Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Top Ten Songs of 2012

18 Dec 2012

Ok folks. Here are my top 10 Songs of 2012, in no particular order. These songs caught my ear and moved me in some way this year, either by having my head noddin’, appreciating a well-crafted song, or inspiring me to go to the lab and make something crazy. So.. Here we go.

1. Climax - Usher. Diplo’s high production value meets Usher’s immaculate vocals. This song is full of contradictions. It’s called “Climax” but it’s not about sex, and it has a song structure that is reversed with the verses building up to a hook that is small, intimate, and anti-climactic. I'm a big fan of this song; it’s given me a lot of ideas and inspiration this year. It even inspired me to write a song analysis about it on my blog.

2. Sweet Life - Frank Ocean. I played this song so many times this year; I had to make myself stop playing it so I wouldn’t burn it out. I was always amazed that Ocean was able to make a record that is free from the music industry pressure to be commercial. His entire album is what creative freedom sounds like, in a genre that is musically boxed in. You can tell that he was not thinking about making a “radio” record and getting 2 Chains or somebody on a song. Sweet Life is simply good vibes, just press play and enjoy the freedom.

3. Loco-Motive - Nas. Good ol’ Nassir doing what he does best - spittin’ intricate, well put together rhymes over a gritty beat. Love it. This record makes me feel like I’m on the subway in New York wearing a bomber jacket, a beanie, baggy jeans, Timbs, while smoking a Black & Mild and calling everybody “son”.

4. Clique - Big Sean, Jay-Z, Kanye. The beat is ridiculous, just ridiculous. Everybody’s verses are on point, and Big Sean’s is my favorite. That beat though... sheesh. It starts out kind of unassuming but quickly gets real. Besides, any song that says “blame it on the pigment we living no limits” is gonna work for me on general principal.

5. Super Rich Kids - Frank Ocean. Maybe it’s because the piano in this song reminds me of Benny and The Jets, maybe it’s because the featured rapper’s name is Earl Sweatshirt (wha?), or maybe it’s that amazing melody Ocean did on the verses, whatever it is, this song works for me in a big way. It slowly and deliberately marches its way through 5 minutes and 5 seconds while Ocean gives us a slice of life from a super-rich kid’s perspective.

6. Disparate Youth - Santigold. I’ll admit I’m a little late to the Santigold party. I just really got hip to her this year. For all I know, this song may have been out last year or even the year before. No matter. I love that insistent repetitive guitar part in this song; it really makes you listen to it, almost upstaging her vocals. Disparate Youth a fairly simple and straightforward record but damn I wish I made it.

7. Cherish The Day - Robert Glasper feat. Lalah Hathaway. Lalah’s vocals have always been otherworldly, and Sade’s Cherish the Day has always been a favorite of mine. I knew I would like this record even before I heard it. Robert Glasper keeps the vibe jazzy and the space in the melodies on ‘Cherish’ gives Lalah room to breathe. Give somebody like her room to breathe and interesting things happen. She goes to unexpected places melodically, which to me is what makes this a great remake.

8. Work Hard, Play Hard - Wiz Khalifa. Just the other day I was playing this song in my car, noddin’ my head to that beat like a madman. While at the light, I glanced to my right to find a guy looking at me in horror. I gave him the peace sign and kept it moving. I couldn’t help myself. This song has to be played as loud as possible and don’t worry about how many times Wiz says nigga on the verse – it’s necessary. What else could he say over that ill azz beat? Those verses are brilliantly evil, and then it gets nice and melodic on the hook. Well done, Wiz.

9. Titanium - David Guetta feat. Sia. Yep, Titanium. It’s a super pop dance record. David Guetta is one of the best at this genre and his skills are evident here as this is a very well-crafted pop record. Truth be told, I don’t know who the singer is and don’t care. This song is dope to me. I love how it builds. It starts out low key with intimate vocals and muted guitars but by the time the hook comes in, it sounds like she is shouting “I Am Titanium” from the top of a mountain. Just go with it.

10. Trending - The Time. Nostalgia is a powerful feeling. I can understand someone that did not grow up in the 80’s seeing this song on the list and thinking, The Time? Who are these dudes?! When I heard they were doing a new album I prepared my ears to hear some dated wackness, and there is some of that on the album, haha. Trending however, works. It captures the essence of The Time and has some elements that work for today. These guys made a song that is simultaneously new and old sounding. It’s hard to combine those two elements, which is probably why this is the only song on the album that successfully does it. This song is cool to listen to, and the bridge with that Monte Moir solo is classic Time.

Honorable Mention - Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream. I really like this album. Some songs have a bit of an early Prince feel to them. The single Adorn is doing well and up for a Grammy, which is great. It didn’t have one song that made me want to include it on this list as I usually played this album as a whole and vibed to all of the songs. If I were doing a best album list, Kaleidoscope Dream would definitely be included.

Honorable Mention - Gangnam Style - Psy. Do I own this song? No. Is it starred on my Spotify? Naw. But every time it comes on the radio, I don’t turn the station. This is one of those records you like but you tell people you don’t, because you don’t want to look corny. Well, at risk of looking corny, I like this record. Here’s why - It’s a Korean pop dance record made by a 34 year old Korean dude that produced it himself, has only three words in English “hey sexy lady”, has a corny dance that is entertaining to watch, and a video you have to see to believe. Yeah, it’s on the edge of wackness, but it works - that’s probably why it works. This song is like the dude that comes to the party in a bright purple suit and although he looks like a damn fool, he is the life of the party. The odds of a song like this being a hit are like 247,000,000 to 1 or something like that. I gotta give Psy props for pulling that off. He put together a major hit record and nobody (except Koreans) knows what the hell he’s saying or what the song is about. You can love it or hate it, but you gotta respect it.

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