Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010 Singles: #32 Bob Baldwin, "I Can't Help It"

The weirdest thing in my top 40 this year is this, a smooth-jazz keyboardist's cover of a Michael Jackson album track from Off the Wall. It's seductive and vaguely Latin, and - this is the key, with any cover version, but especially an instrumental - altered the way I hear MJ's original. I now, often, hear his vocal over Baldwin's take on the song. It's that good.

No video available.

Best of 2010 Singles: #33 Savage & Kris Menace, "Let's Shower Together"

More tech-y, loop-y, synth-y goodness from Menace, who had a very good year. Incredibly chewy.

Best of 2010 Singles: #34 Ne-Yo, "Champagne Life"

This is precisely the kind of record a 22-year-old Michael Jackson would be making today. Especially in its chorus, this is a grand Rod Temperton rip, which of course also means it's a lush, smoooooove R&B cut. And uptempo! Ne-Yo doesn't always nail it, but when he does, he's very good indeed.

Best of 2010 Singles: #35 Crystal Castles f/Robert Smith, "Not In Love"

The Canuck glitchtronica (do we still use that word? did we ever?) duo decide to cover a Platinum Blonde single from the early '80s (think: Canadian arena-rock of the blandest kind), and get the Cure's Robert Smith to sing it. The result? The kind of record many of us Cure fans have been wanting ol' Bob to get back to making for some 20 years. It's gothy, it's screechy, it's almost a little scary - but, frankly, it also proves that PB knew how to write songs, because theirs holds up underneath all of CC's synth horrors. One of the year's most unexpected delights.

Best of 2010 Singles: #36 R. Kelly, "Number One Hit"

On his new Love Letter (one of 2010's finest long-players), R. Kelly makes a decidedly retro-styled album, all lush and (ahem) "classy." "Number One Hit," wherein he compares his lady-love to a chart-topper, keeps that theme going. Where he used to compare women to cars and such, here he talks about his "studio up in heaven." The groove is surprisingly light and breezy, and his singing is at its peak. This is what great R&B should sound like.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Best of 2010 Singles: #37 The Swiss, "Movement 1, 2, & 3 (Brennan Green Edit)"

2010 was, among other things, the year I kinda got both the whole re-edit phenom (more on that later) and the space-disco thing (cf. Lindstrom and friends). This is a little bit of both, very spacey, very "pew! pew! pew!" Also very gorgeous, and in 3, well, movements, roughly speaking. Wouldn't sound out of place at all at Remember the Party, which is about the highest compliment I can give it.

No video, sorry.

Best of 2010 Singles: #38 Chris Brown f/Drake, T.I., Kanye West, Fabolous, Rick Ross, and Andre 3000, "Deuces (Remix)"

The "official" version of this spent about 10 weeks atop the R&B chart and featured people named Tyga and Kevin McCall. I don't know who those people are. Whereas this version is pretty much the hip-hop 2010 allstars mix (minus Eminem and Jay-Z), plus gone-too-damn-long Andre 3000. (Video below only features the verses from Drake, Kanye, and Andre - check iTunes for the myriad of different versions and guests.) I love the spaciousness of this, how it's essentially some synth chords and a click track. Plus the guests verses are pretty much all grand - I may be coming around on Drake, even. Chris Brown is a cipher, a blank page much like his ex; you can project anything onto him. Which in this case works like crazy; it's his track in name only, really.

Best of 2010 Singles: #39 Kris Menace & Fred Falke, "Enamoured"

Menace and Falke are two of the ace-est names in the house game, and combined, they're damned near unbeatable. This keyboard-slathered track sticks to both of their ethoses (a shared ethos?), keeping it simple and propulsive.

Best of 2010 Singles: #40 Fantasia, "I'm Doin' Me"

A superb empowerment anthem that used to be MJB's stock-in-trade, but has now been passed down to (or at least is being done better by) her spiritual children, most notably Idol alums Jennifer Hudson and Fantasia. 'Tasia's Back to Me album is a bit of an overcooked disappointment, but this single hits it just right: that midtempo groove, not-too-slick production, and that killer voice singing words that, from her, you believe.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Best of 2010: Rediscovered Top 20 Tracks

These are the 20 songs, at least 2 years old, that I re/discovered and played the most in 2010. Non-scientific, mind you.

1. Stanley Jordan, "The Lady In My Life" (1985)
2. Lee Ritenour, "Countdown (Captain Fingers)" (1982)
3. Chuck Mangione, "Give It All You Got" (1980)
2010 was the year I really discovered jazz fusion, and owned the fact that I kinda love "smooth jazz." The Jordan and Ritenour tracks are total fusion, and the Mangione arguably splits the difference.

4. Boney James f/George Duke, "The Total Experience" (2006)
5. Quincy Jones f/Hubert Laws, Herbie Hancock, and Harry Lookofsky, "Tell Me A Bedtime Story" (1978)
6. Alex Bugnon, "Southern Living" (2003)
Part of my job involves putting together playlists for receptions and events we host; one of these is a smooth jazz playlist (ehllo, background - but not sleepytime background). That's where I found the James and Bugnon tracks, both of which I catch myself humming. Yes, I know I'm weird. The Q cut I learned from his superb 2001 boxed set Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones, which I picked up during a Quincy binge in the spring. It's a fairly amazing, lush R&B-feeling jazz cut, mostly instrumental and very Quincy, if you know what I mean.

7. Mary Mary f/Kierra "Kiki" Sheard, "God In Me" (2008)
I only took notice of this gospel smash as its "weeks on chart" column on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart kept inching closer to the all-time record, Mary J. Blige's 74-week run with "Be Without You." This one ended up, I believe, at 72 weeks, which is the second-longest run in the chart's history, and peaked at #5. It's also bumpin', nicely stripped-down musically, and while it's certainly in-your-face about its Jesus-ness, it's not obnoxious about it.

8. Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, "Back Together Again" (1979)
Fabulous, soulful disco from two singers who knew what they were doing.

9. Lee Ritenour, "Is It You?" (1982)
10. Ladyhawke, "Dusk Till Dawn (Linus Loves Remix)" (2008)
11. Stephanie Mills, "Something In The Way (You Make Me Feel) (Extended Smooth Version)" (1989)
Essentially, a 9-plus-minute "quiet storm" remix!

12. Ronnie Laws, "Night Breeze" (1976)
13. The Bar-Kays, "Shine" (1979)
"Shine" is edited into oblivion as Sidechains' "Dr. Funk," which made my top 20 this year.

14. David Benoit, "Freedom At Midnight" (2005)
15. The Toxic Avenger, "Escape" (2007)
16. Jaytech, "Pyramid" (2008)
The great lost Underworld single.

17. Christian McBride, "Aja" (2000)
18. Micatone, "To The Sound" (2003)
19. Alphabeat, "Boyfriend (Alex Metric Dub Mix)" (2008)
20. Rod Stewart, "Tonight I'm Yours" (1981)
I'd never, exactly, forgotten the Rod chestnut, but had forgotten how fabulously trashy it is. And the video! One night of debauchery at the Chateau Marmont....

en Yahoo! Video

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