Flashback to the early-’90s’ cash-grab half-light when flannelphobic losers were desperate for a hang-out-the-car-window rock refrain not burdened with a singer who sounded like he was taking the piss or threatening suicide. Or, as Les Savy’s Tim Harrington roars over this coiled riff, “We’re here today!” Fin.
A defiantly boho fight song, improbably inspired by boxer Joe Louis, with Chris Keating testifying over percolating art pop.
“Solitude Is Bliss”
The grail missing from MGMT’s Congratulations — a blithe, inescapable, psych-winking riff and lyrics that essentially say, “Fuck all you hoes, we’re going surfing.”
The Black Keys
On the Keys’ crossover pop-soul stroll, Dan Auerbach’s grainy, nuanced croon and unassuming, scene-setting guitar show precisely why John Mayer sucks.
Over a Days of Our Lives-sampling beat from Drake/Eminem hitmaker Boi-1da, these Brooklyn street-fashion theorists are still (not) joking and provoking with Wiki-maniacal glee.
Jaunty piano, handclaps, and Thorn’s soothing alto veil a knee-buckling mother/daughter realization. “Yours are just kickin’ in / Mine are just checkin’ out,” quavers mom, not so drily.
“Opposite of Adults”
Philly duo give MGMT’s “Kids” a second childhood with hip-hop’s most purely joyful cartwheel in years.
“Digging for Something”
The guitar riff wiggles and strains to soar (and sorta does), but we’re too busy dancing on the propane tanks and throwing beer cans at the crash cymbal to care.
The-Dream, feat. T.I.
“Make Up Bag”
In this moist R&B panorama so vast Imax couldn’t contain it, The-Dream enacts his absurdly revealing romantic transaction like a pimpish Preston Sturges.
“Living in America”
A synth-fuzz jihad vs. Uncle Sam’s nihilistic horndog fantasia. Or a rock’n'roll bro-shake in its honor.
National-treasure producer Bangladesh flips a piano fillip from the Turtles’ “Keep It Warm” into a booty ceremonial, brightening our mush-mouthed antihero’s â€¨color scheming.
Janelle MonÃ¡e, feat. Big Boi
Classy ATLiens’ blindingly nimble blur of funky life lessons. The moral: Step lively!
“Cry When You Get Older”
Sweden’s improvement on Madonna has something on her dirty mind, and it’s the most honest lovesick advice you’ll ever hear in a pop song.
With a balletic balance of sophistication and vulgarity, Kanye envisions a new aesthetic era.
While the music blooms like a wondrous botanical drama, Bradford Cox incants a stark deathbed lullaby.
A man’s entire life bleeds into the red with shuddering chords and enough drugs to kill Cortez’s minions.
“All I Want”
A glam-rock lament, an impossible disco plea, and James Murphy’s LCD swan song. Sayonara, sensei.
Kanye West, feat. Dwele
As if he’s inciting an Afro-futurist convocation, Kanye creates the theme music for his spectacularly ambivalent “superhero” alter ego — “21st Century Schizoid Man,” a.k.a. the “abomination of Obama’s nation.”
“Ready to Start”
Almost a decade after Win Butler’s moveable hoot set out to conquer the world’s stadia, this smoldering screed sounds like a nail-it-to-the-door manifesto.
Cee Lo Green
Appropriately, 2010′s most memorable song first existed as a goofy Internet novelty. But due to its universal sentiment, Cee Lo’s holy-rolling gusto, and the year’s shit train of woes, it actually resonated: We’re broke, we’re pissed, and we wanna curse out anybody who acts like they’ve got the slightest inkling; or, we could just cue up this hilariously ebullient, timelessly soulful middle-finger salute, and go about our fucking business. Thanks, Preacher Green, you win.