Friday, December 28, 2007

Best Albums of 2007

These are the 50 albums that I dug the most in 2007. In past years, this list has gone to 100, but I figure that 50 albums sounds more reasonable and believeable coming from one person. My singles list, which always goes north of 100, will be up next week.

1. Amy Winehouse-Back To Black
Without a doubt, the album I played the most in 2007. Part of that is due to the short running time, but Back To Black is long on quality. While there isn't as much attitude as there was on her debut, Frank, the songwriting is embellished more and Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi's production is engagingly retro without hitting you over the head with it's 60's girl group references. Back To Black is one of those albums that as soon as the final track is over (the wonderful "He Can Only Hold Her" in this case), you want to immediately play it again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas. Now dance.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone out there. This is an unusual post for me since I'm not really big on modern Christmas songs. Songs can't be seasonal for me. They have to hold up all year round. That's part of what makes The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping" and the entire Phil Spector Christmas album so great. I'd play them in the summer without any problem. They're well-crafted modern pop songs that don't venture too far into Sapsville, which itself is usually a requirement for most Christmas songs.

I think one of the better Christmas recordings this decade comes from Mariah Carey. The So So Def Remix of her 1994 hit, "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is that rare holiday song that's not embarassing to dance to. The Spector-like melody from the original is mostly intact with a more urban R&B approach this time around. Producer Jermaine Dupri borrows heavily from "Planet Rock" and the result sounds like a lost Miami bass song from the 90's akin to Ghost Down DJ's and INOJ. What really puts a smile on my face is that original melody, which still sounded good in the original, but is now stripped down with only drum machines and backing vocals surrounding it, giving it a true chance to shine. Also of note is hearing a young Bow Wow (back when he still had the Lil' in front of his name) decrying the myth of St. Nick at the beginning of the song by simply claming, "Ain't no damn Santa Claus."

Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You (So So Def Remix)

To buy Mariah Carey's Greatest Hits from Amazon, click here.

Oh, and my best albums of the year list should be up later on this week, with singles shortly to follow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unedited "Paper Planes" video

Because I love "Paper Planes" so much, I was going to post the video whenever it was released, but apparently the video has been making news on its own. MTV has removed the gunshot sounds from the hook and it's got M.I.A. in a tizzy. It's not surprising any more how MTV edits videos (oh, how you ruined My Chemical Romance's "Teenagers"), but hopefully all the fuss will get more attention for such an excellent song, and Kala overall.

And I told you that we won't stop

I've been teasing my stance on Puffy AmiYumi for a while. I've constantly said that they're probably in my top 20 or top 30 favorite artists of all-time. You may scoff, but their catalog is probably one of the most diverse you'll ever come across this side of The Beatles or ABBA. In recent years, Ami and Yumi have ditched the genre-hopping that defined the early part of their career in favor of a more power pop sound. They continue on in that vein with their latest album, honeycreeper, with electrifying results. The album, which is only available in Japan and at Puffy concerts right now, clocks in at under 45 minutes and is a nonstop fast-paced sugar rush. After honeycreeper, I can no longer carry on with the lie that Puffy is merely a top 20 band for me, but a deadlocked top 10 act. My favorite song from the album right now is "Kimi to Motorbike". It wastes little time getting the satisfaction started and begins with a melodic "doo doo doo" refrain with minor chord changes. What follows next is pure frenzied pop bliss. If The Go-Go's and Buzzcocks ever had an orgy, this is probably what it would sound like.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ten on Tuesdays: Ten Lingering Questions About The Grammy Nominations

This year's list of Grammy nominees raised even more eyebrows than usual. With it being a weak year overall for sales and quality, there was the chance that anything would be up for grabs, and it most certainly was. This edition of Ten on Tuesdays is my attempt to make sense of it all

1. Herbie Hancock? Vince Gill? WTF?
I think that one of the biggest surprises announced last Thursday is that two lauded, but unexpected artists managed to get nominated in Album Of The Year, pulling one of the biggest surprises in a general category since Diana Krall got an AOTY nomination in 1999. With all due respect to Mr. Hancock and Mr. Gill, I never once thought that their albums would have a fighting chance in 2007. While a diluted field of contenders definitely paved the way for their nominations, their inclusion is not totally unexplainable.

