(t5!) My Year In Lists 2010: Singles!
Singles I love, 2010.
One of my biggest musical pet peeves is the tokenist reggae fan, the people who tell everyone how devoted they are to the genre just from listening to The Best of Bob Marley album and a couple of Shaggy singles. Someone becomes a tokenist either from intent to promote oneself as open-minded, or worse, from disinterest to expand his or her love for the genre even further. Well, tokenist Rastafarian, if you’re willing to enlarge your reggae collection, Gyptian might be someone you would be interested in. Even if the riddim is quite faint, “Hold Yuh”, his first single in four years, undoubtedly exhibits the effortlessness that reggae has. Needlepointed piano and indefatigable bass line generate a spacious contrasting loop for Gyptian to promote his tender Caribbean roots. And even though I can only understand a few snippets of the lyrics, “Hold Yuh” is delicate enough to provide an urge to spend your better days at the beach with someone you love. Now you know four reggae songs. You’re welcome.
So much have been written about the similarity between Vampire Weekend’s afro-pop style and Graceland-era Paul Simon, but the writers have neglected to compare him to another eighties pop icon, Mark Mothersbaugh. Maybe not so much to his work as a member of Devo though, but some of Vampire Weekend’s tracks sound like it should be part of Mothersbaugh’s film score/soundtrack choices. One listen to “Holiday” and you start to imagine Jason Schwartzman and one of the Wilson brothers doing some kind of whimsical activity in a Wes Anderson movie, right? Or Michael Cera on a scooter cruising around in a perfect sunny afternoon, blathering like a squirrel monkey? The fact that the lyrics recall a girl protesting against a war is disregarded. The frolicking bass line, cheerful guitar stabs, and jaunty percussions evoke cheerful images in your mind. It takes you into a vivid aural holiday, if you will, for anyone who wants to escape a dreary setting. And accomplishing it in a little more than two minutes, it sure is short and sweet.
Black and yellow is a strong color scheme. It has the ability to make everything look intense, like black and yellow Air Jordans,motorcycles, dresses, and kitchen sets. Maybe it possesses that power because it makes you think of bees, the kamikaze pilots of the animal kingdom; or, maybe because it’s the standard color combo of caution signs that say “shit will go down if you don’t pay attention to this”. And then there are Pittsburgh’s sports teams — The Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates all wear some form of black and yellow and were all winners of their sport once upon a time. That’s why you can’t blame Wiz Khalifa for dedicating this hit to his hometown; represent black and yellow and you are automatically a champion. Without a doubt, “Black & Yellow” sounds incredibly triumphant. The swarming vibraphone, foreboding drums, charming call-and-response, and Wiz Khalifa’s precision and phenomenal amount of swag solidify the song’s tremendously victorious attitude. But honestly, the colors it reps pretty much did all the work.
Sleigh Bells are the musical equivalent of eating chocolate-dipped jalapeno peppers or mangoes sprinkled with cayenne powder. The pairing may seem incongruent in theory, but they taste surprisingly magnificent together. In “Tell ‘Em”, the Brooklyn duo’s weird combination of loud and sweet is nothing like anything you’ve ever heard in 2010. Derek E. Miller’s musical framework is a spicy and abrasive tornado of serrated guitars and explosive percussions. The other side of the coin, former popstar Alexis Krauss’ candy-coated vocals playfully tiptoe around Miller’s volatile landmines, knowing that she’s too indestructible to be fearful, especially when deliciously harmonized. It’s why she’s so effectual as the older sibling that she’s conveying here. Even when she sounds sort of puerile, she’s empowered by Miller’s hulking music, giving her the confidence to drop some knowledge. When she ends the single with the advice, “you could do your best today”, she’s so emphatic that you have no choice but to make it your life’s credo.
