Twenty Damn Records That Can Make You... Break Down and Cryyyyy. Or Dance or whatever.

One man's journey through 2005's best recorded music


1. Hal, "Play the Hits"
AM heroes the Raspberries reunite as fresh-faced, small-town Irishmen on power-pop should-have-been smash. A masterpiece of gleeful formalism and falsetto high jinks.

2. Amerie, "1 Thing"
Rich Harrison, who produced Beyonce's overrated "Crazy in Love," proves his genius with this propulsive song of desire, led by a hot-in-the-mix drum track cobbled together from dusty Meters records. Those drums are saying: I Want Want Me.

3. Miranda Lambert, "Kerosene"
Golden-haired young-woman-next-door gets jilted, vows revenge on Steve Earle-y single. It's rare for a pop-country hit to deal so frankly with immolation fantasies. At least I think it's a fantasy. The insistent drums and hollering harmonica, those are literal.

4. The Legendary K.O., "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People"
A classic rush-job protest single in the tradition of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "Ohio," only now you don't even have to be famous to score a topical hit. Inspired by Kanye West's resonant ad-lib, Houston unknowns Damien Randle and Micah Nickerson laid pissed-off rhymes over West's "Gold Digger" beat and watched the download numbers grow. Check it out

5. Mike Jones, "Back Then"
Plot summary: Women reject Houston man, explaining that he's "cute but too chubby." Houston man's rapping career gains momentum and women begin to find him sexually appealing, though his weight has remained constant. Rapper revels in this development while Houston hip hop's trademark slowed-down vocals provide much-needed tonic after a few years of Kanye-led chipmunk samples.

6. Antony and the Johnsons, "My Lady Story"
Transgender angst plus transcendent harmonies. What's prettier than beautiful?

7. Kanye West, "Gold Digger"
In which a stock theme (partnering for money) is treated without prejudice, and the closest thing to vitriol is saved for fickle men. A joyful song about cruelty or a cruel song about joy?

8. Big & Rich, "Comin' to Your City"
"We're an American Band"-style arena anthem made with equal parts professionalism and inspiration. The disco breakdown deserves the classiest mirror ball money can buy.

9. Brad Paisley, "Alcohol"
An ambivalent drinking anthem narrated by the booze itself. An instant country bar-band standard. The great na-na-na-na-na outro is appropriately intoxicating.

10. Toby Keith, "As Good as I Once Was"
Pipe-laying and bar-brawling skills are in decline, admits long-in-the-tooth tough guy, but almost-as-good is good enough. Mavericks-style roots-pop tune and salty guitars back up the claim.

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