Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

St. Vincent, No Age, and Yeasayer were the next wave of 2007

Off The ChartsTo commemorate 60 years of the Billboard Hot 100, Off The Charts revisits each year since it was established to spotlight songs and artists that didn’t make the cut, yet still made a significant impact.

The year: 2007

Billboard Hot 100’s Top 20 Songs Of 2007

1. Beyoncé, “Irreplaceable”
2. Rihanna, “Umbrella (feat. Jay Z)”
3. Gwen Stefani (feat. Akon), “The Sweet Escape”
4. Fergie, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”
5. T-Pain, “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
6. Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
7. Plain White T’s, “Hey There Delilah”
8. Akon (feat. Snoop Dogg), “I Wanna Love You”
9. Nelly Furtado, “Say It Right”
10. Fergie (feat. Ludacris), “Glamorous”
11. Akon, “Don’t Matter”
12. Avril Lavigne, “Girlfriend”
13. Maroon 5, “Makes Me Wonder”
14. Shop Boyz, “Party Like A Rockstar”
15. Akon (feat. Eminem), “Smack That”
16. Mims, “This Is Why I’m Hot”
17. Daughtry, “It’s Not Over”
18. Timbaland (feat. Keri Hilson), “The Way I Are”
19. Fergie (feat. Will.I.Am), “Fergalicious”
20. Soulja Boy Tell ’Em, “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”

Women ran the world in 2007—and one woman in particular. Rihanna may have had the year’s most inescapable track with “Umbrella,” and Avril Lavigne may have laid claim to the world’s top-selling album. But 2007 (and most years since) truly belonged to Beyoncé, still riding high off her smash 2006 sophomore album, B’Day, and her starring role in Dreamgirls when she embarked on a massive world tour (her first), dubbed, with telltale audacity, The Beyoncé Experience. She was still a year away from officially joining forces with JAY-Z and dominating radio and YouTube with “Single Ladies.” But—despite additional competition from Fergie, Gwen Stefani, Pink, Ciara, Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones, and Amy Winehouse, plus a young up-and-comer named Taylor Swift—there simply wasn’t a bigger star, female or male. Not Justin Timberlake. Not Kanye West. And definitely not Britney Spears, whose much-hyped comeback at the MTV Video Music Awards that year ended in widespread bafflement and cries to “Leave Britney alone!” that officially brought her reign to a close (again).

And yet, it was the similarly mononymous Daughtry who topped the U.S. album charts—a triumph of rock, American Idol edition, that saw the similarly relaxed-fit, post-grunge likes of Nickelback and Hinder easing the grown-ups into happy hour, while their kids rejected any band that had less than three words in its moniker: Plain White T’s, Gym Class Heroes, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and The All-American Rejects all made dimly remembered names for themselves that year. Meanwhile, outside the confines of the Warped Tour lineup, many of the buzz bands of the early ’00s—Interpol, Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, LCD Soundsystem, The National—were similarly charting and headlining huge festivals, though the new-wave/post-punk/dance-rock revival many of them represented was already circling the drain, where it swirled with the watered-down dregs of The Bravery.

Tellingly, even the Brooklyn scene that birthed all those ’80s-scavenging sounds was now moving in far stranger, proggier directions. Outside of blog year-end lists—for now—indie rock similarly no longer dominated the culture the way that hip-hop did. (Name a rap album from that year; chances are it charted.) But the new rock bands who were making an impact were wending elements of psychedelia, “freak folk,” glitchy electronics, and math-y rhythms into their sound, making the year a particularly weird and inventive one. Here are some highlights.

Deerhunter, “Spring Hall Convert” (January 2007)

Apologies to Deer Tick, Deerhoof, and The Dear Hunter, but of all the prominent “Deer” bands of the late ’00s, 2007 belonged to Bradford Cox and Deerhunter. The group’s second album, Cryptograms, was a breakthrough moment, a strange, sprawling set of shimmering shoegaze rubbing up against naturalistic ambience and ominous noise-punk. “Spring Hall Convert” is where all those different Deerhunters converge. Cox’s dark, abstract lyrics—in this case inspired by chemotherapy, his many hospital stays, and a teenage acid trip—are enveloped in layer after layer of melody, his vocals warping, reverberating, and multiplying into a gentle mass that swirls around his almost inaudible coos. It’s a beautiful preview of the formula Deerhunter would perfect on Microcastle, and it remains a highlight of the band’s celebrated discography. [Matt Gerardi]

Menomena, “Rotten Hell” (January 2007)

