Over” (2007)
#28 Hot 100, #26 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #11 Hot Rap Tracks

On some level, I feel like songs like this where rappers outnumber singers by a 5-to-1 margin almost don’t count, it’s just a rap posse cut. But at the same time, I’d feel like one of those people who refer to Akon as a rapper if I didn’t include it. And really, I do want this list to include some hard rap anthems that feel like they just kinda happen to have a singer involved.

42. Big Punisher f/ Donell Jones - “It’s So Hard” (2000)
#75 Hot 100, #19 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #11 Hot Rap Tracks

There was nothing novel about being a big fat motherfucker doing suave R&B joints in the wake of Biggie (note the great “One More Chance” reference in this track), but it was clear that Big Pun worked well in that lane, from “Still Not A Player” to the J.Lo joint. And even though “It’s So Hard” just happened to be the last single he released while he was alive, and is kind of a catchy, lighthearted song, the way the ended up shooting the video after he died, with a bunch of cameos of stars mouthing Pun’s lyrics and somberly holding up lighters, gave the song this weird mournful quality that still sticks with me whenever I hear it.

41. Nivea f/ Lil Jon and the Youngbloodz - “Okay” (2004)
#40 Hot 100, #14 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

When I first heard “Put Yo Hood Up,” I thought Lil Jon’s voice and production aesthetic made for one of the harshest, most aggressive sounds I’d ever heard on mainstream rap, and I never would’ve guessed that a few years later, it took just one big crossover hit, “Get Low,” to get R&B acts to start calling him to put his gang shouts and screaming synths on their tracks. His first big R&B production, 2004’s “Yeah!” by Usher and Ludacris, turned into arguably the biggest hit of the decade, and the next, “Goodies,” was another chart-topper that launched Ciara’s career. Neither are on this list because, even as I’m trying to accurately build the canon and tell its story here, I just don’t really like those songs and I think the whole crunk’n’B trend, though it’s had a huge impact on pop music and influenced a lot of great singles since then, really took a while to not sound terrible to my ears. So in my weird contrarian brain, Nivea’s tardy entry into the crunk’n’B sweepstakes, “Okay” (which according to Wikipedia was recorded before “Goodies” and held back by the label, but was heard by the public much later), is my favorite track out of that whole weird period. Three years after writing "Okay," Terius “The-Dream” Nash wrote what proved to be one of the biggest rapped/sung collaborations of the decade, Rihanna and Jay-Z’s “Umbrella” (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not in this list either – I’m actually dissing 3 megahits in this entry!), and launched his own fairly successful solo career. At the time of “Okay,” though, he was Nivea’s husband and a relative unknown, but you can already hear a lot of his signature tics in this track.

40. Diddy f/ Keyshia Cole - “Last Night” (2007)
#10 Hot 100, #7 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #25 Hot Rap Tracks

Sean Combs, no matter what you call him, is the single most instrumental figure in the merging of hip hop and R&B over the past 20 years. In his early days as an A&R and producer, he was responsible for roughing up Mary J.’s sound and smoothing out Biggie’s sound, and at the height of Bad Boy’s peak of taking hits from the ‘80s and making them sound so crazy, no sample was too soft or too melodic (or too obvious). Diddy’s forthcoming album, Last Train To Paris is being looked at as some kind of Johnny come lately addition to the AutoTune rap’n’bullshit canon, but let’s give credit where credit’s due: his heart is obviously in this soft batch R&B rap game. Nearly every song on 2006’s Press Play featured R&B guest singers, including all four singles. And the biggest of them, “Last Night,” had Diddy himself singing a sad little song of lost love over a chunky, glitzy, Prince-sampling beat, with Keyshia belting all over it but still essentially just singing backup to the main artist, almost two years before Kanye’s musically and thematically similar 808s & Heartbreak.

39. Jagged Edge f/ Nelly - “Where The Party At” (2001)
#3 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Nelly is probably the single most shamelessly tuneful rapper of the pre-AutoTune era, so I knew he had to pop up on this list, but for a while I wasn’t sure where. If I counted any of his solo hits, it’d start a slippery slope for any rapper who delivered a sing-song chorus, and of his duets with singers, my favorite is “Over and Over” with Tim McGraw, which is a country/rap crossover, no R&B. But this little gem was and is a banger, sometimes I forget how fun it is.