Signs that I’m getting old? The nineties to me still feels like yesterday, but when an artist emulates music from that decade and it sounds more retro than dated, it’s as depressing as seeing the sprouting grey strands of hair on my head. Alphabeat has always been an aural Delorean, a time machine to the infectious upbeat pop music of the past. If you’ve heard the singles from their last album, you’d know that they’ve effectively duplicated Like A Virgin-era Madonna singles and songs that seem like it should be used in a late 80’s John Hughes movie. It makes perfect sense then to progress their style towards mid-nineties eurodance. “Hole In My Heart” is pretty much an unearthed B-side by Snap!, especially since Stine Bramsen sounds exactly like Thea Austin in “Rhythm Is A Dancer”. Anders SG’s vocals are the weaker of the duet, but its timidness serves as an ideal antithesis to Stine’s dance temptress allure. The minor-chord piano riff, the trance synth, the handclap preset, and the slide whistle seem like components of a song I was coerced to awkwardly move to during a junior high dance.
From the little information I know about Sade, I knew she can be sultry and seductive in a track, a voice that can launch a thousand ships, but I never knew she could be so motherly. “Babyfather” is very personal to Sade; it’s a poetic song dedicated to her daughter and her daughter’s father, a Jamaican musician she and her daughter are no longer with. The reggae vibe is a nice little homage to him: a breezy, honeyed, effervescent acoustic accompaniment to compliment Sade’s velvet voice. I’m enamored with how endearingly clumsy and meandering the timing of the vocal track is. It’s almost improperly aligned with the song’s rhythm, and it’s perfect in its imperfection. I’m not a father yet, but this already brings a smile to my face, and I can only imagine how much this would affect me emotionally if I did have a child, especially the line “your daddy love come with a lifetime guarantee”. “Babyfather” sounds like a lullaby I would love to sing to my son or daughter one day.
You know all those haters that keep saying that hip-hop is stupid music for stupid people? Mythologizing the angry black male ethos? Too much incessant shouting and not enough quality lyricism? Too much violence, too much gangsta, too much braggadocio, too much homogeneity? “Hard In Da Paint” is a powerful statement aimed at the naysaying xenophobes who are stil angry by the absence of “legitimate” musical qualities in rap. It’s evidence that those mentioned above is true, times a hundred, yet it’s still undeniably astonishing! Lex Luger is the hottest hip-hop producer of 2010, and he won that crown by sticking to what he knows best — titanium-hard beats filled with gigantic horns that intimidatingly pace itself like Michael Myers on Halloween. Waka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane’s former weed carrier, is ridiculously unsystematic, deliberately chaotic, and definitely untrained. But his bombast and recklessness fits this beat like a glove. And also, half of what makes it wonderful is how fun it is to say “Waka Flocka Flame”.
The range of style that Hayley Williams of Paramore have dabbled in is vast, encompassing the juvenile angst of emo-punk all the way to her unexciting attempt to crossover to rap as the featured vocals in B.o.B.’s “Airplanes”. But her best release this year, other than the picture she accidentally leaked on Twitter, is a single that reverts back to early zeroes Coldplay. “The Only Exception” is a stunning ballad: it has the flowing majesty of “Yellow”, a comfortable melody sung beautifully by Williams; it has the reverbed guitar of “Spies”, turning the arrangement into an opulent backing; and it has the softhearted 3/4 rhythm of “Sparks” and “We Never Change”, making this an emotional number to waltz to on weddings. Even when the drums finally intensify in the bridge, they show remarkable self-control, which is extraordinary for a band that nearly ruined a beautiful song like “My Heart” with screamo growling. If Paramore can remain in this Coldplay mindset, they just may have obtained the sound that can sell out massive arenas around the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Funeral. Even though that’s still my favorite Arcade Fire album, I admire the growth they’ve shown from that debut. The evidence can be heard in “Ready To Start” — the restraint they exhibit in this third The Suburbs single flaunts Win Butler’s maturity and self-assurance as a songwriter. When they were modest rookies, they seemed too exuberant at times, spilling all their emotions from the very start. Here, they use the ringing guitars in the intro to establish the rebellion-against-the-Man mood of the song. Butler doesn’t get all shouty right away, holding it together long enough to build tension. The pacing of the rhythm actually teases eruptions right after the first two choruses, but the band determines that the song hasn’t ripened yet. Two-thirds in, Butler climaxes, as if the anguiish that he’s trying to suppress is weighing too heavily in his heart and he couldn’t wait any longer to release it. “Now I’m ready to start,” he cries, and it was worth the wait.
