1. 50 CENT
“In Da Club” (Shady/Interscope) Since we’reall gonna get shot or suicide-bombed anyway, let’s throw africkin’ birthday party! With pole dancing, Ecstasy, andKevlar! Fiddy should pray five times a day to the West (a.k.a. Dr.Dre) for blessing him with a beat so irresistibly sultry.
“Lose Yourself” (Shady/Interscope) Screw the corny Aerosmithsample on “Sing for the Moment” — this tinkly, guitar-driven epic isEm’s defining yes-you-can power ballad. So packed with anticipationyou’re on the edge of your seat for a half-dozen bars just to hear himfinish the damn “Mekhi Phifer” rhyme.
3. THE WHITE STRIPES
“Seven Nation Army” (V2) Scowling as he falls down thecelebrity rabbit hole, Jack White knocks off a tawdry guitar solo, thenthreatens to move to Wichita. The day is saved by the year’s best bassline (that Timbaland had nothing to do with).
“Hey Ya!” (LaFace/Arista) Unlike, say, Jack White, Andre 3000feels totally liberated by parading around as the world’s sexiest indierocker.
5. R. KELLY
“Ignition (Remix)” (Jive) Yes, he’s a repugnant narcissist. No, this song’s ridiculously tipsy groove cannot be denied.
6. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
“Cry Me a River” (Jive) I defer to The New Yorker‘s AlexRoss, who called this the “most polyphonically complex teenybopperballad in history.” And when Justin performs it live, he calls Britneya bitch, too!
7. PANJABI MC
“Beware of the Boys (Mundian to Bach Ke)” (Sequence) Thisexhilarating bhangra mash-up — madly plucked tumbi, dhol drums,Bollywood vocals, and Knight Rider sample (via Timbaland) — is almostruined by Jay-Z’s inane rap. Still, he gets props for making it a hit.
8. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE
“No One Knows” (Interscope) Josh Homme’s guitar riff circleslike a biker wielding a pool cue, but it’s Dave Grohl’s drums thatactually crack your knees.
“Made You Look” (Columbia) Despite Nas’ admirably torturedchatter about next-level musical consciousness, his best joint sincethe ’90s is a macho gunman boast over the classic “Apache” drum break.
10. THE STROKES
“12:51” (RCA) The slurred, insistent guitar and purred, distantvocals capture that exact moment when your third cocktail kicks in. Andyou’re not embarrassed to slur along.
11. DIZZEE RASCAL
“I Luv U” (XL import) Drum’n’bass, U.K. garage, andold-fashioned raw-dog hip-hop combust in this digitally dementedversion of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
12. THE DONNAS
“Take It Off” (Atlantic) The sound of tentative pop-punk-metalkids finally pulling off the stadium-rock rager of their dreams. Thechorus might as well be “We did it!”
13. WAYNE WONDER
“No Letting Go” (40/40/VP/Atlantic) Of all the songs on the hand-clapping Diwali beat (uh-oh, it’s Lumidee again),here’s the keeper — Wonder’s heavenly tenor testifies with a subtlevulnerability that’ll make any frigid ex weepy in rush-hour traffic.
“The Leaving Song Pt. II” (DreamWorks) When it comes torelentless, trembling, gut-churning anthems, these Golden Statewarriors leave it all on the floor.
15. JOE BUDDEN
“Pump It Up” (Def Jam) Obsessively rewinding that Kool &the Gang sample like a kid getting rowdy in his high chair, producerJust Blaze made sure this song was so hot it didn’t matter whatbullshit Budden spit.
16. THE DARKNESS
“Growing on Me” (Atlantic) The most emotionally fraught guitar solo ever in a rock song about a sexually transmitted disease.
17. ELECTRIC SIX
“Danger! High Voltage” (XL/Beggars) Detroit goombas insemi-matching suits yell “fire” in a crowded Mexican-style chainrestaurant; sax-bomb mayhem ensues.
“Me and Giuliani Down by the Schoolyard (A True Story)” (Touch and Go) Punky bicoastal funk that actually focuses on the beat more than the noisy posturing. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
19. T. RAUMSCHMIERE
“Monstertruckdriver” (Novamute) With his buzzy,happy-go-brain-dead “schaffel” (a.k.a. “shuffle”) beat, Berlin DJ MarcoHaas brings the techno-punk pain.
20. BEYONCE FEATURING JAY-Z
“Crazy In Love” (Columbia) and
“Just Because” (Capitol) The former’s syncopated Chi-Lites hornflourish promised a hip-hop-savvy Diana Ross, and the latter’ssky-walking guitar promised ecstatic rock sleaze that never ages.Ultimately, they delivered the year’s two best intros.