They both received favorable reviews and also featured a bevy of quality artists on their work. The guest list for Vince Gill includes Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss and Gretchen Wilson while Herbie Hancock had Corinne Bailey Rae, Norah Jones, Tina Turner, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell to lend a hand. Not a bad way to get attention.

The other thing that helped them stand out above other artists of their caliber was the concepts behind their albums. Vince Gill's These Days is a 4-CD box set of original songs, with each disc focusing on a single one of his styles (country, rock, acoustic, etc.). Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters is a tribute to the works of Joni Mitchell. These weren't just 40 minute CDs with a simple all killer/no filler approach, but carefully constructed albums with unique ideas.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Grammy Predictions for 2007

Grammy season is upon us once again, which means that it's time for my annual predictions of what I think will get nominated in the top four categories: Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist. Nominees will be announced the morning of Dec. 6 and the ceremony itself takes place on Feb. 10, 2008.

Record Of The Year

There is never a shortage of contenders in this category and it's usually one of the hardest ones to narrow down to just five. This category typically has a mix of ubiquitous pop songs that are hard to escape and songs that although are not as widely popular, are still very much adored. I think there is no more ubiquitious song in 2007 than Rihanna's "Umbrella". This has been her year and it was hard not to forget about this song, even after the summer had passed.

Another thing that the NARAS loves to do is give nominations to past winners. It also doesn't hurt if their career is still red hot. Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" seems destined for a Record of the Year nod. It was another one of those songs that was inescapeable upon release and has the right amount of depth and pop drive that usually gets nominated here.

After "Umbrella" and "Irreplaceable", things get a little tricky. I wouldn't quite say that the field is wide open at this point, but things become a bit harder to gauge. I feel safe in saying that I think Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" will likely get a nod here as well. She's widely loved by critics, has a platinum album, and the "no no no" refrain in the song is one of the most memorable hooks of the year. The Grammys have a fondness for widespread acclaim and commercial success, which is another reason why I think Justin Timberlake's "My Love" also has a shot. Justin's only other nomination in this category was for the Black Eyed Peas collaboration, "Where Is The Love?", which is surprising considering the amount of hit singles that he has had. But upon further glance, it would make sense that "My Love" would be the one to finally get a ROTY nomination. FutureSex/LoveSounds has been out for a full year and Timberlake's light has yet to dim. The academy would probably still like to honor one of music's biggest stars, and since FutureSex, was already nominated last year, "My Love" is a good excuse for him to make an appearance on the show. Add to the fact the song is actually really good.

Now we're left with only one spot. In these cases, it's typical to look at other hugely successful songs. Kanye West's "Stronger" is another strong possibility, but it's success and impact is not on the same level as "Gold Digger", a previous ROTY nominee. In Fergie's case, all you would have to do is close your eyes and pick any of her hit singles for consideration. Although "Glamorous" is probably the strongest of her eligible singles, I get the sense that her music is too polarizing. Either you like it or you hate it with no indifference. I see her getting some nods in the pop category, but nothing here. Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" might have had a stronger chance if it sustained life after the summer. It doesn't help that his follow-up singles have failed to keep the focus on him. If the academy is deciding to feel generous to Timbaland this year, who's had a great year as not only a producer, but as a recording artist, "The Way I Are" is his best shot in this category and I would also consider it one of the stronger contenders. Seemingly, one of the most obvious contenders is Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats", but according to the eligibility rules, it had its shot last year. And in the case of Alicia Keys' "No One", I think it would have stood a better shot for next year's Grammys, but it's eligible only for this one.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


So, sometime over the summer, Pharrell Williams went into the studio with James Poyser and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson to re-record his 2006 solo album, In My Mind, with live instruments. The result was Out Of My Mind by Pharrell & The Yessirs, a major improvement on its predecessor, even though the songs are essentially the same. The label decided not to release it since In My Mind was such a flop, so we're all left with a bootleg of it. I can't blame Interscope though. As a big Neptunes fan, I was thoroughly disappointed with In My Mind and too much money stood to be lost in promoting a remake of what was already a weak album.

