5 Ellie Goulding – “Lights”
Summoning Florence + the Machine a little bit, but somehow less gaudy, Goulding canaries in with gemstone femininity on this one, and it makes for something fairly beautiful. Bubbling synths give the song a dance feel, but the producer clearly took pains to go for a garage-rock snare. I’m guessing this is partly because Goulding is British, as this sort of thing isn’t chic back here in the States. Of added refreshing effect in this song is the absence of a third verse. When Goulding goes straight back into the chorus after the pause following the second one, it shows confidence, and willingness to become a pop star, the reality of which goes nicely with her actual credibility in being such.
4 The Offspring – “Days Go By”
Admittedly, “Days Go By” doesn’t really sound like an Offspring song, but it’s still good. It’s like the band that Hoobastank should have become. Plus, sounding like an Offspring song tended to develop a bad connotation for a while there. I must admit though, I was guilty of putting “Hit That” on a mix CD one time, where “Days Go By” offers a ride that’s slightly different — a Weezer-like quintessential Californiana, where, sure, the whole thing’s 4/4, 16-bar phrases, obligatory guitar solo following second chorus, with a drum build, you know what’s coming, but can you avoid getting goosebumps? I challenge you.
3 Halestorm – “I Miss the Misery”
I guess I didn’t so much hate “I Miss the Misery” the first time I heard it, but I definitely didn’t like it. It was almost like I felt sorry for Lizzy Hale. Since this song has come out, she’s become a megastar, with the Halestorm CD being a feature in libraries, her landing a regular role on a syndicated radio program, and even another radio artist mimicking her bleeding-heart rage with a song called “Blood” (forget the band name, it’s not that important). Because you can rock out to Halestorm when you’re doing pushups or at work, and the chord changes have a way of keeping you satisfied and directed.
2 Maroon 5 – “One More Night”
Most improved band of all time. I’m almost even ready to call myself a fan. Like, seriously, getting there. It’s crazy. Words cannot express the extent to which I used to despise Maroon 5. And looking back, I find a point of pride to be that the reason for this isn’t even their success itself. They actually sucked. Crazily, Gwen Stefani once made the comment of the late Bradley Nowell of the also late Sublime, that he “sounded like a black guy.” I’ve always thought of Stefani as having this trait, as well as Adam Levine from M5. It’s really the best “pop” song of the year, for all intents and purposes, because the song that topped this list is a band I hold very dear to me as delivering timeless “rock.” Further warranting the mention of this is the knack this song has for being both anthemic and malleable — oozing into even the most awkward crevices of interaction and coming through with balanced and fun attack.
1 Green Day – “Oh Love”
Regarding what I just wrote about Maroon 5, listening to Billie Joe at the opening moments of this song, and perhaps realizing what typifies rock as opposed to pop, you hear, basically, a kid, a guy who sounds hurt, angry, and like he feels small. He has to rock out. Tre comes booming in for the chorus, and, certainly, the Green Day fan feels dialed in to all the heavenly histrionics of back in the day, and that they’ve been fully renewed. I can’t speak as a non-Green Day fan, but I’d imagine one divisive point would Armstrong’s voice, which is distinctive, to say the least. You don’t usually turn on the radio to hear punk, especially what with radio metal having become so kitten-killing and laughable, and with Nirvana now having been defunct for a couple decades. Green Day was the perfect band for the wake of Nirvana. For those of us who were listening to music back then, the spirit of this very bygone era lives on, and we compress into our early-90’s selves as we enjoy “Oh, Love,” thinking of whatever correspondences might have pleased us and changed us along the way, and made us grow. That Green Day sound young on this song is the reason it’s worth writing about.