38. Pharrell f/ Jay-Z - “Frontin’” (2003)
#5 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Like Nelly, Skateboard P presented some dilemmas for me as for his presence on this list. Obviously he’s a producer first, but performed vocals on many, many of his hits, sometimes rapping, sometimes singing, often somewhere in between. So I made the judgement call that his hooks on rappers’ songs, even the ones where he’s really belting out, like “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” and whatnot, don’t count, partly because there are so many great ones they’d clutter up the list fast. But his debut solo single, where he was in straight up crooner mode, definitely counts. At the time, his falsetto was already starting to get kind of old, but that hook was undeniable and the plush simplicity of the beat fucking killed. Even Hov’s half-assed 8 bars are perfect for what they are.

37. Mary J. Blige f/ Method Man – “Love @ 1st Sight” (2003)
#22 Hot 100, #10 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

2003’s Love & Life is the only flop, or at least the closest thing to it, in a career that’s been remarkably consistent in terms of sales and hits, and it’s possible that high expectations are to blame. On the heels of the massively successful No More Drama, Mary enlisted Diddy to exec produce her next album for the first time since the one-two punch of What’s The 411? and My Life that launched her career, and reunited with Method Man for a lead single that would reprise the pairing that produced arguably the best and biggest hip hop/R&B collaboration of the ‘90s, his “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By.” In that context, sure, “Love @ 1st Sight” can’t help but feel like a disappointment, but I’ll stand up for it as probably my 2nd favorite Mary single of the decade, for the way it takes the usual ‘90s rap sample retread (in this case Tribe’s “Hot Sex On A Platter”) and actually does something with it, layering some melodic keys over the chorus in a way that interacts nicely with the vocal hook, while Meth goes all out deploying his usual effortless charisma on what would prove to be pretty much his last appearance on a major radio hit to date. I thought about including another Mary single, "Enough Cryin'," on this list, since it features her rap alter ego Brooke spitting a verse ghostwritten by Jay-Z (intended to be rapped by Foxy Brown before she started going deaf), just because it would be interesting in the context of the list, but that song is kinda garbage.

36. Ghostface Killah f/ Ne-Yo - “Back Like That” (2006)
#61 Hot 100, #14 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #11 Hot Rap Tracks

Ghostface has always seemed to have a special affection for soul music, beyond all the samples in those Wu Tang beats, that comes from being a part of the last generation of rappers that's old enough to remember music before rap. It never really manifested itself in any way that benefited his career, though, and his R&B themed album last year Ghostdini was a commercial and critical flop. This was one point, though, where he got on a song with a contemporary R&B singer and got a hit, but it all still felt kind of in his wheelhouse and captured his basic appeal. And just like "Love @ 1st Sight" was the last moment of heavy radio rotation for his Wu Tang homey Meth, "Back Like That" was the last time Ghost would ever touch the charts.

35. Snoop Dogg - “Sensual Seduction” (2007)
#7 Hot 100, #5 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #10 Hot Rap Tracks

Here we are, the only solo performance on the entire list. Just as Diddy’s singing turn (albeit with help from an actual singer) anticipated the deluge of similar efforts from rappers that would follow, Snoop Dogg’s AutoTune single, which at the time seemed to be a late addition to the growing ranks of mostly singers using the vocal effect in the aftermath of T-Pain (Chris Brown, R. Kelly, etc.), actually turned out to be not just ahead of the curve of other rappers, but a much more confident and singular effort than anything that came out of the army of AutoTuned raps that followed. And I'd like to think that that's because Snoop, like Ghostface, has a strong relationship with soul music, and that even this seeming modern bandwagon-jumping is just a chance to him to pay tribute to his '70s funk and R&B influences. That's born out by the playfully retro video, with Snoop appearing to be singing through a vocoder despite the fact that the song is clearly done with AutoTune, which highlights the double duty he’s pulling by depicting Snoop the singer and Snoop the rapper as completely distinct characters. This song is also remarkable for being one of the only clean radio edits ever where the single version of the title and lyrics just works better and sounds way better than the album version, "Sexual Eruption."

34. Shade Sheist f/ Nate Dogg and Kurupt - “Where I Wanna Be” (2000)
#95 Hot 100, #60 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

Somewhere, Shade Sheist is next to Knoc-turn'al on a special milk carton reserved for West coast rappers that briefly got some mainstream exposure and some big name co-signs in the past decade, but somehow never got it together to get as famous as goofy-ass Game. For one summer, though, Sheist had a blazing summer jam with possibly the sunniest hook in Nate Dogg’s long line of gangsta hits.

