1. Beyoncé and the Roots, “Best Thing I Never Had” (live on Jimmy Fallon)
Turns out the only person who can upstage Beyoncé in a ballad is the girl playing the piano behind her in this Fallon performance. She is feeling it so hard that not even Bey can keep up.
2. Young Jeezy, “Shake Life”
The real is back! With a Toto sample and his trademark positive attitude, rap’s favorite motivational speaker returns to help you train for that triathlon.
3. Girls, “Vomit”
Six minutes in the closet with Girls. Psychedelic waves, Neil Young-style feedback crunch, and barely secret softness just beneath the glimmering surface.
4. Frank Ocean, “Thinking About You”
Is it weird to fantasize about a Fiona Apple/Frank Ocean duet? They’re both based in L.A., have first names that begin with F and poetic two-syllable noun surnames, and specialize in melancholy, yearning love songs. Maybe a Seals & Crofts-style soft-rock side project called “Apple & Ocean”?
5. Joker, “Here Come the Lights”
Joker enlists Silas from Turboweekend and transmorphs dubstep into Darkwave Boy Band. This could be the soundtrack to Justin Timberlake, near the tail end of a press tour, waking up in a strange hotel room covered in blood.
6. Kendrick Lamar, “ADHD”
Playing RPG video games all day to cure your weed hangover. Doesn’t work.
7. Bleached, “Dazed”
Bleached are a duo consisting of sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin. They sound like Danzig got dropped off at the beach. You find him wandering around hours later, sunburnt to shit in his black sleeveless muscle tee, eating a lobster taco.
8. Iamsu!, “Faded”
This is the brand newest thing from the Bay Area, post-hyphy, post-jerkin’. It is called $HMOP! From the manifesto: “the Shmop is just a place to go where u can have fun, meet new ppl, network, not worry about fightin or drama, cuz everyone is there just to have a good time.” Leave it up to NorCal to start making prog rap. “Faded” interpolates: “Deez Nuts,” “Flashing Lights,” and ‘N Sync’s “I Want You Back” (yup). Rappers in 2011 have no qualms about jacking ‘N Sync for beats. Hierarchies of musical genre are dead. Computers ate rockism. Everybody listens to techno!
9. Kelly Rowland ft. R. Kelly, “Motivation (remix)”
Kelly Rowland is the Gretchen Wieners to Beyonce’s Regina George and she finally cracked, bouncing former Destiny’s Child clique leader Beyoncé’s “Girls (Run The World”) out of the top spot with this song, her first top 20 hit. The original “Motivation” is a stretchy little piece of work produced by Jim Jonsin (who did Lil’ Wayne’s “Lollipop” and is seriously worth a Google image search) that lends itself well to a remix. And who better to remix it (or anything really) than the king of R&B? Not that it’s not tetchy for Kellz to sing about taking somebody to school to give them sex education. If I were R., I would probably stay away from schools. But I’d also probably just do whatever I wanted all the time because I wrote “12 Play.”
10. 2Chainz, “Spend It”
This is one of those songs that’s so catchy and pliable that it’ll probably live for a long time in remixes and remakes (like “Racks On Racks” or “Throw Some D’s”). There’s something very video-game haunted-house level about the synths and muted, minor-key horns. I love at the very beginning when he mumbles the chorus like an incantation. I’m not encouraging witch house remixes, but if you’re going to do it, I’d rather you do it here in the house where I can see you. (DO IT. NOW.)
11. SSION, “My Love Grows In The Dark”
SSION is Cody Critcheloe, a musician/video artist from Kansas City doing some of the coolest best and most original work on YouTube. He sports a painted-on mustache-unibrow combo and amazing customized costumes, and sounds like the love child of the Pet Shop Boys and Britney Spears. SSION’s Todd Rundgren-style stomper “My Love Grows In The Dark” is perfect for fans of Ariel Pink, Kurt Vile, and other low-fi AM radio jams from another world.