It probably would’ve been a more consumer-friendly approach for Rick Ross to release a song called “Mitsubishi Lancer Music” or “Hyundai Sonata Music”. At least anything that’s more relatable than “Aston Martin Music” because I wouldn’t have the slightest clue what to bump to in a car that unattainable. Chrisette Michele likes listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Drake obviously prefers listening to his own Thank Me Later all day everyday. To each their own, I guess. But if J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and Rick Rozay intend to assign “Aston Martin Music” as the prime choice for Aston Martin listening, then it’s indirectly saying that you should put something on that resembles a Notorious B.I.G. track while cruising down a highway. I wrote earlier in Twitter that part of Rick Ross’ appeal is that he’s superficially filling the void left behind by Biggie. In “Aston Martin Music”, not only does Ross sound like Biggie Smalls, but the beat also contains the smoothness and splendor of old Bad Boy tracks. You almost expect Diddy to annoyingly interrupt, uttering “uh-huh yeah” after every couplet.
Never would I have thought a couple of years ago that beef would commence between rappers who wear baggy jeans versus rappers who wear tight ones, and it would spawn a few diss songs from both parties, such as last year “Tight Pants Are 4 Girls” by Termanalogy and this year’s New Boyz hit “Cricketz”. Meanwhile, the hip-hop youth would surprisingly relate more to the fashionably progressive skinny jeans camp. But that’s where hip-hop is in 2010: bright-colored shirts, vintage Nikes, skinny jeans like they “starve they fabric”, and no song represents that I-don’t-give-a-fuck, bratty rebellion of wearing skinny jeans quite like “Cricketz”. The beat is expansive, spacious unlike the pants they rock. It’s appropriate that they give homage to Pharrell on the first line, because the clicking, chirping beat could’ve come out of The Neptunes’ incredibly minimal production discography. If you have listened to this single and your counterrevolutionary mindset is still making you hate on kids who wear skinnies, the New Boyz suggest that you "go fuck a clone. Get it?"
Forget the casual listeners whom obnoxiously overpraise this for the novelty of it—the immature frat guys who think anything with obscenities is hilarious, the recently brokenhearted who is using this as an anthem and is now playing this fifty times a day, the DJ who play this in wedding receptions to show off how "edgy" he is. The cursing isn’t the appeal. What’s engaging is the “ooh-ooh-ooh” he uses to punctuate every “fuck you” in the chorus. It’s the song’s structure that reminds you of the era when Motown ruled the world, back when it ain’t R&B if it’s not written by geniuses like Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, or Norman Whitfield. It’s the tambourine that coerces you to jiggle like a fish out of water. It’s the way Cee Lo Green is torn between whether or not he wants to love or hate, whether or not he wants to aim his bitterness towards the girl or her new boyfriend. It’s him falsettoing with such jubilance that it undercuts all the vengefulness and malevolence of the lyrics. This got stuck in everyone’s head because of all that, not because the word “fuck” is in it.
The mainstream filter-house production by DJ Ammo is shamelessly straightforward if you remove the spastic synth lead, but in a year contaminated by gruesome coalitions between R&B and dance, “4th of July (Fireworks)” just seemed to sparkle brighter than the rest. The arbitrating variable obviously is Kelis—while the Taio Cruzes and the Enrique Iglesiases of 2010 can only spout romantic banalities over their humdrum Eurodance beats, Kelis has the ability to elevate it to the empyrean. Earlier this year, I praised Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In The World)” for her triumphant bellows in the chorus, but this just takes it a massive step further (or, I guess, it was better to begin with because this existed first). When the beat cuts and all you’re left with is a ravishing piano, Kelis screams “NOTHING!!! I’LL EVER SAY OR DO!!! WILL BE AS GOOD!!! AS LOVING YOU!!!” with that granular vocals of hers, and it sounds like the fate of civilization depended on what she had to say. It’s how it’s done, citizens. This is what you fist-pump to.