33. Bobby Valentino f/ Lil Wayne - “Tell Me” (2005)
#51 Hot 100, #13 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I wrote a lengthy post here 2 years ago about the long winding path Lil Wayne took to becoming the go-to guest rapper of choice for R&B singers everywhere over the course of his career, and I won’t regurgitate any of that here. Although Destiny’s Child’s 2004 single “Soldier” is often thought of as the beginning of a lot of things (Wayne and T.I. being looked at as the two biggest southern rappers, Wayne on R&B songs, Wayne being embraced by the Jay/Beyonce camp), I feel like Wayne didn’t really settle into the kind of groove of duets with young male R&B singers until this track a few months later, which cleared the way for more hits with Chris Brown, Lloyd, etc. Plus it’s a pretty dope song.

32. Kanye West f/ Syleena Johnson - “All Falls Down” (2004)
#7 Hot 100, #4 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

The original version of the song (titled “Self Conscious” on the advance version of College Dropout) sampled one of the few hooks from Lauryn Hill’s legendarily awful Unplugged album, and I’m sure Kanye, always one to try and make everything into a big event, probably hoped to get Lauryn to officially appear on the single release, or at least clear the sample, which would’ve been a pretty big co-sign for him at that point in his career. But she didn’t, so Kanye re-recorded the hook with a C-list Chicago R&B singer, the song was a hit anyway, we all stared as Stacey Dash’s ass throughout the whole video, and the rest is history.

31. Justin Timberlake f/ The Clipse - “Like I Love You” (2002)
#11 Hot 100, #53 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I remember sitting on the couch in my old Parkville apartment with some college friends, watching the ‘02 VMAs when Justin debuted this song. I’d loved the R&B direction of ‘N Sync’s last couple singles “Gone” and “Girlfriend” and was totally rooting for Justin to make the big crossover with his solo career, and I quietly fumed while all my friends snorted derisively at him that night. In retrospect the song probably wasn’t the right first step forward and the performance was a little weak, so I understand why “Cry Me A River” (which I don’t like nearly as much) was what really kickstarted mass adult music fan acceptance of Justin, and led to the same friends bumping Justified at a party maybe a year later. This song rules, though, and it always cracks me up to think how hard the Clipse still cling to their street cred when they were on a Backstreet Boys remix and a ‘N Sync solo record so early in their career.

30. Fabolous f/ Mike Shorey and Lil Mo - “Can’t Let You Go” (2003)
#4 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

I already covered the other Fab/Mo hit that came out simultaneously with this one, and this feels like a little less of a true collaboration: Fab's boy Shorey (who, as far as I know, never did anything with his career besides sing hooks on Fabolous songs) sings the main chorus, and Mo is just kinda there to shadow it, "Hot Boys"/"Put It On Me"-style. It's really one of the most lyrical girl songs of all time, though, the internal rhymes are crazy on lines like "there'll be a clip tossed if I go back/ with stains of your lip gloss on my throwback," Fab at his most emotionlessly monotone while actually putting a fair amount of humanizing detail into it. And that beat's so soft it took me months to realize or admit that it was Just Blaze. Definitely check the very underrated the remix, though, where Blaze puts on a harder beat and Fab rewrites every line of the song with a gangsta twist.

29.Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz f/ Usher and Ludacris - "Lovers & Friends" (2004)
#3 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #1 Hot Rap Tracks

It was interesting how Lil Jon’s highly anticipated Crunk Juice, though by no means a commercial disappointment, not only failed to produce another “Get Low”-style club banger but didn’t even seem to try, instead opting to release two gang shout crunk anthems as the initial singles, and then follow those up with the wimpiest slow jam possible. Lil Jon, Usher and Luda were never going to equal the success of “Yeah!” but I have to say I enjoy this song a lot more, as goofy and maybe even campy as it is. Each of them takes a verse, and each one is entertaining in its own right: Usher vamping it up hardcore with big emotional high notes, Luda adopting a goofy slow flow but still meticulously in the pocket of the beat and inserting some warmth and humor into the premise of the song, and then Lil Jon, seemingly only doing any vocals just because this was, after all, for his album, and grunting through an uncomfortable 16 bars that’s at turns tender and at turns some of the most vulgar shit he’s ever said on record: “are you sure you wanna go this route? / let a n$&%@ know before I pull it out.”

