Monday, December 28, 2009
Best Songs of 2009 Pt. 2
M.I.A. is best employed in small doses, regardless of how much I grew to like Kala two years ago. Not for nothing, but she's gone out of her way since "Paper Planes" blew up last summer to make herself indefensible in her nutty self-aggrandizement and Kanye-esque ALL CAPS lapses into retardation that would seem to belie the fact that she's a grown-ass 33-year-old British woman with a kid and husband, and not, say, Ke$ha. Ke$ha, in comparison, seems to actually have her shit together. Juicy J, on the other hand, should be on everything. In fact, if life was fair, Juicy J, Devin the Dude, Wayne and Gucci would form a supergroup and capitalize on their statuses as by far the most consistently entertaining rappers around. I'll have to file that with my fantasty Ludacris/Redman duet album under "things as likely as a free Palestinian state".
Katy Perry- "Waking Up In Vegas (Calvin Harris Remix)"
Katy Perry is terrible. Its been said that her only redeeming quality are her breasts, and that's pretty accurate when you consider she managed to incorporate played-out mid-aughts emo vocal tropes (hysterics, pitchiness, vacillation between keys, sounding loud and whiny, being unable to perform a cogent run) into music that seemed instantly dated and lyrically sub-Wacka Flacka Flame. One of the things I'll miss the most of pre-housecleaning Idolator will be the daily floggings the editors rightfully gave her. "Vapid tart" might seem to be too harsh of a description to affix to someone you don't personally know, but not when you actually sit down and read the lyrics to "Ur So Gay" of "Hot and Cold". Anyway, this is a KTU-style Calvin Harris electro remix of the song, which somehow makes it pretty good. Calvin Harris is also the guy who produced half of this year's Dizzee Rascal album and has apparently been popular for two years with the sort of people who actually enjoy David Guetta and Paul Oakenfold.
KiD CuDi- "Hyyer Feat. Chip Da Ripper"
I'm saving my Festivus grievances with CuDi for the album list, but this song, besides having the most gorgeous beat I've heard all year, represents the inherent problem with the dude; that he's on his own albums. Even Joanna Newsom could've sang-rap better on this. Even L Burna-era Layzie Bone could've wrecked this. But instead you get the American Apparel equivalent of Gangsta Boo continuing to ruin his own record by simply being on it. GZA, Rae, and Ghost would let their man get a solo track, and letting Chip Da Ripper do this whole thing himself would've been preferred.
Lady Gaga- "Telephone (Feat. Beyonce)"
"Bad Romance" doesn't work without the video to coax you into overlooking how obnoxious and disjointed it is as a eurodance song, so I picked this, which not only has a neat dedication to theme in its connection to "Videophone", but also the subtle adapting to each others styles. Beyonce does a few Gaga-isms on the bridge of "Telephone", while Gaga toned down the gag-for-the-sake-of-a-gag steez on "Videophone" in favor of the disarmingly poppy sort of take she was using on songs like "Star Struck" only a year ago.
Lil' Wayne- "Watch My Shoes"
If you pretend that Young Money isn't aimless, goofy and messy, that Dedication 3 never came out, and that Rebirth had stayed a blunted hypothetical rather than a bloated tribute to Wayne's inability to make good decisions, then No Ceilings would just be a victory lap for Wayne. But even though tracks like this make a good chunk of the mixtape great, it still kind of felt underwhelming, like there was an air of "who cares?" to it. That may have more to do with Wayne over-saturating everything and the very perceivable dip in his lyrical ability somewhere around "Barry Bonds", or being supplanted in the mixtape hype cycle by Gucci. Or maybe everyone's adjusted too quickly and regardless of whether he has "ceilings", lil' homie doesn't really have any surprises anymore. Still, "What the fuck yo bitch got on on her mind/My fuckin dick (I call her dickhead)" is a lot more enjoyable that the redundant scat-rap he's been regurgitating, and unfortunately making a staple of other rapper's lines.
Magrudergrind- "Lyrical Ammunition for Scene Warfare"
Again, nothing on youtube and imeem is now a Fox wasteland, so you'd have to go to their myspace to hear it, but suffice to say you won't hear a catchier metal or hard/fast/grind/thrash/skacore song all year.
Major Lazer- "What You Like"
"Don't ya like it when me shift your drawers one side/And roll on a condom, one slide"
The best opening line in any song released this year. There's iffyness on this album because half of it isn't anything resembling dancehall, but the main redeeming feature of the album was this song, which is the sort of slackness that makes dancehall parties better than the eurotrashy trance/KTU stuff you'd find in Manhattan.
Manchester Orchestra- "In My Teeth"
The most successfully Nirvana-sounding thing of all the alleged Nirvana-sounding things that came out this decade (The Vines, Seether, etc).