Menomena should be indie-rock royalty, sitting pretty near the summit of summer festival lineups. Has a democratic creative process, the lack of a single frontman to seize the spotlight, stalled its ascension? Justin Harris and Danny Seim, the remaining members of this Portland trio turned duo, swap vocal, songwriting, and instrumental duties to create their catchy but complexly arranged anthems. “Rotten Hell,” a centerpiece highlight of the critically lauded Friend And Foe, encapsulates the egalitarian appeal: Overlapping, imperfectly harmonized voices—belting out oddly confrontational lyrics, rising together on the chorus—lend a goofing-around collaborative spirit to this offbeat piano-pop singalong. Like most of the Menomena catalog, the song feels vaguely ragtag, even at its most infectious. Sadly, that may not be the ticket to what the band deserves: a fanbase as big and enthusiastic as its sound. [A.A. Dowd]

Electrelane, “To The East” (March 2007)

The first single on Electrelane’s No Shouts, No Calls, “To The East” distills the kinetic build-it-up/break-it-down sound of the erstwhile Brighton quartet. “To The East” begins with a stripped-down drum and bass foundation before organ and guitar is layered in, followed by Verity Susman singing about her lover leaving on a train. As so often happened in their near-decade together, the four women of Electrelane work themselves to a fervent peak in the song’s latter half, matching Susman’s entreaties to her lover that the East “could be home.” The lyrics remain some of the group’s plainest and most emotionally bare, a “wish you were here” postcard sent to a distant paramour. Electrelane would announce its indefinite hiatus just seven months after No Shouts, No Calls was released, and when they all join together at song’s end to call, “Come back, come back, come back,” it could just as easily be a preemptive plea for the band’s own return. [Laura Adamczyk]

No Age, “Everybody’s Down” (March 2007)

In 2007, FatCat Records convinced Dean Spunt and Randy Randall to cobble together their five No Age EPs into Weirdo Rippers, a towering compilation that drew the attention of the music press to LA’s burgeoning DIY scene—and specifically The Smell, the straight-edge, all-ages venue at its epicenter. It’s not the most nuanced or accessible track from the duo’s debut, which earns its common, “ambient punk” descriptor with loads of loop-heavy drones. But “Everybody’s Down” remains its most memorable precisely because it’s such a bluntly effective embodiment of No Age’s world. It’s inseparable from the image of Spunt and Randall performing on the floor of that rehabbed grocery store, inches from a sweaty crowd that’s primed to explode the second Spunt returns to his drum set to blast the song into its rousing finale. [Matt Gerardi]

Battles, “Atlas” (April 2007)

Prior to 2007, Battles had released a pair of well-received instrumental EPs, but few would have anticipated the acclaim that accompanied the post-rock band’s full-length debut, Mirrored. Much of that attention can be attributed to “Atlas,” itself an unlikely hit: a heavily percussive seven-minute song with long instrumental passages and chipmunk vocals (a first for Battles). Helping drive that exposure was the song’s striking video, which featured the quartet in the same glass box with a mirrored wall and ceiling that’s pictured on the album cover. It presented the band as both unremarkable—just four dudes playing, three of them in button-up shirts—and unknowable, intently focused on their idiosyncratic music and unconcerned with the outside world. Little about that changed in the decade that followed. [Kyle Ryan]

Justice, “D.A.N.C.E.” (April 2007)

The year 2007 was the first that streaming plays factored into a song’s Hot 100 ranking; YouTube was excluded from that count until 2013, which might explain why a song as ubiquitous, monstrously catchy, and inventively visualized as “D.A.N.C.E.” failed to cross over from the dance/electronic charts. Gaspard Augé and Xavier De Rosnay couldn’t have picked a better jumping-off point for Hot 100 dominance: “D.A.N.C.E.” is wall-to-Off The Wall Michael Jackson homage, shouting out the King Of Pop’s back catalog and moonwalking to a groove that’s two parts “I Want You Back” orchestral funk to one part slippery French house. It’s pure pop confection, released during a year in which the light-up pyramid of Daft Punk’s Alive tour and Justice’s own tweaks of rock-show convention—Augé and De Rosnay posted up between Marshall stacks and behind a glowing crucifix—set the stage for the EDM acts that would reign in the following decade. [Erik Adams]

Lil Wayne, “Dough Is What I Got” (April 2007)