28. Faith Evans f/ Missy Elliott - “Burnin’ Up” (2002)
#60 Hot 100, #19 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Even though it’s known now that Timbaland and the Neptunes go way back, and have collaborated and worked with artists from each others’ respective camps many times now, there was a weird moment for a couple years at the beginning of the decade when the 2 biggest producers in pop music were from the same place, were constantly compared to each other, but seemed to kind of ignore each others’ existence and stay completely seperate. Not saying anyone ever thought there was beef, it was just kind of odd. So in a weird way, it actually felt like a big deal to hear Missy on a Neptunes track in 2002. Also this song is fire, and the Just Blaze remix with Freeway is killer too.

27. Ne-Yo f/ Peedi Crakk - “Stay” (2005)
#36 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

When Def Jam signed the songwriter behind Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and issued a debut single featuring the great but not particularly famous Puerto Rican rapper Peedi Crakk, I took it to mean one of two things: either Ne-Yo wasn’t a very big priority at the label, or he was Latino and the label was just pairing him up with one of the only other Latinos on the label for some Roc-La-Familia synergy (obviously, I hadn’t seen a picture of Ne-Yo or anything when I first head this song). I was wrong on both counts, and I was also wrong to quickly dismiss the song as lightweight, and found its kinetic, upbeat charms growing on me more and more once it was released on Ne-Yo’s debut In My Own Words. The song was kind of a flop (you’ll note it’s the only one on the list so far that didn’t crack the Hot 100), and obviously his career didn’t really kick off until “So Sick” a few months later, but now I hear DJs play it all the time and it’s always welcome.

26. Dr. Dre f/ Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Kurupt - “The Next Episode” (2000)
#23 Hot 100, #11 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #9 Hot Rap Tracks

Like “We Takin’ Over,” it kind of feels wrong to put this song on the list since it’s essentially a posse cut rap song with a tough guy singer on the hook. But again, it’s a classic, it needs to be represented, gotta give Nate Dogg his props.

25. Akon f/ Styles P. - “Locked Up” (2004)
#8 Hot 100, #6 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

When Akon debuted with this song a few years ago, he seemed like a gangsta R&B hook man in the Nate Dogg mold, with a gritty backstory including prison time and a collab with another ex-con from The Lox helping him tell the world his story. And for a while, he stayed in that lane, with the follow-up “Ghetto” and hooks on similarly gritty singles by Young Jeezy, Obie Trice and, once again, Styles P. Since then, though, Akon’s convict image has been discredited by the Smoking Gun and he’s staked his hitmaker reputation on sunnier, cheesier hits for the likes of Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga, and the idea of him as a successor to a badass like Nate Dogg seems like a joke.

24. Keri Hilson f/ Lil Wayne - “Turnin’ Me On” (2008)
#15 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Wayne’s willingness to do any R&B feature that came his way, which was refreshing in 2005, had become kind of wearying by the time of Tha Carter III, mostly because every singer in the fucking industry took him up on it. This was the last it really came out dope, though. The original mix of the song is also notable for Wayne introducing the “miss Keri, baby” ad lib, which Hilson herself then started using as her own signature on the final version and other songs, and which I now can’t hear without thinking of it as “miscarry baby.”

23. Kanye West f/ Dwele - “Flashing Lights” (2007)
#29 Hot 100, #12 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

It's interesting how Dwele's kind of quietly become the go-to hook singer lately for Kanye, who can and has worked with just about every star in R&B. I guess he needed someone kind of low key and not too expensive to help flesh out his tracks that just needed a little singing but not necessarily a big star feature ever since John Legend went and got huge. I think Kanye having a good working relationship with many R&B singers is why his shitty singing on 808s & Heartbreak pissed me off so much, he coulda just made a dope R&B album with the right collaborator instead of that mess.

22. Ryan Leslie f/ Cassie and Fabolous - “Addiction” (2008)
#35 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Of Fab’s many, many recent R&B features, this is one is probably my favorite, and in general he’s just displayed a great chemistry with R-Les, who produced a couple joints on his last album and the single by Slim from 112 that he was on. Leslie's singing career hasn't been all that successful, and there's part of me that hopes he just focuses on producing for rappers, it seems like a strong suit for him.

21. Ciara f/ Missy Elliott - “1, 2 Step” (2004)
#2 Hot 100, #4 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

As I’ve said in other entries on the list, I was never a big fan of “Goodies” or crunk’n’B in general, but I always kinda dug the lighter, brighter variations on the sound. People love to hate on Jazze Pha, and he is kind of an unctuous motherfucker, but really he made some great-sounding radio jams and I think was better suited to the whole dirty south R&B crossover thing than Lil Jon.