I don’t know much about Norway. I know brilliant musicians such as Erlend Øye, Röyksopp, and A-Ha are from there; I know Lillehammer once hosted the Winter Olympics; I know of Patrick Thoresen, who was once a winger for the Edmonton Oilers. But I don’t know what the country’s climate is like, or what its physical geography looks like. Although if it’s as breezy or as majestic or as surreal as what Beach House made their “Norway” sound like, then visiting the country should be very high on my priority list. The single is airy, ambrosial, and viscous, the aural equivalent of dancing in a wind tunnel full of swirling lilies-of-the-valley petals. The lush synths gradually bend and detune, conforming to Victoria Legrand’s haunting alto, and she sings a melody that is unquestionably the most fetching of the duo’s not-exactly-fetching career. It survives the accusations that indie pop—especially when the genre is prefixed by the word “dream”—is only good for soundtracking boring parties and sleepy bedroom epiphanies. You shouldn't spend a trip to Norway gazing at your shoes.
We Asians are pretty awesome, aren’t we? Even though we’re sub-par drivers and have really strict parents, we have excellent food, we are superb in math, and we are more than capable in at least one form of martial arts. Our cartoons have successfully portrayed that we have mind-blowing hairstyles and our mouths are really small when it’s closed and ridiculously huge when it’s open. Sadly though, aside from ones who have released songs of questionable quality, our musicians haven’t really crossed over as well in chart pop…UNTIL NOW!!! Far East Movement and “Like A G6” have effortlessly perpetuated a few more Asian stereotypes to authenticate how awesome we truly are. Like did you know that Asians’ drink of choice is Moet and Cristal? Did you also know that sober girls act like they drunk around us? And when we’re “feelin’ so high like a G6”—the jet aircraft, mind you, and not the Pontiac car model or the six largest European Union members—we are pretty much unstoppable? Oh and not only is this awesome because it's performed by a group of Asians, the beat is a riot and it’s club anthem 2010.
If you told me that you’ve listened to “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” and the phrase “I’m never gonna give it to you” didn’t linger in your brain for days, I would have to respectfully call you a liar. The chorus is like crack cocaine for your ears, and this is what amazes me about Owen Pallett. Aside from being a prodigious instrumentalist, a captivating storyteller, and a genius at arranging musical compositions, he has superhuman pop instincts, recognizing which combination of notes can form a melody that catches. “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”, in addition to being unyieldingly pretty and intellectually agreeable, is a song that can enchant the masses. I realize that relatability is a bizarre trait to praise in a single that is sung by a fragile elfin voice, overly decorated with violin layers and organ arpeggios, and contains overwhelming imagery like “a hegemony armored with a thousand-watt head and seven inches of echo”. But I assure you that if given a proper opportunity, I firmly believe that “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” skyrockets to chart mountain peaks.
The title is sort of misleading. When you see a song named “Cold War”, you envision a song that sounds like something they would serve as Drago’s entrance music in Rocky IV. Or at the very least, it should have an extremely spacious beat with a sparse amount of electronic pinging and clanging sounds, like Kanye West’s “Say You Will” or The Knife’s “We Share Our Mother’s Health”. But Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” is way too kinetic for this title. Right after the ominous organ intro, an impellent beat explode out of nowhere, making it sound like the logical extension of OutKast’s “B.O.B.”. She sings the shit out of this track, urging her audience to have clear destination and purpose, and the warmth of her and a thousand backing vocals melts off the frost that the title might have suggested. And of course, there’s absolutely nothing cold about a guitar solo, probably the only instrument sound that can go toe to toe with Monae’s energy and incandescence. The way this resonates, it feels like the war is being held inside a volcano crater.
Sure, the original version (or the original cover of the original original version) with Alice Glass’ vocals overly decorated in sinuous effects is plenty great enough. Crystal Castles dug up a decaying single from an unknown Canadian new wave band, Platinum Blonde, and made it suitable for 8-bit-video-game soundtracks by enhancing it using transcendent sparkling synths and bitter drum machines. So The Cure’s Robert Smith isn’t rescuing anything here, but in any case, him on the mic makes a lot more sense for “Not In Love”. His addition exposes the paralyzing melancholy of the song, that hopeless attempt to convince yourself that your heart doesn’t belong to someone else anymore. Smith accomplishes that not only because his legendary croon brings clarity to the heavyhearted lyrics, but also because hearing a single syllable of his emoting voice automatically evokes the dark romantic longing that 80’s new wave keenly pursued. If only Platinum Blonde were generous enough to hand this over to The Cure when they were in the height of their success, "Not In Love" would’ve been an iconic hit of that era.
