Thursday, January 6, 2011

2010 in recap - the songs that rocked my world this year

It's a long time since I've had the time or the inclination to keep up with the trends in music. Simply put, most of the music released today sounds like garbage to my ears. I only bought about 3 albums this year, and most of the MP3s I copped were funk/soul rarities from the 60s and 70s, and early 90s hip-hop. I know, I know. I'm too old for this sh*t. I should just curl up and die and let "the kids" have their time to shine.
Nonetheless, a few moments of genius from artists releasing stuff this year did manage to penetrate my world. Here are some of those.

Cee-Lo Green - F*** You
Cee-Lo's recording output has always been wildly inconsistent, as anyone who has tried to listen to Gnarls Barkley's first album all the way through will tell you. But amidst the so-so tracks, he has released some absolute killers. (See also the Heart Attack's Right Now, Santana's Do You Like the Way, Goodie Mobb's Soul Food, Common's Song for Assata, for brilliant Cee-Lo collabs.) F*** You (or in its radio incarnation as Forget You) is the epitome of the modern day internet smash; the buzz about it was tremendous before it ever reached mainstream radio. Obviously the copious swearing adds some low-brow appeal, but even without it, this is energetic modern-retro soul that you can dance to, probably the best get-wild soul groover since Outkast's Hey Ya. And that's without even mentioning Cee-Lo's peerless vocals. The man with the midas touch at the moment, Bruno Mars, is listed as a co-writer.

Peter Hadar - Full Time Lover
New Jersey underground R&B singer and fashion designer Peter Hadar comes over a little bit Pharrell on this track from his 3rd album. Balancing the smooth, the soulful and the electronic nicely, it is supreme dancefloor fodder, if only people took notice.

Nottz featuring Mayer Hawthorne - I Still Love You
Rapper and producer Nottz comes through with the goods in collaboration with white soul boy Mayer Hawthorne. Nothing fancy about this one, it's just old-skool, old-soul-sampling hip-hop at its best.

Flynt Flossy with Pretty Raheem and Whatchyamacallit - Cavities
Yes, these guys are a joke band, but just clever enough that those without a sense of irony will think they are a real, albeit kinda lame, hip-hop act. Except that their music is actually quite slammin'; listen to this once and the hook is in your head for ever. The music has some interesting synth stuff going on too. The lyrics and video are ridiculously sexist, but that's all part of the joke, as they get the most out of hip-hop/R&B's love of the something-as-an-analogy-for-sex meme. (For examples, see R Kelly's many songs comparing driving cars to sex, or the numerous songs comparing sex to smoking weed.) The video is hilarious too - check their poses and dance moves. Pretty Raheem on the track!

B.O.B. featuring Bruno Mars - Nothin' On You
Proof that how good pop-rap can be if you get it right. B.O.B.'s rap is nice enough, but really it's Bruno Mars on the hook that makes this a winner. Plenty of sugar without too much cheese, plus it's got enough different elements to it to reward repeat listens. I'm not really impressed with Mars' solo work, but the guy has been involved with two of the greatest songs of this year (F*** You being the other one) as well as K'Naan's ubiquitous World Cup anthem Waving Flag, so he gets mad props.

Honourable mentions:
Jay Electronica - Exhibit C
Alicia Keys - Unthinkable
Kanye West - The Joy

Somehow forgot this one!

Kanye West featuring Rick Ross - Devil in a New Dress
Everyone, from hip-hop critics to indie magazines, is saying that Kanye's epic My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy is album of the year. Pitchfork even gave it a 10/10. Hard to argue with that. I could have picked a number of tracks from it for this post - Power and Runaway are also pretty amazing - but the music of Devil in a New Dress is as beautiful as it gets in hip-hop, more beautiful and celestial than any track featuring Rick Ross has any right to be. It's courtesy of the clever interpolation of a Smokey Robinson sample, but like Kanye's best sample-based production, it's not the most obvious part of the original track to use. Glad to see Kanye is back, I thought he'd kinda fallen off in the last few years. All is forgiven buddy.

Also check my post on the worst song of the year.

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