Greatest Songs of 2009, #10 to #6

10. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga

“In theory, she was an artist you want to root for—all these ideas about art and celebrity and a flair for the dramatic. But the first few singles made the Lady Gaga project feel so presumptuous, her artsy entitlement overwhelming her songs’ occasional strengths. ‘Bad Romance‘ was the moment where the music didn’t just live up to the (self-inflated) hype, but surpassed it. The track is epic in construction– by the time she gets to the bridge, more than three minutes in, the realization that there are hooks yet to come is thrilling. It helps that RedOne‘s production matches the songwriting’s torrential drama; the churning, earth-shifting low-frequency synths are a programmatic reflection of the singer’s unsteady, perhaps unwise, infatuation. But it’s Gaga’s performance, the wholly unapologetic fools-rush-in carnal energy, that commitment to emotional bravery in a context of increasingly twee chart pop, that makes ‘Bad Romance’ feel so necessary.” (Pitchfork Media)  

9. “Zero” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Beginning with a synth pulse straight from Studio 54, ‘Zero‘ was immediately, grippingly the sound of Yeah Yeah Yeahs emerging from their red booth in the shadows onto the dancefloor. Not just emerging either: as the song stepped up its disco beat with Karen O exhorting you to ‘climb, climb, climb high up’, then exploded into an ecstatic, multiply-climactic thriller, it was apparent they were storming the floor astride a strutting mirrorball horse.” (NME)

8. “Dominos” by The Big Pink

“If the Big Pink have half a brain, they’ll take the money and run. They’re rock and techno, a combination that pops up with one in three bands now and rarely makes for longevity if you’re not Radiohead or Beck (fine, or TV on the Radio).. And rarely do these big shots get a shot at a whole other universe: beer-commercial, stadium-chanting, butt-core that pays the stupidity price for the universality of a memorable hook. […] With ‘Dominos‘, the Big Pink have that chance, and in this economy they should take it. The chance to score every dude-comedy for the next six months that squeezes in Jonah Hill somewhere, the chance to be played after a home-run, the chance to get ten seconds of recognized anonymity scoring a presenter’s entrance at next year’s VMAs. […] Borrowing the brickwalled drum track from ‘Time to Pretend‘ and laying four insultingly easy synthfarts over it, these Brits unleash their secret weapon, five words (I won’t spoil them) stretched to nine with some well-spliced ‘ohhhhwhooooas,’ over and over, inescapably, insurmountably. The verses don’t matter, because no matter how many times you play them, you won’t recall a thing, like those of Flo Rida‘s ‘Low‘. That anonymous. They put those there to break from singing the chorus again, not that you’ll want one, but it beats utilizing a breathing apparatus.” (Pitchfork Media)

7. “Stillness is the Move” by Dirty Projectors

“I know what you’re thinking: Another blowhard straining his powers of pretension to compare experimental rock bands to random bursts of commercial radio. What I’ll say is that Dave Longstreth, the band’s guitarist, vocalist, and primary songwriter, is a very talented musician whose creative restlessness has made most of his albums fascinating but difficult to listen to. Here, though, there’s much-needed breathing room. His and Amber Coffman’s fractal guitar blasts are streamlined into a tidy West African–style blues loop; the backbeat is sturdy and midtempo (i.e., you can dance– even grind [really]– to it); and Amber and bassist Angel Deradoorian’s vocals flutter with the weird verve of a robotic Mariah Carey (herself not convincingly human to begin with). All this and a massive, melodic chorus! One you can sing along with! But the biggest revelation here is the lyric. After years of inscrutable, self-effacing narratives, Dirty Projectors recorded a love song– about, to my ears, the scary, mature realization that “settling down” doesn’t mean you stop growing. I mention it in part because it moves me, and in part because it’s a compact metaphor for both song and album: a band realizing that slowing their role doesn’t mean giving up– and might even mean making leaps they couldn’t have made before.” (Pitchfork Media)

6. “The Fixer” by Pearl Jam

“The last time Pearl Jam checked in with the lead single from a new album, Eddie Vedder was snarling that a ‘war has taken over’ atop an assault of guitars on ‘Worldwide Suicide.’ Three years on, the veteran Seattle band returns with ‘The Fixer‘ (from its September album ‘Backspacer‘), a song shot through with optimism at a level not seen since Pearl Jam‘s 1998 ‘Yield.’ A sonic heir to that album’s midtempo road ode ‘MFC,’ the similarly sub-three-minute track is punctuated with bright ‘yeah yeah yeahs’ and downright rosy lines like, ‘I want to try to love again.’ But with Vedder mixed down among Stone Gossard and Mike McCready‘s warm guitars and the throat-ripping moments of his delivery somewhat muted, there’s a sense of reserve that makes ‘The Fixer’ a tease for hearing PJ in its uninhibited natural setting: live.” (Billboard)