20. Snoop Dogg f/ Justin Timberlake and Charlie Wilson - "Signs" (2005)
#46 Hot 100

This song was released almost immediately after the Janet incident at the Super Bowl, and even though the backlash against Justin in the black community seemed to have pretty much blown over by the time of FutureSex/LoveSounds, I strongly suspect that sentiment was the reason this song completely flopped on R&B radio (note that it’s the only song on this list with no placing on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart). Because seriously, listen to this song, it’s a fucking hit, it should have been everywhere. I’ll also lay some blame on the far inferior “Let’s Get Blown,” for squandering the spot as the immediate follow-up to “Drop It Like It’s Hot” that should’ve rightfully belonged to “Signs.” This is also probably my favorite collaboration between Snoop and the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson, who’ve been touring and recording together since way way back in the Death Row days, just another sign of Snoop’s old school R&B head status.

19. Lil Bow Wow f/ Jagged Edge - “My Baby” (2003)
#42 Hot 100, #17 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #15 Hot Rap Tracks

The decade's archetypal kiddie rapper built his empire on R&B collaborations as much as anyone this side of Ja Rule, with Jagged Edge-assisted singles on each of his first three albums, and later a career resurgence with hits featuring Chris Brown, T-Pain, then-boo Ciara, and Omarion, who he linked up with again for an ill-fated teenybopper answer to Jay-Z and R. Kelly’s Best Of Both Worlds. The oft-overlooked track that I’d pick as his secret classic, though, is this JE heartbreaker about the girl Bow Wow loves that’s stuck in an abusive relationship with another guy. It’s mostly the swaying, tender chorus that gets to me about this song, and the video, which fleshes out the story and makes it a little more over the top and tragic, but as a piece of storytelling this is one of Bow Wow’s (ghostwriters’) finest moments. If you ever want to know what the most embarrassing song I’ve ever teared up to is, seriously, it’s probably this.

18. John Legend f/ Andre 3000 - "Green Light" (2008)
#24 Hot 100, #6 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

The Love Below was a bunch of bullshit to me, and I spent most of the decade thinking Andre was pretty much a lost cause, so far gone up his own critically-acclaimed ass that he’d rather break genre boundaries that don’t need breaking than making good rap music. In the last few years he started to hit the guest MC circuit hard, though, and even if that half dozen or so verses he dropped ended up being kind of overrated, there were still some great songs in there, one of my favorites being this fantastic dancey R&B jam that’s so far beyond what he ever would’ve come up with on his own, but added just the right energy to.

17. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule - "Ain't It Funny (Murder Remix)” (2002)
#1 Hot 100, #4 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

One of the key ingredients of the ‘90s hip hop soul boom was the pairing of singers with tracks borrowed from the previous decade’s hip hop classics, whether it was Mary J. singing over “Top Billin’” drums or “This Is How We Do It” jacking a Slick Rick beat. By the beginning of the ‘00s, though, occasional homages turned into constant, lazy retreads, with the weakest singers and most uninspired songs enlivened by beloved samples from ‘90s rap classics. The worst practitioner of the trend was Irv Gotti, who built much of Murder Inc.’s house of hits by raiding Bad Boy’s back catalog for every hot beat he could find. And when he ran out of Biggie beats to plunder, he even recycled his on one true mid-‘90s classic beat, Jay-Z’s “Can I Live,” for a mediocre Ashanti single. Still, even the most cynical hack is gonna make a jam here and there, and Ja waxing enthusiastic about J.Lo’s ass over the “Flava In Ya Ear” beat is the hit I’d save from those dark, dark times in R&B radio. Incidentally, it was J.Lo who took the biggest PR hit for sample jacking out of this whole trend a year later over “Jenny From The Block,” when the Trackmasters (perhaps the era’s most shameless beat biters after Irv) lifted the flute hook the Beatnuts made famous on “Watch Out Now” and JuJu and Psycho Les were able to pull her card for screwing some fellow NY Latinos with a song trumpeting her roots. Of course, the actual flute part is from an Enoch Lite record, which was properly credited, which shows just how fuzzy all these issues of appropriation are, and ultimately it’s more about what records people associate particular sounds with. I should also note here that I'm generally avoiding remixes (especially since almost every R&B hit gets a remix with a rapper these days) except in cases like this, where the remix is such a big hit that it pretty much eclipses the original.

