Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Top 18 Teen Pop Singles of the 00's (Part 2)

aBecause I have no sense of suspense, I'm gonna post my top 10 favorite teen pop singles of the 00's today!

To remind:
1) The definition of what is and is not teen pop is obviously highly judgmental. If I had any real doubt, I left them off the list.
2) This is biased towards more recent music, which I know better. Also biased towards songs that were hits in America.
3) I probably left some stuff out.
4) Limited to one song per artist.

Numbers 18 through 11 were
18) Mandy Moore - "I Wanna Be With You"
17) LMNT - "Juliet"
16) Charlotte Church - "Crazy Chick"
15) Play - "I Must Not Chase the Boys"
14) Britney Spears - "Oops!...I Did It Again"
13) Avril Lavigne - "My Happy Ending"
12) JoJo - "Leave (Get Out)"
11) Ashlee Simpson - "LaLa"

ON TO THE TOP 10!

10. M2M - "Pretty Boy"
Year: 2000
Comments: M2M were, of course, the masters of the teen pop ballad in the early 00's. Their breakout single "Don't Say You Love Me" was '99, so not eligible for this list, but they never had any song, including that one, that was as pretty as this. Featuring the signature excellent harmonies between Marion and Marit, and their classic brand of confessional lyrics that shaped the lyrics of teen pop to come, "Pretty Boy" is a shining highlight for their career. In addition, it's got a nicely catchy but downbeat instrumental track. I also considered their uptempo rave up "Everything You Do", but honestly, the harmony ballad is where this band excelled the most. Also I wanted to pick an M2M song that was reasonably typical of their overall sound.
YouTube: Pretty Boy

9. Kelly Clarkson - "Behind These Hazel Eyes"
Year: 2005
Comments: In the official opinion of the TCR, Breakaway is the best teen pop album, hell maybe the best album overall, of the 00's. "Since U Been Gone" is the one that was latched on to by the widest audience, and I guess that's what's going to go down as her classic, but I really enjoyed all 5 of the smash hit songs from this album. Between this song, "Since U Been Gone" and "Breakaway", KC might have had 3 songs on this list if I hadn't limited it to one song per artist. As to why I picked this song, it just seems like her most original song, and it's just the one I most prefer to listen to. I love Kelly's vocals, I think it has the best lyrics of any of her smash hits, and what a catchy chorus. Plus, great work on the production by Max and Dr Luke as always. I especially enjoy the drum parts in the chorus and of course, the fuzzed-out guitar. Also Kelly's best music video ever. I guess, I love drama in songs, and with the video and the song, there's not many songs more dramatic than this. ("Because of You" is arguably more dramatic, but I prefer the catchy rave-up to the ballad in this case).
YouTube: Behind These Hazel Eyes

8. A*Teens - "Bouncing off the Ceiling (Upside Down)"
Year: 2000
Comments: I still can't believe this song never broke in the US. The A*Teens of course started out their career with a pleasant but mostly useless album of ABBA covers. Then, somewhere along the line, somebody (I assume their manager but you never know) convinced them to do an album of original material, and the result was Teen Spirit which is in the official opinion of the TCR the second best teen pop album of the 00's. Whoever convinced them to do this deserves a gold medal. As to why I picked this song over their many other good singles, this is quite possibly the most INSANELY catchy, worm its way into your brain song ever. Like TV theme song/commercial jingle catchy. The kind of song where you hear it once and it permanently lodges itself into your brain. That makes it kind of annoying, but really really fun. This is pop distilled down into its very purest form, which is one of the main reasons I love teen pop so much. Possibly underrated, I decided this song was maybe a bit too light and fluffy to rank any higher (I prefer the confessional lyrics/sound), but I wouldn't quibble with any ranking as high as even number 1.
YouTube: Bouncing off the Ceiling (Upside Down) <--- Forget pop boiled down to its purest form, this video is cheesiness distilled down to its most pure form.

7. Aly & AJ - "Rush"
Year: 2005
Comments: Being an avowed Aly Michalka fan (see embarrassing gushing here), there was of course no way I could avoid ranking this song high. In all seriousness, I love the inspirational lyrics to this song, the Michalkas have really good singing voices (espeically the one with the low voice, whichever that is), and so catchy! What an apt title this song has, as the rush I get from listening to it (esp. the chorus of course) exceeds maybe any of the other songs on this list. Owes a huge debt to "Everywhere" of course, but it's original enough on its own merits. I also really love the production on this song, especially in the verses. I like their album as well but honestly though there are other good songs, there's nothing else the girls have recorded that really approaches this. Mild bonus for having no connection to Cow Belles whatsoever. Am I rating it too high because I love Aly in Phil of the Future so much? It's possible, but I really did try to separate that stuff out.
YouTube: Rush

6. Amy Diamond - "Don't Cry Your Heart Out"
Year: 2006
Comments: Another one I've previously commented on. I still love the faux-reggae beat, and I think this far outstrips Lily Allen or "Stars are Blind", because it's such a pretty song in addition to the reggae catchiness. Also, what I love about Amy is that in addition to being a certified cutie, she's such a good singer. And I don't mean in the sense of a technically good singer, I mean in just the sound of her voice and her delivery. Like Kelly Clarkson, her delivery on the lines is impeccable, and it really does add a lot to the song. Plus she nails the high notes. I seem to like this song more than any of the other teen pop pundits, but catchy + pretty + confessional lyrics = tailor made for Greg. Like JoJo, she sings songs where the lyrical content is way too old for her age, which I normally don't like, but for whatever reason it doesn't bother me too much with her. You can't help but be impressed by this girl.
YouTube: Don't Cry Your Heart Out <-- different from the one I posted earlier, this one contains the actual recorded version of the song (just ignore the annoying kids)

