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THE SINGLES FILE

By Chris Richards
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sure, the music industry is slumming of late, but music fans are doing just fine. Meeting attractive singles online is easier than ever! Of all the tunes that made their mark in 2006, here are the 25 I fell in love with.

1. Justin Timberlake featuring T.I.: "My Love"

This was the year Justin melted our hearts while Timbaland melted our minds. "My Love" combines dreamy falsetto with futurist funk in what essentially sounds like a marriage proposal in deep space -- not to mention the most baffling, brilliant song of the year.

2. Cassie: "Me & U"

Cuter than R2-D2 and colder than the HAL 9000, R&B upstart Cassie delivered her crystalline club-banger in a robotic mien that would make Kraftwerk jealous. With pop music this minimal, there's little margin for error.

3. Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland: "Promiscuous"

Taking the career path less traveled, Furtado goes from tree-huggin' folkie to dance floor vixen. Next up for Timbaland: transforming the Wiggles into the next Wu-Tang Clan?

4. Cham: "Ghetto Story"

Haunted by a childhood spent in poverty, Sno-Cone slush reminds Cham of a bloodied friend. By the time the rising dancehall star reaches the chorus, he can't help but lash out in a cathartic roar.

5. Phoenix: "Long Distance Call"

How awesome is this song? Imagine Hall & Oates jamming with the Strokes in Paris! Wait a minute . . . . that sounds horrible. Still, this French four-piece hits the sweet spot between soft-rock and garage-rock with a distinctive je ne sais quoi.

6. Ciara featuring Chamillionaire: "Get Up"

Beyonce? Meh . Janet? Yawn . Christina? Blech . In a year overrun with A-list divas, it was Ciara's siren call that summoned us to the dance floor.

7. Rich Boy featuring Polow Da Don: "Throw Some D's"

On a shimmering chorus, the young Alabama rapper rejoices, "Just bought a Cadillac!" Is he more psyched about the low APR or the fact that Polow's backing track is fresher than that new-car smell?

8. Gnarls Barkley: "Crazy"

Crazy for not putting this left-field soul gem higher on the list? Possibly. A little burned- out after hearing this song every five minutes? Definitely.

9. Julie Roberts: "Men and Mascara"

The year's best country tune isn't a homage to Motley Crue's makeup choices, but rather a heartbroken ballad where Roberts delivers a knockout punch line: "Men and mascara always run."

10. Jose Gonzalez: "Heartbeats"

The Swedish singer plucks guitars and heartstrings like the intergenerational love child of Cat Power chanteuse Chan Marshall and classical guitar maestro Andres Segovia.

11. E-40 featuring Keak Da Sneak: "Tell Me When to Go"

Sure there are sleigh bells and a big dude at the helm, but "Tell Me When to Go" is no Christmas carol. It's veteran rapper E-40's primer on the "hyphy" sound, style and slang. Still, it begs the question: Does Santa ghostride the whip?

12. Sonic Youth: "Incinerate"

Over the course of 25 years and 20-odd albums, Sonic Youth have probably written a gazillion enchanting guitar riffs. This song makes it a gazillion and one.

13. The Pack: "Vans"

These teen rappers have penned the coolest paean to footwear since Run DMC's "My Adidas."

14. Prince: "Black Sweat"

Just when we thought the little guy went soft, his royal purpleness unleashes a panting funk cut from darkest corners of his dirty mind.

15. Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell: "I Wanna Love U Girl"

If Paris Hilton gets to release a tolerably dopey pop song, it's only fair that the son of sitcom dad Alan Thicke gets to release a truly excellent one.

16. Scritti Politti: "The Boom Boom Bap"

Don't call it a comeback -- Green Gartside has been here for decades. The Scritti Politti crooner's recent pledge of allegiance to hip-hop is a dreamy, drippy delight.

17. Ricardo Villalobos: "Fizheuer Zieheuer"

Apparently the whole "German engineering" thing applies to techno music too. Villalobos's exquisitely nuanced drumscape shows exactly why this Berliner is the finest in his field.

18. T.I.: "What You Know"

Few rappers sound as satisfying -- or as satisfied -- as T.I. does over this triumphant tune's crunching synth lines.

19. Eric Church: "Two Pink Lines"

The country newcomer buys a pregnancy test for his sweetheart and skittishly does the math: "One means none and we're home free. Two means three and a diamond ring."

20. The Uncalled 4 Experience: "Sexy Lady"

Thanks to a sugary vocal hook and a riff borrowed from '80s slow-jammers The System, this candy-sweet go-go anthem ruled local airwaves in 2006.

21. Lily Allen: "Smile"

Potty-mouthed Brit gives ex cold shoulder over warm reggae beat. Blogosphere goes ga-ga.

22. Justice: "Waters of Nazareth"

This marvelously mangled dance track sounds like something the Justice boys fished out of Daft Punk's garbage disposal.

23. My Chemical Romance: "Welcome to the Black Parade"

That one scene from "Wayne's World" staved off the imminent Queen revival for almost 15 years, but now these emo darlings are finally getting their night at the opera. Excellent!

24. Dixie Chicks: "Not Ready to Make Nice"

If the career of one Johnny Cash wasn't enough, the Chicks' anthemic repartee proves that we like our country stars "mad as hell." (Wearing black helps too.)

25. Clipse featuring Pharrell: "Mr. Me Too"

The Virginia Beach duo talk trash before covering their tracks in a smog of synthesizers. Hoping to hear more from these guys next year? Yeah, me too.

Chris Richards will chat about his selections at 2 p.m. Jan. 3 on washingtonpost.com.

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