16. Keyshia Cole f/ Missy Elliott and Lil Kim - "Let It Go" (2007)
#7 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Five years after the era of Irv and J.Lo, practically every big Notorious B.I.G. track had been recycled by someone or another, but somehow “Juicy” had been relatively untouched, and when it finally was reused on a new hit, Keyshia and Missy actually did right by the track. Missy’s meta instructions to DJs (“they gon’ mix it with Biggie – ‘it was all a dream!’”) were a little too cute, a little too on the nose, but in the context of this breezy summer jam it kinda worked anyway.

15. Joe f/ Mystikal - “Stutter (Remix)” (2001)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Here goes another homage to a ‘90s chestnut, but it’s a more subtle one. Where “Ain’t It Funny” and “Let It Go” paraded their origins proudly, “Stutter” simply takes the organ loop from Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” and surrounds it with a completely different and decidedly production style, and a dramatically different type of rapper (if still an equally animated MC). I’ve known some people who characterize “Stutter” as a pure beat jack that gets by only on nostalgia, but I really love this song on its own merits and hear the comment musical element completely differently in its new context: on the Pharcyde song, the organ sounds like an organ, but on the Joe track I always process it as some kind of icy sci-fi soundtrack whir to match its state-of-2001 surroundings, which include vaguely IDM-ish zipping synths and stu-stu-stuttering vocal edits. Also, another remix that was way way bigger than the original.

14. Lil Mo f/ Fabolous - "Superwoman Pt. II" (2001)
#11 Hot 100, #4 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

Fab’s first taste of fame, and the best of his holy trinity of Lil Mo collab hits. That beat is just the fuckin’ illest, I don’t have anything else to say.

13. Justin Timberlake f/ T.I. - "My Love" (2006)
#1 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, # Hot Rap Tracks

Timbaland and his then-new protege DanjaHandz cementing their new rave synth aesthetic and pop radio dominance, Justin coming back from that maybe-post-Superbowl R&B backlash I mentioned in the “Signs” entry with a vengeance, and T.I. hitting his stride as a suave ladies' man superstar. Also the highest of three appearances by Justin on the list, the highest of two for Danja, and somewhat amazingly, the first (but not last) appearance by Timbaland, not counting his minor contributions to “Good Life.”

12. Lloyd f/ Lil Wayne – “You” (2007)
#9 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

And now, the highest of Lil Wayne’s 4 appearances on the list. I always loved how subtle the Spandau Ballet interpolation on this is, at least to my ears, it was nagging at me in the back of my brain for a few weeks before I realized where I recognized the melody from. The outright sample of “True” on the remix almost kinda spoiled the trick for me.

11. Ludacris f/ Bobby Valentino - "Pimpin' All Over The World" (2005)
#9 Hot 100, #5 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

It’s funny, I haven’t been listening to many of the songs on the list this week, because they’re pretty much all tattooed on my brain permanently. But this is the first one that just thinking about and trying to write about made me want to listen to it, and I pulled it up on YouTube and danced around the room with my son to it, so I know I’m getting way up towards the good stuff. I love Luda’s flow on this, it’s simple and straightforward but with this conversational ease and rhythmic swing that makes me feel like he’s channeling the Fresh Prince or maybe even Slick Rick. And even for a song with “pimpin’” in the title there’s this weird warmth and innocent happiness seeping through the whole thing, just a perfect summer jam. The D.C. Go-Go band Rare Essence picked up on that swing brilliantly with their remix of the song, and Luda actually performed the song with them at the VMAs that year, which was just amazing. The highest of 2 appearances each for Bobby V. and Polow Da Don.

10. Young Jeezy f/ Akon - “Soul Survivor” (2005)
#4 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #1 Hot Rap Tracks

In late '05, Jeezy already had a ton of buzz and strong and it wasn't really clear if he was gonna be a successful singles artist -- I really believe the whole Gucci Mane beef over "Icy" wouldn't have popped off if Jeezy wasn't afraid his album didn't have any crossover hits on it. But doing a kind of dark R&B record with Akon, who at the time was still the "Locked Up" guy and not a weird corny fraud, was really the perfect move that cemented both of them as radio staples.

9. Young Gunz f/ Rell - "No Better Love" (2004)
#36 Hot 100, #15 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #11 Hot Rap Tracks

Neef and Young Chris were not especially clean cut or charismatic, but in a group alongside Beanie Sigel and Freeway, just not having neckbeards was enough to make them State Property’s token pinups who’d cover the R&B demographic. And their big lead single off their debut album, following the kinda shitty faux-old school “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” was a big cavernous banger with a great hook delivered by Rell, the forgotten soul man who’d been waiting for Roc-A-Fella to give him another shot at a hit since that song on the Streets Is Watching soundtrack and would never get another one again.

