The Year's Best Singles
Observant readers of my column have no doubt detected a certain bias by now. Although none have gone so far as to call me a racist, it must be becoming clear that I have a strong distaste for white people. Nearly all of the bands and artists that I’ve made fun of to this point have been white, and it’s no coincidence: I think that white people are strange and awkward. They have stupid-looking beards and they sound like they write everything down before they say it. They can’t shut up about Star Wars. They sing like girls and wear ridiculous clothes, and they smell a little bit like sour milk. I’m certainly not alone in this opinion. I don't want to characterize Something Awful as a racist site; the writers all come from vastly different backgrounds and hold diverse political views. We certainly have no official "party line" opinion on white people. However, it just so happens, coincidentally, that we all pretty much hate white people. Having said this, it should come as no surprise that my list of the best singles of the last twelve months (approximately) won’t contain too many white people. Let’s face it: white people just don’t make good music anymore (if they ever did). Let’s get on with it, because I’m itching to write something positive for once.
1. Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz featuring the Ying Yang Twins – Get Low
“How can this be the best single of the year,” you may well ask, “when it has been out since early last year?” The reason is simple: this single has done more to change the musical and cultural landscape of our country than any other single this year. It is an unstoppable juggernaut of crunk, continuing even still to wreak havoc on radios, clubs, and house parties all over the nation. Helming the controls of this gigantic, indestructible machine is Lil Jon, a figure who shall feature prominently in this list. Not only can Lil Jon weave a tapestry of sound and words unlike any other artist alive today, he has the power to effect dramatic change on the listener. He is unafraid of confronting our insecurities audaciously, almost belligerently: “let me see you get low,” he incites female listeners; “you scared? You scared?” One almost has no choice but to “get low”; such is the power of the man’s charisma. Personally, I am not a woman, and thus I’m not expected to follow his delicious commands. However, this does not diminish the effect of the song. The genius of the single is that it speaks both to men and women, drawing listeners of either sex into the delirious paradise of ribaldry. Male listeners, once charmed by the hypnotic synthesizer stabs and boisterous hollering, will practically be able to feel “the sweat drop down [their] balls,” and thrill to the power of seeing “all them bitches crawl.” In a time of great division in America, here is a song that can truly unite us. The glee of the track is universal and undeniable, be you black or white, man or woman, child or senior citizen. I propose that “Get Low” be made our new national anthem; instead of an outdated and difficult-to-sing song about war, wouldn’t we prefer an energetic, infectious, and thoroughly modern song about love and power in the greatest country on Earth? The song is a celebration of the values we hold dear: the freedom to go out and pursue happiness and love, the freedom to dance the night away, and even the freedom to bear arms in a safe and responsible fashion. While so many hip hop songs of the past glorified violence with guns, Lil Jon is only concerned with shooting in a sportsmanlike fashion: “Aww skeet skeet mafucker,” he cries, revealing his preference for shooting at clay pigeons over shooting at people.
Lil Jon (Also pictured: crunk)
2. Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris – Yeah
Had I been stricter with the criteria of this list, Usher would certainly have been at the top. Although “Yeah” is the most exciting new song of 2004, it is nonetheless eclipsed by the majesty of “Get Low.” However, if we consider the body of work from whence this single arose, Usher is as close to an equal as Lil Jon has. While Lil Jon is the brash, abrasive, confident genius, Usher is a more sensitive sort; on his newest album, “Confessions,” Usher has laid his soul bare, pleading with his audience to forgive him for his mistakes and accept his love; his love is brooding and masculine, yet naïve and almost childlike. How could we refuse it? Clearly, we cannot: the album is a solid-gold smash hit, once again rocketing Usher into the upper stratosphere of creative success. Surely you’ll agree that nobody thought he could possibly top such singles as “You Make Me Wanna,” a complicated exploration of faithfulness and temptation. This is exactly why it was so easy to be blindsided by “Yeah.” As the only dance-pop track on an otherwise moody and soulful album, it may seem like an imperfect representation of the album as a whole. Any such complaints are erased, however, the second one hears the opening notes. Lil Jon has crafted a track which is simultaneously ethereal and extremely weighty, and Usher sings a tune which implants itself permanently into the listener’s memory even after hearing it only once. Even more compelling than the immaculate production is Usher’s extremely progressive lyric concerning the humanity and sexuality of the mentally challenged; while the song seems like a standard “boy-meets-girl-in-club” story, observant listeners will note the repeated phrase “shorty got Down’s, said come and get me.” The topic of being courted by woman with Down’s syndrome has never been broached before in the world of popular music, and only a man with Usher’s sensitivity could possibly make it work. Although it would be easy to make cheap jokes about such a topic, Usher is a gentleman through and through: “She asked for one more dance and I'm like yeah, how the hell am I supposed to leave?” He does not lose his cool even though his mentally unfortunate pursuer is making constant demands of him on the dance floor; he graciously accepts her offer, as the gentlemanly moral fiber inside him tells him that to leave would be a cruel and callous offense. He doesn’t even leave when the situation becomes uncomfortable, in fact; he notes that “she was all up on me screaming ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” Being in such an ordeal, being a well-known superstar out in a club trying one’s best to entertain a retarded girl even though she is becoming increasingly agitated and unruly, must be quite a difficult and even embarrassing task. Just imagine having a girl with Down’s syndrome climbing you and clinging to you, screaming in your ear with excitement. Would you be man enough to handle it without losing your cool? Well, Usher is.
