A leftover list from 2002, the year when a whole batch of new stars like John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, Nora Jones, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton hit the scene. Of course now, these people are well-established veterans who are on their 2nd and 3rd records. It really was a great year for music, just one that I vividly remember (it was the first time I made a list of this sort, i'm pretty sure):
1. Don’t Know Why, Nora Jones: Jones’ retro-jazz act turned the music world on his head this year. Her lighter than air voice was contagious. Don’t Know Why was the most successful track on her debut album which landed her eight grammy nominations.
2. Lonesome Day, Bruce Springstein: Springstein’s voice was clearly not what it once was on his last comeback tour and still isn’t. However, this up-tempo track off his new album, inspired by the events of 9/11, brings back that uncontainable energy E Street was once known for. This ultimately led to the most uplifting musical response to last year’s tragedy that we’ve heard.
3. Thousand Miles, Vanessa Carlton: This ballerina-turned-singer/songwriter combines her graceful aura with a delightfully raw voice. She packs more punch into a piano virtuoso riff, drums and orchestration than most guitar acts in this single that finished #1 on the ARC charts.
4. Lose Yourself, Eminem: For this controversial rapper’s entrance into movies with a semi-autobiographical, he had a task cut out for him in producing the feel-good pump-you-up anthem to end the song, and he lives up to it. “Back to reality/oops there goes gravity/the music/moment/you own it, etc.” His chorus is this generation’s version of “The Little Engine That Could.”
5. No Such Thing, John Mayer: Acoustic guitarist in touch with his sensitive side finds the right words for this perfect late adolescence anti-conformist anthem. If he had a voice to match his words, he’d be great but with the way he handles the guitar you know the conviction is still there.
6. Without Me, Emimem: Those that think Eminem has gone family-friendly this year and who like 8 Mile because of it, should know that Eminem is all about controversy, whether in a bad or good way. He comes out again with his alter ego and several other voices (his trademark specialty), parodying both himself, the public, and staying one step ahead of his critics.
7. Where Are You Going, Dave Matthews Band: Last year when Matthews switched producers from Steve Lillywhite to Glen Ballard, he made a wrong move in the eyes of his fans by switching to electric and taking that organic quality out of his sound. Busted Stuff, the release of year-old session recordings with Lillywhite, was capped off with this newly written song. This mellow track is a serenade to his lost fans in an effort to woo them back, admitting, “I am no superman/I have no answers for you/But I do know where you are, is where I belong.”
8. Sk8ter Boi, Avril Lavigne: Among the talented young singer-songwriters to enter the scene this year, Lavigne is the least refined and the most proud of it. A rebellious punk rocker girl (and that’s a rarity in itself), she isn’t short on talent or range with her no-frills style. Her high-octane Sk8ter Boi, in contrast to her more emotionally powerful Complicated, is nothing but a wild and fun ride.
9. Cry Me a River, Justin Timberlake: Took a very public break-up and channeled it into a song that could make his career. The debate over N’Sync vs Backstreet Boys hasn’t been settled yet, but in the debate over the biggest star to emerge from the boy-band era, it could be him.
10. Here is Gone, Goo Goo Dolls: Whoever broke Jonny Resznick’s heart and enabled him to express such articulate feelings about heartbreak, must have really been something else. Dating back to songs like “Iris,” Resznick’s romantic setbacks continue to be the musical world’s gain. In his latest song and one of his best, he shows this mystery girl a resolve to get through whatever he’s going through, with or without her, and it’s powerfully stated.
11. Get the Party Started, Pink: The chorus “I’m coming up so you better get the party started,” sums it up perfectly. Otherwise a piece of fluff, it serves as a great party tune.
12. A Moment Like This, Kelly Clarkson: This clichéd chase-your-dreams themed song really is an obstacle course for Clarkson’s voice with a soul-tinged opening verse, a soaring chorus, and a belt-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs bridge. She passes the test in flying colors.
My Sacrifice, Creed-The constantly hoarse baritone Scott Staff comes his closest to finding a melody here.
This Side, Nickel Creek-Nickel Creek can't easily be categorized here, but this might be closest to a radio hit song. The sheer virtuosity of these three really is unparalleled.
Travelling Soldier, Dixie Chicks-First, the harmonies on the chorus really fit the Dixie Chicks. It sounds so convincing, you're gonna think they wrote it themselves. It's much better than Landslide
Soak up the Sun, Sheryl Crowe-Music pundits like to find the "song of the summer" every year. This is one that could fit in with any summer.
Grey Street, Dave Matthews-Leroi Moore's sax work is exceptional on the particular take that went on the record. (There are other takes you might get off limewire or Napster if you listen closely)
Neon, John Mayer-If you look at the sheet music for Mayer's guitar part, you can see how mind-blowing his guitar work is firsthand
Dilemna, Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland-A marriage of two voices that seems to fit. Here's hoping that Rowland breaks out like Beyoncee
How You Remind Me, Nickel Back-One of the most popular tracks of the year