8. Plies f/ Ne-Yo - "Bust It Baby Pt. 2" (2008)
#7 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

Hip hop/R&B songs don’t always, but frequently do, play off of the rough/soft contrasts implicit in such collaborations. And just as Ja Rule’s thug love songs were the most extreme and successful formula of the first half of the decade, certified goon Plies and his lengthy string of slick melodic hits were the second half’s equivalent. And the contrast was never more ridiculously heightened than here, with Plies grunting disgusting come-ons like “my favorite panties of yours are the ones that’s see-through” while Ne-Yo croons sweet nothings like “I do everything I can to prove I’m a better man than your friends think I am” over a saccharine ‘80s Janet sample. I’m still waiting for them to realize how great a duets album would be and make The Year Of The Goontleman.

7. Mya f/ Jay-Z - "Best of Me Pt. 2" (2000)
#55 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

I like to think that when Jadakiss started going at Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella in 2001, piling onto the whole Nas beef, some of his resentment may have stemmed from the fact that a year earlier, just as his solo career was getting started, he had two big features on records by platinum R&B artists, and both of them were upstaged when Jay hopped on remixes of both (the other being R. Kelly’s “Fiesta”). The Jada/Swizz version technically charted higher, but I’ve barely heard the original on the radio in years, whereas the Jay/Trackmasters version gets spins every damn day still. In pretty much every collaboration with Beyonce, Jay’s been controlled and distant, usually rapping about how great he is even when she’s singing about how passionate her love for him is, but contrast that with the blithely funny, R-rated intimacy of lines like “my hand’s up your skirt, goddamn you flirt/ what’s a little me on top gon’ hurt?/ maybe a little, but pain is pleasure and pressure bust pipes/ and you look like the ‘I like it rough’ type.” He had a point, too, Mya really does give off that vibe.

6. Fabolous f/ Nate Dogg - "Can't Deny It" (2001)
#25 Hot 100, #13 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #11 Hot Rap Tracks

It’s funny to think that Fab, a classic NYC punchline rapper who later mastered the art of Southern crossover, kicked off his career by straight West coastin’ with Nate Dogg singing 2Pac lyrics over a Rick Rock beat.

5. Missy Elliott f/ Ludacris - "One Minute Man" (2001)
#15 Hot 100, #8 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs

A decade ago, blurring the line between rapping and singing was primarily the province of female artists like Lauryn Hill and TLC and of course Missy, and this is one of her biggest singles in which she pretty much sang the whole thing and left the rapping to the guest. When “One Minute Man” first dropped as the follow-up to “Get Ur Freak On,” I regarded as part of an overall pattern in Missy’s career up to that point, with the more ‘safe’ and accessible R&B flavored 2nd single proceeding after the bolder, more offbeat lead single (“Sock It 2 Me” after “The Rain,” “Hot Boys” after “She’s A Bitch.”) Over the years, though, I’ve come to like this song more than “Freak,” for its killer vocal melodies, one of Timbaland’s most subtle virtuoso productions (that big goofy 3-note keyboard hook flowing into a variety of sneaky countermelodies, the percussive guitar strum punctuating every fourth bar), and one of Luda’s great early star turns, not to mention Trina’s great verse in the video version and Jay’s even better one on the remix.

4. R. Kelly featuring T.I. and T-Pain - "I'm A Flirt (Remix)" (2007)
#12 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #1 Hot Rap Tracks

In the early-mid ‘90s, R. Kelly, along with Jodeci and Nate Dogg, helped introduce the R&B thug paradigm, guys that can sing but are often closer to hip hop in terms of image and lyrical content. And in the ‘00s, R. shed whatever degree of Disney-friendly “I Can Believe I Can Fly” public image he had and became as controversial and eccentric and scary to middle America as any rapper. Still, some of his biggest hits, no matter how many rappers they featured, were essentially bouncy, loping piano pop songs that sounded more like “Bennie and the Jets” than any other contemporary hits (which is somewhat appropriate when you keep in mind that “Bennie” was Elton John’s first hit to cross over to the R&B charts). This song is notable for having originated as a Bow Wow track, before R. decided to take it for himself, and since both versions got the same Billboard entry, it ended up topping the Rap Tracks chart even though the overwhelming majority of spins were for a version with an R&B singer as the main artist. It also represents, along with R.’s appearance on the “I’m N Luv (Wit A Stripper)” remix, his kind of passing the torch to T-Pain, who for a second was kind of looking like the next Kells, before he fell the fuck off. This is the highest of 3 entries on the list for T.I., the highest of 2 for T-Pain, and amazingly the only entry featuring R. Kelly, whose best ‘00s singles were surprisingly rarely with rappers (he had some dope songs with Jay-Z but no classics in my opinion, and a lot of the rappers featured on his own singles were, like, Big Tigger and The Game).