But as was the case with N.E.R.D.'s In Search Of..., there is a sense of discovery and vibrant new intensity to the songs and life is found where it was previously thought to be dull. While I still rate Out Of My Mind a 6 out of 10 (I'd give In My Mind a 4), the reimagining of some of the previous songs are definitely worthwhile, even if you were as bored with In My Mind as I was. The standout for me is "I Really Like You Girl", which was also a standout on In My Mind, but was relegated to the same track as the Jay-Z collaboration, "Young Girl". Why the best song on the album would share the same track with another song is beyond me, but that mistake is rectified as "I Really Like You Girl" gets its own track and the Stevie Wonder-isms that were hinted at before are magnified with the use of live instruments. "I Really Like You Girl" is a flashback to urban radio in the year 1984 and boasts a hook so shimmery and sunny that you had to wonder why it was never released as a single, or at least as its own track.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pics from ESG's last show

I was at ESG's last show a few weeks ago at The Abbey Pub. They headlined that night's Estrojam, which has been one of the best musical events in Chicago for a few years now. Even if it was only one original member still touring, I was still on the verge of tears. I never thought that I would get the chance to see ESG live, much less, be present for their last show. Here are some pics.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ten On Tuesdays: Ten Best TV Freshmen Classes

The fall network television season officially kicks off next week (although FOX and The CW are getting a bit of a headstart) and each new show will be under the microscope. The pressure is always higher for new shows since they have only 13 episodes or less to win viewers or produce a strong enough product that may win some favor from the network execs and allow a stay of execution. There is no telling which of this season's new shows will become the next sensation or even if there will be one, but it's always exciting to follow, at least to me.

In honor of the upcoming fall tv season (one of my favorite events of the year), I've decided to do a top ten list of what I feel are the seasons that had the best freshmen line-up. I based this on the ratings success of the show, longetivity, quality, importance to the history of television and its lasting impact on pop culture. This list is also not limited to just shows in the fall line-up, but shows that were midseason replacements as well. I also didn't include every new show for each particular season, mainly because they didn't fit the criteria. Any shows not on the fall line-up are noted with an asterisk (*).


The A-Team*
Family Ties
Knight Rider
Remington Steele
Silver Spoons
Square Pegs
St. Elsewhere

The A-Team, Cheers, Family Ties and Knight Rider are cornerstones of 80's television and shows that people will often remain nostalgic for, but the enduring quality of St. Elsewhere and Newhart, not to mention Square Pegs' groundbreaking look at adolescent life is what earns the 1982-83 crop a spot on this list.


7th Heaven
Buffy The Vampire Slayer*
Everybody Loves Raymond
The Jamie Foxx Show
Just Shoot Me!*
King Of The Hill*
The Practice*
Spin City
The Steve Harvey Show

Raymond went on to become one of the best sitcoms of all-time. Buffy revived a network and re-ignited serial storytelling in primetime. The Practice was definitely one of the best dramas on television for at least its first three or four seasons. King Of The Hill continues to remain consistent to this day. Those fours shows alone are impressive enough, but once you add the importance of the Jamie Foxx and Steve Harvey-led sitcoms in an era where FOX was slowly phasing out African-American centered programming from their schedule and 7th Heaven's longevity, you have one of the most well-rounded group of freshmen in this season.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jordin Sparks - "Tattoo"