It’s kind of brash for Katy B to refer to herself in the third person on the title of her debut single, particularly since she’s at best the third most popular Katy in music behind Katy Perry and Katy Rose. I mean, “I’m On A Mission” could have been just as effective. But nevertheless, all is forgiven because “Katy On A Mission” is colossal. Katy B’s sparkling coos leave behind streaks of neon light on Benga’s mammoth dubstep production. The single encapsulates the haziness—aided by alcohol or narcotics or just being with your friends after a long week—of those club nights that you didn’t want to end, nights you’ll forever remember even if you don’t remember any of the details the morning after. Also, while Katy B sings about the wonderful feeling of autoscopy caused by music—when the beats, the bass, and melody possess your body to make you feel like you’ve lost control—you encounter the same sensation while listening to the grimy beat. “This right here, I swear, will end too soon,” and Katy B couldn’t be more right.
How appropriate is it that the producer responsible for this elephantine track is named Lex Luger, the wrestler who called himself The Narcissist once upon a time. The Narcissist was famous for posing in front of full-length mirrors before every match, an undertaking he would do to boost his confidence and to validate the egotism in his mind. In a way, the exploding beat is the mirror for Rick Ross’ 300-pound frame: it gives him power and fortitude so that he can unlesash every steamrolling boast in “(B.M.F.) Blowin' Money Fast”. The reflection he sees isn’t of himself though, but images of what he envisions himself to be: Big Meech, Larry Hoover, self-made, coked-up, iced-out motherfucker. Ross has never recorded a single this immense before, but thanks to the Luger and his beat, he’s emanating menace and leaking tenacity. When you hear this single in the club, you want to feel as self-assured as Rick Ross. That’s not the alcohol that’s making you feel enormously valiant, that’s the result of reciting “I THINK I’M BIG MEECH” and “ONE NATION! UNDER GOD!” as loud as you can.
You remember how you were as a teenager? The person that broke your heart felt like he or she ended your world, right? But you say now that the whole circumstance seems foolish and you don’t really regret anything you did. Taylor Swift says you're not telling the truth, and juvenile love is as legitimate as love when you know better. The best thing about Taylor Swift, even at an unripe age of 20, is that she can make young love feel sincere, heartfelt, and not at all immature. She’s wonderful at devising a convincing narrative, and she’s better at it than the majority of established songwriters today. The lyrics are clear and effortless, written like a comprehensive blog post that accurately documents the suffering and the mistakes she has made. Also, she has the ability to construct a melody that is not only within her limited capacity, but also one that is very haunting in its simplicity. Her vocals float tranquilly over the trembling guitars and swelling strings, rising and falling like a snowflake in a gentle breeze. If you think you’ve outgrown this type of despair, you’re fooling yourself.
I’m loving the spontaneity and rawness of this. It’s like we’re in a basement party somewhere, and someone who recently listened to Biz Markie’s “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” starts beatboxing. Then, Jazmine Sullivan joins in. She belts out verses she’d written recently about how she can’t leave the man that keeps treating her wrong, revealing her emotions and her impeccable sense of rhythm and timing in the process. Her best friend hypes her up, filling in the spaces with “whoops”, “exclusives” and “one times”. She has heard this song before so she provides the harmony to give Sullivan’s soulful voice some depth. Some guy grabs a sitar from the trunk of his car and fortifies the beat. Another guy who had too much to drink riles up everyone in the party with a call-and-response; when he says, “hold up”, you say “wait a minute”. And by the end, we see a group of friends bobbing their head in unison and having an enjoyable time. It’s a good thing someone was kind enough to record everything for the world to hear.