Mario- "Break Up (Feat. Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett)"
I'm still confused as to what Sean Garrett's purpose is other than to coolly assist rap and bullshit singers on their own tracks, which would seem a bit extra. If Mario or Chris Brown is already doing the singing, why is this dude getting 4 bars? Anyway, this is I think the 4th Gucci song or feature on the list, and its certainly earned, and though Mario is pretty much a non-entity (I mean I only knew this song existed because of the Wayne version on No Ceilings), its fun to hear such wacky beats coming from Bangladesh considering how underwhelming his post-"A Milli" output initially was and how great his older stuff fro Luda 8-9 years ago was.
Maxwell- "Bad Habits"
I put this on in my friend's car the other week on the way to a gig and without missing a beat he went "...are we gonna fuck right now?" That sums up how formed and evocative the song, and the album is.
Memory Tapes- "Bicycle"
Mos Def- "Roses (Feat. Georgia Anne Muldrew)"
Simultaneously gorgeous, soulful, and ugly and weird. Its odd because, the track is almost ruined by the changes in the chorus but is also made more interesting because of it. Mos's catalog is polarizing, and I still think The New Danger is unfairly maligned due to a lack of context by people expecting Black on Both Sides II, but this song does encapsulate my tendency to love songs that the average person would probably (rightfully) hate.
MSTRKRFT- "Bounce (Feat. NORE)"
Two things I know: NORE is terrible, and MSTRKRFT continue to affirm which half of DFA1979 made the good decisions. Two things I learned from this song: Canadians can be trend-riding blog-house hipster doofuses as much as any American, and NORE will clearly do anything for some ends to cop Newports (i.e. "Oye Mi Canto")
Neon Indian- "6669 (I Don't Know If You Know)"
New Boyz- "Cricketz (Feat. Tyga)"
Sums up the ridiculousness of people getting in a heterosexist (and myopic considering 70's and 80's fashion) tizzy about fashion in the first verse while somehow redeeming Tyga as a rapper, who it turns out might be the second best rapper in Young Money. Also, West Coast lyrics right now>
Nickelus F & Portishead- "Cowboys"
Again, Imeem is deader than a doornail, so you'll have to check his myspace for the track. But finding this on Nahright when I was fumbling through the archives to find any good mixtapes that I missed this year was a revelation, not much for the dude's rapping because it's just as generic as what you'd expect from a Drake associate. What interested me about the tape, besides the fact that he RAPS OVER ELECTRIC WIZARD ON THE LAST SONG, is that it revealed how sick the Portishead songs from their self-titled album are as rap beats. In this context "Cowboys" is the nastiest beat I've heard all year, but something I would've taken a few more years to realize.
Nicki Minaj- "Handstand (Feat. Shanell)"
(Chosen over "Itty Bitty Piggy" solely because it demonstrates more of what she does overall)Nicki Minaj is the most New York thing in the world to me. Part of how much I enjoy her has to do with her tendency to add singing to her verses in a more novel and natural way than, say, Drake. When male singers started rolling with the rap and bullshit blueprint about 8 years ago, they mainly just sang with flows, as opposed to blending them together in an interesting way. Nicki does that, and usually sounds like she's having a lot of fun when she's doing it. Listening to her is the opposite of listening to any of the over-30 crowd's rap records this year. They sound tired, past-their-prime and like they were reaching, while Nicki and Gucci and even the New Boyz sound like they have more ideas than they know what to do with a still fresh vigor for rapping. That should matter a lot more than transgressive regionally-biased notions of what constitutes being a "good rapper". I'd take Nicki singing like a 11th grade hoodrat from the Bronx over GZA any day of the week.
Peaches- "I Feel Cream"
Though a slight retooling/rip-off of a Chemical Brothers beat, it's one of the few good things about 2009 Peaches, who quickly decided to morph into a disco queen to stay relevant. This song actually manages to come off sexy, something absent from the last two Peaches records.
Pissed Jeans- "R-Rated Movie"
Once again, both Imeem and Youtube failed. Album's worth stealing to hear it, though.
Pitbull- "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)"
Pitbull as dance-rap niche artist? Unfuckwitable. Pitbull as actual southern rapper? Ehh. 84,000,000 youtube views don't lie. Those are Avril Lavigne/Taylor Swift numbers, B.
Q-Tip- "Barely in Love"
Unlike the Mos track, this actually does get ruined by the chorus, which tramples awkwardly into an early 70's rock thing, even though I get the feeling the whole thing is supposed to evoke Stevie Wonder and Sly & the Family Stone. Still, the verses kill, and if I maligned a song for only having one good part, half the thrash, black metal and death metal songs on my iTunes would've already been deleted.