Lil Wayne was already a star in 2007, with platinum records dating back to the late ’90s. Tha Carter and its sequel, released in ’04 and ’05, showed a young talent in evolution, preparing to take off—but Weezy bucked the narrative, following his muse underground and quite literally off the charts. There he could fire off mixtape after mixtape without singles or even hooks, dictated only by whatever imagery his mind could conjure and the speed with which he could crank out tracks. He spent the entire second half of the decade remaking the pop charts in his own bizarro image, wrenching beats from the Top 10 and rendering them into subversive playgrounds for some of the strangest and most memorable bars ever committed to tape. This active deconstruction of hip-hop reached terminal velocity on Da Drought 3, a double-disc black-out that reconfigured songs from Beyoncé, Ciara, Gnarls Barkley, Robin Thicke, and many more. A lot of these were already hits, but they all should have been hits again under Wayne’s unhinged stewardship. Take, for example, “Dough Is What I Got,” which turns JAY-Z’s retirement-ending “Show Me What You Got” into an intergalactic celebration of Weezy’s dominance. Just Blaze’s batshit drumrolls spur Wayne into delirium, as he compares himself to Wu-Tang, Mortal Kombat, Kobe Bryant, the cellular service provider Vonage, a Martian, and so on before eventually turning downright evangelical, rechristening himself “Young Dictionary.” Detonations like this helped set a template for the hyper-prolific, free-associative rapper on a hot streak (see also: Gucci Mane, Future, Young Thug, Lil B, 03 Greedo, etc.), an archetype that still dominates hip-hop today. [Clayton Purdom]

Dan Deacon, “The Crystal Cat” (May 2007)

Bursting out of Baltimore’s Wham City arts collective, Dan Deacon had already assembled three albums’ worth of hyperkinetic electronic intensity by the time he released Spiderman Of The Rings in 2007. But this was the record on which all his freewheeling art-freak influences combined into a singular work of captivating elation and deceptive simplicity. Taking the jackhammer beats of Euro house presaged by tracks like “Born Slippy,” Deacon evolved these into a uniquely American variant, full of fuzzed-out sugar-sweet pop melodies and exuberant glee. “The Crystal Cat” epitomizes this fusion of uninhibited, childlike dance jams and glitching EDM experimentation, an anything-goes rave that cranks its helium vocals up to 11—obliterating reservations and inviting listeners to join in the body movin’. [Alex McLevy]

Voxtrot, “Kid Gloves” (May 2007)

Of all the acts sacrificed at the altar of the Hype Machine in the mid-to-late ’00s, the loss of Voxtrot was one of the most tragic. Signed to a Beggars Group subsidiary on the strengths of singles and EPs that garnered apt comparisons to label alumni The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian, the Austin band struggled to recapture the urgency and vulnerability of those releases on its sole, self-titled LP. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying: Second track “Kid Gloves,” brims with ideas, layering marimba upon organ drone upon guitar peal upon string swell. It’s the most refined example of the Voxtrot composition method, writing songs by way of swiveling between several winning melodic components until it’s time for the next track. Frontman Ramesh Srivastava is an open wound on the mic, turning self-deprecation (“Cheer me up, cheer me up / I’m a miserable fuck / Cheer me up, cheer me up / I’m a tireless bore”) into a plea as “Kid Gloves” rages toward its climax. The promise of those early releases might be difficult to find elsewhere on Voxtrot, but maybe that’s because “Kid Gloves” condensed it all into one four-and-a-half-minute gem. [Erik Adams]

Blu & Exile, “Dancing In The Rain” (July 2007)

Blu & Exile’s debut, Below The Heavens, didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it was first released, but it’s quietly accrued a reputation since, beloved as much for its uniquely sturdy, front-to-back construction as its earned, no-bullshit optimism. Both rapper Blu and producer Exile had been in the underground rap circuit for a while, and there’s a sense of journeyman professionalism to the record that gives it its charm. “Dancing In The Rain” sticks out as a track built from this grind, with Blu detailing the struggle to stick with rapping when it felt increasingly like a side hustle. He’s a technically adroit emcee who peppers his lyrics with cool, emotional specificity, like the way he still yearns for a car at 22. As ever, Exile’s drums are immaculate, a rolling ruckus that keeps the lilting guitars grounded. [Clayton Purdom]

Jay Electronica, “Act 1” (July 2007)

Here’s a way to get people talking: Jay Electronica announced himself to the world with this 15-minute, suite-like debut track, quietly uploaded to SoundCloud but guaranteed to build a legend. It worked. The beatless suite, largely built around samples of Jon Brion’s score from Eternal Darkness Of The Spotless Mind, begins with a long preamble in which Just Blaze and Erykah Badu sing Jay Electronica’s praises. Seven minutes later, he descends with a volley of verses that distinguish him as a uniquely serious rapper, almost divinely created. “The Christ told me come closer to the light, man / I went blind, woke up in front of a mic stand,” he raps, adding to his image as a scene-less wanderer come to save rap. That never happened, exactly: Over a decade later, and after a lot of false starts and discursive guest appearances, he still hasn’t released “Act II.” [Clayton Purdom]

