Top Ten Plus


People who complain Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is scattershot miss the point. Andre and Big Boi are guys with iPod brains who had the vision and balls to cut’n’paste their entire hard drives into their record, even the stuff that was beyond their chops.

Saugerties, New York

There should be a bumper sticker on the back of the OutKast company dune buggy that reads, “Money Talks But Bullshit Walks All The Way To The Bank To Count The Loot That Tales Of Rollerskates And Lollipops Showered Upon Us In Our Attempts To Create A Hybrid That While Never Devoid Of Funk And Certainly In Keeping With A Long Tradition Of Trickster Mischief Makers Nonetheless Adds A 21st-Century Diamond-Studded Wristwatch Hard Gleam To The Eye Of The Tiger That We Most Assuredly Have By The Tail! We Deserve Every Penny Because We Work Harder Than Anybody To Perfect Our Imperfections And Somehow We Still Manage To Rock The Bells Occasionally Beep Beep Ya Ass!”

Tisbury, Massachusetts

OutKast don’t hate the game, they just change the fucking rules. All you critics (I mean, all you funky fresh colleagues) who hated on this one just because, you know, you knew your voice would be that much louder to hate on a record this butters: Get a striped shirt and a whistle and blow.

Brooklyn, New York

The gospel according to OutKast: God is a woman. You can tell ‘cuz she uses her powers to make your girl lose her panties.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Best Marriage-on-the-Rocks: OutKast. Big Boi is all, “Don’t listen to all those rumors! Me and my man are gonna last forever!” And we’re all, “Damn, girl! He’s cheatin’ on you!”

Los Angeles, California

Imagine what a drag Aquarius/Gemini would have been.

St. Paul, Minnesota

For the first time since Public Enemy hit, popular taste and that of the modern Afrocentric bohemian are in bizarre sync. It’s an opera and there’s supposed to be a movie coming. Yay.


The White Stripes album is just like the old story of the blind man and the elephant. It feels at various times like Iggy Pop, Queen, Jimmy Page, the Mamas and the Papas, John Lennon, John Lee Hooker, Smashing Pumpkins, Elvis Costello, Peggy Lee, Johnny Rivers, Urge Overkill, and M. Scott Peck, all an ear, a trunk, or a testicle at a time.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Detroit is the shit. Detroit is where the hardest whiteboys in America are from. Real punks. The Stooges set off the thug-core shit long ago, but our man Jack White is keeping it gangsta right about now. Seen his mug?

Brooklyn, New York

Dragging my dead, flat ass into an office five days a week, I would never expect to want to hear rock songs about it. Welcome Interstate Managers pulls off the neat trick of being about the working world yet with all these juvenile fantasies popping up—like a day at the cubicle, complete with daydreams.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Coup of the year: Fountains of Wayne seduce the cool boys of VH1 with a sexy video about MILFs. Safely inside the palace walls, the band then blindsides ’em with an entire album full of sad songs about downsized America with such sunny harmonies that even Mo Rocca has to sing along.

Los Angeles, California

Hail to the Thief predicted the entire baseball postseason: “Scatterbrain” is the Grady Little theme song, “A Punchup at a Wedding” captures the moment Zim married the turf after Pedro’s throwdown, “We Suck Young Blood” is a tribute to the aged Yanks’ pitching staff, and the title honors the Marlins, who’ve never finished first in their division yet won their second World Series.

Santa Barbara, California

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ party was where I fell in love. To be honest I was kind of drunk and the stuff we said to each other seems kind of incoherent and embarrassing when I tell friends. I remember us jumping around the room to this GREAT music that was chaotic yet had snap, making funny faces at each other and knocking over everything, wrestling and laughing. I don’t think I ever felt so impulsive, so alive, so intoxicated by another person. I don’t think it’s always going to be like this (first time I saw this girl I thought she was obnoxious and uninteresting—maybe she’ll seem like that again once she stops wanting to be around me) but damn if that night isn’t gonna be one of those amazing experiences that I look back on whenever I need to remember that I haven’t always felt alone.

State College, Pennsylvania

Chutes Too Narrow is the sound of a few guys in a room, intimate that way, but it’s limit-less too. The Shins’ music is expansive, unironic, touched by British rock of the ’60s and ’80s reaching for something new. There is nothing obvious about it, not even the hooks, best described by a stray lyric as a “book you read in reverse.”


It’s been years since I’ve seen a band take the stage with such evident delight in making music, putting on a show, being part of the same group, communicating the same humor and fervor to the audience and to each other. That this is exactly what you hear on the New Pornographers’ records seems both a miracle and a natural fact.

Berkeley, California

Basement Jaxx seemed determined to load an album’s worth of sounds and ideas into every track. There are songs here—some of the duo’s best so far—but they treat their songs like The Matrix treats philosophy: as a jumping-off point for decadent but captivating pyrotechnics. Scrooges complain that the result is a bit like a cake with too many layers of icing, but I love icing.