5. Lillix - "Sweet Temptation (Hollow)"
Year: 2006
Comments: This song and "Don't Cry Your Heart Out" are so different that it's hard to compare them, but there's not a hairsbreadth of distance between the two to me. To me, this is the best of the hard rocking, downbeat verse, EXPLOSION in the chorus songs pioneered by "Since U Been Gone" and done many, many times since. But not done as catchy! OK, the lyrics aren't adding to much to this, but the chorus is too much of a force to ignore. The "1, 2, 3, 4" thing is normally the sort of thing I don't like in songs, but it works so well here! Perhaps I am suffering from a lack of perspective in my ranking of this song by ranking this and Amy Diamond ahead of some of the songs I've known for a lot longer, but they just didn't feel right any lower on the countdown. Bonuses for this song: I really love the synth instrumental and the bridge. No complaints at all, this song is unimprovable.
YouTube: Sweet Temptation (Hollow)

4. 'N Sync - "It's Gonna Be Me"
Year: 2000
Comments: "...this song was not a product of its times; it was not a product of any time...there was never a time in popular music when this kind of song was a dominant form of popular music. Compare it to other Boy Band songs, to "Bye, Bye, Bye" or to "I Want it That Way", listen to the weird hook and totally original production on this song compared to the others, and tell me this is a generic pop song. Tell me that this is a product of little girls who only care about how a singer looks and whether they have a decent voice, not the quality of the music." -- taken from my review of the number one singles of 2000. Best boy band single of that wave, behind "I Want It That Way", I guess. Please note I'm not trying to insult "Bye, Bye, Bye" or "I Want It That Way" by that comment, just that they seem sort of generic compared to this song. For all the talk of Justin's solo career, wake me when he does another song this brilliant.
YouTube: It's Gonna Be Me

3. T.A.T.u. - "All the Things She Said"
Year: 2002
Comments: Forget all of the marketing ploys, let's just look at the quality of the song. Several years later and this song still sounds as fresh as the day it came out, and it has stood the test of time better than I think anybody could have expected. What an oddly unconventional song. You can make the complaint, and probably the fair complaint, that a number of the songs on this list are somewhat generic, and same-sounding, but I don't think there's any way you could say that about this song. A true original. It's odd because I don't think any of T.A.T.u.'s other singles have held up very well at all; like for example I also loved "Not Gonna Get Us" at the time, though I now concede this song is far superior. An unexpected and totally deserved hit, all marketing gimmicks aside.
YouTube: All the Things She Said

2. Hilary Duff - "Come Clean"
Year: 2003
Comments: As I've said before, despite anything that anybody says, I love Hilary's voice, and it's perfect for this song. Take any of the other supposedly "good" singers and give them this song, and I can nearly guarantee the result won't be as good as this (analagous to my comments on her performance in Raise Your Voice). Listen to the thin-ness in her voice as she sings "Let the rain fall down...", it just sounds pretty to me. This is one of the songs that it bothers me that some people don't get. I just really don't understand how anybody could not like this song. How can it not just make you smile when you hear that awesome opening instrumental riff? Amazing confessional lyrics! Amazing instrumental link from the bridge to the chorus! This is the entirety of 00's teen pop distilled into one song. When I originally created this list, this song was several spots lower. But it just kept climbing higher and higher up because I would realize that this song was better than the song one space above it. Somewhat generic sounding but if all similar sounding songs were this good, I doubt there'd be any complaints. ("Fly" and "Jericho" make it too if not for limits to one per artist).
YouTube: Come Clean

1. Michelle Branch - "Everywhere"
Year: 2001
Comments: For some reason, Michelle was marketed as some kind of anti-teen pop girl. Unlike Britney/Christina, she was LEGIT because she wrote her own songs and played her own instruments! This specter of legitimacy is now legion in teen pop, and we probably have her/her managers to thank for that, but I don't hold that against the song. She broke out in a huge way with this song, coming at the tail end of the previous wave of teen pop when people were tired of musicians they felt were mere puppets. And this song, along with "Complicated" absolutely set the blueprint for the remaining decade of teen pop to come. What an absolutely amazing soaring hook in the chorus. This song defines the confessional sound, and I just honestly don't think there's any teenpop song I'd rather listen to than this one. That chorus just never gets old, and the verses are great too. I also love the guitar sound in this song, and Michelle's voice. Never came close to matching this, despite some other pretty good singles. It's just the seemingly unending repeatability of the song that brings this song over the top to number one. Quite possibly the best single period of the 00's, although I'd be tempted to give that title to "Digital Love" as well.
YouTube: Everywhere

Summary by year:
2000 - 5
2001 - 2
2002 - 1
2003 - 2
2004 - 2
2005 - 4
2006 - 2

Selections centered around 2000 and 2005 which makes sense because they occur at the very peak at their respective waves of teenpop. Notice that the top 3 all come from that 'tweener period between 2001 and 2003, probably coincidence.

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