King Khan And The Shrines, “Welfare Bread” (July 2007)

Arish Khan and his ecstatic sideshow take a load off on “Welfare Bread,” a romantic ode to the simple life from King Khan And The Shrines—just one of the many outfits led by Montreal’s favorite chicken suit-clad garage-punk agitator. Cradled on a soft, supportive bed of horns, organ, tambourine, and jangly ’60s guitar, the song reassures King Khan’s economically anxious bohemian lover, “You don’t have to pay your bills anymore / You just have to eat my welfare bread.” In a tender imagined dialogue (a chorus of band members singing in falsetto stands in for the female part), Khan tells his woman to hold her head up high, because while they might not have much in the way of material things, they’re rich in cosmic blessings—a revolutionary stance in the pre-recession consumerist frenzy of the mid-’00s. [Katie Rife]

Los Campesinos!, “You! Me! Dancing!” (July 2007)

Welsh band Los Campesinos! debuted in 2007 with Sticking Fingers Into Sockets, an EP that set the template for hyper-literate—and generally hyper—indie rock that plays like a more rambunctious, sarcastic Broken Social Scene. One of the band’s earliest songs, “You! Me! Dancing!” quickly became its calling card: six minutes of guitar, violin, glockenspiel, and delirious group entreaties to clumsily shake it. Unsurprisingly, the band rerecorded “You! Me! Dancing!” for its full-length debut the following year, Hold On Now, Youngster… Today it remains Los Campesinos!’s most-performed song—though millions may just half-remember it as that song from a beer commercial. [Kyle Ryan]

St. Vincent, “Now, Now” (July 2007)

The glamazon extraterrestrial St. Vincent of 2018 couldn’t be further afield from the one who politely, wryly announced herself on 2007’s Arrested Development-referencing Marry Me. Annie Clark was then best known for her sidework with The Polyphonic Spree, and Marry Me bears a similar stamp of that group’s cheerful, maniacal whimsy in its ornate chamber pop. Still, opener “Now, Now” remains an incredible primer on her world: Clark’s mellifluous voice, cooing over a warbling music-box pattern, is surrounded by Disney-fied strings and kids’-choir harmonies demanding “You don’t mean that / Say you’re sorry,” tensions mounting until they finally give way to a burst of schizoid guitar. “Now, Now” is a real Bad Seed of a song—a stiletto concealed in the folds of a frilly Pollyanna dress—and it’s just the first of many fascinatingly warped masks Clark would wear. [Sean O’Neal]

Liars, “Plaster Casts Of Everything” (August 2007)

Making your fourth album self-titled sends a message—that here is the record that really defines us. That was truer than most for Liars, which spent its first three albums trying on various guises: Brooklyn dance-punks; black-magic noise sorcerers; gorgeously alien krautrockers. But with 2007’s Liars, its self-described “pop” album,” the band hit upon a sound it would continue refining with each successive release, a fusion of all those experimental impulses into uniquely eerie electro-rock that has the hypnotic power of incantation. Opener “Plaster Casts Of Everything” scours away the past with a primal churn of bleeding-speakers organ and frantic drums, as frontman Angus Andrew adopts a gibbering falsetto to repeat “I want to run away!” like your own, paranoid internal monologue. It was a newly distinctive, far more immediate sound from a band previously defined by obfuscation. [Sean O’Neal]

Baroness, “Isak” (September 2007)

Time has mellowed Baroness, who spent the last decade trudging away from sludge as steadily as one-time tour mates Mastodon. (What is it with Georgia metal bands and the siren call of ’70s-indebted prog rock?) But retrace this Savannah group’s heavy steps across the color wheel and you’ll stumble back into the more dynamic, ferocious sound of its crimson-coded debut. “Isak,” a noodling Southern standout about working the land, marries frontman John Baizley’s robust bellow to a compressed blast of technical ecstasy. The big hook? That mechanical, instantly recognizable click-click-click that opens the song, revving up like an engine until it explodes into one of the most memorable metal riffs of the new millennium. The boys of Baroness serenade as much as they pulverize these days, but “Isak” is still a staple of their live show, quickening pulses with its unstoppable escalation. [A.A. Dowd]

