From comebacks to burnouts, rock gods to rap dons, humps to hollas, the music scene in 2005 was one surprise after another. While established stars, such as Gwen Stefani, took their music to brave new heights, others, such as 50 Cent, reminded us why 2005 was one of the worst years for the music business in recent history. (But it’s still better than listening to your roommate have sex.) Here now, are the ten best radio-friendly songs of 2005:
10) “Dragostra Din Tei” by O-Zone
Also known as the “numa numa yay” song, this Romanian electro-power ditty continues in the grand Eurotrash tradition of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” in serving up inexplicably catchy dance-alongs for our fair side of the pond. Of course, we could’ve all lived without the geek-gone-wild webcast that vaunted this song to immortality.
9) “Trapped in the Closet Chapters 1–5” by R. Kelly
Alright, so technically it’s five singles, but with its complex layers of sexual confusion and interlocking plot pieces, “Trapped in the Closet” is R. Kelly’s one-man opera, a sizzling melodrama served up with all the fixings — guns, girls and plenty of gasps. Kelly himself is a man reborn, light years beyond his saccharine-sweet “Space Jam” ballads and child molestation allegations (which have yet to be resolved, in fact). Floating effortlessly over the tangled dialogue and smooth falsettos, Kelly delivers a smashing might-be swan song that keeps us begging for more.
8) “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz
With its famous debut on a dancing-silhouettes iPod commercial back in the spring, a collective gasp of “that’s Gorillaz?!” went up from the fans of their 2001 self-titled debut. As indefinable as it is diverse, the only thing funkier than the song’s rap-n-roll bizzounce is the liquid wonderland music video, a trippy hit of floating windmills and animated rocker butt-cracks.
7) “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey
As the formerly deposed diva eight-octaves her way back to the top of the charts, one thing is clear: Mariah is the new J.Lo. Proof that soul and class go a lot further than tits and ass (see “Glitter”), Mimi’s emotional deluge for a former boyfriend is like a warm, fuzzy blanket of mama pop-star love — we do indeed belong together, replied the fans, as they snatched up her comeback album by the boatload.
6) “Long” by the Brazilian Girls
A sneaky surprise would-be club-banger from arguably the most interesting indie act of the year (M.I.A. fans take note), “Long” plays like Gwen Stefani on Ibiza ecstasy, delivering a spiraling, snake-charmer beat and weird, wild lyrics from sex-on-a-stick lead singer Sabbina Sciubba (“Longer than your hair in the eighties/ Longer than the long run”). Mainstream acceptance be damned — the Brazilian Girls are in it for the long run.
5) “La Tortura” by Shakira featuring Alejandro Sanz
With the recent hijacking of Latin pop by the hip-hop set, “La Tortura” might come to be seen as the last true global hit of old-guard Spanish rock. Combining reliably campy accordion and guitarron with Shakira’s primal growl, “La Tortura” manages to update the Latin sound without resorting to reggaeton theatrics. If Rick Rubin could only do for Daddy Yankee what he did for Shakira.
4) “On & On” by Missy Elliott
It’s a shame that this blazing joint is best known as that bizarre song at the end of the “Lose Control” video. Produced by the Neptunes and featuring some of the most out-there sound effects ever to grace the genre, “On & On” is one part ’70s sci-fi, one part space-age club-banger, and one part classic Missy mischief. Welcome to the future of music, kids.
3) “Don’t Cha” by the Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes
From the bowels of the L.A. club scene comes a delightfully sexed-up Spice Girls update that truly puts the “less” in burlesque (at least as far as body coverage goes). But with a song this creative — jazzy horns and Indian-flavored tabla slaps that one-up the funkified record scratches and hard-driving hip-hop backbone — a pop phenom was born that teased and titillated its way to dance floors and teenage-male bedrooms across the country.
2) “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas
Alternately the most loved, hated, worshipped and reviled song of the year, you could turn it down, turn it off, or just tune it out, but you couldn’t deny the power of the humps. Sure, it’s target audience was the I.Q.-of-a-garden-slug demographic, and yeah, Fergie’s got about as much humpage as an aerobics instructor, but you know it’s on your party playlist, just begging to be humped over and over again.
1) “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani and friends served up a huge, heaping bananas-and-crap sandwich, and we all took a big ol’ bite. Relegated to “sellout” status by the music intelligentsia, “Hollaback Girl” was actually the most innovative song of the year, a “We Will Rock You” for the 2000s. Gwen may not hollaback, but she certainly hollers plenty over the Neptunes’ most unforgiving and unstoppable beat. What began as a hip-pop oddity on an eccentric techno album became the song of 2005. Holla on, Gwen.