3. LL Cool J f/ Marc Dorsey - "Luv U Better" (2002)
#4 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #2 Hot Rap Tracks

LL is in the history books as more or less the inventor of soft batch love raps, or at least the guy who made it a sustainable career model, but few of his many hits in the "I Need Love" mold are considered among his best up there with the “Mama Said”s and “I’m Bad”s. That the unbilled and relatively unknown Marc Dorsey sings the hook instead of Pharrell is a huge asset to this song being one of the Neptunes’ finest R&B-flavored works, with a beat that’s at once ethereal and aggressive, a wash of dreamy keys interrupted every couple bars by an abrupt three-note synth guitar stutter. The first time I heard this song, a mix show DJ was running the intro back a few times, so all I’d hear was that swirling, dramatic beat and LL intoning “this is hard to say, I wanna make sure I go about this in the right way,” and I thought it was gonna be some kind of epic, weird Neptunes street banger. I was mildly disappointed when I realized it was a girl song, but quickly got over it when I realized what a great one it is. “Luv U Better” is the kind of song about mature, long-term relationships that you rarely get in rap, especially from older married rappers who are afraid acting their age could kill their career, and LL's performances oozes a kind of passionate sincerity that he's never captured in any of his action movie or sitcom work, so much that even when he notes “I know you don’t feel appreciated, and whatnot,” as if rolling his eyes at and placating his significant other, it still feels like he’s pledging a renewed devotion that becomes more convincing with each verse. The highest of 5 Neptunes productions on the list.

2. Twista f/ Kanye West and Jamie Foxx - “Slow Jamz” (2003)
#1 Hot 100, #1 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #1 Hot Rap Tracks

A lot of the songs on this list, as much as I love them, can be thrown into one of two categories, sometimes both: mushy love songs and shrewd commercial moves. But there were hip hop artists who engaged with R&B in a way that was both arch and affectionate, none more than Kanye. It makes a certain kind of sense that his first big emergence from crate-digging producer to guy who gets to actually rap on hit songs was with such a meta celebration of soul music, but it's really Twista, another rapper who seems to love rhyming over shamelessly schmaltzy soul beats for reasons that go far beyond their commercial viability, that takes this from a cute novelty to an all-time classic. I can still remember how excited I got about this song the first time I heard it, on an early DJ Drama tape (when he was still "DJ Dramatic" and wasn't on the south's dick yet) where it was mislabeled as "Her Favorite Song (Gonna Be)" for some reason. A few weeks later, some savvy Atlantic A&R plucked it from The College Dropout advance that had been bouncing around Def Jam's release schedule throughout 2003, made it Twista's lead single and it shot to #1, vaulting both Chicago rappers into the mainstream simultaneously and setting the stage for a comedian’s unlikely crossover as an R&B star.

1. Ja Rule f/ Lil Mo and Vita - "Put It On Me" (2000)
#8 Hot 100, #2 Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs, #11 Hot Rap Tracks

To many, Jeffery Atkins Represents Unconditional Love Exists represents everything that went wrong with hip hop and R&B collaborations in the '00s -- that cookie monster growl bellowing corny cliches at female duet partners over pillowy slow jam beats and samples jacked from better songs. But through all the Rule 3:36 singles and those J.Lo remixes, I really think he was making some great radio records that embraced the R&B element of his music in a way that his more cynical contemporaries and enemies never bothered to (there are a hell of a lot of 50 Cent songs that technically could be on this list, but aren’t). Rule belted out the chorus to this song all by himself on the original album version, although it didn't actually become not just listenable but incredibly catchy until Lil Mo came in and shadowed his every word to sweeten it up. The Murder Inc. formula didn't really go to shit until they tried replacing Mo's delirious melisma with the expressionless monotone of Ashanti as Rule's melodic foil a year or two later. This'll probably get more hated than any other ranking on the list, but I don't care, it's a fuckin' classic.