Black Lips, “O Katrina!” (September 2007)

Much like their buddies in Deerhunter, Black Lips had an evolutionary year in 2007. Good Bad Not Evil still spends its runtime hearkening to the kind of primitive rock that teenage bands were pumping out of California garages throughout the ’60s, but it shakes off the build-up of noxious lo-fi sludge that covered the Lips’ earlier, wilder albums. That step toward something more composed (relatively speaking) ended up being exactly what the band needed to break out of its trash-rock niche and bring a flood of similar ’60s-sounding acts with it. That’s not to say the tracks here aren’t still plenty trashy: “O Katrina!,” the song that led to Black Lips’ first American TV appearance, is primo skuzz. Two years removed from the actual horrors of Hurricane Katrina, the band subverts the most common of garage-rock themes—guys whining about women they think wronged them—and tries to shame that no-good natural disaster with razor-sharp guitars and a closing stretch that provides all the frenzy of classic Lips without the headache. [Matt Gerardi]

Dirty Projectors, “Rise Above” (September 2007)

A song-by-song reinterpretation of Black Flag’s hardcore classic Damaged by an Ivy Leaguer indie-rocker known for his brittle, psych-folk warbles, Rise Above had the potential to be overly precious, the album equivalent of one of those ukulele rap covers on YouTube. But David Longstreth’s wry, arm’s-length approach—reimagining Black Flag songs from distant memory only, recontextualizing Henry Rollins’ lyrics inside his music’s own skewed perspective—results in something truly transformative. (Not least for Dirty Projectors, which here finally coalesced into a full band.) The title track best captures the strange alchemy of this unexpectedly successful experiment, turning Rollins’ righteously pissed-off punk anthem into an uplifting, dignified statement of resolve that’s buoyed by exceptionally lovely harmonies from Amber Coffman and Susanna Waiche. Dirty Projectors’ biggest breakthrough would come a couple years later with 2009’s Bitte Orca, but Rise Above was the moment it announced itself as a truly original voice—even if it was borrowing someone else’s. [Sean O’Neal]

Kid Sister featuring Kanye West, “Pro Nails (Remix)” (October 2007)

Once deemed “the people’s diva,” Kid Sister, a.k.a. Melisa Young, broke onto the scene with this bouncy track that’s all about looking and feeling good—and for not a lot of money. Kanye West reportedly heard the original “Pro Nails” from his touring DJ A-Trak—Kid Sister’s boyfriend at the time—and he gave the song a huge boost by hopping in for a remix on his 2007 Can’t Tell Me Nothing mixtape. Kanye’s verse doesn’t add much to the song, though his mere presence got his fellow Chicago rapper noticed, stoking anticipation for her full-length debut to a fever pitch. Unfortunately, none of the other tracks on 2009’s Ultraviolet would match the promise of “Pro Nails,” which finally, belatedly entered the pop charts nearly a year later around the album’s release. But the song remains an energetically playful high point, its squeaky synth effects stretching and popping behind Kid Sister’s confident, infectious lyrics. Once you’ve heard the chorus—“Got her toes done up with her fingernails matchin’”—just try singing anything else while getting mani-pedis with your crew. [Laura Adamczyk]

Yeasayer, “2080” (October 2007)

Dystopian paranoia went mainstream sometime around the release of the first Hunger Games movie, but that mega-franchise’s source material hadn’t even made it to print when Yeasayer’s Chris Keating first sang, “I can’t sleep when I think about the future I was born into.” The sentiment still had bite and novelty when “2080” bounded across the blogosphere in the summer of ’07, a timely, globe-trotting mashup that picked up a laundry list of forebears by the time critics were appraising All Hours Cymbals that fall: Contemporary reviews namecheck Yeasayer’s Brooklyn cohorts in Animal Collective, TV On The Radio, and Grizzly Bear, along with legacy acts like David Byrne and Peter Gabriel. “2080” synthesized them all into the shimmering thesis statement for All Hours Cymbals’ technopaganist psychedelia, the sincerity of its euphorically chanted coda still in question in the age of Black Mirror. [Erik Adams]


Joe Budden, “Dear Diary
Deerhoof, “The Perfect Me
Future Of The Left, “Fingers Become Thumbs
Klaxons, “Atlantis To Interzone
Jens Lekman, “The Opposite Of Hallelujah
Pantha Du Prince, “Urlichten
Parts & Labor, “Fractured Skies
Phosphorescent, “Wolves
The Twilight Sad, “Cold Days From The Birdhouse
Wolves In The Throne Room, “Vastness And Sorrow