I am not afraid to admit my love for American Idol. Aside from the merits of pre-manufacturing the next superstar (which doesn't bother me if the music is good and it's not as if it isn't a decades-old practice), the show is genuinely entertaining as television and one of the few shows that hooks you from the first week to the last. I root for a lot of the contestants to have successful careers after the show, but let's face it, some never live up to the hype. The expectations have been even harder for the contestants that make up the final two to become successful ever since Ruben and Clay proved that more than one person from a season can achieve commercial success. The pressure has gained even more with the runner-ups getting more accolades than any of the actual winners (Jennifer Hudson? Chris Daughtry anybody?). The progress of the 2007 final duo of Blake Lewis and winner Jordin Sparks will be examined more closely than any final two before them. With both of the 2006 final two's albums flopping (Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee), people will be speculating whether the show is relevant any more if back-to-back winners have mediocre album sales and whether the title of American Idol would even matter any more since it's been proven that all you need to have is the talent, a spot in the final 12 and a little luck to have a good career. The first one up to the plate is Jordin Sparks, who has an album slated for release in November and a single, "Tattoo", that is already out at radio. What's really notable about "Tattoo" is that it's the not the usual sappy, ear destroying ballad that final two contestants are forced to release, but a straightforward pop song ready to get toes tapping instead of radio dials switched. It's also the perfect song for Jordin to be introduced with. There's no getting around the fact that she's still a teenager, but the bubbly personality that she displayed on the show will likely not translate in to good music. If likeable personalities translated into album sales, there would be at least one American Idol contestant in the top 20 of the Hot 100 for every year of the week. "Tattoo" has the perfect balance of youthful appeal and edge that Kelly Clarkson showed during her first album. The song itself is a response to a former lover that Jordin can't escape like a, um, tattoo and with its icy synths and "Irreplaceable"-like drum pattern is a surprising and welcome turn from the American Idol camp. Game on, Blake.

Jordin Sparks - "Tattoo" (streaming)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

If it's hard, try spellin' it phonetically

For those who lost faith in Talib Kweli after 2004's stale The Beautiful Struggle, you should definitely give his latest Ear Drum a try and you might find yourself being won over again. Around 2002, I would have still considered Talib one of the best 10 MCs in the game, but after The Beautiful Struggle was released, I couldn't even mention him as one of my current faves. The production wasn't the only downfall of that album, but Talib's quest for mainstream listeners resulted in rhymes that simply weren't exciting or inspiring. Kweli has managed to strike a better balance of mainstream pandering while holding on to his underground roots on his latest. "Country Cousins" shows Kweli using the Midwestern double time flow (which I didn't even know he had in his arsenal) over a laidback soulful beat with UGK contributing as well. If that isn't a recipe for success, I'm not sure what is. You have two of the best acts from the East and the South together on a track and the results make for one of the more beautiful hip-hop tracks of the year.

To buy the album from Amazon, click here

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Go Home Productions - "This Was Pop (2002-2007)"

So one of the greatest artists of this decade has just released a career retrospective on his website. For those of you that don't know, Go Home Productions, aka Mark Vidler, is the premeir mash-up artist of our time, and what he does cannot simply be described as putting two songs together. Of course, that's the best way to explain it to someone, but his eclectic song choices and flair for arrangement take 21st century pop to dizzying heights (great example: Flaming Lips' "The W.A.N.D. + Mary J. Blige's "Real Love," + Can's "Halleluwah" + Run DMC's "My Adidas" + Prince's "Sign O' The Times" = "Flaming Mary Can (Out) Run Prince", which didn't even make the cut!). Neither is he a one-trick pony who mashes up songs just for quirky kicks, but GHP has proven time and time again that not only can his songs be terrific ear candy to smile and dance along to, but can have surprising depth and emotion as well. See for yourself why each bootleg he releases is met with great expectation. His homepage, has the songs available for individual download right now, as well as the complete album.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Latest in Singles

Nicole Scherzinger feat. T.I. - Whatever U Like

Does anyone even know any of the names of the other Pussycat Dolls? I mean seriously. This is probably the first of many times that you'll be hearing this slightly average club banger. Scherzinger has a good enough voice, but as in the case of another Polow Da Don production, "London Bridge", I feel that the beat is too much for the vocalist and Nicole is lacking the star power and charisma to do anything unique with it. This is practially the same song as "Blindfold Me", but listen carefully to Kelis for an example on how to attack a Polow beat. Rating: 6

Girls Aloud - Sexy! No No No...

