The 50 Best Songs of 2006
Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff. Please enjoy.
There's a rumor going around that 2006 is rap's weakest year, which is absurd if you revere Ghostface Killah's Fishscale ("The Champ") as the greatest Wu-Tang release ever, or Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury ("Wamp Wamp") as crack-rap's twitchy, Neptunes-squelched peak. T.I.'s "What You Know" is maybe the genre's most regal-sounding hit ever, possibly the Dirty South's crowning achievement itself, while Webstar and Young B's "Chicken Noodle Soup" started one of the first YouTube dance crazes. Chamillionaire's impossibly catchy "Ridin' Dirty" is still endlessly singable; Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke's New Orleans-funked "Shooter" signaled early success from two soon-to-be-inescapable chart rulers, while their city-sharing Juvenile excoriated FEMA on his rallying "Get Ya Hustle On." On the singing front, marginals like Cham ("Ghetto Story") and Fergie ("Fergalicious") proved to have a beat as universal as that of future pop queen Rihanna ("SOS"), reigning innovator Beyoncé ("Irreplaceable") and icy underdog Cassie ("Me & U"). Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake's sparse Timbaland peak "My Love" helped bring T.I. to the masses. Clubs danced to a good beat that year.
Rock was messier, and all the better for it, with The Decemberists going theater-prog on a major label ("O Valencia!"), TV on the Radio going big with their drone-soul-punk ("Wolf Like Me"), Arctic Monkeys taking unfashionable grunge to clever new heights ("I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor"), and The Thermals making something new from Bush-bashing punk ("A Pillar of Salt"). Indie was still blurring the lines with dance music, resulting in CSS' raunchy all-ages party ("This Month, Day 10") and The Knife's frosty avant-theater ("We Share Our Mothers' Health"). Country saw new heroine Taylor Swift rise up with out-of-nowhere moxie ("Picture to Burn"), The Dixie Chicks took on the world ("Not Ready to Make Nice") and Carrie Underwood released the best-ever product of American Idol, the all-time revenge classic "Before He Cheats." There was no overarching trend perhaps, but as the great, tragic Hold Steady song put it, there's nothing wrong with being "Stuck Between Stations."