“Whip My Hair” reminds me of early-zeroes Aaliyah; it belongs in that amazing minor chord skittering R&B run she had before she passed away, a list that includes “Try Again”, “Come Back In One Piece”, “We Need A Resolution”, and “More Than A Woman”. What is so mind-boggling about all of this is that Willow Smith wasn’t even born when that run began in April 2000. I guess daddy Will and mommy Jada Pinkett were feeding her Aaliyah singles when she was old enough to appreciate personality-filled R&B, molding her into a diva that sings with grinning aplomb and justified swagger, which are amazing qualities to have as a popstar of any age. She doesn’t sound like a kid trying on her mom’s makeup here; rather, it is us geriatric people who want to be like her—colorful, uninvolved, heedlessly shaking off all her problems with no fear of repercussions. And even with inherited celebrity, Willow is not a product of nepotism, and “Whip My Hair’s” placement in this list isn’t a “great for her age” recognition either. You still would be whipping your hair back and forth no matter who sings this.
You can’t really say that Robyn owes all of the acclaim she gets to synthesizers; that’s as ridiculous as saying Joe Montana owes all of the acclaim he got to Jerry Rice. However, the fact that she has been blessed with terrific synth work in almost every single is also undeniable. The synth lines in “Hang With Me” are sensational as usual, forming a lovely cascade that showers Robyn’s precious vocals. It soars and subsides at the most propitous times, not in terms of volume or speed, but it gets more intricate and more lively when the chorus needs it to. But as splendid as the production may be, Robyn doesn’t get overshadowed either. She sounds adorable in this friends-with-benefits track, making it seem as if hanging with her is the most celebrated thing to happen to the listener’s life. If there’s any doubt still that she can't succeed without the synths, listen to the stripped-back piano-and-strings versionfor confirmation. You can feel the full impact of Robyn’s tenderness when acoustic, proof that her vocals, even when it's unadorned by synth enhancements, is something you can fall recklessly, headlessly in love with.
Janelle Monáe has spent so much time cultivating her extraterrestrial-R&B-android-from-the-future persona that it’s odd that her introductory single and biggest hit is a phenomenal blast from the past. “Tightrope” is the opposite of retro-futuristic, kinda like ultramodern-nostalgic then. It shows that Monáe is enchanting without playing the cyborg character in her album, singing and stuttering optimistic lines over a dynamic and aggressive James Brown-era soul track. Ecstatic handclaps, sprightly guitars, jaunty bass lines, velvety Classy Brass, Big Boi guest rap, and purposeful backup vocals fall from the sky like a torrential downpour. And while others would be overwhelmed by the hectic beat, Monáe gracefully dodges and jukes around the blitz to demonstrate her sense of control and self-composure. The whole arrangement could’ve been chaotic without her cool and unruffled demeanor in the middle. The best way to evangelize poise and confidence in a song is by showing you can do it yourself.
Who knew Scott Storch had this in him? I’m not surprised that Big Boi is remarkable in this. As usual, his exuberant hypersonic verses put on a tutorial on rhythm, phrasing, and breath control. He doesn’t know how to pull punches; like he said, “I keep it playa while some choose to play it safe.” But when was the last time Storch kept it playa? He hasn’t created a beat this vivid and kaleidoscopic and robust since “Still D.R.E.”. Check the elements: the grumbling bassline, the reverbed handclaps, the stacatto synths, the sleek guitar chords in the second verse that showed up unannounced, the Soul II Soul citation. It’s car audio hip-hop that skates when it’s supposed to stomp. It’s a dirty south track that is as polished as a championship trophy. The chorus sounds like the right step for G-Funk: background music for an intergalactic barbeque. The production is groundbreaking in all aspects, and Big Boi on top of it is like decorating a delectable birthday cake with a million dollars. Seriously, this is really Scott Storch?
Newsflash! Sex is good. So why is singing/rapping about sex—especially in the inelegant universe of hip-hop—looked at as an artless endeavor? It’s like everyone is convinced that an artist’s work is somehow less immaculate if debased by the lurid touch of lust. In the art of torridly grinding to a beat, Ciara is Michelangelo and “Ride” is her David. Most of her singles deal with her pimping that sex appeal to anyone with a working libido, but those are hymns written by nuns compared to "Ride". She works it so good that she erases the line that separates the musician from the video ho. When she says, “they can’t wait ‘til you try-y-y-y-y me”, you are unclear if she’s alluding to her musical talents or her arousing physique, but either way, it’s a win-win situation. As usual, Ludacris turns in an invigorated guest performance when inspired by sex, expertly firing piercing syllables from his semi-automatic mouth. And obviously The-Dream does production dirty: all pounding bass, swooshing synths, and tensely coiled like post-coital bliss. It’s the perfect beat for Ciara, and she's riding it like a true artist.