Girls Aloud have made very few missteps in their short career. It's more complicated than just being consistent and churning out good music. They've been taking stylistic risks with their music from the beginning, fooling around with everything from surf rock to skiffle. Now comes their first major image overhaul to go along with their aggressive new song. It's awesome as expected and the new look and sound feel like a natural evolution. Dammit Spice Girls. This could have been you. Rating: 8

Common feat. Lily Allen - Drivin' Me Wild

The first verse is corny as hell (I wince everytime I hear those OK Go and "astronaut lady" references), but there's little else to fear afterwards. It's safe to say that this is probably the most pop thing that Common has ever done, but that's not a knock on the song, which thanks to Lily Allen, has a refreshing mixture of streetwise grit and sunshine. Here's hoping that Lily sells a few more units thanks to the video (if the video weren't so literal, the image of her in an astronaut suit could have been classic). Also, Jeremy Piven shows up just to look at the camera and not do much else, but hey, he's from Chicago too, so it's cool. Rating: 7

Art Brut - Direct Hit

This is the first video of theirs I've seen, and dammit, even those are hilarious too. No one just seems to find the time for humor in period pieces any more. Rating: 9

Vanessa Carlton - Nolita Fairytale

It's Murdaaaaa! Well, not quite. Yes, she's been signed to Irv Gotti's Tha Inc, but her sound is still the same. When you hear the funky drum break in the beginning, you immediately think that Carlton is gonna get crunk, but if you were hoping for Ja-Rule and Carlton to harmonize on the chorus, you'll have to wait for another song. As for the song itself, it doesn't do any disservice to her fans, but it's nothing special. Although, the first 30 seconds of the video contain a witty reference to the clip for her first and most successful single, "A Thousand Miles". Rating: 5

Lil Mo feat. Jim Jones - Sumtimes I

Um, yeah. She's not looking so lil' any more. Aside from the newfound confidence in showing off her cleavage, there won't be anything else memorable about the song. What's noticeable is that she has shown us a new side of her vocal range instead of the barely legal squeak that everyone has been accusomted to. Lil' Mo wants us to know that she has matured, but she's forgotten how to craft a good hook in the process. Rating :5

Swizz Beatz - Money In The Bank

I'm kinda confused. The video would have you believe that the song is intended to be funny, but upon listening, no such humor is to be found. Nobody's expecting a rapper of Swizz's caliber to add to the canon of classic fairer sex hip hop putdowns like Sporty Thievz' "No Pigeons" or Project Pat's "Chickenhead", but at least those songs delivered in both the song and the video. But hey, even though Swizz isn't the greatest comedian in the world, the song still bangs and is saved by the hook. Rating: 7

Eve feat. Sean Paul - Give It To You

Released a little too late in the summer, but here's hoping that this will still find an audience. The commercial success of the female MC has been on the decline for a few years now and it would be so envigorating for someone like Eve to have another big hit. Just listen to that sweet acoustc guitar and dancehall riddim together and tell me that this song doesn't deserve to be a hit? Rating: 8

Animal Collective - Peacebone

Call me weird, but I'm actually finding Animal Collective more and more accesible with each album. I went from not being able to get through Sung Tongs to loving Feels, to anxiously waiting for Strawberry Jam. Both the song and the video are pretty nightmarish. Enjoy! Rating: 8

M.I.A. - Jimmy

One of the early contenders for video of the year. Actually, while I'm at it, let me list the rest of the contenders before I forget: Like A Boy, D.A.N.C.E., Umbrella, What's A Girl To Do, Zach G version of Can't Tell Me Nothing. Alright, now that I've got that out of my system, the song itself is like Bollywood on mushrooms in the 23rd century. The video could be described as that as well. It's probably one seizure well worth having. Rating: 9

When I first saw the video, I couldn't help but think of the clip for Amii Stewart's "Knock On Wood". You'll see where I'm going with this. Oh God, do I love this. Just bananas.

Amerie - Gotta Work

Okay, this single has been out in the UK for over a month and it hasn't even seen release here in the States yet, but this fantastic song cannot go unnoticed. Yes, it's basically "1 Thing Pt. 2", but why act as if anything was wrong with that song to begin with? Rating: 9

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Lollapalooza 2007 Rundown

Hey everyone. I know it's been a long time since I've posted, but what would this blog be like without month-long absences? I don't think I'm even going to promise to try and keep current this time. I've failed miserably everytime I try. But if there is anything that can get me to crawl out of my cybercave and post a new entry, it's Lollapalooza.

