09. Gnarls Barkley - Crazy

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Artwork by Adam Sarpalius

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As 2009, and the decade come to a close, PMA will be looking back at our favorite songs of the last ten years. We will update a list with 75 empty slots until we reach that song that changed everything. You can keep track of this list by keeping an eye on this page. We make these lists in hopes that you guys will chime in the comments and share your favorite musical moments of the noughties.

Put yourself in Cee-Lo Green’s shoes. You’ve been around the block once or twice. Who are we kidding, you’ve been around the block three or four times. You had some minor success with Goodie Mob, a guest spot on a Lauryn Hill/Carlos Santana collaboration, backing vocals on TLC’s “Waterfalls.” You’ve developed a cult following as a huge dude with an out-of-body voice that’s a little too weird to blend into the hip hop game, but you’ve been dropped by your label for subpar sales. Shit.

xc3aky

You walk the street in a haze until a nice man dressed in red propositions you. He says his name is Danger, but you know who it really is – his offer to trade a hit single for your soul sounds a little too serious for a mash-up producer. So you, Cee-Lo, you say yes. Danger crafts a beat, hands it over, and asks you to sing the hook. There’s not much to the beat – it’s a pretty standard plunking bassline with some thin strings chiming in now and then. But when you sing that melody, it’s like you’re possessed. It’s like the song was made for your voice and your voice alone; no one else could ever sing it with the same, dare I say it, soul. It’s perfect.

And it’s crazy how good the song is – as a lead single it’s enough to move 5.8 million copies of a decent debut album from two nobodies. Within weeks of leaking, the song is all over the radio, in iPods, buzzing in the heads of millions. It sticks around for months, topping UK charts for an astounding nine weeks. You’ve made it. One of the decade’s best. And ironically enough, this song so imbued with soul is about your deal with the devil – “bless your soul,” “think twice, that’s my only advice,” “it looked like fun, and it’s no coincidence I’ve come, and I can die when I’m done.” Or maybe I’m crazy.