Best Songs Of 2008

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When we look back on 2008 a decade from now, we might remember it as the last year that albums mattered as much as songs. Yes, Radiohead turned the whole industry on its head with their Internet tip-jar release of In Rainbows; yes, Lil Wayne sold over a million copies of Tha Carter III in a single week; yes, Axl Rose finally released Chinese Democracy. But once you get past those big stories, most of the acts making waves in music this year did it with songs, not albums. Increasingly, our iPods are stuck in shuffle mode—and we like it that way.br /
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With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at 2008 and pick the 50 songs that represented the best music the year had to offer, from the Top 40 anthems we couldnt escape to the hidden gems we hope youll seek out.br /
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Were sure we left out a few of your favorites; if we did, tell us about it in the comments section.br /
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And now, on with the list:br /
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50. Hot Chip, “Ready for the Floor”br /
The latest winsome club anthem from England’s geekiest electro-pop crew.br /
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49. Delta Spirit, “Trashcan”br /
This ragtag San Diego group has opened for Cold War Kids and takes that band’s mix of raucous indie rock and sweaty spirituality to the next level on this infectious piece of barroom boogie.br /
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48. Blitzen Trapper, “Furr”br /
A touching werewolf ballad—no, really. You won’t hear more dazzlingly hallucinatory lyrics all year.br /
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47. Annuals, “Hot Night Hounds”br /
In just four-and-a-half minutes, this six-piece indie-pop collective shows why they’ve drawn comparisons to everyone from Arcade Fire to the Flaming Lips—this track is sprawling, ambitious, epic and, above all, gorgeous.br /
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46. Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, “Thou Shalt Always Kill”br /
This cheeky hipster’s manifesto, set to a frenetic electro breakbeat, has too many great one-liners to list, but here’s one: “Thou shalt not shake it like a Polaroid picture.” Seriously, arent we all over that by now?br /
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45. Fleet Foxes, “White Winter Hymnal”br /
The ornate vocal harmonies that have landed this Seattle band’s debut on many year-end best lists are never more breathtakingly beautiful than on this celebration of the changing of the seasons.br /
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44. Nas feat. Keri Hilson, “Hero”br /
Love him or hate him, Nasir Jones remains the thinking man’s rapper—and here, Polow da Don gives him a monstrous beat worthy of some of his most thought-provoking lines.br /
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43. Dr. Dog, “The Rabbit, the Bat and the Reindeer”br /
These lo-fi Philly folk-rockers have been around for awhile, but they really hit their stride this year with this carefully orchestrated nugget of ‘70s-soaked pop.br /
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42. Chairlift, “Bruises”br /
No band got a bigger boost this year from soundtracking an iPod ad—and with this delicate, electro-pop love letter, they totally deserved it.br /
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41. M83, “Graveyard Girl”br /
M83’s Anthony Gonzalezs twin obsessions—shoegaze and John Hughes movies—dovetail perfectly into this teenaged symphony to God. The only song all year that was more evocative of the ‘80s was…br /
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40. Cut Copy, “Lights and Music”br /
Those falsetto backing vocals! Those rolling toms! Those detached British vocals! (Even though they’re from Australia.) It’s like a groovy house remix of a lost Depeche Mode track. But, wait, there’s more ‘80s in our countdown…br /
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39. Ladyhawke, “Back of the Van”br /
New Zealander Pip Brown could secretly be Kim Wilde’s daughter for all we know. Or maybe Patty Smyth from Scandal—remember her? We just totally dated ourselves, didn’t we?br /
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38. Kid Rock, “All Summer Long”br /
For awhile, we tried to hate this track, but we finally had to give in. Mashing up “Sweet Home Alabama” with “Werewolves of London” is straight-up trailer-trash genius.br /
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37. Lykke Li, “Little Bit”br /
If this is what Swedens latest pop vixen sounds like when she’s only a little bit in love, we can’t wait to hear her when shes crazy, head-over-heels in love.br /
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36. Frightened Rabbit, “The Modern Leper”br /
Singer Scott Hutchison knows how to grab an audience’s attention with his very first lyric: “A cripple walks amongst you, all you tired human beings.” We look forward to whatever this Scottish quartet has in store for us next.br /
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35. The Raconteurs, “Salute Your Solution”br /
One of the best riffs Jack White’s cooked up since “Seven Nation Army.”br /
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34. Passion Pit, “I’ve Got Your Number”br /
Not many people heard this deceptively simple electro-pop anthem in 2008, but that will change soon. Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos has one of those urgent falsettos that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.br /
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33. Lupe Fiasco, “Superstar”br /
Another insightful, soulful anthem from Chicago’s favorite skateboarding Muslim rapper.br /
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32. Atmosphere, “Shoulda Known”br /
Producer Anthony “Ant” Davis’ relentless electro groove is as addictive as the drugs Sean “Slug” Daley raps about on this harrowing cut from one of the year’s best hip-hop albums.br /
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31. Panic at the Disco, “Nine in the Afternoon”br /
The year’s most unexpected transformation: from synth-happy emo kids to Beatles-worshipping psych-rockers. Fans didn’t embrace it, but we did.br /
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30. Lil Wayne, “A Milli”br /
After he softened the kids up with “Lollipop,” Wayne unleashed this surrealist, stream-of-consciousness rap that we’re still hearing new stuff in. “I don’t owe you like two vowels”? Genius. (Say it out loud if you still dont get it; it took us a second, too.)br /
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29. Flo Rida feat. T-Pain, “Low”br /
“Boots with the furrrr.” Did any song in 2008 have a catchier chorus?br /
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28. My Morning Jacket, “Highly Suspicious”br /
The most bizarre track on one of the year’s most bizarre albums, this riff-heavy freakout sounds like Prince fronting Ween—and we mean that in a good way.br /
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27. Santogold, “Creator”br /