I went last year and tried to do a rundown then, but I waited too long and by the time I actually sat down and attempted to type it, I nearly forgot about everything I had seen. It was going to be a short and abbreviated recap, much like this one, but it had all escaped my mind. With it being Monday morning and Lollapalooza still fresh in my mind, things should go a lot better than last year.

As always, there were a bunch of bands that I wanted to see, so I tried to cover as much ground as possible. It's a little like being a kid locked inside a toy store overnight. You know you only have a limited amount of time before the store opens up and you're busted, so you want to play with as much stuff as possible

Day 1

The Fratellis

Got my Lollapalooza off to a disappointing start. It didn't help that the gates didn't open until around 11:30, so it didn't leave me with any time to catch Switches, but that didn't matter since I was looking forward to The Fratellis. Costello Music is one of my favorite albums of the year and I was expecting a raucous and lively set. Maybe these guys are such hard rockers that they're not used to playing so early in the day, but their set was ridiculously lazy and sloppy. "We usually wake up before the end," said lead singer Jon Fratelli. I couldn't bother to stick around and find out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ten On Tuesdays: Ten Great Non-Canonical Summer Songs

Hey everyone. In what has been typical of this blog, long stretches of time pass between posts, but today is a new era people. In order to keep some sort of consistency, I will be doing a new feature called on Ten on Tuesdays, which I want to start off as bi-weekly at first, but hopefully when I get in the swing of things, it will become weekly. Ten on Tuesdays is basically a top ten list where the category is different everytime and will try to be as inventive as possible. The inaguaral category for Ten on Tuesdays will be "Ten Great Non-Canonical Summer Song", where I try to delve a bit deeper than typical vaunted and legendary summer fare like "I Get Around" or "School's Out For Summer" which is used in montages or even contemporary faves like "Nuthin' Like A G Thang" or "Crazy In Love." Those are great songs, but here are ten that deserve another shot at summertime immortality.

"Another Summer" by 213 (can be found on The Hard Way, 2004, TVT)

Eddie Kendricks' "Intimate Friends" is one of those songs that gets sampled about a few times every decade, from Sweet Sable's "Old Time's Sake" to more recently, Alicia Keys' "Unbreakable," but it's Snoop, Nate Dogg and Warren G's take on it that sticks closest to the breezy laid back vibe of the original. We all know the members of 213 are in their comfort zone rapping over a soul sample, so it's given they're gonna sound good, but instead of reverting to their classic G-funk personas, we get a more positive and dare I say, joyful approach as they describe summer scenes filled with family and fun. Perfect for a backyard barbeque.

"Why Don't We Fall In Love" by Amerie, (can be found on All I Have, 2002, Columbia)

History will look back on Amerie's "1 Thing" as a breakthrough point and one of her artistic heights, but it's scary to think that the lead single from her debut may largely go unnoticed. While it did peak at #23 on the Hot 100, it failed to capture the attention of a nation the way that "1 Thing" did. A damn shame since "Why Don't We Fall In Love" is just as good. It's perfect block party music that harkens back to the days before Mary J. Blige discovered drama. Amerie's request in the song is simple enough: hey you, why don't we fall in love? Sure, she's gorgeous and the chorus soars, so the answer may be easier than you think at first, but it's really producer/songwriter's Rich Harrison edgy but radiant use of a Dave Grusin sample over a classic early 90's drum pattern that brings out the aural sun rays and convinces you to accept Amerie's plea.

"Girls Dem Sugar" by Beenie Man featuring Mya (Art Of Life, 2000, Virgin)

Before The Neptunes literally took over all of radio, they delivered this gem of a dancehall tune to Beenie Man, which became a modest hit. Dancehall and summer time go hand in hand with each other, but out of the dozens of songs from this genre that could have made the list, I think "Girls Dem Sugar" typifies the emotions of summer the best. Mya's delicate delivery of the chorus is like a soft refreshing breeze rolling against your face and provides the perfect complement to the blazing heat of the production and Beenie Man's flow.