It was only a few years ago when everyone was dismissing southern snap rap for being too undernourished to become more than a fad. Now in 2010, not only is it a sub-genre that deserves appreciation, but it also got so big that its style is finding its way into distant musical worlds. Even though this may sound alien to the American South, Girl Unit’s “Wut” owes itself to the thick syrupy goodness of snap rap. The popping 808s and blaring air horns could've been straight out of a T.I. track, but instead of the world-conquering self-assurance and vindicated egotism that you usually get, “Wut” has the antarctic glint of synths and chimes and the indecipherable glitch of sped-up diva voices. Because of the halved tempo, the know-it-all would group this together with the hundreds of dubstep underground hits that are flooding dancefloors all over, but to do that would be missing the allure of “Wut”. Dubstep succeeds by submerging you in its dirty euphoria and big phat subwoofer basslines; “Wut” is all clean and concentrated waves of treble in your ears.
Not that you can’t dance to any of Dan Snaith’s past tracks (I personally believe that you can dance to anything if you put your mind to it), but unlike past Caribou/Manitoba singles, “Odessa” is devised deliberately to make you shake. The drums have an urgency that hasn’t been in his discography before, and it invincibly propels the track forward when paired with the understated bass line. Sure, there exists an agogô breakdown, a birdcall and sitar solo, and a tambourine-woodblock combo to colorize the rhythm, but all in all, it’s the simplicity of the 4/4 rhythm that makes this hard to deny. Kudos to Daniel Snaith for realizing—probably from listening to Erlend Oye’s DJ mixes—that indie boys uncomfortably singing pretty melodies about sad things can make a track light and agile. Regrettably, it wasn’t the crossover hit I was hoping for that would deservingly push Caribou to the mainstream but it was the catalyst for the impromptu dance parties in my room that made 2010 a year that can’t be messed with.
I’m 27 now. I am way too old to be infuriated by people’s narrow-mindedness. If you’re content with your musical choices, and you don’t want to try out music you’ve never heard before, then that’s your own loss. Having said that, when my Swedish crush Robyn is overlooked, when the so-called pop music lovers dismiss her for being nothing but a forgotten R&B chick that made a small splash in the nineties with “Show Me Love”; that shit’s unforgivable. Robyn released three amazing singles in 2010, and if there’s an inkling of justice in the world of pop, all three should’ve been chart-toppers. But that's unrealistic hope, none of them cracked Billboard’s Hot 100. The only exposure she had on primetime American television this year is on the MTV Video Music Awards, a shortened performance of an inactive Deadmau5 remix of “Dancing On My Own”, and she's literally dancing on her own.
Part of the reason why her obscurity angers me so much is because my heart breaks for Robyn. I cried in the rain with her in “Be Mine!”, I felt her pain in “With Every Heartbeat”. It’s the way she quivers with angst in every word she sings that affects me, it's the way she recounts every agonizing detail in her lyrics. It pisses me off that she hurts so much in her songs, and she’s not even getting the proper acknowledgment for them. As fabulous as it is, “Dancing On My Own” is just way too distressing, and that’s probably how the Swedish pop princess likes it. If I caught the one I love kissing her “new friend” while I’m on the dance floor, it’s over. I don’t think I would have the proper composure to be “dancing on my own”, even if the track bumping in the discotheque is a synth-driven Moroder-inspired disco track that is properly seasoned with piquant wood blocks and 80’s gleam.
“Dancing On My Own” is about suffering for closure, suppressing despair long enough to “say goodbye”. I agree that the beat and synths are cheerfully irrepressible, but you dance to this with a lump on your throat. When the music lets up for a few seconds, and Robyn sings “I’m in a corner, watching you kiss her, ohhhhhooohohhh” unaccompanied, you can’t help but to hurt with her no matter what you’re doing. It’s the most perfect, most heart-breaking, most goosebump-generating musical moment of 2010. If you love pop music, you can’t disagree with that.every couplet.