New York electro-rocker Santi White beats M.I.A. at her own game here, toasting her ass off over dive-bombing bass and spazzy electronics.br /
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26. N.E.R.D., “Everybody Nose (All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom)”br /
On this sleazy, jittery funk workout, Pharrell Williams and company finally give those coke-addled club skanks the anthem they’ve always so richly deserved.br /
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25. Black Kids, “I’m Not Going to Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance”br /
Sounding like the Cure’s Robert Smith fronting the Go! Team, these Florida synth punks come dangerously close to pop perfection on this surefire party starter.br /
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24. TV on the Radio, “Dancing Choose”br /
TVOTR does hip-hop, sort of. And it’s the “sort of” part that makes this buzzy track and its caffeinated rants about “angry young mannequins” and “foam-injected Axl Roses” so effin’ brilliant.br /
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23. Britney Spears, “Womanizer”br /
The minute Britney sneered the line “You say I’m crazy? I got your crazy,” her comeback was assured.br /
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22. Adele, “Chasing Pavements”br /
Four Grammy nominations and a “Saturday Night Live” appearance are helping this big-hearted song and its prodigiously talented young singer garner all the attention they deserve.br /
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21. Weezer, “Pork and Beans”br /
Thanks to simple but irresistible guitar hook and a YouTube-trawling video that bordered on genius, this track instantly made Weezer cool again.br /
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20. Does It Offend You, Yeah?, “We Are Rockstars”br /
Take three parts Justice, two parts Chromeo and one part total Brit-rave lunacy and you get the year’s most frenzied dance track.br /
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19. Radiohead, “House of Cards”br /
As if we needed any further proof that this band can do anything, along they came with this spooky, seductive slow burner that casts Thom Yorke, improbably, as a ladies’ man: “I don’t want be your friend/ I just want to be your lover.” Clearly, Thom, you can be anything you want at this point.br /
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18. Rihanna, “Disturbia”br /
Remember when Rihanna was the chick from Barbados with that “Pon de Replay” song? Who knew she’d become the decade’s best dance-pop diva?br /
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17. Metro Station, “Shake It”br /
Guilty pleasures don’t get much guiltier or more pleasurable than this synth-rock rave-up from the band fronted by—seriously—Miley Cyrus’ older brother. Maybe Miley should hit him up for some pointers, because nothing on her album was half this catchy.br /
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16. Q-Tip, “Move”br /
Over an insane beat (complete with sliced and diced Jackson 5 sample) from the late, great J. Dilla, the former A Tribe Called Quest frontman drops some knowledge like the last 10 years of hip-hop never happened.br /
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15. Beck, “Gamma Ray”br /
L.A.’s favorite “Loser” and super-producer Danger Mouse are bringing their go-go boots to the apocalypse—you should, too.br /
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14. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl”br /
On the fast track to join “I Touch Myself” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” as the classic karaoke anthems for drunk girls everywhere.br /
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13. Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours”br /
The perfect breezy summer pop song, delivered by a guy who has all the qualities of a slightly hipper Jack Johnson—or a slightly less douchey John Mayer.br /
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12. Duffy, “Mercy”br /
Until Amy Winehouse gets her act together, retro soul doesn’t get much better than this.br /
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11. Kanye West, “Love Lockdown”br /
The Auto-Tune experiments weren’t really enough to sustain a whole album, but for this song’s four-and-a-half minutes, West’s anguished, mechanized voice grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.br /
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10. Vampire Weekend, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa”br /
The coolest song to name-check Peter Gabriel since…well, actually, we can’t think of another song that name-checks Peter Gabriel.br /
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9. Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart”br /
Ben Gibbard may sing like a wuss, but it takes some serious balls to make the eight-minute, space-rock stalker jam the first single from your new album. Other mainstream rock acts’ 2008 “experiments” paled in comparison (we’re looking at you, Coldplay).br /
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8. Lil Wayne, “Lollipop”br /
The last time a hip-hop act this weird made a track this perfectly calibrated to conquer mainstream radio, the group was called OutKast and the track was called “Hey Ya!”br /
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7. Friendly Fires, “Paris”br /
This gushing synth-rock epic is already massive overseas. Look for it to conquer America in ’09.br /
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6. She Him, “This Is Not a Test”br /
Anyone who saw “Elf” knew Zooey Deschanel could sing, but no one could have predicted that, by teaming up with folk-rock icon M. Ward, she could create music this gorgeously timeless.br /
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5. MGMT, “Electric Feel”br /
If any song this year had a better come-on line than “Ooh, girl, shock me like an electric eel,” we didn’t hear it.br /
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4. The Ting Tings, “That’s Not My Name”br /
Bubblegum party pop didn’t get any better in ’08 than this U.K. duo’s epic ode to those inconsiderate wankers who can’t be bothered to remember a girl’s name. For the last time, people—her name is Katie!br /
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3. TV on the Radio, “Golden Age”br /
Sounding like the lovechild of Prince, George Clinton and “Fame”-era Bowie, New York’s preeminent art punks anchored one of the year’s best albums with this funky little gem of a track.br /
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2. M.I.A., “Paper Planes”br /
With a little help from a Clash sample and a “Pineapple Express” trailer, Maya Arulpragasam became the year’s unlikeliest breakout star.br /
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1. Estelle feat. Kanye West, “American Boy”br /
Kanye West’s greatest accomplishment in 2008 wasn’t discovering Auto-Tune—it was helping American audiences discover this deliciously soulful U.K. songbird. If Obama can do half as much for trans-Atlantic relations, the next four years are looking up.br /
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