Monday, January 29, 2007

New Amy and Kelis singles

Right now is an exciting time for two of my favorite artists, Amy Winehouse and Kelis. Their current singles are prime examples of why I consider them amongst my current faves. With Winehouse's second UK single, "You Know I'm No Good", produced by Mark Ronson, we see that Amy's still been a bad girl, but one who never lacks inner reflection. What has always separated Amy from most R&B singers is not only her hazy gin and tonic laced voice, but her content has always been unique and uncompromising. Where "I Heard Love Is Blind" from her debut, Frank, was a delicately crafted, but comical justification of her infidelity, "You Know I'm No Good" covers somewhat similar territory, but is all warning and regret over hard-hitting Golden Age breaks. While this version is great too, the remix with Ghostface is even more stellar, although Amy is only relegated to just the chorus. With the remix being the only time I've heard Amy's voice in small increments on a song, I never realized how classic it sounded before. If I had no idea who she was, you would swear that it was a sample of an old 70's record. It honestly made me appreciate her more, even though she's on the song less. And how can you not love a girl who has the freedom to drop a line like "Hand me your Stella and fly"?

I'm even more excited for Kelis since "Lil' Star" is the first time she's had a third single and video in the U.S., which shows that someone in charge still believes in her. "Lil' Star" is an odd choice for a single, considering that the first two, "Bossy" and "Blindfold Me" were straight bangers and were easily accessible for mainstream ears. Kelis Was Here still dabbled in some club courting, but in an infinitely better fashion than Tasty, but it was also a return to some of Kelis' more vibrant and diverse side, which Tasty also lacked as well. "Lil' Star" is remniscent of the potential that Kelis showed on her earlier albums, but this same adventurous apporach caused her first album to sell poorly and for her second album to not even get a domestic U.S. release, which is why its such an unusual choice for a single, given how difficult it is for songs that think outside the box to become hits in this current climate. But damn the fools who hear this soulful number or see its extraordinarily styled video and fail to fall in love with it. "Lil' Star" has to be one of the best odes to longing for stardom. Even more beautiful is when Cee-Lo appears on the chorus and lends some comforting vocal Kleenex to dry up Kelis' tears and to show some support. You'll want to console her too after the first line, "There is nothing special about me/I am just a lil' star" because you know in your heart it's not true.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Top 145 Singles of 2006

Better late than never, I suppose. I've had the top 100 done since early December, but I was trying to see if I could expand it to 200, like I did last year. No such luck.

1. Nelly Furtado-Maneater
2. Gnarls Barkley-Smiley Faces
3. Janelle Monae-Lettin' Go!
4. The Pipettes-Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me
5. T.I.-What You Know
6. Marit Larsen-Don't Save Me
7. Nelly Furtado F/ Timbaland-Promiscuous
8. Christina Aguilera-Ain't No Other Man
9. The Streets-When You Wasn't Famous
10. Asobi Seksu-Thursday

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Top 100 Albums of 2006

Although 2006 may not have had the substantial amount of powerhouse classic albums that land years like 1967 or 1991 in the pop history books, it was still a good year for those who had ears, just like every other year. Something should be noted before you go on. In today's technologically advanced world, albums that are not yet available for sale in the U.S. can be easily attained and their initial overseas release date is even viewed as global, as seen by the placing of Lily Allen's Alright, Still on many critics' lists. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm not in a hurry to hear an album which I know is slated for a U.S. release. I still don't believe in downloading full albums because I am a sucker for liner notes and album art and all the other stuff that comes with the packaging. Also, something feels artifical and incomplete when I look at a CD labeled with my own handwriting in permanent marker. Moving back to the initial point, I go by whatever the American release date is, which is why you see such stars of last year like Art Brut and Saint Etienne on my 2006 list, and which is also why Lily Allen and K-Os may be on this list next year. The Pipettes are fine because they don't have an American release date that I'm yet aware of. On with the list, no?

1. Van Hunt-On The Jungle Floor
(Experimental soul, funk and rock remniscent of peak-era Prince.)