A humiliating on-stage mishap for Usher
3. Terror Squad – Lean Back
This nation is in the middle of a war. No, I don’t mean the war on terror or the war on drugs. This nation is at war against fat people. With documentaries such as “Supersize Me” (a grim portrait of a man forced by terrorists to eat nothing but McDonalds food) and “Farenheit 9/11” (a film about a big fat man hysterically antagonizing the United States government), the battle lines have been drawn between the skinnies and the fatties. Luckily, pop music has once again established itself as a unifying and peacemaking force. Terror Squad is the brainchild of the unabashedly obese Fat Joe, a man who has no shame about his jolly girth. The lyric of this single, in fact, sets out to prove that big fat people are just the same as you and I: they live in the Bronx, they have guns, and they commit all sorts of crimes. But more than this, fat people share the joy of dancing as best they can. To illustrate this concept, Fat Joe has invented an extremely pragmatic dance move which can be enjoyed by anyone, not just those of slimmer builds. The dance is called “The Rockway,” and all it involves is pulling up one’s pants and leaning back. No, it’s probably not great exercise, but that’s not what it’s all about. The goal is not to dance until you’re skinny, the goal is for the fat and the thin alike to share a common dance which is not particularly strenuous to either group (and therefore gives neither group the advantage). For far too long, the overweight had only one move of their own, the ignominious “truffle shuffle.” Now, however, they have an entirely non-humiliating dance move that they can truly be proud of. Next time you’re walking through the Bronx and you see a big fat Hispanic man with a gun, just say to him “Hey fatty! Let’s do the Rockaway!” I guarantee you that he will be pleasantly surprised.
Too large to fit in the frame?
4. Lil Scrappy – No Problem
One major problem with the music of white people is that they’re so goddamned stilted, shy, and uncomfortable. Even songs that are seen as sexually blatant and audacious generally skirt the issue and speak with little frankness about anything. For example, a white person would be hard-pressed to write a song about the true power of testicles. Even songs that you hope are about testicles, such as “Great Balls of Fire,” turn out to be about basically nothing at all. Lil Scrappy, however, isn’t afraid of the magnificent power of balls. “I got big balls and bullets like baseballs,” he brags; “straight nuts to your face, put your pistols away.” Bullets, being like baseballs, are represented as useless and unwieldy; his balls, however, have the power to make peace with his enemies. Once they have seen his testicles, they will have no choice but to relinquish their firearms. This is not a homosexual thing at all: notice that he specifies that these are straight nuts. These nuts are not meant to be sexually menacing, but rather to be seen as peaceful nuts which soothe tensions and dismiss the need for weaponry. After the testicles have been shown, his former enemies are now free to “get crunk in the club”; “You can walk on by with your nuts in a tuck,” he says, “and I’ll be obliged if you really want to get crunk.” The spirit of peace, crunk, and testicles prevails once more. Do you think those stuffy white Washington fat-cats who send us off to war for power and money could possibly understand the significance of a man disarming another man with his testicles? I doubt it. That is why they’ll never experience the joy of getting crunk in the club.
The Prince of Crunk wishes to shake your hand
5. Nelly – Flap Your Wings
While Nelly has often been criticized as soft, as a poseur, and as too much of a pop star, this single has changed my opinion of him. While Usher’s “Confessions” album saw him confessing to impregnating his “girl on the side,” nothing he confessed on that album is anywhere near as shocking as what Nelly reveals about himself in this song. I consider myself a fairly tolerant person. Aside from my extremely strong dislike of white people, I generally don’t think of myself as a man with too much prejudice. Some of my best friends are gay, some are murderers, and others have been known to lay with the beasts of the field. Even so, I admit I was a little taken aback when I first heard Nelly implore his lady-friend to “get her eagle on” and “flap her wings” and “shake her tail feathers.” Nelly, so often seen as a bit of a bland vanilla rapper, has proven himself to be a bit kinkier than we had imagined. I’m not generally keen on pigeonholing people into restrictive categories, but if a man asks his woman to don an eagle suit and act like a bird, I believe that this man would be referred to by most people as a “furry.” One of the beneficial effects of pop music in general and hip hop in particular is that it broadens our horizons; it allows us to hear about the experiences of a wide range of people who lead lifestyles very different from our own. Listening to a man sing a song which discusses the “furry” lifestyle with such frankness may be nonplussing to us at first, but if we can accept Nelly for who he is, maybe it’s a step toward accepting all “furries.” It is always a risky career move for a major star to “come out of the closet”; it’s bound to offend some sensibilities here and there, but sometimes the advancement of a tolerant society is worth some controversy. Whether you agree with Nelly’s choices or not, it’s important to listen to and consider his opinions, because that’s what makes America great. Speaking of America, at least he picked a bird generally associated with strength and patriotism to be sexually attracted to. Godspeed, Nelly; I don’t necessarily agree with your opinions, but bless you for having the courage to speak out about them.
Queer for birds?
I hope that by revealing my real taste in music I have helped steer you toward a new understanding of what’s good and what’s bad. I’m sure that most of you will agree with me that the five singles I’ve named are the best pop singles of the year, so I hope I haven’t wasted my time in explaining exactly what makes them great. I also hope that if any of my readers are, god forbid, white people, they aren’t too offended by my lack of inclusion of any white artists. Please, white people, do not take it personally; you must understand, I don’t hate anyone in particular. I just hate white people in general. If you have any questions of comments, you may e-mail me at email@example.com.