Grantland has posted a “Battle for the Best Song of the Millennium,” formatted as a tournament bracket of course, culling 64 songs for all of us to vote on. I’m still an album guy, so “singles” and playlists are not really my thing. I can admit to being just old enough that I haven’t heard of a good chunk of the songs they picked, and that’s okay, I’m not in tune with all The Big Hits or whatever moves the radio dial these days.
I’m less concerned about what made Grantland’s list than what was snubbed: 3 of the songs that I would probably pick if I had to pick just the 5-10 best songs of the millennium, “Seven Nation Army” (The White Stripes), “Crazy” (Gnarls Barkley), and “Welcome to Jamrock” (Damian Marley). I’m sure narrowing the last 13 or so years down to 64 potential “Best” songs was a daunting task. So much so that they’ve already posted a reaction to the reaction: 20+ more songs they acknowledge shoulda-coulda made the list. Only “Seven Nation Army” made their “songs that just missed the cut” list, “Crazy” and “Jamrock” were snubbed there too.
From Grantland’s Mark Lisanti:
Not to pull back the curtain on our selection process… but “Seven Nation Army” bit the dust because of the dreaded “marching band penalty.” You know: If you can play it at midfield with tubas and French horns and socially awkward people in hats that have that weird strap that hangs down below the nose, it can’t possibly be a good song. It’s a Jock Jam. It’s halftime entertainment.
That’s sound reasoning if you want to vote against it once the tournament starts, but there’s 64 (SIXTY-FOUR!) slots… how do you not include this song ?
Elsewhere, Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons said it was ruined by the fickle fans in Miami as the Heat made their run to a second consecutive championship.
What? Arenas and stadiums full of have been chanting that riff for years… all over the world. From the soccer stadiums to the NFL with the 2012 Ravens. OK, so it’s become a bit played out and cliché. Fair enough, but it’s actually quite a feat for an American crowd to be chanting anything so loud that it comes through the TV telecast (perhaps common with soccer, but not so much with American football telecasts). And then it happened at the Super Bowl, one of the biggest stages in modern popular culture. “Oh, you hired Beyonce to sing at halftime?” the crowd telling the billions watching around the world. “Well we wanna hear this song.”
The fact that it’s so widely known and omnipresent at so many sporting events (and deserving that “it’s a jock jam” criticism) should work in it’s favor. A tremendous portion of the planet knows that song.
The other part of Lisanti’s defense of omitting it from the bracket:
Let me just say this: “Seven Nation Army” would still be amazing on the kazoo. Coming through the broken rear-left speaker in a Target elevator. On the MOON.
But that’s the thing (to borrow one of Grantland’s favorite phrases). Between it’s appeal and it’s simple ability to translate via any medium, along with it’s international popularity… I would argue that this song should easily be the runaway winner of contest like this (especially on a site like Grantland). The intersection of sports and pop culture is supposedly one of Grantland’s niches where their talented stable of writers spends most of their time (and ours) entertaining and enlightening us. A ubiquitous “Jock Jam” like “Seven Nation Army” is exactly the song that should be awarded as the winner of this (albeit frivolous) type of tournament. But at the very least it certainly should have made the cut among the alleged Top 64.
The other two obvious snubs were “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley and “Welcome to Jam Rock” by Damian Marley.
“Crazy” actually does fit the mold of the types of songs Grantland selected to the 64-song bracket.
As Grantland music writer Stephen Hyden (who’s great, by the way) explains in part of their “Best Rejected Song” piece about the material that was snubbed:
Let’s acknowledge a few of the biases inherent in the creation of this bracket. There is no metal. There is only a smattering of country. Rock music is consistently relegated to the lowest seeds. Pretty much anything played on an acoustic stringed instrument is apparently verboten. Bands you might like — Spoon, the National, the Hold Steady, Queens of the Stone Age, the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Drive-By Truckers, Bon Iver, Mastodon, Fucked Up, TV on the Radio, Muse — are nowhere to be found. This is a list where “great song” is synonymous with “rap and pop bangers that were popular on the radio once.”
Well “Crazy” was a pop banger. It featured a singer in Cee-Lo who went from the rap group Goodie Mob to mainstream star popular enough to be a judge on The Voice. How did he get so popular? This song. The infectious groove of “Crazy” was produced by the other half of the Gnarls Barkley duo, Danger Mouse. His real name is Brian Burton, but Danger Mouse just happened to have produced a who’s who of huge artists and hit albums (some of the best of the millennium you might say). He put himself on the map with his own unauthorized mashup mixtape, The Grey Album, combining looped beats sampled from the Beatles White Album and rapped vocals from Jay-Z’s Black Album. (The Grey Album, in turn, put “mashups” on the map.) He then went on to produce albums with Beck, Black Keys, Gorillaz, Norah Jones, and Portugal The Man, among others, and is now working on albums with Frank Ocean and U2. He’s been nominated for the Producer of the Year Grammy five times.
So yea, this guy is pretty much the producer of the millennium, and “Crazy” is probably his most famous hit song.
As for Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock,” it may not have been as popular as “Crazy,” but it was certainly one of the summer jams of 2005. It also marked the arrival of Damian, yet another Marley son with crazy talent. That year he opened for U2 and would later record the great full-length Distant Relatives album with Nas. The track also helped establish big brother Stephen Marley as a big-time producer, and they both continued to prove that “Bob’s kids” were more than just “Ziggy and his brothers and sisters making records like daddy.” They (like Ziggy in the 90s and since) were serious talents forging their own way, even if they were obviously continuing in the same spirit and rhythm as their legendary father. And this track in particular, speaking of the crime and violence and political corruption that is so prevalent but at odds with Jamaica’s happier tourism image, was as hard hitting as some of Bob’s fiercest tracks.