Raekwon- "Have Mercy (Feat. Beanie Sigel)"
The track that caught my ear enough to make me revisit the album enough to actually enjoy it, sort of like "Incarcerated Scarfaces" was on the original. Beanie is kind of Philly's Scarface and everything he evokes on the track, which is blessed with the welcome return of Blue Raspberry, hits home. It doesn't rush, it doesn't drop instantly dated and kind of dumb references, it does what a well-written verse of any genre should do, which is deliver its ideas patiently:
"My days getting shorter, my nights getting longer
My cell getting smaller, my son getting taller
I exercise my mind, my body getting stronger
But my blood getting colder, heart getting harder
My chances for appeal, getting slimmer
My skin getting brighter, my hair getting thinner
See, when you stressed out, you could age fast in here (have mercy)
I done seen weak niggas not last a year, so before lights out
I write my kids every night, kiss the stamp on the kite
And say a prayer, I hope it lands safe in this flights
I pray they sleep safe through the night
Try to teach my son right, give him some jewels
But it's hard to raise my boy from this visiting room
Many cells turned to prisoner's tombs
I just pray I don't die in here, and last night I almost cried a tear
Delivered by someone who has actually done a few bids, its probably one of the better takes on jail since "Up North Trip" (or at least the OZ Soundtrack from '99)
Rick Ross- "Usual Suspects (Feat. Nas)"
I really still can't believe how amazing, like legitimately amazing, some of Deeper Than Rap. How did he get these beats in a recession? Who is really clamoring to give Rick Ross such impossibly lush and frequently affecting songs to rap about crab meats over? And what if JUSTICE League produced an entire Nas album? Surely it'd be infinitely better than what Jay Electronica and Polow Da Don gave him for NIGGER.
Ryan Leslie- "You're Not My Girl"
Sa-Ra Creative Partners-"White Cloud"
Imeem/Youtube again. This album should be copped anyway on general principle, though. The flipside of that rule I mentioned in regards to posting the dance track on Til The Casket Drops, Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love has too many great tracks, so I picked the most incongruous one, their acid-damaged dance track.
Souls of Mischief- "Tour Stories"
Who knew they put out a record? Especially a consistently good one? With Prince Paul helming most of the production?
Notable for the "Chillin in Australia with them white Jamaicans" line alone.
Space Ghost Cowboys- "Time Goes By, Whatever"
Can't really find this anywhere yet because they aren't that popular outside of Purchase, or at least on the level of Moving Mountains or Dan Deacon, so I'll just have to gush for a sentence or two without audio evidence about how amazing the band is and how they're probably the only legitimately good band or act to have ever emerged from Purchase. Our school produces mostly indulgent or derivative bullshit in terms of the music scene, but this is the first thing since Communication Corporation I could confidently play to outsiders to demonstrate that Purchase bands aren't just a clique-y circle jerk of pretentious studio comp majors.
U-God- "Magnum Force (Feat. Jim Jones & Sheek Louch)"
U-God is now making better records than GZA and Meth. I'm scared.
UGK- "Harry Asshole (Feat. Webbie & Lil' Boosie)"
T.I.'s on house arrest, Pimp C is dead, Bun B fell off, and Boosie, Gucci and Wayne are all doing bids or going to have to do bids. Its a rough time if you're one of the top shelf Southern rappers right now.
Anyway, the beat recycling and concept recycling on the final UGK album is a little bothersome, but an entire song about pubic hair on scrippas over the "Pocket Full of Stones Beat" just needed to be made.
Vivian Girls- "The End"
Chosen for being the most forlorn track on Everything Goes Wrong
Wale- "Pretty Girls (Feat. Gucci Mane)"
Wavves- "Summer Goth"
None of this record should be as good as it is.
The Widest Smiling Faces-"Jellyfish"
"Jellyfish" is my favorite Aviv song, but here's "The Only Lonely Ocean Instead", since I think watching him perform that says a lot more.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs- "Heads Will Roll"
"And that's a one hot song every 5 year average/And that's so (laaaaaaaaaaaaaaame)"
To be fair, investing in a post-DFA synth-rock sound two years after it would've made sense or been profitable to do so probably works out well when your audience is composed of faux-riot grrls with subscriptions to Seventeen and Teen People.
50 Cent- "Tia Told Me"
The beat and hook are great, but the issue is that you have to actually give a shit that Ross was a C.O. to really embrace the lyrics. The craft is there, a bit of that "I Get Money" spark left over before it really flickered out, but its moot. Especially the line "We don't wanna hear your Mafia tough talk/That fake fuck voice don't fly in New Yawk". Really? I've been in Brooklyn 20 years and I'm pretty sure that's all that flies in NY, B.