(Edit: The title of this post is fixed. Apparently, I don't know what year we're living in. I'm ready for the nursing home. Thanks to Mike for pointing this out.)
I was going to post this list a little bit at a time, but time has slipped away from me so you're getting it all at once. This year's "songs of the year" post has 18 songs and the overriding theme is definitely "familiarity." 2009 is going to go down in history as a year that I really did not find any new artists to follow. So much of 2009 really sucked, and taking solace in the new songs of tried-and-true, familiar artists was kind of the sonic equivalent of comfort food. There are some new acts on here, but mostly, you can tell that it's a very Dan list. Which it pretty much is EVERY year.
This is long and I've tried to keep my comments brief. As usual, in no particular order.
"Celebration" / Madonna
The lyrics could have been written by an eight year-old and it left my friend Jeff and me asking the question "do we really need another Madonna song telling people to get on the dance floor?" But it also wiped that nasty Hard Candy taste right out of my mouth and provided a good look back while giving a glimpse of what may be yet to come.
"Shining Light" / Annie Lennox
One of two new songs on Annie Lennox's best-of CD from earlier this year, it plays like an Annie Lennox original even though it's a cover. She's a perfect fit for this song.
"Method of Modern Love" / Saint Etienne
One of the first songs I heard in 2009 and I'm still playing it like it I just heard it yesterday. A killer hook in the chorus coupled with a brilliant bridge (which even SPELLS!) assured this a spot on the year end list before we even got to February.
"Stuck on Repeat" / Little Boots
I mostly don't like Little Boots. I maintain that if I want to listen to Kylie, I'll listen to Kylie and not a pale imitation of Kylie. That said, "Stuck On Repeat" is a song that lived up to its title this summer.
"Love Comes" / Bananarama
It's not rocket science, but who says it has to be? I maintain that the ladies in Bananarama have the most generic voices in pop music, yet somehow, you can always tell it's them. Their 2009 album Viva followed in the direct footsteps of its predecessor Drama, but considering the strength of that record, that was a very good thing indeed.
"Man In The Mirror" / Casey Stratton
Of all the covers of Michael Jackson songs that came out in the aftermath of his unexpected death this year, this was far and away my favorite. It doesn't hurt that "Man In The Mirror" is one of my favorite MJ songs, but Casey manages to put his unique stamp even though his version is nearly a note-for-note remake of the original. What's most impressive is that every voice on that recording is Casey's. You can download it here for free (and guilt-free).
"Strange" / Reba McEntire
I went through a brief Reba McEntire phase about 15 years ago but after the Read My Mind album, I really lost interest outside of a few songs here and there. I don't know what possessed me to listen to this new Reba song when I hadn't liked a song of hers in so long, but I'm glad I did. It hearkens back to mid-90s Reba and is it just me but are country artists the only ones still bothering with clever videos any more?
"If Not Now Then When" / Basia
Man, I love Basia. I have tried to explain it, but I've given up. There's just something about her cheeseball music that effortless blends smooth jazz, bossa nova and pop. "If Not Now, Then When" could have easily fit on any of her albums, but it's so nice to have new material from her, we'll cut her some slack for lack of artistic growth.
"Main Event" / RuPaul
Seriously, the only way this song could be better is if it were a cover of Barbra Streisand's "The Main Event." Still, it's a great dance floor anthem with a liberal serving of (melo)drama thrown in for good measure.
"One of Those Days" / Joshua Radin
I'm not usually a fan of the breathy male singer/songwriters. Mostly, they just annoy me. But I got "One of Those Days" for free thanks to a Starbucks download of the week card, and I liked it so much I bought the rest of the album. It rapidly became one of the most listened to songs on my iPod last February and March.
"Riding the Crest" / a-ha
I found a-ha's latest album Foot of the Mountain to be a bit spotty, but it had some great songs on it. What I love about this song is how it is like "Celebration" in that it simultaneously captures a-ha's 80s sound while sounding current as well. So it's retro, but it's not. Regardless, it's top notch.
"Sing (Pete Hammond Radio Edit)" / Wynonna Judd
Much like the Pete Hammond remix of Alphabeat's "Boyfriend," I would have never heard of this song had it not been for Robbie over at Chartrigger. I always knew that Wynonna had the gay dance diva in her. More please!
"Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most" / Barbra Streisand
The most sedate of all the songs on this list, but Streisand still sings the hell out of it. I like the song no matter who is singing it, but I'm not crazy about the album in general (I won't be listening to it in 4 years like I still am Guilty Pleasures) but it's good for what it is.
"Alejandro" / Lady Gaga
I finally caved on Lady Gaga late this year. While the jury is still out on whether or not she's the "new Madonna," she's definitely doing the Madonna schtick quite well. With it's vaguely Ace of Base-ish quality, this Lady Gaga song edged out "Bad Romance" for a spot on this list.
"The Sailor Song" / The Gadsdens
A song from actually late 2007 makes the list because it finally got a proper single release in November of 2009. Driving and urgent and in a minor key to boot, it is great British pop from an exciting new voice.
"Hopes & Fears" / Will Young
My wife was obsessed with (as Paul from FizzyPop!! refers to him) Sir William of Young this fall when she was writing Double Blind, and this new song from his hits collection ranks as one of his best. And forget what I said about clever videos only coming from country artists.
"Pattern Of My Life" / Annie Lennox
I couldn't decide which of the two new Annie Lennox songs this year to include on this list so I just decided to include both. Like "Shining Light," this song is also a cover (of a Keane B-side!) but Annie once again completely makes the song her own. A good introspective song that appealed even to my 8 year-old.
"Million Dollar Bill" / Whitney Houston
And when I say "Million Dollar Bill," I am specifically referring to the Freemason's Club Mix of "Million Dollar Bill." Really, it was one of my favorite remixes of the year. I wish that Whitney's comeback had been more successful - I have always maintained that if anyone deserved a Mimi-like comeback, it's Whitney. Maybe, as someone else pointed out, there just isn't room for divas any longer, now that we prefer our celebrities of the YouTube and reality star variety. Nonetheless, a stellar track from a solid album.