Melbourne, Australia

Damn if new Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell didn’t get me every time he hit the bit about not losing your Southern accent, in one line and a half-gargled melody nailing a thousand nights spent driving around Arkansas worrying about half-imagined bullshit no kid could fix.


Hip-hop has become almost entirely a producer’s game—this is the age of the genius beatmaker and the nitwit MC—but Dizzee Rascal’s sad, funny, eloquent songs were a reminder of how potent the rapper’s art can be. Incidentally, Boy in Da Corner also featured the year’s deepest beats, courtesy of producer Dizzee Rascal. It’s every bit as great a debut album as Run-D.M.C. or Ready to Die or Pretenders or The Clash.

Brooklyn, New York

I didn’t vote for “Hey Ya!” because . . . well, OK, my bad.

Brooklyn, New York

I love “Hey Ya!” But who even pretended not to? It’s the most accessible hip-hop hit since Kris Kross’s “Jump.” It’s also a hopeful sign that people still crave weirdness from pop music even in this most conformist of times.

Brooklyn, New York

When my wife’s father dropped “shake it like a Polaroid picture” into a Thanksgiving table conversation about real estate prices and da Bears, I felt Andre and Big Boi jump up a tax bracket.

Columbus, Ohio

The beauty of “Hey Ya!” is that it’s hip-hop that doesn’t sound like hip-hop. Andre takes a riff from ’60s surf rock, gives it a Bootsy Collins swirl with some Toni Basil hand claps thrown in, and mints a classic that’s as hip-hop to me as anything Jay-Z, 50 Cent, or Gang Starr dropped this year. Maybe more so.

Oakland, California

“Hey Ya!” is the year’s true milkshake. Dre drove from Atlanta to Athens balancing a thermos on his knees, squeezed a few squirts of Elephant Six in there, and jerked it like an egg cream.


Unnerving that the desperate subtext of “Hey Ya!” has been airbrushed out of the mass consciousness by the same mysterious process that transformed “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” or “Billie Jean” into feel-good oldies. Y’all don’t want me here, y’all just want to dance to keep from cryin’.

Bordentown, New Jersey

When my girlfriend’s sister got married in September, she eschewed Mendelssohn, blasting Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” instead, and it was perfect. It’s those horns, so lovingly lifted from the Chi-Lites, impossibly loud, dramatic, and passionate. It’s just the anthem for newlyweds to charge into the world with.

Oakland, California

Big googly eyes, exhausted pelvic twitching, completely unconvincing come-ons that demand you sing along, if for no reason other than to inject spits and twitters into Beyoncé’s soul-by-numbers canoodling. Each shower of uh-ohs falls flat, while remaining insanely, gloriously palatable. Then Jay pens the best line ever: “My texture is the best fur, chinchilla.” It’s like alien robots talking to each other, with bleating horns in the background.

Charlottesville, Virginia

I’d take a sip of Kelis’s milk-shake over a lick of Beyoncé’s jelly any day.


All summer I felt stalked by “In Da Club.” It poured out of speakers in every bodega, SUV, boom box, and clothing store I walked past. When I came out of the subway in Brooklyn it greeted me on DeKalb Avenue, sending me home on the flow of a groove that was infectious, sinister, and funky. It’ll take the Neptunes another 10 years to smell the fumes on Dr. Dre’s Caddy.

Brooklyn, New York

The single that launched a thousand catchphrases: birthday-girl shorties go go go for the Bacardi all don’t-give-a-fuck style as he tips a bottle full of bub, goes for sex over lovemaking, gets loved like pot—so give your uncle Fitty a hug already.

St. Paul, Minnesota

“Stacy’s Mom” is essentially the Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Mssrs. Collingwood and Schlesinger devise a May-December fantasy straight out of Penthouse Letters that blunders into Rick Ocasek’s sticky love triangle like a Jack Tripper pratfall. When Collingwood explains to his erstwhile girl that “since your dad walked out your mom could use a guy like me,” the bad ’70s porno film suddenly veers into Mrs. Robinson territory and becomes pop for the ages.

Lake Oswego, Oregon

Grammar of the year: R.Kelly’s spoken intro to “Ignition-Remix”: “Now, usually I don’t do this, but, uh, go on ahead and break ’em off with a little previews of the remix.”


“Beware of the Boys” brought back memories of listening to Hot 97 with my little brother in the car , protesting when my dad tried to turn off the radio in favor of his Indian classical music tapes. Dad could tolerate hip-hop way more than rock, which he thought was tuneless garbage.


“Rock Your Body” is Off the Wall redux, but I also hear Linx, Chic, and Shalamar in there—graceful, glitter-footed r&b, betwixt the shimmering surfaces of disco and the rubbery bottom end of funk. Very suave, very sweet, and classic out of the box.

Toronto, Ontario

“Get Low” is so vocally complex that people who complain about Lil Jon’s record lacking “flow” baffle me. Who needs flow with all those over-lapping mouths going crazy?

Brooklyn, New York